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EMPTY HEART: Historical roots of the phenomenon of Colin Powell

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Message Mark Sashine
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When we are booted out of Iraq and out of all the Middle East, after some cool- off period I assume, Iraqis will identify the most hated man in the US. And that man would not be George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Ramsfeld or Condi Rice. That man will be Colin Powell.


To explain this prophecy of mine I have to go back in time and refer to the most hated man in the culture of my ancestors. I am a Russian, a person from the East. There is a man hated in Russia through generations since middle 1800s. He is hated unanimously and overwhelmingly; he is hated by liberals and conservatives, communists and capitalists, by adults and children, even by the Russian dogs. His name is not Napoleon or Hitler or Stalin. No, his name is Baron George D’Antes- Gekkern and he is buried on the municipal cemetery of the Alsatian town of Soultz. In his last years he was a mayor of that town and there he was buried in the late 1800s close to his adoptive father, Baron Gekkern, a Dutch nobleman retired.

In the early 1830s young baron D’ Antes in his early 20s came to Russia from France with great recommendations. He was received very cordially and immediately was co-opted to the privileged Royal regiment Les Chevaliers des guards, something like Tzar’s musketeers. He was given a rank of cornet (that is something like lieutenant, junior rank) and offered a financial assistance from the Royal treasury to cover part of his expenses as a gesture of support for the young officer. Monsieur D’ Antes soon proved himself an easy-going fellow, a nice, though mediocre officer and a very likable, handsome man of great interest to aristocratic ladies. It has to be noted that by the rules of aristocracy of that time a young nobleman was supposed to have voracious sexual appetites and pursue ladies whenever possible. In case of them being married that could result in the duels of honor but the reputation of the young man would never suffer in case the liaison was discovered; the dishonor would inevitably fall on the woman in question. Thus Baron D’Antes enjoyed himself in the fox hunt and among the foxes the most desirable was stunning Countess Natalie Pushkin, also in her early 20s and a wife of Count Pushkin, then about 36. At that time young cornet was also adopted by wealthy and influential Baron Gekkern, the Dutch Ambassador to Russia.

When Count Pushkin found out about George’s attempts to court his wife he promptly challenged him to a duel. But George was not seriously interested in Natalie at that time and he convinced Pushkin that he was really after her sister Katherine. To prove that he married Katherine and became a member of the family. Count Pushkin, an aristocrat himself, a famous gambler and compulsive womanizer in his young days accepted his explanations and withdrew his challenge. D’Antes was greeted into the family. In some time, though it became obvious that he continued his passes towards Natalie and that she was not that much unresponsive. In rage Count Pushkin decided to settle the matters once and for all. He sent an extremely insulting letter to George's adoptive father calling him a ‘pimp for his son’. George had no choice but to send Pushkin a challenge. This time the duel took place in winter 1837. Both participants were wounded: Baron George superficially, Count Pushkin mortally. Pushkin died in several days after that.

Now, the details of that duel are painstakingly researched and dissected by numerous historians and all of them come to the same conclusion- that Baron D’Antes did not violate any regulations of the Code of Honor. He behaved courageously and properly. The duel was at the distance of 32 steps, his opponent was a famous marksman. Baron George did his best and had nothing to be ashamed of. That’s why the reaction of the Russian society seems so surprisingly harsh; he was ostracized, banned from all contacts within the noble circles. He was tried in the military court and stripped of his rank. Both him and his adoptive father were instructed to leave Russia. Tzar Nicholas I also sent his personal letter to the Dutch Court after receiving of which Baron Gekkern was fired from the diplomatic staff.

In France George D’Antes made a great career. He became a senator of the Second Empire and a very rich man, a mayor of his hometown. Till the end of his days he did not understand what he had done so wrong and why the Russians hated him so much.

The reason for that hatred was in who was Count Pushkin. He was and is the greatest literary genius of Russian history, the Renaissance man of Russia, the founder of the contemporary Russian language, the most famous poet and novelist, the one and only Russian light, similar to Mozart in Austria or Dante Alighieri in Italy. All Russian people know his name and all Russian children read his fairy-tales. And he was that famous already when he met George D’ Antes. By the unwritten code of the highest score Pushkin, one of a kind, was untouchable, a special case, a national treasure of Russian people. To harm him was a mortal sin and even those who did not like him very much followed that rule. Except for young George. He did not give a damn. To him Pushkin was a funny, jealous husband of Natalie, nothing more. That was the reason for the overwhelming disgust towards him. Another Russian poet, Michael Lermontov wrote about Baron George, ‘Him, being with the empty heart, he could not understand what he was raising his hand against. He killed our glory.’ The empty heart of George D’ Antes, his total indifference to the people around him, his shallowness and greed were the reasons for the that hate and boy, he earned it big time. No Russian big or small ever said any good word about him and will not in generations yet to come. He is a murderer forever.


Colin Powell, a distinguished general and a man of integrity gave a speech in the Y2003 in front of the UN Security Council and lied. ALL of his speech was a lie because its purpose was an aggressive war. There could be no justification for that war, none at all. There, in front of the whole world he could stop it. He could say that it was wrong. He could say that he was told to lie. He risked much less than George D’ Antes; no gun was pointed at him. He knew what was the purpose, he knew that thousands would die but he did it anyway. He did it because he did not give a damn. He did it because he had an empty heart. He spit into the face of the mankind and hundreds off thousands died and every drop of blood is his fault, may God have mercy on his soul when his time comes. He was the last chance for them to stay alive and he killed them all. Some people claim that he was mislead. But there was nothing to be mislead about if only he had a heart. He hadn’t. He is guilty as sin. There is nothing more to say.


I am a Russian, a man from the East. We have a very good memory for good and bad. Kind off like Iraqis; we share that feature. And I say that for generations yet to come the name of Colin Powell will be the most hated name in Iraq. He earned it.



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The writer is 67 years old, semi- retired engineer, PhD, PE. I write fiction on a regular basis and I am also 10 years on OEN.

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