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Featured / October 11, 2010

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This article was first published at Alternet.

The hero of this story is the $100 bill — or rather, the wad of $100 bills. My first meeting with those lovely $100 bills came at the end of my interview for a job teaching English at the American University of Iraq Sulaimaniya (AUIS). At the end of the interview, the Chancellor, Joshua Mitchell asked me what my travel expenses had been and pulled out a wad of $100 bills. He peeled off 11 of them — the cost of my ticket — and slapped them down on the table, snarling, “There, that’s how I do business!”

It certainly wasn’t the way most American academics do business. Most Americans are horrified by the sight of large amounts of cash, and American academics, an even more squeamish lot than most, would never have slapped that much money down on a table without asking for a receipt or any other formality. I was impressed; there’s something appealing about raw gangsterism popping up when you expected overcautious pedantry — especially when that raw gangsterism is giving you cash.

Any scruples I might have had about joining the occupation vanished with the last of our cash. My wife Katherine and I had been truly poor in the preceding three years — homeless, begging at food banks, the whole deal. I even published some helpful hints in AlterNet for those experiencing real poverty for the first time.

We went to Iraq to make money, not because we believed the neocon talk about training Iraq’s future leaders in the great ideals of the West.

And once we got to know our colleagues at AUIS, we found that nearly all the faculty was there for the same reason. Oh, they knew the talking points — democracy, Great Books, transforming an authoritarian culture — but they were in Iraq to make money. Well, to make money and to drink. In fact, when the talk got boozy, as it almost always did at faculty gatherings, the nonsense about bringing democracy disappeared and people started talking openly about SUVs and houses in the country.

AUIS bloomed in the Northern Iraqi desert, a very artificial growth sustained hydroponically with US tax dollars. One night, at a very boozy faculty party, some veteran AUIS teachers told us the secret story of how the place was created. They claimed that AUIS was born when John Agresto, a right-wing academic and vassal of the Cheney clan, drove over the Turkish border with $500,000 cash taped to his body. There was something grotesque about this legend, because Agresto is a notably fat man, and once you’d heard the legend of his cash-strapped trip across the border, you couldn’t  help imagining him bulging with cash on top of his other bulges, like a wombat infested with botfly larvae.

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John Agresto: From disgraced Lynne Cheney lapdog to diabetic cash mule, you’ve come a long way, baby!

Bizarre as that story sounds, it’s probably true. Stranger things, involving much bigger stashes of tax money, have happened throughout the US occupation of Iraq — and Agresto certainly had the political connections to score that kind of cash. In the early stages of the US occupation after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Agresto was in charge of “reforming” the Iraqi education system on good Republican principles. To his credit, he wrote a reasonably honest book about the experience called Mugged by Reality. Unfortunately, the mugging didn’t take; Agresto has gone back to his right-wing roots, avoiding that disrespectful thug, Reality, as much as possible.

Agresto has a very typical right-wing biography, steeped in resentment and nourishing long, slow, vengeful designs on the academic profession which had humiliated him. He was a Reagan appointee to the National Endowment for the Humanities in the mid-1980s, joining his patron, Bill Bennett, in the project to de-fund the Left. But when he was nominated as Deputy head, a job that required congressional confirmation, Agresto was bitterly humiliated. He was criticized as a “mediocre political appointment” by the American Studies Association, with a dozen academic organizations joining up to issue a statement deploring his “decidedly partisan reputation.” There were also raised evebrows at the fact that a witness who testified for Agresto at his confirmation hearings had recently been given a large grant at Agresto’s behest. After these bruising revelations, his nomination was dropped.

Humiliation was the theme of all Agresto’s memories of venturing into the wider world, beyond the tiny enclave of neocon academics. Even his ideological allies seemed to hurt him; he once described Lynne Cheney, his boss at the NEH, as “gruff and manly,” then repeated with real hatred in his voice, “Gruff…she was gruff.”

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Lynne Cheney protecting John Agresto from her hungry husband

All that bitterness, and all those wads of taxpayer cash, ended up in the creation of AUIS. It was planned, as we new faculty were told, as a three-campus system, with branches in Baghdad and Southern Iraq. But Reality mugged that plan savagely; any attempt to stroll the groves of academe in any part of Iraq other than the Kurdish far north would have been interrupted with a lesson in practical physics from an IED.

Agresto took that money to Sulaimaniya, in the Kurdish zone of Northern Iraq, and set up AUIS, with himself in charge. He apparently chose Kurdistan for the simple reason that Baghdad, the natural place to put an American university in Iraq, was already too dangerous for Americans.

So AUIS was sited in Sulaimaniya, a quiet Kurdish town near the Iranian border with a long reputation of separatism towards the rest of Iraq, especially Arab Iraq. Saddam recognized Sulaimaniya’s tradition of fierce independence, once saying that “the head of the serpent lies in Sulaimaniya.”

“Suli,” as we expats called it, is a quiet, dusty town. When you fly into the Suli airport, the city seems almost invisible, because the favorite building material is concrete, and the beige and tan blocky houses blend perfectly with the dry brown hills. It’s hot in the summer and cold and damp in the winter and there’s very little to do. One of my colleagues described living there as “sensory deprivation.”

I arrived, with a dozen other new hires, in September 2009. We flew in on the same plane and were taken to our hotels on the same bus. Most of us were pretty flinchyll at first, wincing at every loud noise.But we soon learned there was nothing to fear from terrorists or even street hawkers. The Pesh Merga, the Kurdish militia who run security, are extremely effective, and the Kurds themselves are a polite, phlegmatic people.We soon realized the only danger in Suli was crossing the street. Everybody who’s anybody in Suli has an SUV — Kia Sportages for the middle class, Toyota Landcruisers for the rich — and very few locals know how to drive. But there is no violence against foreigners, as far as I know. We learned to go back to sleep after hearing bursts of AK fire, the established manner of celebrating a wedding or an election or just the fact that it’s Friday night. The only time I really flinched, once we were settled in, was when a bolt of lightning detonated directly above our hotel in the middle of the night. And even then, though I assumed it was a bomb, I wasn’t worried for our safety; my first thought was, “Agh, they’ll send us home and I won’t get any more of that money.”

In fact, I want to say clearly here how much I like and admire the people of Suli, my students in particular. They were a wonderful change from the timid, bland kids I’ve encountered in my recent North American teaching experiences. Most of the students at AUIS could name relatives tortured or killed by Saddam, or in the vicious Kurdish civil war of the 1990s, and nearly all of them were studying in an alien language they’d had little chance to learn properly. Yet they were smart, funny and without self-pity.

It was my fellow Americans who were the problem. And I was not alone in that opinion. I once asked a colleague at AUIS if she had any trouble getting respect from male Kurdish students. She looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Absolutely not. Are you kidding? The problem around here isn’t the students, it’s the assholes in the Main Building.”

The Main Building dominated the campus. In fact, the campus was divided in two like an ante-bellum plantation: there was the Main Building and the cabins. The cabins were cheap, prefabricated white metal shacks, shimmering in the bright sunlight, laid out like an army camp inside a square of blast walls. All the actual teaching, and all the teachers’ offices, were in the cabins. The Main Building, a big stone Soviet-style edifice, was reserved for the administrators’ vast offices.

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American taxpayer dollars at work: Sure there’s no money for Social Security or Medicare or health insurance, but hey, look on the bright side: Tens of millions of American dollars produced this gorgeous scene!

That was the real campus. It wasn’t the one we’d seen online. That was the first shock of our arrival: finding out that the huge, luxurious campus on the AUIS website — the one you could fly around on a “virtual tour” that swooped along tiled walkways connecting grand buildings labeled “Presidential Building” and “Student Housing” — didn’t exist.

Oh, there’s a construction site, sitting on a dry hillside just out of town. And for years, AUIS shamelessly showed a “virtual video” of that site as it’s supposed to look, if and when it’s ever finished, as if it already were the campus. It may never be finished; already the university hired and finally fired a local construction firm which missed every deadline it was set. A Turkish company has the contract now, adding to the Turks’ domination of all business in Iraqi Kurdistan.

When anyone at AUIS dared to suggest that it wasn’t very honest to keep up the “virtual tour” fiction, Mitchell and Agresto had a stock response: “We’re a startup operation!” It reminded me of a stand-up comic’s line: “I try to remain new on the job as long as possible.”

