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I Was a Professor at the Horribly Corrupt American University of Iraq... Until the Neocons Fired Me

Horror stories from the graft-ridden American University of Iraq campus in Kurdistan.

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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:  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

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.

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