Oedipus Rex and the price of hubris


The ancient Greek dramatist Sophocles wrote the play Oedipus Rex, a tragedy which many consider to be his masterpiece. The story is about Oedipus, King of Thebes. There was pestilence befalling Thebes, and an oracle said that if the murderer of King Laius, the former King of Thebes, was found and cast out of the city, Thebes will be rid of the pestilence. After much inquiry, it was determined that Oedipus himself was the murderer of King Laius, who turned out to be Oedipus' father.

This came about because of a prophecy about Oedipus in which he would kill his father and have children by his mother. In order to avoid this, King Laius and Queen Jocasta, Oedipus' current wife (and his mother), left Oedipus to die in the wilderness. This action, seeking to avoid the fulfillment of the prophecy, set in motion the events that directly led to the fulfillment of the prophecy. Oedipus became King of Thebes by ridding Thebes of the menacing Sphinx. On his way to Thebes, however, he killed a man. That man turned out to be King Laius himself. When the truth about Oedipus' identity was revealed, Joacasta hung herself, and Oedipus gouged out his eyes and lived the rest of his days in exile.

This tragic story reminds me of the current mess we have in Iraq. President Bush repeatedly told the country that, among other evils, Saddam Hussein had links to terrorists who yearned to kill Americans, and this left America vulnerable to another September 11. Therefore, seeking to prevent the fulfillment of this evil prophecy, America must attack Iraq preemptively. Now, more than 100 days after the war was declared "over," terrorism has now become "the No. 1 security threat" to the U.S. in Iraq. 

In fact, President Bush has said publicly that he believes "foreign elements" are in Iraq and are committing acts of terror against Western targets. Case in point: the horrific attacks against the Jordanian embassy  the U.N. Headquarters in Baghdad, and most recently, the mosque bombing in Najaf. This war, trying to prevent terrorism against America, has actually led to an increased American vulnerability to terrorist attack. Can anyone say Oedipus Rex?

Unfortunately, however, that is the price of hubris. King Laius was arrogant enough to think he could thwart Fate, and it led to his own destruction. Now, the Bush Administration's arrogance has come back to hurt it as well. Secretary of State Colin Powell has launched a new effort at the United Nations to secure more international military support in Iraq. Specifically, he wants other countries to send troops and materiel to Iraq, to help in the occupation and rebuilding of the country. But, he does not want to cede any authority or control to the United Nations. So far, every country has balked at the request. Michel Duclos, France's charge d'affaires at the U.N., said, "Sharing the burden and the responsibilities in a world of equal and sovereign nations means also sharing information and authority." Even countries such as India, Pakistan, and Turkey are reluctant to send troops. Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador, Munir Akram, said, "We need to see whether we would be welcomed in Iraq." 

This really should come as no surprise to the United States. Just before the bombs began to fall on Baghdad, you could almost taste the disdain of the Bush Administration for the U.N. and the weapons inspections process (read: multilateralist cooperation). The U.S. then decided to "go it alone" and attack Iraq to "disarm" Saddam Hussein and destroy his "abundant" weapons of mass destruction. More than 100 days after the war was declared "over" by President Bush, U.S. soldiers are being killed by the day, no weapons of mass destruction has yet been found, and it seems every unemployed terrorist has flocked to Iraq to take pot-shots at Western targets. 

Now the U.S. wants other countries to "share in the glory" of rebuilding Iraq? Who are you kidding? You can't snub the International Community and attack Iraq unilaterally, and then expect the same International Community to come running to help when the going gets tough. Such is the price of hubris. If only the Bush Administration had read Oedipus Rex, perhaps it would have realized that the price of hubris is much too high a price to pay. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration is coming to learn that lesson the hard way, and it is spelling disaster for the country.

 

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and columnist for the Independent Writers Syndicate. He is author of "Why I Love the Ten Commandments," published in the Book Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith (Rodale).


