An old blog post from another site from 2013…the song remains the same.
Or was it Persian? It’s hard to keep them straight. Spock always lounged around the rec hall playing three dimensional chess. Chess! Persian! You know it.
You’ve seen those old movies with the Victorian boxers, usually British, or American on the western frontier. They always stand up straight with their hands chest high, knuckles out, fighting the proper fight. They always fight with rules about where you can hit, no kicking, nothing hidden, upright stuff, Marquess of Queensbury Rules.
Geopolitics in the Middle East isn’t checkers or Victorian boxing. There are grand games played on top of the geopolitical gaming tables and countless secret ones under it, the ones that matter. It’s a great three dimensional chessboard with intricate games surging forward and backward on the top with everyone, everywhere bent over it. The Iran nuclear bomb game looks like that. The games played on and under the table, layers of games, games like Mr. Spock’s chess. The Persian Mr. Spock games. Those games are about ISIS, Russians, banks, money, oil, religion, and most of all power, always power—and nuclear bombs too.
Baseball, The National Pastime, is an American game played so well in New York City. It’s ingrained in the American psyche. It’s about statistics, summer days, eighteen men on bright green grass playing by tradition, by sacred rules handed down from father to son in backyards across the land. Really it is. It’s not a business with owners hiring players for billion dollar contracts from the Dominican Republic, money they will never stay healthy or good enough long enough to collect. It’s not about million dollar endorsements and tax finagles in Hometown City for a new stadium to make owners, vendors, investors, networks, advertisers, and construction unions tons of money. There aren’t any $100-million TV contracts, and selling beer, shirts, hot dogs, and season tickets don’t really get discussed on the sports roundup at 11:15 PM. Those are the under the table games and aren’t the mythos of America It’s about all those memories, baseballs caught by little boys and signed by heroes. It’s poems, books, stories, the crack of ash on leather, yelling on the radio—tradition. How much are those Mickey Mantle balls worth now on Antique’s Roadshow?
Persia plays war like America plays baseball. In the 402 BCE World Series, Cyrus hired 10,000 Greek mercenaries lead by the Spartan general Clearchus to fight a war game for them. They did not tell the Greeks that they were actually hired to overthrow Artaxerxes II so Cyrus could take over. This was another Cyrus, not the “Great” Cyrus II of 500BCE who founded the Achaemenid Empire. That’s another Persian with the same name, cause it’s a cool warrior name—like Babe Ruth. The upstart Cyrus lost and the winners invited Clearchus and his senior staff over to dinner to thank them for their contribution anyway, even if they played on the losing team, good sports and all. The winners poisoned them in gratitude, cause Artaxerxes was really, really scared of all those ten thousand Greeks hanging around with sharp things, and armor, and all that war game stuff. He figured to destroy them before another loyal family member decided to hire them for his shot at the series, or the Greeks decided to take over themselves. He understood three-dimensional chess, even if his descendants had not invented the modern version of it yet. He was very traditional.
A junior officer named Xenophon did not get invited to dinner, cause he was Athenian not Spartan. He took over the headless Greek army after the Persian party, near where Baghdad would be built someday, and fought a long, bloody retreat up to to the Black Sea. They battled the Persians all along the way and then the Kurds in the winter snows of the north. Xenophon made it to the water with 2,200 soldiers left to became a great hero in Greece. He go a book deal out of it too.
When he was 22, Alexander III, the famous one from Macedon, crossed the Dardanelles from European Turkey to Asia Minor in 334BCE. The same place where Xenophon got out of Asia earlier. The Greeks had an outpost by the Black Sea then. The Macedonian rolled over Darius III of Persia like, well like the NY Yankees over the Chicago Cubs, if you know what I mean. Alexander died in Babylon from an infected from an arrow wound, or Baghdad if you prefer, when he was 33. His troops mutinied in India because they could not stand the place and were sick of running around Asia exploring and fighting everybody. They even defeated the Afghans, so much for the myth that Afghanistan is the graveyard of Empires. Alex understood games and defeated the Afghans by trickery. They loved it, and name their horses Bucephalus to this day.
A few hundred years later the Romans were tromping around Southern Europe, Spain, North Africa, and Britain decided to head East too. The Persians were still there, like they always are, and the Arabs were about to show up. The legionnaires may have worshiped Mithra, the Persian god of light, but they were a hell of a lot less successful in what they called Parthia. Emperor Trajan won a few games there, but Rome went home and waited to recline into history after that, kind of like Greece did after Alexander.
Remember the American invasion of Iraq, the second one, lead by Bush II? The Sunni Arab running Olde Mesopotamia at the time, the same place that Xenophon, Alexander, and Trajan had marched through, Saddam Hussein, called Bush II “Hulugu.” The American media slobbered about embedded war correspondents and drank lots of the Kool Aid about a “cake walk” series with the rag tag team from Iraq at the time. They all laughed and made yucks about Saddam yammering about 1258. Ancient history nobody knows anything about, or cares about, unlike ‘Merican history and the Founding Fathers from all those many glorious years ago, two whole centuries in fact.