One reason we accepted shocks like the nonexistent campus so docilely was that, when our minders met us at the Suli airport, they gave us a nice little packet containing a cellphone and $5000 cash “to help [us] settle in.”

Next day, they took us to the real campus and assigned us to one of the white cabins. We soon discovered that these cabins were damn near fictions themselves. They were so shoddily built that the door handles came off nearly every one of them at some point in my year at AUIS. Mine decided to fall off at the worst possible moment, after a morning of grading essays with the help of way too much coffee, just when my aging bladder decided it had had enough. I walked quickly to the door and — clunk. The door handle had become a souvenir, a key chain.

The shoddiness of the cabins came in handy at that point, because all I had to do was bang on the wall we shared with professors in the other half of the cabin, and one of my colleagues obligingly came over and opened the door from the outside. He knew what that banging on the wall meant; the same thing had happened to him a week earlier. It all made for a kind of cheerful roughing-it camaraderie, but it also underlined the strange sense of falseness, that you were living and teaching in a stage set.

All the claims AUIS made had the same stagey,  silly feel, a boastful absurdity typical of the US in Iraq. The claims made for our mission were ridiculous; we were supposed to be transforming Iraq’s culture, teaching its future leaders a new and democratic way of thinking. But the university had only 200-odd students, and was straining to accommodate that number. It was hard to see how a group this size would transform a country of more than 26 million people.

And when I taught my first classes, I learned that those few students were woefully unprepared for university courses in English. We’d been told — another lie, of course — that the university’s ESL program produced fluent speakers and writers of English. That was a joke. Had I graded my students at the same level as in an American university — another one of our official fictions — at least two-thirds of them would have failed. A better man would no doubt have done the principled thing; I wanted those $100 bills and simply handed out a lot of generous C’s and B-’s.

Total fabrication; that’s what it all seems like now. We were supposed to be bridging the great ethnic divides of Iraq, but in that first semester, I taught a Composition course that consisted of what I thought of as a “Wall of Kurds” and a “Wall of Arabs.” The class was almost entirely male, and had the feel of a gang fight in hibernation. On one side of the room was the Wall of Kurds, a half dozen tough-looking, rural Kurdish students who spoke very little English; and on the other, a half-dozen much more urbane but much wimpier Arab students from Baghdad who wore a permanent flinch. The Arabs spoke and wrote much better English, the beneficiaries of Saddam’s preferential treatment of Baghdad, and the Kurds resented every sentence their erstwhile tormentors got right.

Both groups regarded me as an ephemeral inconvenience — a real surprise for me, because Agresto had assured me in the job interview that we were the biggest thing in these kids’ lives, the transformative yeast in the Iraqi loaf. At AUIS, he had told me (and every other new teacher), we’d see the total dedication to learning that we had longed for, and missed, in American students.

It never appeared. What I saw was several hundred lively, intelligent adolescents who were tremendously excited about living away from home, talking to members of the opposite sex, and trying on new identities. Classic adolescent stuff. There were times, in good weather, when the panorama of fevered social cliques occupying their few square meters of turf on the steps of the Main Building made the place look like a teen movie or a live-action Archie comic — all those family-ridden kids, burdened with having to be somebody’s son or daughter, brother or cousin, all their lives, suddenly allowed to be characters out of Heathers or Clueless.

There was an even bigger problem with fulfilling our messianic mission: the faculty. We were not an impressive bunch. There were good teachers at AUIS — I won’t name them, because praise from me might get them fired–but they survived by lying low; being bright and a good teacher made you suspect in a place where center stage was firmly occupied by a clique of loud, provincial rightwing nuts. In this sense, AUIS was an excellent microcosm of the American polity that had produced it: the best lacked all conviction, while the worst (with apologies to Yeats) raked in the cash and talked nonsense.

Successful Profs: Red-State Brown-Nosers with No Qualifikashuns

There was a clear, simple formula for success at AUIS: be a Southern white male Republican with a talent for flattery, an undistinguished academic record, and very little experience in university-level teaching.

Some of the faculty were so dismally unqualified and shameless that even our students, mostly reverent toward foreign authority-figures, saw through them.

The man Agresto hired to teach American History makes a perfect Exhibit A in any list of what’s wrong with AUIS. The first sign that he was not exactly committed to intellectual integrity was his choice of textbook for the course: an abominable book called America: The Last Best Hope, by William Bennett. Yes, THE William Bennett, Reagan’s Secretary of Education, the buffoon who sermonized on virtue until his gambling losses added up so high that they drowned out his pomposities, the man who once scolded a child in public for wearing a Bart Simpson t-shirt.

Bennett’s title sums up the thesis of his textbook clearly: America is literally, simply, the last and best hope for the human species. Tough luck, China — or Burma, or Ecuador, or any other nation on the planet — because we R it, the alpha and omega. It’s a classic reactionary thesis: “I can’t imagine any nation ever being as great as America; therefore no nation ever will be.” Argument by lack of imagination — a favorite among opponents of evolution, biological or historical.

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Gambling addict William Bennett

My students used to leave this book on their desks between classes, so I had a chance to flip through it. I expected it to be awful, but it was even worse than I could have guessed. Bennett gives sleazy imperial apologists a bad name. If you want to see this thing done well, try Hitchens or Paul Johnston, the British neo-imperialist historian from the Thatcher era. Bennett, who can’t write worth a damn and has never done original research in his life, is the worst of that very bad lot.

One student, the son of prominent Kurdish freedom-fighters and a genuine believer in things like intellectual freedom, saw through Bennett and had the courage to complain about the book. The teacher replied, “Well, this is a conservative university and it’s my job to give you the conservative perspective.” A simpler, more honest answer would have been: “Look, kid, I got this job by sucking up to John Agresto, who happens to be a close friend of William Bennett, so my hugely-inflated salary depends on feeding you this crap.” I still remember the disgusted shrug the student gave after telling me the story. He was learning about Western standards of intellectual integrity, all right — but not the way he was supposed to be.

Luckily for the students in American History, they spent most of their time watching war movies rather than reading Bennett’s Sunday School tales. Since I taught in the same cabin as our American History instructor, separated from his class by a flimsy metal wall, I got to listen to a whole semester’s worth of bad WW II films. Three long months of trying to teach my students to use the simple present, rather than the present progressive, in their essays, shouting to be heard over the corny dialogue coming through the wall: “I’m hit, Sarge! Uh…go on without me!”… usually followed by explosions that rocked the thin metal wall, as Sarge and friends took their revenge for the Gipper.

His one criterion was “bad language.” He wouldn’t show any movie with swearing in it (thus eliminating every decent war movie ever made). That scruple served him in place of any squeamishness about giving his teaching to the likes of William Bennett and John Wayne.

And for this, he was paid about $15,000 per month. The only reason I know he made that much is that he was a terrible braggart. We’d just been paid our first month’s salary, in cash, and as he walked with me among the cabins, he crowed, “Here I am walkin’ along with $15,000 cash in my pocket!”

He didn’t rate that sort of money because of his qualifications. As in, he didn’t got none. Not even a Ph.D. (though he claimed later to have picked one up from an online degree mill). He had no recent teaching experience, and no academic publications. Even by the lax standards of AUIS, the disparity between his rank and his qualifications became the object of speculation.

It was only through his habit of boasting that we found out the truth. As the winter break approached, he started strutting around telling everyone how he was going home to lobby Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, his home state, to send AUIS a big grant. He liked to boast while grooming himself in the stinking men’s room of the Cabins, which always stank like a chicken coop in hot weather. Standing at the urinal, he boasted to anyone trying to empty their bladders in his vicinity that his wife was one of the richest women in the state and a close friend of the Senator. He’d have no trouble getting an audience with Chambliss.

So that $15,000/mo. salary was only nominally for teaching; the man was actually a lobbyist with connections to the sleaziest and most lucrative crannies of the Southern rightwing elite. When I heard him boasting about his connections to Chambliss, I looked up the good senator and got another involuntary lesson in the utter falseness of the ideals holding up AUIS and its constituency. Saxby Chambliss was elected to the Senate in 2002 thanks to campaign ads showing the incumbent, Max Cleland, next to photos of Osama bin Laden. Even John McCain called the ads “reprehensible.” But that’s not the worst of it: Max Cleland, whose patriotism Chambliss impugned, lost three limbs to a grenade while fighting in Viet Nam. Saxby Chambliss never served, supposedly because he had a bad knee from playing high school football. The knee, of course, miraculously recovered once ol’ Saxby was past draft age.

