Sunday, March 27, 2005

a wizard who grew serpents on each of his shoulders

From Juan Cole's weblog:

.....Now-Ruz, the New Year celebrated by the Kurds (rooted in ancient Iranian Zoroastrianism, this holiday commemorates the spring solstice --usually March 21-- as the beginning of a new year). The Kurds tie their celebration to the legends of the Shahnameh, which tells the story of how in ancient times an evil ruler emerged, Dahhak or Zohak, who overthrew the glorious king Jamshid. Dahhak was a wizard who grew serpents on each of his shoulders, which needed to eat human brain every day. So Dahhak had young men rounded up from the subject populations, and two were sacrificed each day. Dahhak was finally overthrown by a young knight, Faridun, aided by the blacksmith Kaveh, who freed the captured young men on Now-Ruz. The Kurds have a legend that they are descended from those freed prisoners, and they celebrate their manumission on March 21. The story of Jamshid, Dahhak and Faridun is a variation on a widespread Indo-European myth cycle. In the ancient Indian sources the three are the king of the underworld, Yama; the world-serpent, Vrta, and Indra, who slays Vrta. The story is also echoed in the Nordic myth of Thor and the Midgaard serpent (Thor is a composite of Faridun the prince and Kaveh the blacksmith). At some point in Iran, the snake figure was historicized as an evil foreign king who brought drought and had serpents growing from his body, and he was also racialized. Dahhak or Zohak is a clearly Semitic word, whereas Jamshid and Faridun are Indo-Europeans. This development reflects the fights that took place when the Iranian peoples from Anatolia immigrated into Elamite and Assyrian territory in the 800s BC. Assyrians and Babylonians spoke Semitic languages related to Arabic and Hebrew. (Some US newspapers last year reported the struggle of Kaveh with Zohak as a historical event of the 7th century BC!)

The casting of the serpent monster as a Semitic ruler made it easy for Kurds to identify Dahhak with Saddam, and perhaps with the virulent strain of Arab nationalism he represented.

Interesting Q/A

Presenter: Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey
Wednesday, March 23, 2005 10:03 a.m. EST

Defense Department Special Briefing on Iraq and Afghanistan

STAFF: Well, good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Q Good morning.

STAFF: Today we have an opportunity to let you interact with the
secretary of your Army, Dr. Francis Harvey, who has recently returned
from a trip into theater, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As this is his first time with you, I would ask that when we get to
questions and answers, that you identify yourself and your news
organization so he can get to know you better.

Mr. Secretary, please.


Q Good morning, sir. My name is Tom Squitieri with USA Today.
Following up on the issue of recruiting, two surveys conducted for DOD
and the Army recently as well as independent polling by our paper and
other media organizations show that one of the biggest challenges for
recruiters are parents of the younger people who are being convinced
by their parents not to sign up, for the reason they don't want to see
their child possibly killed or hurt in the conflict. With all the
ideas that you're brainstorming, about bonuses and all these other
things and the things you don't want to tell us this morning, how do
you deal with the fact that your biggest obstacle are parents?

SEC. HARVEY: Good question. And as you say, we do take
surveys along those lines.

One thing we're going to be doing, without getting into
the details, is we're going to be being very proactive to pointing out
to recruits and their parents the value of serving the country. This
is a theme the chief and I started in our testimony to Congress, that
it is a noble calling to serve the country. I personally feel that
way. I'm standing here before you because I wanted to serve the
country. And that's what I wanted to do. This is actually my third
career. And my motivation is, during a time of war I want to serve the
country that has been so good to me. I want to return to the
government, return specifically to DOD, that was very influential in
my business success, and what I learned here at the department. So
we're going to appeal to patriotism. We're going to appeal to the
value of service. And we're going to do that in a very proactive way.

So I think those particular results are subject to change
and they can be turned around.


A Nation Rocked to sleep

A Nation Rocked to sleep

by Carly Sheehan
Brother Casey KIA 04/04/04
Sadr City Baghdad

Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?
The torrential rains of a mother's weeping will never be done
They call him a hero, you should be glad that he's one, but
Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?

Have you ever heard the sound of a father holding back his cries?
He must be brave because his boy died for another man's lies
The only grief he allows himself are long, deep sighs
Have you ever heard the sound of a father holding back his cries?

Have you ever heard the sound of taps played at your brother's grave?
They say that he died so that the flag will continue to wave
But I believe he died because they had oil to save
Have you ever heard the sound of taps played at your brother's grave?

Have you ever heard the sound of a nation being rocked to sleep?
The leaders want to keep you numb so the pain won't be so deep
But if we the people let them continue another mother will weep
Have you ever heard the sound of a nation being rocked to sleep?