Hulugu was a Mongol, a grandson of Chingis and an heir through the official, Golden Family Borjigin clan. Hulugu was sent by Mongke Khan to southwest Asia in 1255 to solidify Mongol authority. In the process he wiped out the Assassins who ruled the region from south of Baghdad. The Assassins were a mercenary army led by “The Old Man of the Mountain,” who had come from Egyptian slave origins. They terrorized the entire Middle East then and sold their team services to anybody with the money. Sound familiar, like any of the many teams there today? The Islam grand poobah, The Caliph of Baghdad, lived as a prisoner behind his city walls because of the Assassins. He welcomed Hulugu to save him. In 1258 grandson razed Baghdad after smushing the Old Man Of The Mountain’s team. The usual hyper inflated estimates of people killed in Baghdad range from 70,000 to over one million people killed. Historical death counts by medieval chroniclers of Mongol armies are alwayts ridiculous numbers, they wiped out the entire Earth’s human population many times over if you add them all up. In 2003 Saddam was only reminding Bush II, and the Americans that they reazlly haven’t learned very much about history and Persia in paerticular.
Hulugu? Well he founded the Peacock Throne, yes the same one the Shah of Iran, Moh Pahlavi was sitting on in 1979 when he was quite impolitely asked to vacate his chair by The Ayatollah.
Another Khan grandson, Babur, Babur the Tiger, lived in in Samarkand, now in Uzbekistan a few years after Hulugu. He left in a hurry in 1526, because the old Baku Khan empire in the north, the Golden Horde, wanted him out. He was also on the run from the Red Hats, a pack of Islamic fundamentalists led by an Ayatollah type rampaging in the region. Babur ran into Alexander’s old India and set up as head man there, safe from Persia and Mongolia both. He was a Mongol and founded another Mongol Empire, or Mughal Empire as they called it in polite company. Babur liked to think of himself as a Persian, too, and had converted to Islam along the way. Read his memoir, Buburnama. It has more chess and hidden games that you can shake a stick at.
Getting the idea about Persia? War is the national pastime and has been for thousands of years. Games inside of games, inside of games are how things are done. Three-dimensional chess was invented there long, long ago. Regular old chess is from 6th century India, easier for people like Babur to handle.
The Russians have been playing war and secret games there for a very long time too. Remember, they were managed by Batu Khan long after Europe experienced the Renaissance and all this modern world stuff started. A 200-year cold war with the British Empire over British India across Central Asia and the Middle East was only part of the Russian experience. The old monster, Stalin divided up the “Stans” around the wealth of the Fergana Valley so they would fight with each other over it and keep them out of his mustach. He understood them, his own brutal history and games under tables.
The 20th Century brought Germany’s “Great March East” to grab colonies and power in the Middle East. It was Lenin’s old dream too, a Bolshevik Revolution in Central Asia. Meanwhile, the Ottoman Turks turned into Attaturks, and now back again under Recap Tayyip Erdogan. Don’t forget the Kurds, old Xenophon’s old nemesis. They are still there. And Persia sitting right in the middle of it all the time., same as it always was.
Skip ahead to 2013, another century. Same Persia, different empire wanting to play a series there. Have you ever heard of Qassem Sulemani? You should hear about him. He’s a Persian player that the American Empire has to deal with. A modern war correspondent, Dexter Filkins, just did a story on Qassem. Read it. It has the history of Persia written all over it as they say.
Persia today, Iran if you prefer, wants a nuclear bomb. They will get it no matter what America wants or not. They want to keep Hezbollah as their expeditionary force in Lebanon. (Hezbollah also operates in Mexico and trains Mexican drug cartels according to Stratfor intel. Globalization is all the rage.) Iran wants the Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan destroyed. They want Sunni Iraq as a vassal state, and they want the oil there and in Azerbaijan too. They want to destroy the Sunni Gulf States and the Sunni Turks too, if they can manage it.
When you read the Filkins’ article did you notice something about it? There is nothing about the Sunnis in it! Not a word. It is almost like the American Empire fed Dexter the stories to publish at this very time about Iran, but from one point of view. Nah, that would be too many games. The Saudi’s have lived in the Middle East for thousands of yeas and they don’t play all these secret games like the Persians. They are not sided with the Americans who were sided with the Shiites in Iraq a few years ago themselves. And, no dammit, the Wasabi Arab cult that founded Saudi Arabia is not the same as ISIS and the Saudis didn’t help ISIS get started. Really, they didn’t. You watched the American war game and you didn’t see it, did you? Oy, what about Israel? More games, ow my head hurts, give me a beer and a hot dog.
When you come to New York City go to a Yankees game. It’s a wonderful game played on grass in the summertime. There are rules and it’s all right in front of you. It can be quite enjoyable, if you like simple games where the outcome is peaceful and everybody is a good sport. Or was it Mr. Steinbrenner…
I hope that the young empire from the west has a couple of Mr. Spocks in its employ. Allah knows it will need them when it comes time for the series with the Persian team.