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But there was no time to get angry at the history professor, because by the time the news that he was an unqualified lobbyist came out, we were already trying to deal with a psychotic sexual episode, another classic of rightwing pathology.

This boil-over was especially shameful, because it involved an American male professor abusing and intimidating a woman, a violation of our sacred mission to teach the Kurds to value free, independent women.

The American who boiled over was a strange little fellow–a hollow-eyed fanatic, one of those tenth-generation Calvinists who can’t help meddling in everyone else’s business. And what he hated most, naturally, was … free, independent women.

The woman he decided to obsess about was a foot taller than he was. He didn’t like that. And he didn’t like the fact that she was teaching in Iraq while her husband was back home in the US. Worse still, this woman was in the habit of having lunch with a man — a tall preppie who was not her husband. This proved unendurable to our mad midget. He started his campaign by glaring at her for weeks — you know that classic rightwing expression, a mixture of frustrated lust and cowardly rage? And then he decided God wanted him to take action. First he went to have a little pastoral intervention with the tall, dim Preppie guy this woman lunched with. He told the Preppie that, by having a falafel with a married woman, he was threatening the sanctity of marriage and leading the woman into sin.

The preppie had little to say in return. He himself was a classic subspecies of North American Phalangist eugenics: tall, athletic, but not exactly the sharpest oar on the rowing team. I once had to listen to him at a party, drunkenly boasting that he was going to open up a McDonald’s in Sulaimaniya, going on and on about how his father had raised $16 million recently and would have no trouble coming up with the $900,000 he’d need to start a Mickey D’s in Kurdistan.

After screaming at the male preppie, the little Calvinist hunted down the American woman, the real culprit, and harangued her about her sins. She didn’t take it very well, even dared to object to being sermonized. That was when the little fellow lost it completely. He ended up screaming at her, “You’re nothing but a whore, you fucking whore!”

The woman complained to Agresto, who called the little man into his office for a mild scolding. It was interesting that Agresto considered this explosion such a minor infraction. In a real American university the mad midget would have been fired, or placed on psychiatric leave, but after all, he had acted in the defense of traditional values, so his outburst was classed as a misdemeanor, a matter of excessive zeal. He’s still teaching at AUIS, very popular with the administration, loathed by students.

I soon learned that the rules were different at AUIS. My first slap in the face came in Jordan, hours after we newcomers had flown in to begin the academic year. At an outdoor buffet at the hotel there, AUIS’s Personnel Director, Lara Dizeyee, told us, “If you’re Jewish– keep it to yourself.” I waited for the sky to fall; you don’t talk that way. I thought it was illegal to say things like that. But no one said a thing. The people who ran AUIS anticipated and enjoyed this cowardice; they clearly enjoyed frightening the faculty.  Every time something happened, Joshua Mitchell, our “acting chancellor,” would announce a meeting, and we’d file in — middle-aged men and women with fancy academic titles, all hunched over and shuffling like eighth-graders. Mitchell would take a seat front and center, never looking at us; then, after a gravitas-gathering pause, address us in a petulant whine.

After a few of these meetings, we realized that Mitchell’s speeches always had the same thesis: something had gone wrong again and, as always, it was the faculty’s fault.

The first crisis was the most dramatic: one of the ESL teachers was raped by two local men who’d offered her a ride. We only learned about this through the grapevine;  no word came from the main building for several days, at which time Mitchell called a meeting to discuss “the incident” — he would only refer to it that way. The meeting was our introduction to the Mitchell crisis mode: a long, pompous oration designed to buffer the unwelcome news. When he finished, we knew no more about “the incident” than we had before — but we knew that whatever horrible thing had happened, it was our fault.

That vague blame wasn’t good enough for the Dean of Student Affairs, Denise Natali. She stood up and began shrieking at us that “the incident” was all our fault — specifically the fault of the American women on the faculty. In this case, it was…sleeveless blouses! That was what had caused the rape! Natali, always excitable, couldn’t seem to stop repeating her accusation: “I see women walking around here in sleeveless t-shirts! Tank tops! What do you expect?”

Everyone looked around furtively, checking out their neighbors’ attire. But there were no tank tops, sleeveless t-shirts, or other beachwear in evidence. In fact, our female students dressed much more provocatively than women faculty. The rule in Suli seemed to be that as long as the skin is covered, anything goes, including skintight black leotards.

Natali, not finding any wardrobe crimes, just repeated her accusation more loudly: we had brought it on ourselves!

I felt the same mental confusion as when the HR director told us to keep any Jewishness to ourselves. Had Natali actually said that it was the rape victim’s own fault, and that any other woman who dressed immodestly deserved to get the same treatment? I remember hesitating to believe what I was hearing. I grew up in Berkeley, where you assume the world would end if anyone said such things out loud. But she was saying them, repeating them in the same crazy shriek, and everybody was taking her very seriously, or pretending to.

We didn’t get a saner version of “The Incident” until our Kurdish security director came for a follow-up talk a few weeks later. He showed up in what he took to be the American manner: informal, relaxed, the complete opposite of Mitchell and Natali. And when asked to explain the rape, he said simply, “Look, Kurdish young men do not handle their drink very well. I would say, if you want to be safe, just don’t go where young Kurdish men are drinking.”

As usual, the Kurds had contradicted our neocon leaders’ view of them; and once again, the Kurds seemed to make much better Americans than the actual specimens we brought over to run the place.

The Big Death Threat

This became painfully clear when our shriek-prone Dean of Student Affairs Denise Natali got the death threat.

The trouble began with a typically heavy-handed, authoritarian policy directive from the Main Building: teachers were to take attendance every single day. If a student missed two classes, we were to inform Denise; any student missing four classes was out of the course. Period. No excuses accepted, not even major surgery.

By the time we got this order, we were used to the AUIS way of doing things. The new policy was a perfect fit for AUIS; it concentrated power in the hands of the bigwigs in the Main Building, kept the faculty off-balance, and scared the students.

By mid-semester, Natali had expelled several students for missing class. Our courses cost a lot of money by local standards, so anyone but the arrogant fools who ruled AUIS would have expected trouble. But like their masters in the Iraq occupation, the bosses at AUIS never imagined that they might be liable to normal human reactions. And when the reaction came, they proved as feeble and weepy when taking abuse as they were callous and boastful when dishing it out.

Someone didn’t like getting scolded and expelled;  so, one weekend, someone taped a death threat to Natali’s office door.

As usual, it took several days for the Chancellor, Mitchell, to respond. And as you’d expect, the response, when it finally came, involved another grand meeting, a ponderous oration, and a bizarre memo.

That memo became notorious. It was so offensive and downright ridiculous that it proved too much, even for the cowed, venal faculty. Its thesis, of course, was that the death threat was all our fault. We teachers had forced Natali to play bad cop, and now she was paying for our cowardice. This was a lie, of course; the whole point of the harsh attendance policy was to reinforce the Main Building’s power over what went on in the cabins. But Mitchell had clearly written in heat; he and Natali were very close, and since it could not be the administration’s fault, he decided it must be the faculty’s, as you’ll see in this excerpt:

“The letter Denise received [containing the death threat] suggests that its author was a student who is disgruntled by a decision that Denise implemented.  I say “implemented” rather than “made” because every teacher and administrator on the academic side of the house is bound by AUI-S policies-and expected to act within their proper purview to enforce those policies.  It is no secret that too often during the course of the last year faculty members and administrators have played the “good cop,” which has forced Denise into a position of making the tough call that should have occurred elsewhere.

This cannot ever happen again.  I need your promise that it will not…

Under no circumstances may you any longer pass a tough decision off to Denise, or to her successor, should Denise leave shortly.

I don’t know how I can make this any clearer, except to say that it is a condition of your ongoing employment that you do abide by this understanding…”

That was the real point: the concluding paragraph warning that dissent will lead to dismissal. It was classic neocon rhetoric, starting off with high-minded blather about togetherness (“in concert”) and ending up with a reminder that they could fire any of us, any time they felt like it. We knew that; Agresto and Mitchell had already fired most of the Business Department in the most vindictive possible manner. One of them had complained bitterly to me that when he wrote to Agresto asking whether he’d be wanted back or should pursue other opportunities, Agresto sent him a one-sentence email: “I’d look into those other opportunities.” Another Business prof was fired, rumor had it, because she was involved in a lawsuit against the Federal laboratory where Agresto’s wife worked. What could you do, sue them? In Iraq? They had all the power.

