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Wednesday June 6, 2001

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Americans must deal with reputation, scandals overseas

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By Cory Spiller

Editor's note: Cory Spiller is studying on a U of A program in Paris.

PARIS - For those of you planning on heading to Europe in the near future, take this advice: practice a Spanish accent and try to pass as Mexican. Get a Canadian flag patch for your backpack and start pronouncing "about" like "aboot." Whatever you do, don't claim to be an American. It's a lot easier that way.

Traveling in Europe has made me aware of many things - different cultures, smelly cheeses, mistakes I wish I could take back - and changes I would like to make in America.

Many come to mind, but maybe we should start by executing Henry Kissinger. We'll come back to that later.

When I arrived in Europe, I decided not to go straight to Paris. I had the opportunity to stay with an old friend in London. After sixteen hours of traveling, I found myself sitting in my friend Michael's house having a glass of whiskey, reminiscing, and - of course - talking politics. Michael is studying law at the University College London, but he is not a native Londoner. He comes from Cyprus, a hot, dry island in the Mediterranean. However, it's important to point out that Michael is a Greek - not Turkish - Cypriot.

I'm sure you are wondering what whiskey, Cyprus, and our obligation to execute Henry Kissinger have in common. Well, it turns out, quite a lot.

Michael lives in a house in North London that his parents own. He is one of many Cypriots that have immigrated to London and become a part of a small yet thriving community. So, naturally Michael's handyman is Cypriot. While Michael and I chatted, the handyman went to work upstairs, armed with a glass of whiskey that we had offered him.

After about half a bottle or so, the handyman was downstairs gesticulating wildly and ranting about the recent election in Cyprus. When he discovered that I was American, the conversation became uncomfortably serious. He asked if I knew about his people's struggle. I said yes. I'd had lengthy conversations with Michael. And I had also spoken with a Turkish Cypriot who owns a kebab stand in London that I use to frequent.

In 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus. The Turks felt it was their obligation to reinstate constitutional rule after a coup, and they claim the Turkish population in Cyprus, at the time, was being treated poorly. The Greek Cypriots claim that Turkey used this as an excuse to expand their borders.

The U.S., under the guidance of Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State, turned a blind eye, and in return America was allowed to put military bases on the Turkish half of the island. Today the island is split in two. A demilitarized zone patrolled by the UN separates them. Each side is waiting for the other to make the first move. Michael served his country on this line.

For the record, I'm not taking sides in this argument.

I'm not quite arrogant enough to believe I know all the facts, but I do know innocent people suffered and innocent people died, for military bases. It's nothing new for America, the big bully of international politics. We are all about freedom and national autonomy as long as you're not communist. America is usually against needless invasions unless we can get a military base out of it.

As the old Cypriot handyman took his last gulp of whiskey, he pointed at me. He said, "You are American. You must do something for me. Kill Henry Kissinger. He did this, it was his fault!" His eyes began to water and he left the room. Michael apologized, and explained that the old man's father had been executed in front of him. Again, I'm not taking sides, but at that moment I wanted to spit on the steps of the capital, burn an American flag, and bring that man Henry Kissinger's head on a plate.

If you're planning on traveling in Europe soon, remember this: the insults you receive from any number of people could be for good reason. We - as Americans - are not always the good guys. We're the ones with the bombers that destroy cities. We're the ones with the insidious CIA that manipulates the world with underhanded tactics.

We're the ones that allowed Henry Kissinger to destroy a peaceful island in the Mediterranean.