Why We Need Our Own Iliad





Mr. Palaima is Dickson Centennial Professor of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Three and a half years ago, when U.S. soldiers were only fighting in Afghanistan, I wondered in an opinion column when we would finally have an American "Iliad," a work that would reveal the costs, necessities and realities of war.

Natural disaster in New Orleans and Mississippi has pushed the wars our troops are still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan off the front pages, except when suicide bombers rack up large numbers. And we focus now on the dodge or half-accept-the-blame game for the poor response of our down-sized and out-sourced federal and state governments to this large-scale crisis.

We also have been seduced into believing that a down-sized, all-volunteer army - recruited by sophisticated advertising appeals to patriotic fervor or to military service as the one possible route to college funding, job skills and a better future - can win wars most of us really don't want our own loved ones to fight.

Ironically, prominent historians of classical Greek warfare such as Victor Davis Hanson and Donald Kagan have argued for preemptive warfare and unilateral assertion of power, in direct contradiction to the lessons that most thinking human beings derive from the fate of classical Athens in the second half of the fifth century B.C.E. And they, like us, have not addressed what damage an all-volunteer army - something tantamount to a mercenary force and rightly unimaginable in the ancient Greek city-states - will eventually do to our country's social and political fabric.

We really do need an "Iliad" to bring us back to reality. The movie "Troy" held promise, but its director thought that the key to understanding the meaning of the quintessential Western story of war was that Achilles is Superman and Hector is Batman. So "Troy" gave us entertaining costume epic and soap-opera emotions and special effects.

A few years back, some of us hoped "Saving Private Ryan" would be our "Iliad." Steven Spielberg had laudable intentions. "I didn't want to make something it was easy to look away from," he said. And indeed the opening scenes fulfilled this promise.

But the movie soon swung around to a typical John Wayne script. So much so that World War II veteran and war writer Paul Fussell said, "I'd like to recommend the retention of and familiarity with the first few minutes of Steven Spielberg's 'Saving Private Ryan' depicting the landing horrors. Then I'd suggest separating them to constitute a short subject, titled 'Omaha Beach: Aren't You Glad You Weren't There?' - which could mean, 'Aren't you glad you weren't a conscripted working-class or high school boy in 1944?' The rest of the Spielberg film I'd consign to the purgatory where boys' bad adventure films end up."

"The Iliad" gave the Greeks war and made it unforgettable. In fact, the Greek word for "truth," alethes, means just that. Whatever it modifies "cannot escape notice," "cannot be forgotten."

"The Iliad" gives an honest picture of all aspects of warfare: betrayal of "what is right;" egotistical high command foul ups and their consequences for the common troops; a wide range of behaviors, from cowardice to courage; the tragedy of war for civilians in a city under siege and ordained to be taken and destroyed; "berserker" rage; fellow feeling for the enemy, most famously in the private "truce" between the Trojan ally Glaucus and the great Greek warrior Diomedes; the truly human affections of a king named Priam and a queen named Hecuba for their son Hector, affections that are publicly displayed in gut-wrenching personal terms with no thought for political delicacy or spin; the love of Hector, whose very name means "holder" or "preserver" of his city, for his son Astyanax and his wife Andromache - and her fierce attachment to Hector; the gory, clinically accurate violence of over 200 detailed combat deaths; war for less than noble purposes; betrayal by the gods and the ineffectuality of piety; the joyful pleasure battle can give some men; the role of blind luck in combat; and even what von Clausewitz, more than two millennia later, called the "fog of war."

"The Iliad" is the quintessential myth of war, even if it doesn't have Brad Pitt. It is not propaganda. Achilles, the noblest Greek warrior, is alienated by his commander-in-chief Agamemnon and withdraws himself and his men from the Greek coalition.

And the noble Hector admits to feeling public shame for having squandered a good part of the Trojan army through his own mistaken strategy. And when Hector finally faces Achilles, he runs as fast as he can and only stops running when he is deluded by the goddess Athena. Ironically, none of this truth ever stopped Greek citizens from fighting bravely for their city-states.

We do not have an "Iliad." So why not read the superb translation of master translator and scholar Stanley Lombardo who performs from Homer all around the country? It will be unforgettable, I promise. And it just might make us think differently about our all-but-forgotten wars.