So we let Mitchell browbeat us in this ridiculous memo; there was nothing we could do.

It was the students who really responded to Mitchell effectively. And they did it by saying nothing at all. According to everything that Agresto and Mitchell told us, those students, indoctrinated in civic duty by the likes of Bill Bennett (who began his career in public service by informing on his Harvard roommates for smoking pot), our students should have fallen over themselves to turn in the anti-freedom thug who posted that threat.

Mitchell, naturally, sent the students a memo to encourage them to inform — an unintentionally comic mixture of bluster and threats with patronizing instruction in the norms of “civility”:

“Students,

This past Thursday, April 22, a faculty member received a written Death Threat [sic] taped to her AUI-S office door…

Any student who has knowledge about this Threat is expected to come to my office before 4 PM on Monday afternoon.  If you do not come forward,and I later discover that you had any knowledge of this, you will be immediately and permanently expelled from AUI-S.  If you do come to my office with the name or names of the person or persons responsible, you will be pardoned and allowed to stay at AUI-S…

Until further notice, every single student and guest coming on campus will be padded down, and whatever bags you carry will be fully inspected.

This is an American University.  We grant you liberties that you do not have at other universities here in Iraq.  In return, we expect much.  Most notably, we expect decency and civility in all that you do.  One or more of your classmates has now violated those terms.  As a consequence, all of you will be affected for the rest of the school year and beyond.  Do not forget that with liberty comes responsibility.

[The memo continues with a warning about what Dr. Agresto, then away from AUIS, will do when he gets back -- a variant of the old “wait till your father gets home!” theme.]

Earnestly,

Joshua Mitchell
Acting Chancellor
The American University of Iraq – Sulaimani”

Mitchell expected this bombardment of gravitas to shock and awe our apprentice-Westerner students into rushing to his office, begging forgiveness and spelling out the culprit’s name in neon.

It didn’t happen. I’m betting that every student at AUIS knew who’d posted the death threat. But not one said a word. When they could be persuaded to discuss the matter at all, they shrugged contemptuously, clearly regarding this as a silly fuss, a lot of Gringo nonsense. And they were notably lacking in sympathy for Natali.

Mitchell and Agresto reacted to this great disappointment like Bush and Cheney to the insurrection: first they simply lied, saying that “we” were making great progress on the case.

After several weeks, when it was clear no one was going to come forward, Mitchell and Agresto simply dropped the subject. In the end, they settled for offering Natali very concrete reassurance: they constructed a huge blast wall just outside her office. The wall was a source of great amusement to our students; this was Iraq, and they were not impressed by walls — especially when one of the collective punishment/humiliations imposed on them for not informing was to have to go around to the back door.

Natali returned to her job after a few weeks. The job was her life; she had nowhere else to go; and the real risk was probably very small. If the death threat really had come from a student, it was unlikely to be carried out; our students were more serious than Americans of the same age, but Suli was not a very violent city; it was as if the Kurds had had enough of violence, and wanted a peaceful life for once. Natali faced a simple calculation: make a lot of money by facing a very minor threat, of go back to America — the most frightening place on earth for someone without money or a job.

I was facing the same decision, because it was now Spring 2010, and though everyone I knew had already been rehired by Agresto, I hadn’t heard a thing from him, and that was a bad sign. He liked to keep people on the hook.

I couldn’t understand what I’d done wrong. I was the most abjectly loyal, earnest employee Agresto and Mitchell could want. I wore a suit and tie every single day. I even wore the silly nametag that everyone else dropped after a few weeks. And I tried to be a cheerful American, even though I’m not very good at it, consoling myself with the fact that this bunch wasn’t very good at it either.

At last, I made an appointment with Agresto and told him directly I’d like a contract for two more years. His response floored me: “I don’t know anything about you,” he said coyly, adding, “You never have lunch with me.”

The reason I never had lunch with him was that I was sick as a dog, constantly nauseous, going through four or five awful spasms of vomiting every day. They started at 5:00 a.m. (the people who lived downstairs from us said they used my dawn vomiting session as an alarm clock) and continued through the teaching day. My students got used to my sudden departures followed by off-stage retching noises, but I was trying to hide them from the administration.

I had no idea what was wrong, and no way to find out. There was no doctor on campus, though we’d been promised there would be. There was nobody. Worse yet, there were no competent doctors in the entire city. When I asked a Kurdish friend for a good doctor, she said, “The Kurds don’t go to doctors. They wait until they are dying and then go to hospital.” And I’d seen the Suli hospital, which reminded me a lot of Matthew Brady’s photos of the Union Army’s medical facilities; I wasn’t going back there.

But I was literally more afraid of poverty than of death. So I swallowed the bile (again literally) and made a point of sitting at Agresto’s table in the cafeteria, smiling and being submissively sociable. Agresto liked my new attitude, and deigned to visit one of my classes. That sealed the deal, and I soon got the two-year contract I craved — and I got it the same way I’d gotten the job in the first place: by playing on John Agresto’s huge, wounded ego.

I’d prepared for that first interview by reading Agresto’s book, Mugged by Reality, on the plane. And it’s a pretty good book, I’ll admit. But the way he ate up my flattering account of it was a bit of a shock. And I felt the same shock, seeing how quickly he responded to a little lunchtime sucking-up. The man was more easily played than a kazoo.

With my new contract signed and sealed, I started to warm to Agresto and Mitchell. Maybe I’d been unfair to these guys, I thought. They must be more broadminded than I’d thought. They must have googled me before hiring me, and if you google me you soon find out that I’m a comic writer, and not of the harmless-joshing variety. Conservatives are wary of comedy in general, infatuated as they are with High Seriousness; and my comedy is rather harsh by any standards.

“It was damned nice of them to hire, and then re-hire me,” I thought, “They’re actually very tolerant people!”

Of course, I was wrong. They were as tolerant as Cotton Mather. They were exactly what they always seemed to be: pompous petty tyrants.

What I hadn’t realized was that they were also incredibly stupid and lazy, so stupid and so lazy that they hadn’t even Googled my name when hiring or re-hiring me. When I realized that, I couldn’t help thinking of an anecdote from the life of Michael Collins. While Collins was in hiding, running a guerrilla war against the British, his niece got hired as Private Secretary to a high official in the British administration. When Collins heard, he said, “How the Hell did these people ever get an Empire?”

But my case, if it has any bearing on the bigger picture, answers a different question: “How did these Americans manage to throw away an empire so quickly?” And the answers are simple: laziness. Stupidity. Turning potential allies into enemies. The usual.

Because, as it turned out, they’d never even bothered to Google me — or, for that matter, read the CV I sent them when applying for the job. They had no idea I’d written anything that might bother them; and when they found out, they reacted in exactly the way you’d expect.

My Departure

The last few weeks of the Spring 2010 semester were a wonderful time. Not only did I have a new contract but Katherine had found me a good doctor, a Moldovan practicing in Erbil, the biggest city in Iraqi Kurdistan. He was grim and cold in the Russian manner, but he knew what he was doing. After a day of tests (you haven’t lived until you’ve vomited Barium while on a turning X-Ray platform), he figured out that I was suffering from megaloblastic anemia. One injection of B-12 and I stopped vomiting. By the time the semester ended, I felt ready to walk to Istanbul.

Katherine and I flew back to the US, trying to adjust to seeing the same landscapes we’d trudged as poor folk with the very different perspective of “the man who is rich and right,” as Stevens puts it. It was disorienting, but in a very pleasant way. From time to time we’d just laugh with the joy of being solvent.

And then, in mid-July 2010, some spoilsport had to go and send John Agresto an article I’d written against the Iraq War back in 2005. It was clearly a shock to Agresto, and he reacted very quickly. One blissful sunny afternoon in Seattle, I got this message:

Dear John Dolan, We have a problem, which has just now come to our attention.  Please see this: http://exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=7809&IBLOCK_ID=35.  This link is attributed to you.  Absent your correction, we presume it is you. The obscenity and racism included in this link, and others not unlike it, are vile. They are, moreover, anathema to everything this university represents.  If this piece, and especially the image it contains, were ever made public in Iraq, your life, our lives, and the life of the university would be in danger.

