Wednesday, April 23, 2003

The Vanguardia has outdone itself. In today's international news section, not "Analysis" or "Opinion", they've got a story by their Rome correspondent, Roger Jiménez, titled "The US, Sparta, against Athenian Europe: Italian scholars see similarities between ancient times and the present world with the war on Iraq". Just a few pearls:

It is true that historical circumstances never repeat themselves in the same way, but it is undeniable that many human motivations and behaviors maintain themselves. The conquest of Gaul was, in the opinion of historians, an example of a "preventive war". Caesar decided to act without the authorization of the Senate, and he justified himself with the pretext of coming to help one part of the Gallic tribes threatened by the others. But there is another episode even more reminiscent of the "Bush doctrine" that led to the Third Punic War. One day, Marcus Porcius Cato received as a gift some splendid figs from Carthage, the powerful city that had been defeated in 202 (BC) and on which severe conditions were imposed. Cato displayed the gift in the Senate as an affront: "Look how the Carthaginians laugh at us, we must destroy them because the danger still persists." And an army under the orders of Scipio Emilianus reduced the city to ashes.

Hoo boy. 1) Caesar's war on Gaul was a war of conquest, not a preventive war. 2) George Bush had the approval of the United States Congress for the US overthrow of Saddam, so there's no comparison with Julius Caesar. 3) The Third Punic War could be called a preventive war, but Carthage gave no provocation to Rome, unlike what Saddam gave to every decent country in the world with his support of international terrorism and his program to develop weapons of mass destruction. I'd call it another war of conquest, like most Roman wars. Now get this one.

Luca Canali, Latinist, translator, and writer resists making comparisons between George Bush and the leaders of ancient Rome. "The problem is that those were extraordinary men and he (Bush) is not. They went off to die in battle, something that Bush junior (sic) and his people do not precisely do. He has nothing in common with Julius Caesar, not even from the personal point of view. It is enough to remember that Caesar was highly cultured, a friend of the greatest intellectuals of his time, while Bush confuses Slovenia with Slovakia. Caesar was a great political leader, the only one in history who made a revolution and did not install a reign of terror. He trusted that the justice of his works of peace and war were worth the favor of his entire people. He was assassinated after breaking up a group of Spanish cavalry that he had as bodyguards because he preferred to die than to live protected day and night."

I am extremely happy that no reasonable comparison can be made between George W. Bush and Julius Caesar, who was an absolute dictator and who would attack your country, enslave your people, and steal your property just as soon as look at you. Why the hell is Mr. Jiménez allowing some Italian Fascist to attack Bush for not being Caesar in his pages? I'd be a lot more concerned if Bush did try to emulate Julius Caesar. And, by the way, Caesar offed his enemies just like any other dictator, and his "revolution" was a military coup.

...In all wars there were, like today, economic reasons. Slaves were the "petroleum" of the era. And also, like today, there were people who, like Colin Powell, played the role of the "dove"; these were the senatorial aristocracy...

1) Thucydides, whom these people should have read, said that there were three motives for war: honor, fear, and interest. Not just interest, and it looks to me like the motives for overthrowing Saddam were, in order, a) fear of Saddam's attacking us in the future with WMDs or terrorist acts b) American honor, demonstrating to the world that we are not to be trifled with in the wake of 9-11 c) interest, the stability of the volatile Middle East, and d) a motive unimaginable to either Thucydides or today's Spanish anti-Americans, common decency. 2) What Julius Caesar did, idiot, was to strip all power from the senatorial aristocracy.

Bush is surrounded by a group of eminences grises, from Vice-President Cheney to the secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, or Paul Wolfowitz, whom many consider to be the real decision-makers in the White House. Some emperors also had powerful advisors, like Augustus, who left the management of the state to Agrippa in his absence...and, as influences on young Nero, Seneca and the emperor's mother, Agrippina, a version of Condoleezza Rice.

Boy, that's damning, that is. Bush has advisors just like Augustus did! And comparing Condi Rice with Agrippina the Younger is like comparing Marie Osmond and Marilyn Manson.

Continuing the thread of parallelisms with ancient Rome, similarities have been found between the US president and Crassus, a very rich man who aspired to gain a reputation as a great warrior. Absolute military superiority is common to the two peoples. Rome could lose a battle but would win the war. Afterwards it constructed monuments, highways, bridges, and aqueducts in the whole world, conscious that it was necessary to give people water, theaters, culture.

Comparing Crassus and Bush is like comparing...oh, you finish the simile. And is Jiménez arguing that it is the job of the state to give people culture? That, to say the least, is a highly illiberal attitude.

Question: How did this crap get into a newspaper that considers itself the paper of record in Catalonia with a circulation of over 200,000? Answer: There are a lot of pretentious jerks in this country, many of whom are alleged intellectuals at the universities or in journalism, who are so full of themselves that they have no idea how stupid they seem in the eyes of the world. This is because nobody in the rest of the world particularly cares what they have to say, nor is anyone willing to take the time to bother refuting their nonsense. Thus a great deal of nonsense goes unrefuted around here, and the average Jordi, who is no smarter nor dumber than your average Joe, believes it because "it says so in the paper".

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