This article was first published by the Austin American-Statesman and is reprinted with permission of the author.



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Bill Heuisler - 10/7/2005

Mr. Smith,
Glad I could entertain.

Now, if you could provide specifics you might engage me in a debate about my claims...and about my support for our troops you find so hilarious.

I'll assume you're educated. Perhaps you consider yourself an expert on Greek history or Homer. If so - and if you can stop giggling - share your knowledge with us so we can also enjoy the joke.
Bill Heuisler


Peter Smith - 10/2/2005

"Misusing the Iliad to demean our troops reveals a lack of classical knowledge...and a lack of class."

Is this sentence a bad joke? Are you a lefty posing as a righty just to get some giggles, in which case I would approve?

Misusing the Iliad to demean our troops? Truly unbelievable. Your evidence? Nothing. Instead of addressing the point made by the 'all-volunteer army' line, you go off with some nationalist claptrap along the 'Support the troops!' narrative. Did you have a point? We can talk about the weather, too, but it's not relevent to this article.

"soars inadvertantly into a larger, magnificent truth"

Are you serious with this stuff? Hilarious. It's like you've been listening to Ashcroft too much...

Let the Eagles Soar.....


Frederick Thomas - 9/30/2005

Mr. Heuisler:

Please don't be too modest. I know some of those sources, and I think your precis is superior, and look forward to the book.

History indeed lives through the avid reader. I admit my library is also a little bit overstuffed and overused.

Favorites include a 1828 first edition of Lingard's "History of England," which he managed to write with a cold blooded accuracy and passion for detail which eludes modern politicized historians.

I am 80% through a second reading of the Durants' History of Civilization, which is still so well written that it seems created by a higher power.

Two weeks ago, my lady and I were in Paris running down the locales of the the Revolution and Empire period, well described and detailed by Will and Ariel.

The trip before that was to walk the battlefields of Jackson's valley campaign with "They Called Him Stonewall," and atlases.

The one before that was based in Edinborough and your favorite, "How the Scots..." Before that, Rheims, Verdun, and the Meuse-Argonne battlefields, where my father was wounded. He was the reference, insofar as the 79th and 37th were concerned, but "The West Point Atlas of American Wars" was along.

We hope to keep tying great historians and great locales together as long as we breathe.

A new paperback, "1421", documents the pre-renaissance technological and cultural superiority of the Chinese, who created an encyclopedia of 20,000 volumes and discovered America on a round-the-world voyage of discovery while Henry V admired his library of 5 volumes! I am a Europhile, big time, but this book is more than a little humbling.

I could go on and on, but the main thing is that I am agreeing with you. Serious reading makes it happen.

Thank you again for the post!


Bill Heuisler - 9/29/2005

Mr. Thomas,
Thank you for the kind words.

Reading many excellent books has made me appear erudite. To counter base political puffery I merely parrot others' wise thoughts and then sign my name to the aggregate conclusion.

Through an accident of interests, a section of books in my library deals with one of the greatest novels ever written. A similar passion generated many books written about Alexander. Those two periods of history have little in common except a vague ethnic strain and enormous quantities of human tragedy and nobility.

Neither saga can, or should, in any way, feed the voracious Leftist appetite for weakness and cowardice. But you'd think that obvious truth wouldn't have to be adduced on a history site, wouldn't you?
Bill Heuisler


Frederick Thomas - 9/29/2005


Sir,

you amaze me at times with your erudition. I cannot recall any article or book on this subject which contains a better short summary of the Achaean-Persian competition.

I'd love to see your long version of this, with Salamis and other naval actions and the Persian campaign included.

Thank you again!


Bill Heuisler - 9/28/2005

Mr. Gilbert,
You wrote, "There is no proof of Iraq harboring terrorists." Wrong. There's absolute proof Iraq harbored and trained terrorists. I'm wondering why you foolishly say otherwise.

You may delude yourself if it's convenient, but Iraq's been training and funding terrorists and providing safe haven for them for at least twelve years.

Here are parts of a recent article from a reporter named Stephen Hayes. Before you dispute any facts, it might behoove you to check them with other source material.