Given this situation we have no choice but to: (1) ask that you resign; or (2) pay you for the remainder of your current contract and cancel your new contract.
As a courtesy to you and Katherine we will box up and ship your goods to an address in the US or Canada that you provide us.
John Agresto
Provost

I had to read the letter a few times to believe it. The article he linked to was published four years before I’d been hired. It had been sitting in plain view online since 2005. It was all listed on the CV I’d sent with my application. I’d even given a talk to the AUIS journalism students about working for The eXile, where this article had been published. If Agresto or any of the big shots had come to the talk, they would have seen me hand out examples of the satirical articles I wrote back then.

Then there was that warning, or threat, in Agresto’s letter, suggesting that I’d be killed if I returned to Sulaimaniya. The article, a bitter satire comparing the Bush diehards to “the Infected” from Danny Boyle’s zombie film 28 Weeks Later, was hardly likely to offend the Kurds; its targets were all white Americans. The only people who would want to kill me for that article were…well, John Agresto and his neocon comrades. So I took that part of the letter as a pretty direct threat that I’d be killed if I came back.

The rest was such gibberish that I couldn’t help wondering if Agresto had written it as a taunt, a “Nah-nah-nah” moment to savor, a chance to grind at least one of the detractors of his patron Cheney into the dust.

It was too ridiculous to be taken seriously. “Racism”? The only “racism” the article showed was in a paragraph in which I said disgustedly that African-Americans, as the only demographic to oppose the Iraq War, were the last sane group in the country, and that white Americans were “truly a nation of suckers.” According to the rules involving “racism” as I understand them, a white American like me is entitled to talk badly about white Americans without being called “racist.”

But the real shocker was hearing John Agresto talk about firing me for thought crimes. You see, John Agresto has only one claim to fame as an academic (not counting his role as bagman for The Agencies in Kurdistan). He became quasi-famous in rightwing circles during the 1990s as … take a guess. Seriously, what would be the most ironic predicate you could put on that sentence? That’s right: he became famous as a crusader against the tyranny of political correctness in American universities. If you enjoy truly awe-inspiring displays of hypocrisy, I invite you to read Agresto’s article, “To Reform the Politically Correct University, Reform the Liberal Arts.” In this brave treatise, Agresto argues that the key to returning freedom of thought to the university lies in bringing ideological diversity to the liberal arts — you know, English and so on.

Now he had taken refuge in the oldest, dirtiest trick in the PC censor’s book, accusing me of “racism” and “obscenity.” It was a little difficult to believe that Agresto really took concerns like racism very seriously, because he has a decades-old record of refusing to apply affirmative action guidelines in any job he takes. (He certainly managed to select a pure lily-white staff at AUIS.) In fact, Agresto’s article on reforming the Liberal Arts to eliminate PC is full of comments like this:

“[W]hen we in and out of the academy complain that our students are being indoctrinated rather than educated, our main examples all seem to come from areas like … English departments or, God help us, in the various sub-departmental “studies” — Women’s, Gay, Chicano, and so on.”

Maybe Agresto enjoyed using the jargon of those “God help us” fields he despises to accuse me of “racism” toward white Americans, or maybe he’s just too stupid to see the contradiction between his scorn for the leftist critique and his eager use of it to quash a heretic. As always when dealing with the American Right, it’s difficult to say where stupidity gives way to malice, if indeed the distinction can be made at all.

And there’s no way I can milk this disaster for much in the way of pity-points. I went for the quick buck with those sleazy academic bagmen; they found out I was a double-agent; they canned me. It’s no martyr’s tale. But it still leaves a bitter taste, if only because those sleaze-sters are still getting all those bundles of $100 bills, and I’m not.

I’m not sure what it all means. But I know one thing: the next time some rightwinger starts mouthing off to me about “Liberal PC” or “leftwing censorship,” I’m going to spit in his face.

Buy John Dolan’s novel “Pleasant Hell” (Capricorn Press).

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96 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. vortexgods  |  October 11th, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Hi John, I hope you made a lot (like a whole lot) of money in Iraq, and that your next adventures will also be money making for you.

    Don’t become homeless again, ok?

    As interesting as it was to read about, I’d prefer it was more like some of what Barbara Ehrenreich does where she can go back to a comfortable life when it suits her rather than really being stuck in a horrible situation. (Sure, it adds to the authenticity, but authenticity is overrated.)

    Oh, the hostile, bourgeoisie “Leftist” comments on the Alternet site are kind of entertaining to read, but they’ll be a bitter pill to swallow if you don’t manage to find some kind of success now. So, be successful, “You have the power!”

    (Ok, I suck at motivational rhetoric, but seriously, as a miserable cube dweller, reading about your ongoing fight against the Man is one of the few joys left in my life.)

    All glory to John Dolan.

  • 2. Soj  |  October 11th, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Thank you!

  • 3. wYSeguy  |  October 11th, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    John, this is hilarious. We think the exile is dead, and here you are running around northern Iraq. Most Muslim populations feel the same way as the population of Sulaimanya that “the only danger in Suli was crossing the street”.

    But aside from that, the entire story is darkly comic, starting out with you coming “into money”, and leading you darkly into the weird academic administration of strange right wing Americans. Another dark tale from the exile I guess. But one that makes me ask about you lot, when will the misanthropy end?

    I mean Northern Iraq? Seriouasly, Kurdistan? Talk about failures….

  • 4. wYSeguy  |  October 11th, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Seriou-assly man, can you lot sane down and just get your own show on MSNBC?

    My God….

  • 5. jimmy james  |  October 11th, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Good to see you back on your feet Mr. Dolan. Hope you stashed some of those bags of cash–things kinda suck back here.

  • 6. Gunga Din  |  October 11th, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Dolan! Don’t blow your this, your last, best chance. Get to the keyboard tan rápido como un hijo de puta –

    The American University of Iraq – Sulaimani is soliciting nominations and seeking applicants for the position of President. Recently established in Sulaimani, Iraq, AUI-S seeks to become a leading university in Iraq and in the region, by producing a generation of students who are able to contribute to the development of a vibrant private sector. Ideal qualifications include but are not limited to: a long record of leadership and accomplishment in University higher administration; proven fund-raising abilities; a commitment to a liberal arts curriculum; and a familiarity with Kurdish and Arabic culture.

    Here’s your brass ring – http://www.auis.biz/node/179

    APPLY ONLINE

    Oh . . . there are a couple negatives about AUI-S you didn’t mention. They don’t got no bookstore (apparel, coffee mugs, Farrah Fawcett calendars), and the 2010 events schedule don’t got no homecoming listed. And that, Dolan, is a pity. A real pity.

  • 7. Socrates1000  |  October 11th, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Fear and Loathing in Sulaimaniya. Terrific piece, John, thank you.

  • 8. Victor Villain  |  October 12th, 2010 at 12:17 am

    Dolan’s a fucking ace writer.
    Love it, but my love don’t have any wads of gangster cash to break off. Sorry.

  • 9. A-Lex  |  October 12th, 2010 at 1:01 am

    Iraq, IRAQ, for God’s sake.
    Dr. Dolan, you never fail to surprise your readers. Indeed, poverty is a writer’s best friend.

  • 10. Padilla  |  October 12th, 2010 at 1:15 am

    John Dolan is a seriously good writer… And this is great comedy stuff: perfect for a seriously funny novel of the vitriolic sort, or so I believe.

    Ergo…

  • 11. Jie Ke  |  October 12th, 2010 at 1:54 am

    MOAR

  • 12. FOARP  |  October 12th, 2010 at 4:02 am

    Awesome piece!

  • 13. CapnMarvel  |  October 12th, 2010 at 4:51 am

    It’s Tuesday and John Dolan writes another classic. The day becomes slightly less grim…

  • 14. Justin Liu  |  October 12th, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Hell of a story. Thanks

  • 15. sovietcola  |  October 12th, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Enjoyed every word of that. Thanks for the great read.

  • 16. Jack  |  October 12th, 2010 at 9:22 am

    American academia is like some kind of sick disease that even though the body it’s parasited is in its death throes is spreading across the globe in the form of these Amerikun Biznez schools subsidaries of international educational corporations that are peddling their product all over the globe. The unemployment department in the country where I’m living forced me to take a job with them. Some of the kids weren’t too bad but most of them were just to poor students to get into a National University but for some reason thought they were destined to be managers and give orders to people. I came to work drunk every day and made them watch American Psycho and learn the lyrics of GG Allin songs; especially I Kill Everything I Fuck.

