Harvard Square Observer: Imperial Hubris

Ernest Cassara

As I lay abed the other morning, hoping, unsuccessfully, to doze off again, my mind went back many years to my days as a university student.  In those days, universities expected students to study foreign languages.  One of the ones I chose was Greek.  I’ll never forget that class and the dear old professor Wyatt.  Classical Greek, apparently, was not a popular option.  I could see that, for the professor taught in his office, with a line of chairs strung out in front of his desk.  There were six of us lined up in those chairs the first day.  The second class, there were four.  The third meeting, there were two: a girl of Greek origin and myself.  The fourth meeting of the class, there was one student - me!  So, in effect, I was to have private lessons.  Now, any of you thinking back to your student days will tremble at the thought of the spot I found myself in.  I had to be prepared for every lesson.  No possibility of hiding behind other students, hoping I would not be called on.

Now, believe it or not, this is relevant to the present situation.  For, the text I had to study was the Anabasis of Xenophon, the account of the march of Greek mercenaries up into Persia, at the behest of Cyrus the Younger, who wanted to overthrow his brother and seize the throne.  That is, thanks to the mucking around of the imperialist Brits, present day Iran.  Yes, Iran is the Persia of old.  From way back, the West has interfered in its affairs.

I have great sympathy for President Ahmadinejad, and his refusal to bend the knee to George W. Bush.  The Iranians, the Persians, have every reason to resist.  The U.S. overthrew the duly elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and imposed the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on the Iranians in 1953.  When the Iranians tired of his tyranny and overthrew him in 1979, American embassy officials ended up as hostages of university students, and  Ayatollah Khomeini became the leading figure in the country. 

We Americans, unfortunately, suffer from historical amnesia.  We believe the world should love us, and, believe it or not, they used to. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and our founding documents were much admired around the world.  It is a tribute to President George W. Bush that he has had the power to overcome that admiration and make us hated around the world, all in one and a half administrations.

It is quite interesting to listen, and watch, how our “objective” media treat Ahmadinejad and that other burr under George Bush’s saddle, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.  They assume that because President Bush and his administration oppose those two leaders, we, the public, should.  Well, I don’t.  I cheered when Chavez, at the United Nations, said that the devil - that is, George W. Bush - had spoken from that lectern the day before and he could smell the sulfur. He made the sign of the cross, I gather to exorcize “the devil”!  For too long have American citizens taken the part of their government when it has been engaged in evil deeds.

Example: The insistence of an Italian judge at getting to the bottom of the disgraceful, evil, practice of American agents kidnapping men and shipping them off to be tortured in another country.

Now, I hear that German courts are looking into the kidnapping of one of their citizens by 13 men, presumed to be CIA agents.  The victim was sent to Afghanistan, where, he says, he was jailed and tortured.

“Extraordinary Rendition” it is called.  I call it evil.  And, we citizens should not put up with it.  We should not put up with Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.  We should insist that our Congress investigate the evil being done in our name throughout the world.

And, while it is at it, it should look into the practice of hiring private contractors - that is mercenaries - in Iraq.  It is a form of outsourcing war!

And, also, while they are at it, they might look into the recent sailing of an American aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf!

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Harvard Square Commentary, February 5, 2007