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  14 Comments   Comment

  1. Shane Moorling from USA

    It is by your ignorance that you compare this Greek tragedy to President Bush's action in Iraq. There is nothing in common about this play. Unless you have proof, keep the rhetoric to yourself

  2. Logan Edwards from United states

    .... We do not have a mess in Iraq. All Bush is doing is giving the Iraqie people what Americans already have which is freedom. It angers me greatly when people talk bad about the war in Iraq. My personal oppinion is that we should kick there ... and take there oil, wile giving them freedoms.

    Logan,17 Saint James Missouri

  3. syed salamah ali mahdi from Saudi Arabia

    To Bush and his neocon empire builders, the zionists and the British poodle, " You .... on the fan! You clear up the mess!"

  4. Yahya Bergum from USA

    Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un. (Verily to Allah we belong and verily to Allah we return.) Perhaps some brave volunteers might be given leave to walk (bravely) in the funeral processions of those lost through friendly fire incidents. Peace also has its own victories that would surely seem no less important than those of war - nor less challenging it may seem.

    Allah hafiz wa rahmatullahi (Allah protect and show you mercy).

    --Yahya Bergum

  5. Ousmane Diallo from Senegal

    The real danger to the world community and to Islam lies within itself. The Pakistanis need to consider twice before engaging in peace keeping in Irak. That will help the imperialist Yankees in their endeavor to further destabilize and divide our Oummah. It reminds me of the "famous tirailleurs senegalais" who were the spearhead of colonial powers inAfrica. This experience has created an everlasting mistrust between Senegal and other african nations.

    Enjoy

  6. Yahya Bergum from USA

    It would seem that those in Iraq who would seek to live in peace are being pulled into a civil war. I think America has an obligation (first) to enable those people to emerge victorious from such a war and (second) to leave them to decide for themselves if they have no choice but to shed the blood of their own countrymen.

    We left our Iraqi friends in the lurge twelve years ago and they have had plenty of time to think about when might have been - if we had not left them in the lurge. At this point, I think we should be taking direction from those particular friends concerning what is best for us to be doing in their country.

    If they are provoked, whether from inside or outside of their country, I think that they better than we know what perhaps ought to be done about it. I think it would be better for us to support them in what they believe they needs to be done. I think it is also time to stop soliciting advice from America's "detractors" concerning what types of Muslims Americans ought to be listening to and assisting.

    If we trust in God, I think it's time we prove it, God willing. I'm sorry if I've unduly offended anybody.

    Assalamu alaikum (Peace be with you).

    --Yahya Bergum

  7. khai from singapore

    A well written article. Bush thinks that the world will follow him blindly but the fact is he's wrong. There is a Malay saying which goes something like "Came out of the crocodiles mouth only to go into the Lion's mouth". First he attaacked Iraq unilaterally("going into the crocodile's mouth) with a high number of Casualties civilians and military. Next he declared the war was over but then enter gureilla warfare( going into the lion's mouth), which he's fighting an enemy he do not who. More soldiers were killed compared to during the war and more civilian casualties caused by the soldiers' incompetence. Not all the soldiers should be blamed as i've read articles that A number of American and British troops do not know why they are fighting this war. Now, after attacking a sovereign nation, Bush is now asking the world to help him rebuild a nation which he destroyed single-handedly. What makes him think that the world is blind? I for one am not blind. The temptation of a share in contracts to build Iraq is down right dispicable; attacking a nation and reaping and profiting from it. And we still say that Bush is doing the right thing? THe American citizens, they have been deceived all along by their Gov. yet they still would remain ignorant of this fact. Remember Mr Bush so long as America carries on with it's arrogance, you will never win this war on terrorism and you will never win the respect of the other nations.

  8. Anisulla Khan from Canada

    I Agree, but there are still many people, in power, who do not want to understand or knowingly not facing the fact. Maybe to avoid the defeat from their faces or whatever reason.