  • 17. Ozinator  |  October 12th, 2010 at 10:22 am

    I read that story about your Canadian adventures! I never put the name together when I started reading other things. Good stuff

  • 18. Alex  |  October 12th, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Well you lost your meal ticket, but at least that means we didn’t have to wait another 2 years to read this article.

  • 19. az  |  October 12th, 2010 at 10:32 am

    You could still make money by selling the idea of a mockumentary style series about an American university in Iraq run by right-wingers to NBC.

  • 20. Stephen  |  October 12th, 2010 at 10:37 am

    One of the best things Dolan has ever written. I’m glad to see him writting for exiled again.

  • 21. Bullshitphilosophy  |  October 12th, 2010 at 10:38 am

    This is seriously good writing, but it sure as fuck isn’t comedy. Like Lon Chaney once said, “There’s nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight.”

  • 22. Nolan  |  October 12th, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Welcome back Mr. Dolan. Once again you write something that doesn’t fail to live up to high expectations. If only this wasn’t all true.

  • 23. tam  |  October 12th, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Great article, and I’m glad he apparently made some cash, but I can’t really believe someone as smart as John Dolan is seriously surprised he got fired for writing for The Exile. It was and is a great read, but it’s also pretty much the most deliberately offensive magazine I’ve ever read. It would’ve pissed off pretty much any academics let alone neocon ones. What else did he expect?

    And, minor gripe, there are loads of great older war films without swearing in since swearing in movies only started in the 60s. It sounds like you need to check out stuff like Robert Aldrich’s Attack! or Kubrick’s Paths of Glory for a start…

  • 24. john  |  October 12th, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    i can remember trying to figure out why you had dropped off the radar last year. great to see you back!

  • 25. emil  |  October 12th, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Whats that BS about “tax money”??

    We know you culturally primitives and criminals just print the stuff.

  • 26. thomzas  |  October 12th, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Wonderful Stuff…

    Prepare yourself for lots of calls from indie filmmakers looking to get themselves a step up the credibility ladder.

    It’s The Class meets Election!

  • 27. Strelnikov  |  October 12th, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    John Agresto deserves to be beaten with mattocks, then dragged though the desert behind a Range Rover…..this is why we failed in Iraq; Tory arrogance coupled with evangelical stupidity. Fuck the AUIS!

  • 28. Jason King  |  October 12th, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    As soon as I saw your wikipedia page updated to say teaching at auis in Iraq I knew there was going to be some interesting stories coming out of the experience. Thank god for people like yourself, John. May your further travels keep you out of abject poverty and be full of more duffel bags of cold, hard cash. Anyway, “teaching in a war zone”, “cooking speed”, and “being fired from a job due to an exile article” are all things you can cross off a list of things you did before you die! Which is why you and your pal Brecher are my favorite writers at the moment. Best of luck, John! -Jason King, Garden Grove, Ca

  • 29. Zhu Bajie  |  October 12th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Dolan, go live in Thailand or some cheap, pleasant, 3d world place where your money will last a long time.

  • 30. Charles  |  October 12th, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Fucking hell, excellent piece.

  • 31. Allen  |  October 12th, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    “As always when dealing with the American Right, it’s difficult to say where stupidity gives way to malice, if indeed the distinction can be made at all.”

    Wonderful.

    Well we’re glad to have you back, anyway … too bad we don’t have any money!

  • 32. William  |  October 12th, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    I’m a Sorry excuse for a troll, but even though that’ll soon be clear to everyone, I still have to earn my keep as a troll, so here goes. Ready?

    First, I’m going to pose as a far-left neocon-hater. That way, it will seem like my criticism against Dolan is more “authentic” than if I were to reveal myself as a sad troll. Now, because I’m a sad corrupt neocon fag, I have zero sympathy for Dolan. I didn’t have to be a corrupt neocon fag trolling comments sections. I had as much ease swallowing a tyrant’s man goo as I had in swallowing my own. My constant justification for selling my soul is simple: I like to suck ass, what’s called a “rim job,” and I’ve rimmed worse creeps than Dolan worked for. For some weird reason it bothers me that Dolan waited this long to publish this story. Gosh I would blow big bad Cheney a rusty trombone all the way to 2010. I’m very smart, however–why else would I post a comment on this site?

  • 33. rick  |  October 12th, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    You should probably just apply to places to teach until somebody vaguely literate and powerful seizes upon your literary persona and thinks you’re cool. “Teaching in Iraq with Neocons” might be out, but all this stuff could be more asset than liability. I mean George Carlin was eulogized saintly, without a hint that anything he said could possibly be offensive to anybody…but compare 1955 vs. 2005 standards, in essay-writing (or “the pitiful drudges who write newspaper editorials,” in Mencken’s words), the conventional intuition is all 1955, even as every newspaper tanks pathetically. Almost all partisan essaying has a noxious sheen of moralism coating it–just look at the bookstore and “branding,” it’s nauseating.

    http://bit.ly/aTmnqK

  • 34. chuck0  |  October 12th, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    As for Agresto’s nebulous accusation of “racism,” I remember one rhetorical bludgeon sometimes favored by chickenhawks: anyone who doubted the success of their Iraqi adventure were acting out racism towards the brown locals yearning for freedom.

  • 35. DM  |  October 12th, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    By my desk there is a brown paper bag filled with cash, and on that bag is written one and only one name: the War Nerd.

  • 36. war nerdo  |  October 12th, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    dude, i wish u were irrelevant why do i spend my days trying to post comments on your site… lame life i lead!!!!

  • 37. war nerdo  |  October 12th, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    why does my mom keep yelling at me “don’t waste time trying to post comments, loser!”

  • 38. war nerdo  |  October 12th, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    please tell my mom i’m not writing lameo stuff just because i keep commenting mom seriously leave me alone!

  • 39. David  |  October 12th, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    tam: he wasn’t surprised he got fired for writing the article; he was surprised they had no idea he had written it up until the point he got fired.

  • 40. Pascual Gorostieta  |  October 13th, 2010 at 4:59 am

    Alternet eh? Man those latte liberals must freak out when they see this site and that it uses words like “pussy” and “fag”. A good deal of those types of liberals are why we on the left stay losing.

  • 41. thus_speaketh_the_butt_trumpet  |  October 13th, 2010 at 10:49 am

    It’s great that everyone thinks that Dolan can now sit back and wait for movie offers, but keep in mind that the same Neocon fucks who run that “university” run the US. More likely, Dolan will be pursued by the IRS and Homeland Suckurity, and will end up with a life of hiding out like that Wikileaks guy if he keeps his excellent work up.

    Since you theoretically have bags ‘o’ cash, Dolan, maybe you should consider hiding out in France or Italy or someplace?

  • 42. KLAUS  |  October 13th, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Dolan is the most acclaimed columnist
    Regards and search,
    Kiss Assin’

  • 43. David  |  October 13th, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Just when I think you’re dead or in a coma or something, you go and post a seriously impressive article, darkly humourous, just the sort of thing for which I’ve been following the Exile(d) for years now. I wonder what your next article will be.

  • 44. CAW  |  October 13th, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Dolan, you’re the King!

    I’ve read everything you’ve published that I could get my hands on (three books of poetry, Pleasant Hell, even your study on the struggle for literary careers in Great Britain – ‘Poetic Occassion from Milton to Wordsworth’.) Oh, and everything published on the eXile. Now I’m checking off a Dolan Reading List:

    1. John Kennedy Toole: A Confederacy of Dunces
    2. Sousa Jamba: Patriots
    3. Louis-Ferdinand Céline: Death on the Installment Plan

    Please keep writing – your articles bring me great joy any time they appear.

    And don’t be surprised if I write one day to ask you for a copy of that Sade dissertation you wrote – some of us are scraping at the bottom of the Dolan barrel, and still hungry for more.

    A book of literary essays and/or assasinations soon?

  • 45. KLAUS  |  October 13th, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Respond to 42:
    the editor edited my comment because he knows that i would suck turds out of Dr. Dolan’s ass and be grateful for the opportunity. and i would, verily
    Best regards,
    Kiss Assin’

  • 46. KLAUS  |  October 13th, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Editor, Please add to comment 45 – I have opened an entirely new style of sucking up–sucking up on my heros’ turds

    Kiss Assin’

  • 47. Czechnik  |  October 13th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Too lazy, tired, and dimwitted to elaborate, so I’ll just say:

    Good job, dude! Loved the article. Write more like these. Your dark, introspective articles are a bit too verbose. Keep on with the mocking of modern American society through collections of anecdotes such as these.