"Not long ago conventional wisdom skewed heavily toward a Saddam-al Qaeda links. In 1998 and early 1999, the Iraq-al Qaeda connection was widely reported in the American and international media. Former intelligence officers and government officials speculated about the relationship and its dangerous implications for the world. The information in the news reports came from foreign and domestic intelligence services. It was featured in mainstream media outlets including international wire services, prominent newsweeklies, and network radio and television broadcasts.

Newsweek magazine ran an article in its January 11, 1999, issue headed "Saddam + Bin Laden?" "Here's what is known so far," it read:
-Saddam Hussein, who has a long record of supporting terrorism, is trying to rebuild his intelligence network overseas--assets that would allow him to establish a terrorism network. U.S. sources say he is reaching out to Islamic terrorists, including some who may be linked to Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi exile accused of masterminding the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa last summer.

Four days later, on January 15, 1999, ABC News reported that three intelligence agencies believed that Saddam had offered asylum to bin Laden:
-Intelligence sources say bin Laden's long relationship with the Iraqis began as he helped Sudan's fundamentalist government in their efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. . . . ABC News has learned that in December, an Iraqi intelligence chief named Faruq Hijazi, now Iraq's ambassador to Turkey, made a secret trip to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden. Three intelligence agencies tell ABC News they cannot be certain what was discussed, but almost certainly, they say, bin Laden has been told he would be welcome in Baghdad.

NPR reporter Mike Shuster interviewed Vincent Cannistraro, former head of the CIA's counterterrorism center, and offered this report:
-Iraq's contacts with bin Laden go back some years, to at least 1994, when, according to one U.S. government source, Hijazi met him when bin Laden lived in Sudan. According to Cannistraro, Iraq invited bin Laden to live in Baghdad to be nearer to potential targets of terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. . . . Some experts believe bin Laden might be tempted to live in Iraq because of his reported desire to obtain chemical or biological weapons. CIA Director George Tenet referred to that in recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee when he said bin Laden was planning additional attacks on American targets.

By mid-February 1999, journalists did not even feel the need to qualify these claims of an Iraq-al Qaeda relationship. An Associated Press dispatch that ran in the Washington Post ended this way:
-The Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has offered asylum to bin Laden, who openly supports Iraq against Western powers.

Where did journalists get the idea that Saddam and bin Laden might be coordinating efforts? Among other places, from high-ranking Clinton administration officials.

In the spring of 1998-well before the U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa-the Clinton administration indicted Osama bin Laden. The indictment, unsealed a few months later, prominently cited al Qaeda's agreement to collaborate with Iraq on weapons of mass destruction. The Clinton Justice Department had been concerned about negative public reaction to its potentially capturing bin Laden without "a vehicle for extradition," official paperwork charging him with a crime. It was "not an afterthought" to include the al Qaeda-Iraq connection in the indictment, says an official familiar with the deliberations. "It couldn't have gotten into the indictment unless someone was willing to testify to it under oath."

The Clinton administration's indictment read unequivocally:
-Al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.

On August 7, 1998, al Qaeda terrorists struck simultaneously at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The blasts killed 257 people, including 12 Americans, and wounded nearly 5,000. The Clinton administration determined within five days that al Qaeda was responsible for the attacks and moved swiftly to retaliate. One of the targets would be in Afghanistan. But the Clinton national security team wanted to strike hard simultaneously, much as the terrorists had. "The decision to go to [Sudan] was an add-on," says a senior intelligence officer involved in the targeting. "They wanted a dual strike."

A small group of Clinton administration officials, led by CIA director George Tenet and national security adviser Sandy Berger, reviewed a number of al Qaeda-linked targets in Sudan. Although bin Laden had left the African nation two years earlier, U.S. officials believed that he was still deeply involved in the Sudanese government-run Military Industrial Corporation (MIC).

The United States retaliated on August 20, 1998, striking al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and the al Shifa pharmaceutical plant outside Khartoum. "Let me be very clear about this," said President Bill Clinton, addressing the nation after the strikes. "There is no question in my mind that the Sudanese factory was producing chemicals that are used--and can be used--in VX gas. This was a plant that was producing chemical warfare-related weapons, and we have physical evidence of that."

