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Setting Foot on the Road Used by Ghosts

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Feeling his family besmirched by the actions of an enemy ruler, the leader assembled a "coalition of the willing" to destroy a nation. And thus began a terrible war with much loss of life.

Bush's invasion of Iraq? No, a war fought about 3,200 years ago on the plains of Troy, a powerful city in the Late Bronze Age. But the parallels are frightening.

According to legend, Agamemnon, ruler of Mykenai (Mycenae), led a fleet of over 1,100 fast ships to attack Troy because the Trojan prince Alexandros (Paris) stole Helen, the wife of Menelaos, brother of Agamemnon. Some have speculated that Bush invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein was a galling reminder of his father's inability to dislodge the dictator.

Many scholars doubt the Helen story, suggesting instead that Troy was sacked because of its wealth and its control of the Hellespont. Some believe that the real reason for the U.S. invasion of Iraq was to gain control of that country's vast oil reserves.

The Achaians (Greeks) launched their first attack on Teuthrania because they mistook it for Trojan territory. After devastating the land they were beaten back. Bush launched his attack on Iraq mistaking it for al-Qaeda territory and he may yet be beaten back.

Our knowledge of the Trojan war is limited to The Iliad, a poem of 15,693 lines allegedly composed by an 8th century B.C. poet of genius named Homer, of whom little is known, and to the much later epics, The Aeneid by Virgil and The War at Troy, written by an unknown poet named Quintus. Yet The Iliad, which critics have termed "perhaps the greatest non-religious story ever told," along with The Odyssey comprise the beginning of European literature. And what powerful works they are.

The archaeological evidence suggests that the hill of Hisarlik ("Troy") was inhabited for over 4,000 years. During this time the city was sacked at least nine times. One of the sackings ("Troy VI" circa 1200 B.C.) coincides with the Greek stories about the Trojan War.

Unlike the sanitized and brief listings of unnamed Americans killed almost daily in Iraq, Homer, Virgil and Quintus provide the names and lineages of those killed. Furthermore, they tell us in graphic detail how each person died. Perhaps if the armchair generals in the White House and their talk-show lackeys who got us into the Iraqi war had pondered scenes in which a dying man desperately tries to hold in his intestines while slipping on the bloody gore of fallen comrades they would have had second thoughts about sacrificing young Americans in their ideological and theological quest to make the world safe for Halliburton.

In the end the sacking of Troy gained the Greeks nothing. Many were destroyed by storms on their return journey. Others, like Odysseus, wandered for 10 years before returning home. And Agamemnon, who led the Greek invasion, was assassinated in a coup on his return. The vibrant Bronze Age Greek civilization slipped into a centuries long Dark Age in which even literacy was forgotten.

The cry of Cassandra, sister of Paris, could just as well be that of those who warned before the invasion that Iraq was not the sponsor of the 9/11 attacks nor did Iraq pose an imminent threat to us: "You pay no attention to me, no matter how much I tell you ... At a banquet full of pains, you eat your last feast, food defiled with evil gore, and you are already setting foot on the road used by ghosts."

--Gary L. Bennett,

Emmett