    Looking forward to the next one!

    PS> Go to Thailand…where the living is easy and there is always some crazy revolutionary shit going down. Just watch out for Ladyboys and food poisoning.

  • 48. thus_speaketh_the_butt_trumpet  |  October 13th, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    And …. food poisoning from ladyboys! Tip your WaiterEss well!

    Thailand or the Philippines makes sense.

  • 49. The Last Fenian  |  October 13th, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    “A good deal of those types of liberals are why we on the left stay losing.”

    Well, the main reason is probably that you think liberals are “left”.

  • 50. fajensen  |  October 14th, 2010 at 12:51 am

    Them Neocons looks an awful lot like the Saudi Wahabbis – the attitudes, the stupidity and the laziness fits almost perfect!

    Myabe that is why the US is actually in the business of spreading and protecting radical islam all over the world??

  • 51. Lavrentij "Anarchy99" Lemko  |  October 14th, 2010 at 3:28 am

    Could you write me a letter of recommendation for the ESL job?

  • 52. A-Lex  |  October 14th, 2010 at 5:28 am

    >>Just watch out for Ladyboys and food poisoning.

    Or, better still… DON’T keep away from ladyboys and get into all sorts of trouble — until you actually get jailed. And THEN you could write a firsthand account of meeting Viktor Boot, the imprisoned Russian arms smuggler badly wanted by the CIA :)

  • 53. Will  |  October 14th, 2010 at 10:56 am

    I wonder if Dolan puts the Ward Nerd book on his CV? I also wonder if that writing/rhetoric textbook he published advises against ending statements with question marks?

  • 54. CAW  |  October 14th, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    @ 53. Will

    I know for a fact exactly what time of day Dolan has his bowel movements. I pay attention to this stuff, memorize it, and publicize it. I’m what you might call a “stalker” like that fat woman in Misery. That’s me. You really should get to know me, I’m a pretty interesting guy to have a beer with.

  • 55. CAW  |  October 14th, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    [Heck, might as well publish the whole thing, just in case it gets lost - CAW]:

    Yabba dabba doo. Wilma! Wilma? Where are you, Wilma? What are you doing with Dino? Oh, Wilma!

  • 56. KLAUS  |  October 14th, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Mark Ames: I am Klaus, the Bad-Assed German Lord of the Comments Section. I have fantasies here in my basement bedroom in which Hunter Thompson is a fag and you, Mark Ames, are shaken to your core by my Awesome flaming capabilities. Maybe you’ve played Dungeons & Dragons too? I’m the guy with the Viking Helmet and the big forearms. I know it’s unoriginal but while I play I sometimes imagine someone is fucking my cunt. I wish I had a cunt. How edgy is that, when I write the word “cunt”? Death to the World! Yeah, seriously dude! Am I scary or what?! If only these pimples would go away…

  • 57. MQ  |  October 14th, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Listen up Dolan — you need to get a lawyer ASAP and sue those bastards for the full amount of your new contract. It’s not your fault they never even googled you before having you sign it. If they signed a contract with you and now don’t want to honor it you need to make them pay up for the privilege of not having you around. Maybe one of your readers could represent you.

    Selfishly happy you’re back writing though…

  • 58. Gary Belcher  |  October 14th, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    yeah??? u are much better than the sort of bland, pretentious, wannabe articles i prefer to read.

  • 59. Gary Belcher  |  October 14th, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    c’mon dolan, write another war nerd article, pwettttty plweasssse!!!!

  • 60. Gary Belcher  |  October 14th, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Bring back war geek!!!!

  • 61. John Drinkwater  |  October 14th, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    At MQ 57:

    Doesn’t work that way Iraq. If they want to fire you or terminate a contract, they can do so for any reason they want. And they can kill you if they feel like it. Of course, if USAID or grant money is involved, it’s another story–the dumbfucks who fired Dolan over a free speech issue can’t take American taxpayer dollars and fire him for an eXile story like that. In fact, those idiots can be seriously sued for it. We’ll wait and see how this plays out, should be fun.

  • 62. tom  |  October 15th, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    Too bad they didn’t find out about Brecher- the guy will go down as a genius for being the first to call Dick Cheney an Iranian mole.

    Too funny. I hope the money will keep you afloat for a while.

  • 63. Matt  |  October 16th, 2010 at 5:09 am

    Great article… great writer… write more books!

  • 64. benderr  |  October 16th, 2010 at 10:21 am

    is very similar to the hypocritical us. Thank you for the truth

  • 65. Kutuzov  |  October 16th, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Hi, John.
    There is nothing new for me, unfortunately. Big money, self-interest, wholesale dominance of idiots-in-the-power, all of it covered with meaningless words about democracy™ and such – typical american recipe.
    That’s good, that you wrote this. Maybe, it will cause some people in your country to have thoughts. What i didn’t like, however, is that you acted like another prick. Smiled and sucked up to your boss, but had another opinion behind. That’s not a deed of the real man. If you wouldn’t be kicked out, probably, this article wouldn’t exist, and you would still suck up to him. Not earned any respect, sorry.

    With regards from snowy Russia, Kutuzov.

  • 66. OBL  |  October 16th, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    دولان كبير. السلطة الى الشعب. أرسل لي العسل هام الشفاء. الحب ، وأسامة

  • 67. tychok  |  October 17th, 2010 at 7:11 am

    Dengi platjat, zhopu lizhu, a perestanut ukushu…

  • 68. Allen  |  October 17th, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Yeah it may be some kind of short bold resentful neo-con Wild West out there, but Lawyers can be very creative and motivated when there’s money at stake. If you had a contract, its worth looking into.

  • 69. chroma  |  October 17th, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    This seems a bit like a 21st century “Heart of Darkness”. It would have been much better if it ended with you infiltrating the Main Building to kill Argesto.

  • 70. paul cripps  |  October 18th, 2010 at 11:07 am

    forgive me if i have misunderstood this article. but dolan did not go to iraq undercover, he went to make money which in my opinion makes him as big a cocksucker as the pieces of shit he is ranting about. he cared for those highly indebted students as much as they did, fuck all.poor lefty scams money, good , neocon scam, bad. both of you are hypocritical cunts..

  • 71. Bob  |  October 18th, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Glorious! Possibly the “funniest” part is that Dolan’s bio *on the AUIS site* openly states that he’s the enemy within, but evidently none of the senior faculty read that either. Wilful ignorance: part of this complete neocon breakfast.

    There are worse ways it could have ended, you got paid and still got out with your pride. Keep up the good work.

  • 72. Saul Goode  |  October 20th, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Awesome article, and I’m glad you’re back! I’d honestly thought you might have killed yourself.

    Replying to 65:

    Dolan’s whole literary persona is painfully, personally honest. The fact that his scruples usually aren’t much higher than his targets’ is a common theme.

  • 73. Kaare  |  October 20th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Great read!

    Now, bring back the War Nerd, Dolan!

  • 74. Derp  |  October 20th, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Derp derp derp! Reagan was a saint, if we all just did whatever he said Jesus wouldn’t need to come back cause he’d already be here, derp derp derp!

    Dolan, you sold out when you dared to criticize Republicans cause that violated a Reagan rule and he’s never wrong, derp derp derp! When Jesus comes back to save us all I hope he leaves you behind to get killed by Osama bin Obama and his demon armies, derp derp derp!

  • 75. esmerelds  |  October 21st, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Your cabin-mate “history teacher” is like every high school coach/assistant principal I was forced to endure in Texas. Indeed, we have taken the fight to “them.” Poor fuckers.

  • 76. J. Destroyer  |  October 24th, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Selling out doesn’t make you a bad person – a man’s gotta eat.
    I hope all of your stuff gets compiled into the volumes of Hunter Thompson/Charles Buckowski books that I like to read when I want to feel better about my pathetic little life. You’re more articulate and sound like I sound in my head, not the yabble that comes out of my mouth.

    Your fame and wealth, however, will manifest only after your death and be paid to worthless nephews and grandchildren… but then, you know that….

    Yeah, I said “yabble”….
    Johnny D.

  • 77. Zhu Bajie  |  October 24th, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    No extradition from China to the USA!