The physical evidence was a soil sample containing EMPTA, a precursor for VX nerve gas*. The decision to strike al Shifa aroused controversy. U.S. officials expressed skepticism that the plant produced pharmaceuticals, but reporters on the ground in Sudan found aspirin bottles and a variety of other indications that the plant had, in fact, manufactured drugs. For journalists and many at the CIA, the case was hardly clear-cut. For one thing, the soil sample was collected from outside the plant's front gate, not within the grounds, and an internal CIA memo issued a month before the attacks had recommended gathering additional soil samples from the site before reaching any conclusions. "It caused a lot of heartburn at the agency," recalls a former top intelligence official.

The Clinton administration sought to dispel doubts about the targeting and, on August 24, 1998, made available a "senior intelligence official" to brief reporters on background. The briefer cited "strong ties between the plant and Iraq" as one of the justifications for attacking it. The next day, undersecretary of state for political affairs Thomas Pickering briefed reporters at the National Press Club. Pickering explained that the intelligence community had been monitoring the plant for "at least two years," and that the evidence was "quite clear on contacts between Sudan and Iraq." In all, at least six top Clinton administration officials have defended on the record the strikes in Sudan by citing a link to Iraq.

The Iraqis, of course, denied any involvement. "The Clinton government has fabricated yet another lie to the effect that Iraq had helped Sudan produce this chemical weapon," declared the political editor of Radio Iraq. Still, even as Iraq denied helping Sudan and al Qaeda with weapons of mass destruction, the regime lauded Osama bin Laden. On August 27, 1998, 20 days after al Qaeda attacked the U.S. embassies in Africa, Babel, the government newspaper run by Saddam's son Uday Hussein, published an editorial proclaiming bin Laden "an Arab and Islamic hero."

Five months later, the same Richard Clarke who would one day claim that there was "absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever," told the Washington Post that the U.S. government was "sure" that Iraq was behind the production of the chemical weapons precursor at the al Shifa plant. "Clarke said U.S. intelligence does not know how much of the substance was produced at al Shifa or what happened to it," wrote Post reporter Vernon Loeb, in an article published January 23, 1999. "But he said that intelligence exists linking bin Laden to al Shifa's current and past operators, the Iraqi nerve gas experts, and the National Islamic Front in Sudan."

Later in 1999, the Congressional Research Service published a report on the psychology of terrorism. The report created a stir in May 2002 when critics of President Bush cited it to suggest that his administration should have given more thought to suicide hijackings. On page 7 of the 178-page document was a passage about a possible al Qaeda attack on Washington, D.C., that "could take several forms." In one scenario, "suicide bombers belonging to al Qaeda's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency, or the White House."

A network anchor wondered if it was possible that the White House had somehow missed the report. A senator cited it in calling for an investigation into the 9/11 attacks. A journalist read excerpts to the secretary of defense and raised a familiar question: "What did you know and when did you know it?"

But another passage of the same report has gone largely unnoticed. Two paragraphs before, also on page 7, is this: "If Iraq's Saddam Hussein decide[s] to use terrorists to attack the continental United States [he] would likely turn to bin Laden's al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is among the Islamic groups recruiting increasingly skilled professionals," including "Iraqi chemical weapons experts and others capable of helping to develop WMD. Al Qaeda poses the most serious terrorist threat to U.S. security interests, for al Qaeda's well-trained terrorists are engaged in a terrorist jihad against U.S. interests worldwide."

CIA director George Tenet echoed these sentiments in a letter to Congress on October 7, 2002:
'Our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability. Some of the information we have received comes from detainees, including some of high rank.'

'We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade.'

'Credible information indicates that Iraq and Al Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression.'

'Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of Al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad.'

'We have credible reporting that Al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire W.M.D. capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to Al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs.'

'Iraq's increasing support to extremist Palestinians coupled with growing indications of relationship with Al Qaeda suggest that Baghdad's links to terrorists will increase, even absent U.S. military action.'

CIA Director, Tenet has never backed away from these assessments, Mr. Gilbert. Do you have reasons or facts to dispute him? If so, please state them here for HNN readers.

