The headline at the top of the first page of the April 7, 2003 issue of the “International Herald Tribune” reads: “American troops are encircling Baghdad”.
The corresponding headline of “The New York Times” for the same date reads: “Army, in Raid, Strikes at Center of Baghdad”.
No wonder that as in most places around the world also here in Athens people talk about the “war” in Iraq. Also, as papers all over the world, Greek papers have first-page headlines about the war. Here is a sample from “Eleftherotypia”, one of the most important Greek dailies:
- “And behold a great red dragon” (March 20). ["And there appeared another wonder in heaven; AND BEHOLD A GREAT RED DRAGON, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his head," Revelation 12:3 ].
- “Wrath of the Peoples [of the Planet]: But the Gang Sows Bombs and Rumors” (March 21).
- “New Bestiality: 55 dead again by a hit on a marketplace” (March 20)
- “Murderers!” (March 27)
- “Serial Killers”, Title over a page-one photo of Bush and Blair. (March 30) [Note: The title, in a Greek paper, is in English! The reason: There is no verbatim expression in the Greek language for the Anglo concept of "serial killer".]
- “The Thief is in Baghdad” (April 7, the same day as above for the “Tribune” and the “Times”)
So, living in Athens, among relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues, fellow-citizens, etc., and taking part in the discussions about the war I had to express my opinion to the ultimate and persistent question: “Who is going to stop the Americans from slaughtering the people of Iraq?”
My answer (repeated dozens of times in different discussions): “Only the American people can stop the American ruling elite”. Do I believe that? Or, is it realistic to believe that? My answer to both questions is: Yes!
There are two basic elements that will lead the American people to stop their ruling elites from slaughtering other peoples: Information and honesty. Especially honesty, which I believe is intrinsic to all humans, as it is based on rationality, and all humans have the potential to think rationally. An honest person seeks out the pertinent information and acts on the basis of that information.
Let as explore how such a process of honestly seeking information and honestly evaluating that information can take place in the real world:
“Here at Amherst College, many students were vocally annoyed this semester when 40 professors paraded into the dining hall with antiwar signs. One student confronted a protesting professor and shoved him”. (Kate Zernike, The New York Times, April 5, 2003).
“In a discussion, Professor Sarat began with the proposition that if you love the United States, you must, as an act of patriotism, oppose the war. Students took exception.
‘President Bush has taken an imperial position,’ Professor Sarat insisted.
Michael Valentine, a sophomore, replied: ‘I don’t think it’s the dominance of the United States. It’s the security of the United States that’s at issue. They are saying the only way we can ensure the security of our citizens is to go in there.’
‘And to make the Middle East safe for democracy,’ Professor Sarat interjected.
‘Professor, that’s only because a regime poses a security risk,’ Mr. Valentine said.” (Again, from the above “Times” article of April 5, 2003).
So, does Mr. Valentine or the “shoving-prone” student HONESTLY believe that Saddam, or any Saddam, or better even any Stalin can (or could ) threaten the security of the US at any time? If they do, have they sought all the available information on this matter?
Listen, American student!
- Case One:
“One does not usually mind the lack of food, but the lack of water is excruciating, especially after torture which leaves one without an ounce of moisture in the body…
I was fortunate enough, on the second morning, to fall on (have) a guard who was either half-human or had not yet received his day’s orders and allowed me to go to the toilet, where I managed to drink from the water pipe leading into the turkish (type) toilet, my hands and my lips touching the excrements others like myself had left floating there…”
The author of the above text is Yiannis Leloudas, a Greek poet and archaeologist. He was 28 when he was tortured in 1967. The quote is from the book “Barbarism in Greece” by James Becket, with a foreword by Senator Claiborne Pell, Walker and Company, New York, 1970, p. 63, 64. Becket is a Harvard Law School graduate.
- Case Two:
“Then he entered the room. He was about fifty, stout, with dark frog-like eyes and a skin deeply marked with smallpox. I recognized him from the description of some of his victims. He was Major Theophyloyannakos, the commanding officer of the place and the chief director of torture… His shouts suddenly became something hysterical. ‘I shall send you to prison to rot for the rest of your life. I shall pull your teeth out one after the other.’
He picked up his name plate from the top of his desk. ‘Do you know who I am?’ he shouted. ‘I am Theophyloyiannakos. Have you heard of me? Do you know what I have done to people like you? I tread on their throats. I pull out their nails’. He was foaming at the mouth, and I must have been white with disgust.
I said, ‘Shame on you.’
He said, ‘Don’t dare speak to me like that!’
I repeated it twice. His face became something monstrous, he came close to me, his terrible face almost touching mine, and his hand raised. ‘Don’t you dare say that again!’ And I did not dare.
The major calmed down a little. ‘I have a collection of teeth and nails here in this drawer, would you like to see them?’
‘No I do not want to see them.’… He opened the drawer and took a folder of papers. ‘Here they are’, he said.”
The narrator is Lady Amalia Fleming the Greek born wife of Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin. The excerpt is from her book, “A Piece of Truth”, Jonathan Cape Ltd, London, 1972, p. 112, 115. The “place” is the torture chambers of the Military dictatorship in Athens. The date is August 26, 1971. Amalia Fleming at the time was in her early sixties.