  • 78. Zhu Bajie  |  October 24th, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Seriously, Dolan, bring your wife to come teach in China. Universities here prefer married couples, as opposed 24 year-old backpackers/dopers with Yellow Fever. They don’t pay $15K/mo, but you get enough money to have fun with, an apartment, health care, and a plane ticket back to the US. US greenbacks will be toilet paper before long, anyway.

  • 79. nampa1  |  October 25th, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Zhu, ESL in China pays peanuts like the rest of that artificial economy. The only reason to go there is to take a rest with the vacation (at uni work) and date the locals. How is wanting to date a lady with a normal BMI yellow fever? Only a confused individual or someone trapped would take ESL (especially in a low-income country) seriously. Dating locals is the only, albeit strong, fringe benefit of that outfit.

  • 80. Unemployed Irish Academic  |  October 26th, 2010 at 8:14 am

    I think I actually applied for a job at this place.

    ‘The horror, the horror, exterminate all the brutes’.

  • 81. nampa1  |  October 27th, 2010 at 9:08 am

    What kind of apps are they actually looking for at this “school”? Even with the crappy location, the vacation and money doesn’t look bad.

  • 82. what  |  October 29th, 2010 at 3:38 am

    http://auisstudent.blogspot.com/2010/10/john-dolan-academic-fraud.html

    I really hope you’re working on a goddamn response to this, Dolan. This motherfucker said your prose was “run-of-the-mill.” Karate…

  • 83. Shawn Monks  |  October 29th, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Mark Grueter wrote a similar horror story about this place. After reading it(and knowing Grueter) I felt the story was unbelievable and thus embelished. I now know fully believe the vile evil that goes on at AUIS.

    Mr. Dolan you have vindicated Mark Grueter.

  • 84. soran  |  October 30th, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Dr. Dolan has offered nothing worth debating in his article.

  • 85. zhubajie  |  November 3rd, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Nampa1, I am “alive in the bitter sea.” I live “where the mountains are high and the emperor is far away.” When the US descends into a civil war of all against all, I will be putting black rum into my coffee and nibbling on jian bing and enjoying the company of my students. I recommend something like to Dolan, too.

    His war nerd side would probably be enjoy the warlord era and the anti-Japanese war.

  • 86. OshHonjku  |  November 8th, 2010 at 12:17 am

    Aah finally Dr Dolan has some good news to report. Well done old man, you put aside your destructiveness and did yourself good.

    While you have tried to be bitter it does not come through well. One might think you were actualy *at ease*. I cannot imagine even getting the boot was really that shocking for you. You knew you were going to be outed at some point. But you had a good run and looked after yourself well.

    Yes there have been some hard times but has it really been all that bad? You’ve got to live and work in, what is it now, five different continents? You have drunk well from the cup of life. Can you honestly say you would have been content if you had gotten your tenure track position in some sleepy college town? You would have hated it, old man.

    Now go. Don’t waste your life and money sitting around on the west coast. The west coast does not want you. You do not go to the west coast to be an authentic writer. You might have fifty years ago. Now, you go there to be shallow.

    Go some place less expensive and where the people are warmer. Perhaps Mexico. Or South America. Try Brazil. A nice catholic country.

    And here is another tip. Have you noticed that for all your time in Kurdistan the Iraqi people don’t rate much of a mention in your article? They have no names, no faces, even though they would have such interesting stories to tell. Your primary preoccupation still seems to be the Americans around you and your maneuvering among them.

    Are you still trying to undo your high school experience of being the unpopular kid? Accept it Dr Dolan, you will never be part of the popular American clique. Nor is it some great fault of society that you weren’t and won’t. And let me clue you in on a little secret. even if you could you wouldn’t want to be. It is not what it is cracked up to be. Remember, people with real lives don’t need to be with the ‘popular’ crowd.

    And don’t you know by now that to be American is to be essentially alone in your own private space?

    It is remarkable how so many live their adult lives trying to make up for the slights they receive in their early adolescence, often without even realizing that they are doing so. You can’t. It is a waste of time. Your adolescence is gone. Forget about it and move on.

    And it is also remarkable how many people fear being successful if it means doing better than their parents, if it means leaving their parents’ patterns. Let that go too.

    Write, write about the Iraqis you met in Kurdistan. Give their lives a voice and a face. And don’t waste time writing articles like this on websites like these. Your talent needs better expression.

    Whichever new place you go to don’t waste too much time on the expats there either. Give your energy to the local place and people, take interest in their story.

    Now Go! And good luck and god speed.

  • 87. Justin Boland  |  November 12th, 2010 at 10:40 am

    This is one of the best essays I’ve read all year…thank you.

  • 88. Zhu Bajie  |  November 13th, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Ever thought about getting an Irish passport, Dolan? Ireland is relatively easy about giving passports to overseas Irish people, and it can be very useful travelling around, since Ireland has no 3rd world enemies.

    Otherwise, did you meet any Assyrians? They too live in the region, if historically on poor terms with the Kurds.

  • 89. awesomenperson  |  December 3rd, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    I just fixed his wikipedia page. Considering he wouldn’t take my comments on his “Dolan is a fraud” blog post, I figured it was the least he could do.

  • 90. CanadaGood  |  December 6th, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Thanks. I have been following your writing for since 2000 when I spent a couple days visiting in Moscow. You are my second fav Exile writer. (Right after the War Nerd).
    But after being fired at your last two or three academic positions don’t you think that you think that you could find something more suitable to your obvious talents?
    Perhaps speech-writer for Meg Whitman or Sarah Palin? (I doubt that either of them would be smart enough to google you either).
    If nothing else we could always use you back here in Canada.
    Do good.

  • 91. wengler  |  December 6th, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    This article kind of makes me want to rob a bank.

  • 92. laskjdf  |  December 17th, 2010 at 6:40 am

    Good thing the neocons spent so freely in Sulaimaniya, otherwise the war might have caused a cholera epidemic there. Oh wait, actually, there was a cholera epidemic there. Perhaps the city needed clean water more than a right wing college? Yeah but GOP academic apparatchiks needed bling-dollars-$$$$ even more! Hooray!

  • 93. wiley-joshua-קוליק  |  December 15th, 2011 at 9:56 am

    wow, continuing amazing journalism here.

    i’ve been asking around for work with the contractor melange abroad, but i think my former radicalist taints have obscured in their eyes my ability to sell schwill in exchange for cash. or just function as an efficient logistics man, or whathaveyou.

    kudos for having made it through the episode intact.

    I’m committed now to contributing to Exiled, and if I can get in the habit of being normal with usage of capital letters (writing like a college educated person) I might try to submit some pitch pieces.

    If you’d like an Israel correspondent? I’m in Jerusalem. Been in Israel since October, Hebrew skills coming along okay. But I gave my camera away when leaving Brooklyn. Maybe he’ll send it back, if I say I need it for public good.

    …will email at some point.

  • 94. wiley-joshua-קוליק  |  December 15th, 2011 at 10:04 am

    ‘contributing’ meant financial contributions.

    writing, maybe that too.

    (If I did, it wouldn’t be anything too gonzo. Mostly sober and modestly respectful, sans brownosing of course. I mean trying to channel Joan Didion or something. )

    THE ALMIGHTY EXILED CENSOR REPLIES:
    Thy financial contributions would be very warmly received. Thy inner Joan Didion–well, we can talk about that. Never underestimate the flat unvarnished truth.

  • 95. Dave H  |  September 30th, 2012 at 8:49 am

    I just applied for a job there, and I have an upcoming interview next week. I scrolled all the way through your very well-written and entertaining piece. Other than you mention of the un-qualified American History instructor making 15,000, there’s no mention of the salary. I just wanna know what the starting salary is for a starting ESL instructor. Just give me a ball-park between this-and-that figure. I don’t wanna ask for some amount I think is huge, only to later learn that they pay 3 times that amount to other starters.

  • 96. Harez Aref  |  February 27th, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Hello John,
    Thank you for telling the truth to the Americans, Suly is my home town. I moved to US almost 3 years ago now I live in Indianapolis. I always knew there was something unrevealed about AUIS I have couple of friends that they study there whenever I tell them how stupid and awful AUIS is they smile and think that I’m crazy! I feel bad about my tax money that goes to these arrogant fools like Agresto, William or Gary! if any of those things you mentioned happens in a US university such as Purdue or IU they would be closed down by now!


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