Senator Mark Dayton, Dem. Minnesota, challenged Tenet on the Iraq-al Qaeda connection before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 9, 2004. Tenet reiterated his judgment that there had been numerous "contacts" between Iraq and al Qaeda, and that in the days before the war the Iraqi regime had provided "training and safe haven" to al Qaeda associates, including Abu Musab al Zarqawi. What the U.S. intelligence community could not claim was that the Iraqi regime had "command and control" over al Qaeda terrorists. Still, said Tenet, "it was inconceivable to me that Zarqawi and two dozen [Egyptian Islamic Jihad] operatives could be operating in Baghdad without Iraq knowing."

Mr. Gilbert, the Iraq Survey Group (look it up) has obtained interesting new information. In the spring of 1992, according to Iraqi Intelligence documents obtained by the ISG after the war, Osama bin Laden met with Iraqi Intelligence officials in Syria. A second document, this one captured by the Iraqi National Congress and authenticated by the Defense Intelligence Agency, lists OBL as an Iraqi Intelligence "asset" who "is in good relationship with our section in Syria." A third Iraqi Intelligence document, this one an undated internal memo, discusses strategy for an upcoming meeting between Iraqi Intelligence, bin Laden, and a representative of the Taliban. On the agenda: "attacking American targets."

This seems significant, doesn't it?.

Two more: look up (google)Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, the Iraqi Saddam Fedayeen officer who attended the 9/11 planning meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

Google Abdul Rahman Yasin, the Iraqi who mixed the chemicals for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and was given sanctuary and financial support by Iraq upon returning to Baghdad two weeks after the first world trade center attack.

Enough, Mr. Gilbert? Ask yourself why the Clinton Administration included the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship in its 1998 indictment of Osama bin Laden. More specifically, what intelligence did Richard Clarke see that allowed him to tell the Washington Post that the U.S. government was "sure" Iraq had provided a chemical weapons precursor to the al Qaeda-linked al Shifa facility in Sudan? What would compel former secretary of defense William Cohen to tell the September 11 Commission, under oath, that an executive from the al Qaeda-linked plant "traveled to Baghdad to meet with the father of the VX [nerve gas] program"*? And why did Thomas Pickering, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, tell reporters, "We see evidence that we think is quite clear on contacts between Sudan and Iraq. In fact, al Shifa officials, early in the company's history, we believe were in touch with Iraqi individuals associated with Iraq's VX program*."

The connection between Saddam and al Qaeda is not disputable, Mr Gilbert. But don't believe me, look it up before you make any more claims that reveal either your lack of knowledge or your blind political animus.

*WMDs, Mr. Gilbert? Enough VX gas to slaughter 100,000 people can be held in a canister the size of a 50 gallon drum. Not difficult to hide, but VX is very difficult to make. Only one country in the Middle East had the sophisticated labs, equipment and chemists. You guessed it, Iraq.
Bill Heuisler



Joe Gilbert - 9/28/2005

I'm not opposing your opinion on the fallacies of this article. What I do oppose is the idea that 9/11 is similar to Pearl Harbor. 9/11 was an attack conducted by a terrorist group with no specific relations to any country. There is no proof of Iraq harboring terrorists. Even if we win in Iraq and the Iraqis openly accept our form of government, who decides where the war on terror ends? I imagine that many Middle Eastern countries harbor terrorists. This isn't a retaliation as the war on the Japanese was, it's more akin to us invading North Vietnam to protect our country from the threat of communism. Which, may I note, has basically toppled itself.


Bill Heuisler - 9/27/2005

Mr. Lederer,
I get your drift. But.

Each battle/campaign mentioned was reaction to aggression. Marathon was fought defending European Greeks from Darius' invading Persians in 490 BC. Thermopylae was also in defense of European Greece invaded by Xerxes' Persians four years later. Plataea was fought two years after that against another invading Persian army.

Throughout Philip IIs youth Sparta and then The Arcadian League, was attempting to liberate the Ionian Greeks from Persians like Darius II, Ataxerxes II and Cyrus. From his accession, the stated goal of Macedon was to unify the Greek States into a force capable of liberating the Asian Greek cities (Ionian). His son merely carried out the father's wishes and fused the Greeks into an unparalleled fighting force that destroyed the centuries-old Persian menace and replaced despotism with local rule in nearly every locality the Greeks liberated. Greeks were placed in nominal power, but politics and religion stayed at local levels.

