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In the Shadow of Rome

Long version: mp3, 3/51 MBs, 4:18
Short version: mp3, 2.89 MBs, 3:32

[Col. recorded 11/04/03]

The crown o' the earth doth melt. My
lord!
O! withered is the garland of the war,
The soldier's pole is fall'n; young boys
girls
Are level now with men; the odds is gone,
And there is nothing left remarkable
Beneath the visiting moon.
— Shakespeare, *Antony and Cleopatra*

The War, we are told, has been over for months in the sweltering desert of Iraq. As Bush 'the Lesser' proclaimed several months ago, as he swaggered in his tailor-made flight suit: "Mission Accomplished!"

Yet, if wars are measured in death, destruction and conflict, the Iraq Adventure is many things, but 'over' it ain't!

As these words are written there comes reports of conflicts with U.S. troops and Iraqis in the so-called "Sunni Triangle," sparked by protesters who are parading through an Iraq town with pictures depicting Iraq's former President, Saddam Hussein!

The body count of Americans (not to mention Iraqis!) who have died in the broadening conflict has equalled or exceeded that of the active war itself.

Also, by increasing numbers, the American people are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the Iraq Occupation. Some are beginning to question the claimed reasons for the war and occupation, as there is no indication that so-called weapons of mass destruction exist or have existed for years.

As the eloquent Black nationalist, Malcolm X was fond of saying, "History best rewards our research."

When we look at the emergence of the U.S. Empire, we are tempted to look at historical precedents, like Rome. A man regarded as Rome's greatest historian, Tacitus, wrote of Roman wars for imperial looting, against the Britons, the Gauls, and other ancient peoples. Among his reports is of Calgacus of the Caledonians, who was rousing his British tribe against the Roman invaders. In his speech to the Caledonians, we see how an occupied people looked at the Romans:

"As often as I consider the causes of war and our dire straights, I have great confidence that this day and your union will be the beginning of freedom for all Britain; for you have all joined together, you who have not experienced slavery, for whom there
are no lands further on and even the sea is not safe, with the Roman fleet threatening us. Thus battle and weapons, which are honorable for the brave, are likewise the greatest source of safety even for cowards... [N]ow the farthest boundary of Britain lies open, ...now there are no people further on, nothing except waves and rocks, and the Romans more hostile than these, whose arrogance you would in vain try to avoid by obedience and submission. Plunderers of the world, after they, laying everything waste, ran out of land, they search out the sea: if the enemy is wealthy, they are greedy; if he is poor they seek prestige; men whom neither the East nor the West has sated, they alone of all men desire wealth and poverty with equal enthusiasm. *Robbery, butchery, rapine they call empire by euphemisms, and when
they produce a wasteland, they call it peace,"* [Tacitus, P.C., *Agricola, Germany and Dialogue on Orators* (Univ. of Oklahoma Press: Norman/London, 1967 [1991]),
pp. 44-5]

To be sure, this is not a common reflection that history sends us of Rome. But it is a view held by many of the people who were held under the Roman imperial foot.

Years from now, perhaps centuries from this hour, what will people think of the acts of the American Empire? Will the justifications for war put out by Bush prevail, or will the voices of those who are under the American imperial boot be unearthed?

Because we are almost all consumers of the corporate, imperial press, such voices are hard to hear now, and will rarely be heard, for a while.

For networks, their newsdesks festooned with sets embracing 'Operation Iraqi Freedom,' it will take some time for the voice of Iraqi underdogs to carve through the marble.

But if Tacitus teaches us anything, it is that those voices will have their hearing.

History, at its best, reflects more upon the present than the past. It gives us some idea, not only of what came before, but of what is happening now, and why.

In 2,000 years we are still engaged in "empire by euphemisms", where war is peace, and warriors are peacekeepers.

Copyright 2003 Mumia Abu-Jamal


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Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa

Text © copyright 2003 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.