What if Colombus Had Not Discovered America


ELEFTHEROTYPIA is a mainstream Greek daily (usually first or second

in circulation). The title is a compound from ELEFTHEROS (free) and TYPOS (press), yet the

modern Greek meaning of the title is not Free Press but Freedom of the Press. I think that

it would be interesting for ZNeters that, every now and then, I submit to ZNet

Commentaries, news, etc taken from this or other mainstream Greek or European papers. Here

is the first one:

Recently this paper, in the context of a series of articles on the

history of the last 1,000 years, had an article on the discovery of America by Columbus;

the usual encyclopaedic stuff but with some deeper analysis of the consequences from the

discovery. Included in the series is the publication of answers by prominent persons on

questions posed by the paper about the various historical events.

The following question: "What the world would had been like, if

Columbus had not discovered America?", was posed to Nicholas Burns, former Clnton

spokesperson and now US Ambassador to Greece.

Here is his reply:

– "If there had been no America there would have been no haven

for millions of Europeans, and for my Irish grandparents, who were seeking freedom and

security in a dangerous and intolerant world. There would have been no Thomas Jefferson to

claim, through the Declaration of Independence, the rights of men and women against the

absolute rulers and to dare declare that men are borne equal. There would be no

philhellenes (friends of the Greeks, parenthesis mine) to fight alongside the Greek people

in their struggle for independence from the Ottoman empire.

– Without America, how would Europe escape the tyranny and the

violence of the two bloody wars that marked our century? What soldiers would fight and die

in France, in Italy, in Germany and in Greece for the liberation and the independence of

the Europeans? Without America, there would be no George Marshall to help rebuild Europe

after the destructive war.

– If there were no America, who would help the freed Europeans to

fight and win the Cold War? No Martin Luther King would prompt us to dream for a new and

more just world.

– Without America, there would be no Statue of Liberty to lighten

the tired of the earth on their way to freedom. There would be no Graham Bell to invent

the telephone, nor Thomas Edison to invent the electric light, nor Neil Armstrong to take

the first giant step for humanity on the surface of ths moon, nor the Hubble Space

Telescope to gaze into the sky.

– If there were no America, we cannot be certain that in some other

part of the world there would appear an Emerson and his ‘self-confidence’ or that the

brilliant inspiration of Poe and of Melville would have manifested itself in a different


– Without America, would there be jazz, the blues or rock and roll,

the hip hop or rap music? Would it be possible to create a Hollywood in France or a CNN in

Britain? Would the Internet have been invented, which changed our lives, or the polio


– A world without America would be like music without Frank Sinatra,

like WWII without George Patton and like the Cinema without Steven Spielberg."

(Emphasis in the original)

The comment of the paper was: "The (Ambassador’s) reply was

interesting-only an American could put it that way." The sarcasm was not too subtle.

However, putting aside the rather simplistic generalization of the paper concerning the

Americans (the Greeks being at the top of the scale in patriotism and in ancestor

worship), there are quite a few more things one could say about the reply of Mr. Burns.

Let us start with the facts. Did Europe "escape" the

"violence of the two bloody wars"? The, very obvious, answer is that it is

America that escaped the violence,etc. The only Americans that did not escape violence (by

fellow Americans, on American soil) were the returning black soldiers of WWI.

No American soldiers fought or died "in Greece for the

liberation, etc" during the wars. As for WWII probably the only known American

soldier in Greece was Costa G. Couvaras, an American intelligence officer with the OSS

(the progenitor of the CIA), who "worked with the Greek resistance movement"

against the Nazis and "reported that action to the US government." After the war

Couvaras "suffered persecution by the FBI and the CIA when he returned to the United

States and attempted to inform the American people of what was really going on in

Greece." What was happening in Greece was that "The EAM-ELAS, which was the

heart of the resistance, became an antinational conspiracy of communism and pan-Slavism.

Churchill and Truman and their puppet politicians and scribes in Greece brainwashed an

entire generation just as thoroughly as Hitler and Goebbels brainwashed an entire

generation in Germany." Also, what is not widely known is that the British troops

that crushed the Greek resistance, a few weeks after the Nazis (!) left Greece, were

transported to Greece in US aeroplanes under the command of Patton or Eisenhower, who


The competitive-sports attitude of the Ambassador is amazing. It is

reminiscent of the "patriotic" rewriting of the encyclopaedias by the Soviets to

prove that everything was discovered or invented by the Russians. Take for example the

fact that Edison "invented the elsctric light" simply as a technological

application of Faraday’s scientific discoveries in electricity. By the logic of the

Ambassador NASA was "unpatriotic" enough to ignore Frank Sinatra and instead

sent a disc with Bach’s music printed on it to the galaxies over yonder.

Why does Mr. Burns take pains to present this rather

"unrealistic" view of America and the world? Even if these things were

internalized since grade school, an adult has moments of rationality, no matter how rare,

that would make him feel uncomfortable when expressing such views. The claim that he has

to have a job in order to feed his family is legitimate, but not very


Finally one cannot avoid the temptation to imagine the Ambassador

completing his listing of American achievements by declaring that: "Without America

(or the Ukraine, for that matter), there would be no Noam Chomsky for the world!"

Who, by the way, gave a quite "complete" answer in his Year 501 to the question

put to the Ambassador about Columbus and the discovery of America.


(1) ELEFTHEROTYPIA of Sunday, Jan., 24, 1999, p.18

(2) Couvaras, G. Costa, Photo Album of the Greek Resistance, Wire

Press, San

Francisco, 1978, p.9

(3) Ibid, p.8

(4) Ibid, p.7



Nikos Raptis is the author of "Let Us Talk about Earthquqkes.

Floods and…the Streetcar" and "The Nightmare of the Nukes". He, also

tranlated into Greek and published Noam Chomsky’s "Year 501" and

"Rethinking Camelot." He lives in Athens, Greece.




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