February 20, 2014
My first memories of learning were The Iliad and The Odyssey. This was Greece, after all, and although it was mythology, as a three- to four-year-old I took Achilles, Helen, Menelaus, Hector, and Odysseus very seriously. After that came the Persian Wars. My father had just left for the front against the Italians in Albania, so the great victories of Marathon and Salamis sounded even sweeter as our first win against Mussolini’s troops in Koritsa was announced by nonstop church-bell ringing and my mother’s crying and thanking God that my father’s name was not on the dreaded list of the fallen. Confidence reigned.
Thermopylae, alas, came into the picture when the Greek army put up a desperate fight against impossible odds when the Wehrmacht invaded six months later. It didn’t end well, but the victories against Persia have made me proud to this day to be Greek. As J. S. Mill said, had the Athenians not stopped the Persians in Marathon in 490 BC, there never would have been a Western civilization.
So Xerxes tried again ten years later, and this time he lost his fleet outside the port of Piraeus, in Salamis, when Themistocles rammed his heavy boats with our much quicker ones oared by citizens rather than slaves, and Persia has not invaded a country since. After that Alexander the Great invaded Persia, defeated the great King Darius, married his daughter, and at age 33 died in Mesopotamia, just about the same place where Uncle Sam’s troops fought for naught some 2,325 years later.
Which brings me to modern Persia, or “Eye-ran,” as that poor neocon victim George W. Bush pronounces it.
Iran is back in the news again, as the neocon cabal is going ape for fear that we will stop strangling it and negotiate a sort of peace. Far from being held responsible for the Iraq debacle, the shameless neocons want more war, more suffering, more waste, and more devastation as long as others do the dying. The Feiths, Kristols, Perles, Kagans, Wolfowitzes, Abramses, and Pipeses of this world pulled an excellent con on George W., but instead of resting on their laurels and the dead and broken bodies that useless war produced, they want more. Obama and Kerry are harder to con, but AIPAC and its 14,000 supporters hold their annual meeting in DC soon. The pep rally that begins with rousing speeches and emotional videotaped testimonials and ends with legions of its supporters blanketing Capitol Hill will require a strong man indeed to resist their call to tighten the noose and keep on tightening it until Iran expires.