At that stage in her interrogation she was on about her tenth “glass of water” as she had to drink “a great deal of water not only because” she “was a diabetic, but because of serious gastro-intestinal problems”. Her crime: she protested against the torture of people that were resisting the US backed 1967 dictatorship and helped them survive.
By the professional standards of the intelligence services of the West, both cases (the toilet and the nails) are really extremely mild cases of torture.
However, what should be of paramount importance for the American student is that these cases were supervised by American citizens in the employ of the US Government (mostly the CIA). The name of the Greek “Saddam” was George Papadopoulos, who as Saddam himself was a “creation” of the US and in 1967 was “appointed” by the US as a dictator. He ruled as a US-proxy for seven years. But, unfortunately, the US Marines did not “liberate” us early enough and we had to endure the entire 7-year period.
So, Mr. Valentine and you the “shoving-prone” student, who are the Americans who do such things and why do they do these things? Both are easy to answer: The Americans have been torturing people for centuries. The latest round (after World War II) includes Greece, Turkey, Angola, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, East Timor, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, South Korea, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, etc, etc,.
If the people that were killed in the same period due to the benevolence of the US are around 25 million it is only logical to expect that the tortured will be many times that number.
You see, if you target, say a neighborhood in a disobedient foreign town, you kill a couple (commies, anarchists, or other scum) and you scare the lights out of the rest by torturing a couple of dozens. So, if the tortured were many millions more than the killed you can imagine how many Americans were employed to carry out such a gigantic task of torture.Statistically you can find these fine Americans among your neighbors, or your acquaintances, or even your relatives.
Now, why did they do such things? The (very) easy answer: For reasons of “national security”! No need to elaborate. You yourselves, being honest and rational, you can seek out the information and decide for yourselves the truth or falseness of the above statements.
But, you will rightly argue, “national security” means the security of the “nation” (also known as the interests of the US economic elite), in the present case of Iraq, after 9-11, we are talking about the security of ORDINARY Americans. Okay, let us start from there.
The key question is simply WHY? Why this other US “created” entity Osoma found so much hostility against the US to exploit for his own convoluted reasons? This has already been answered. Go back to cases one and two above. But do not stop there. Be honest and diligent enough to research the stories of the series of nations already mentioned. Most of what you need to know is in the public record.
To help in this search of yours I can offer some information (or better, facts) from my own experience.In 1941 the Nazis attacked Greece. I was 11 years old. My thoughts at the time were something like this: Our house in Athens had two stories. To the original ground floor, which had a wooden structure as a roof, a new story was added with a steel reinforced concrete slab as a roof. My estimate at the time: the Nazi bomb had to go through the strong concrete slab and then through the wooden structure to reach us as we were huddling in the ground floor.
We survived. The NAZIS NEVER BOMBED ATHENS! They only bombed a cargo ship in the port of Piraeus, about 10 miles from downtown Athens. Athens was hit by the British artillery and the British Royal Air Force (Churchill’s glorious RAF) in December of 1944, a few weeks after the Nazis left!
My question to you: why did the Nazis spare the civilian population in Athens in 1941 and the Americans (and their British poodle) slaughtered the civilians of Baghdad in 2003? I am sure you too can approximate the feelings of an Iraqi 11-year old huddled at the ground floor of his house waiting for Rumsfeld’s bombs, as I can, although I have the advantage of Hitler’s bombs that never fell.
[Note: Many years later as a civil engineer I was designing the steel reinforced concrete slabs for various buildings in Greece. The final (roof) slab according to the existing specifications had to have a minimum thickness of about 5 inches as a protection against antiaircraft shrapnel. The specs were copied from the post-WWII German ones. I wonder what specs are my colleagues following in Baghdad?]
Being in an American University you are awash in the culture of the West (i.e. the classical Greek culture). So, I take it for granted that you know about the ancient Greek city of Thebes. Today in Thebes lives (if she has survived the pain) a Greek mother who had a very talented son.
In his early twenties he was one of the best students in the School for Painting in the School of Fine Arts of Athens. In 1973 he was defenestrated by the US military proxies of the Papadopoulos dictatorship from the 8th floor of a multistory building under construction, only 200 yards away from the marble-clad Gropius US Embassy in Athens. About 300 yards on the opposite side of the US Embassy is located the torture”place” that Amalia Fleming referred to.
Finally, to help you Mr. Valentine and your “spirited” fellow-student one should try to “warn” you about a rather not so rational concept of the elite culture that you are part of. You do not have to tell anyone that you belong to a privileged people, a “chosen people.” We know. We, in Greece, know that you can beat up any Greek woman in the street and no Greek policeman or judge would dare touch you. (See some of my previous Commentaries for some examples.)
The same holds for women in the streets of Denmark, or France, or Britain, and so on. Yet, that does not mean that after your graduation you will inevitably end up (or better down to) a Rumsfeld, or a Perle or a Poindexter, or a Wolfowitz, or an Ashcroft, etc.
Remember that for the rest of the world the hope for survival rests with the honesty of you and of your fellow-Americans. Which really makes you a “chosen people”. Chosen to be informed and honest.
[Note: It is rather apparent that the students to whom this text is addressed are only a means of conveying an appeal to the honesty of the ordinary American.]