Persian Gulf Reference in Two Old Maps Owned by George Washington

About 30 minutes south of DC’s Virginia suburbs is George Washington’s Plantation or Estate on the Potomac River, called Mount Vernon. He indirectly inherited it through family but ended up developing the estate into a decent mansion with incredible views of the Potomac River. If you haven’t been there, you should go.

In the summer, it’s a tourist trap with busloads of tourists, visiting a rather tight, old Mansion. But right now, in the winter its sparse – so it’s a good time to visit. I had never been and stopped in there on my way back from visiting friends who live nearby.

As an Iranian-American, I get ‘needled’ every time I hear the term Arabian Gulf. I realize it’s NOT the most important thing in the world, nor really the most important issue facing Iran – but I feel offended when the Media calls the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Gulf. Most recently the US Navy ordered that they refer to the Persian Gulf as the Arabian Gulf. In a strange way it says a lot about US policy, and the mind-set of this administration.

The issue here is that they are pissing off ordinary Iranians – not just the Mullahs. And, by the way, have no sensitivity for how proud Iranians are. One very good way to kill any possibility of negotiations with Iran or lose the support of the Iranian people is to do ‘shit like this’. It adds to the sequence of humiliation experienced by Iranians – with travel bans on Iranians and visa rejections, Iranians being banned from applying to US schools, or even Senator Lindsey Graham saying ALL Iranians are liars (he apparently knew because he used to hang around his parents’ pool parlor in South Carolina).

Its humiliating.

But to add insult to injury, every time I visit an official US government facility or quasi-government facility I come across maps of Iran (or Persia) and the Persian Gulf in common use by the US government that also by the way reference the United States of America.

I posted a blog not too long ago about 16th century maps in the Library of Congress that were used in the naming of America – that also by the way reference the Persian Gulf. (If you are curious about the blog – just google – “If America is America, then the Persian Gulf is the Persian Gulf”)

Anyway, in Mount Vernon there were two maps from the 17th Century – in use by the President of the United States that reference the new United States of America and the Persian Gulf.  The first ‘Globe’ Map was ordered by President George Washington in 1789, early in his first presidential term. Dudley Adams, the globemaker to King George III, crafted the wood and papier-mache sphere. Washington’s request was likely fueled by personal curiosity and a desire to understand his new nation’s place in the larger world (which included the Persian Gulf). After retiring, Washington placed the globe in his study at Mount Washington where he saw it daily. Also, very importantly, George Washington entertained roughly 600 dignitaries from around the world at his estate after retiring – including VIP’s from Europe.

 The second map was a ‘wallpaper’ on one of the entry rooms with an illustration of a map published in 1799, by I. Evans in London which was used by Captain Cook and other navigators – titled a “A New Map of the World”.

Its very clear in BOTH maps there is specific reference to the Persian Gulf or Sinus Persicus (as it was termed at the time). Sinus means Gulf in Latin. No, it’s not a reference to someone’s nose!

So to cut a long story short, US government reference to the Persian Gulf is not only a slap in the face to Iran and Iranians, but also flies in the face of official documents used by the US government as far back as the founding of the country.

If the idea is to humiliate Iranians, then should the US be surprised if Iran too makes it an official policy to call America, Turtle Island. In case you didn’t know Turtle Island is a name for the land in North America (in whole or in part), used by many Native Americans and First Nations people and by Indigenous rights activists. This is one of those ridiculous games, that can go both ways.

Is this bullshit what the U.S. government really wants?

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