The examination of ruins at Hissarlik in the Troad shows a strong fortress was destroyed soon after the middle of the 13th century B.C.. Hittite documents (Emil Forrer 1924) show a relatively amicable relationship between Achaians and Hittite King Mursilis II. Cities and areas were mentioned, including Aeolia, Trozen, Mycenaea, Ilios, Tiryns and other relatively archaic place names. (Fritz Schachermeyr 1935 , "Hethiter und Achaer") also look up(Page, 1959, "History and the Homeric Iliad"

These sources and others show stable relationships among the great powers of Anatolia/Asia-Minor, mid-13th century - Egypt, Syria, Cyprus, Assyria, Babylon, Achaia. Evidently, the Trojan War was quite limited in scope and fought quite willingly by duteous, principled men linked through kings, clans and families over honor.

The point? There is absolutely no connection, geopolitically,culturally or militarily, between Greece before the end of the Bronze Age and Greece 800 years later...or Greece in the eleventh and tenth centuries after the Dorian invasion, or later when Homer wrote of heroes made less and greater by the passage of centuries and turmoil.

Witlessly writing about a time and motivations so distant - and drawing modern political lessons from such whimsey - is as productive as parsing pig dung for opinions.

The good news? When our troops are attacked by such as Palaima, the only result will be laughter.
Bill Heuisler


Frederick Thomas - 9/27/2005

Very nice post.

I was so flabbergasted by the number of tortured citations and logical fallacies in this article, that I could not initially respond. You, however, disassembled it neatly.

Regarding your point on "wrath", Mr. Palaima may have benefitted from reviewing the first stanza, "Sing, Goddess, of the wrath of Akhillaeus..." which roots the conflict's progress and its outcome in a tragic human emotion.

As I believe Napoleon said, tragedies are the textbooks of kings, and the Achaeans knew their tragedies.

Too bad about this article. War and ethics now and then is an interesting premise, which deserves a fuller, less politically biased, and more accurate development.


John H. Lederer - 9/27/2005

result in Marathon, Thermopylae, Platea, the conquests and empire of Alexander?


Bill Heuisler - 9/27/2005

Mr. Palaima,
Misusing the Iliad to demean our troops reveals a lack of classical knowledge...and a lack of class.

Your metaphor, while failing your purpose, soars inadvertantly into a larger, magnificent truth. The War at Troy was righteous eruption of Menis, or wrath; Ajax, Achilles, Hector, Aeneas were fulfilling honor or duty just as our young men fulfill theirs.

When you claim, ("And they, like us, have not addressed what damage an all-volunteer army - something tantamount to a mercenary force and rightly unimaginable in the ancient Greek city-states - will eventually do to our country's social and political fabric.") you misstate history and mischaracterize the Iliad. First, Greek mercenaries were prized for their courage and fealty by most Middle Eastern countries. Does Xenophon and his Anabasis ring any scholarly bells, Mr. Palaima?

Setting aside that misrepresentation, the Iliad told of the Age of heroes, a brilliant civilization of Mycenaean Greece preceding the Dorian invasion and the two-century Greek Dark Age. Hesiod and Homer both evoked a "race of iron", a time of kingdoms and kings, a list of places as they existed before the Dorian occupation. The "Catalogue of Achaeans" in the second Book of the Iliad describes real places like Mycenae, Tiryns, Orchomenos and Pylos, city states that compare to Feudal Europe in grouping patriarchal Lords, clans, families and fighting men.

These Achaeans - rightly or wrongly - rose together in support of their civil, traditional leader to avenge a wrong done to them all. Volunteers to a man, heroes in unselfish devotion, and the very opposite of mercenaries.

American young men now volunteer to avenge 9/11, to fight for freedom, to protect their country, just as young men fought in Iwo jima to avenge Pearl Harbor and stop the Japanese. Our young men risk death for their country. Saying US fighting men enlist for money or education is such an elitist, demeaning and insulting fabrication that it's difficult to understand how you were given space on HNN.
Bill Heuisler


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