  9. mount from USA

    GREAT ARTICLE! But the problem is that the Bush & Co. are very busy with the mess in IRAQ and domestic opposition and does not have time to read this article.

  10. Abdul Rahman

    I have a few words to say, in my opinion, in case of Iraq, Afganistan, Palastine and other wars supported/propagated by US unjustly, the example is like, let's say the US government is the muderer and the United Nation is the law enforcer.

    The murderer says to the law enforcer 'I am going to commit murder will you support me?'

    The law enforcer says 'No, unless you can get other people to agree or consent with you and your action'

    The murderer says 'I am going to kill anyway, whether you agree with me or not' so the muderer go and commit murder, but he realize his sin and does not want to repent but wanted to made his sins legal and continue his killing spree. So he goes again to the law enforcer and ask him to make his sins/crime legal.

    The law enforcer being wicked as the muderer, write up a law or act making murder commit by that muderer legal. So, there the stories goes, the murderer commit murder and ask the law enforcer to make it legal for him. Just like the US (muderer) and UN (law enforcer) is. Who are you going to trust?

    I pray to Allah Al-Mighty to keep me and al muslim away from callaborating with such a people.

  11. Salam from Singapore

    Thumbs up for the author. all he said was no more than the truth. these are facts that no one can deny......wassalam

  12. Paul (Abdul Wali ibn Dawud) from USA,,,now in Turkey, alhamdulillah

    Asalamu Alakium, I am american, raised catholic, now muslim. I'm devistated to see the destruction of the islamic world at the hand of the bush regime(parts one and two). I feel very strong love for my country, and the people who founded it must be rolling in their graves, begging Allah for a chance to come back and show the current interpretors of the constitution and decleration of independance how very wrong their actions are, and how they are in direct defiance of what our country was based on. If you read those two documents, you can see the phrase "lakum dee nukum wa leya deen" repeated over and over again see Bill of Rights, et al) Those writers belonged to the same club daddy bush says he belongs to and although people in the muslim world have the idea that they are all out to get muslims, this was-200 years ago at least, and up to the 1930's-not the case. Now the Novus Ordum Seculorum (see back of dollar bill, under the "eye of god") is the new french seculrism, (i.e atheism) of turkey and others. I hope and pray that these people will find the true source of their anger (greed, sheyton) and find themselves in the guidance of Allah. In the meantime, I hope the islamic world manages to kill nationalism in our own hearts, and remembers the word Ummah (or Ummet).

    The prophet's (S.A.W.)last sermon (khutba) stressed one thing over and over again, as did many of the hadeeths from his final years on this planet: UNITY, not creating differences among each other. Of course, he knew this was going to happen, and it has happened. However, we now must go back to the Sunnah, and fix this. I beseach leaders of jamats to attend with an open heart other mosques, and communicate with each other the peaceful solidarity which the muslim world so desperately needs. (pardon any typos/spelling errors in this and please, pass this idea on to others, its the only way we can survive. Asalamu alakium, wa rahmatulahi, wa barakatu!

  13. Richard from USA

    The US Government has most certainly created for itself a terrible situation. The Bush administration and any other politicians who thought this invasion of Iraq would prove to be beneficial to the USA were very short sighted in their thinking. They were even warned by some in the intelligence community and the world body that these actions would cause an increase in "terrorist" activities. The US Government brought this situation upon itself and doesn't have the right to demand anything of the UN! Infact, the UN should be condeming the USA and making demands of the USA! It is embarrassing to be an American in these sad times. All I can say is that I didn't vote for these neo-cons. Whatever befalls the US-Anglo alliance it deserves.

  14. Yahya Bergum from USA

    The international community will only be interested in sending in troops when the fighting is over. The solution for Iraq is to be found within Iraq. I think America should be armoring those Iraqis who seem capable of maintaining law and order within their own provinces.

    Assalamu alaikum.

    --Yahya Bergum