The Greeks called the Persians barbarians and they were, come to think of it, right. When Persians spoke, it sounded to Greek ears like savages going "bar-bar-bar" and they thought, good God, they can't even talk right. As the farmer said of his hogs, watching them eat, "Look at them. Rightly is they called pigs."

Not just Persians but all foreigners were barbarians, and it's astonishing how right the Greeks were with such simple tools as brains.

Now we know it's naughty to say anything about anybody because it would not be enlightened, and as a knee-jerk liberal myself, the only question I ever ask when I hear of hashish-crazed assassins is whether the lads are getting enough vitamins, and why not?

The fear of or distaste for foreigners is an American failing, one we really should correct. A surly cab driver who never head of Georgetown or Westmoreland Circle, for example, often raises a sharp quip in the passenger -- but wait, do not forget we need the friendship of Blastoffland, where the driver comes from, for they alone produce the itsidiium we need for our Chrysler exhaust systems.

Likewise there is a floating anger at the million or billion or some such number of Mexicans illegally in America -- and let's get one thing straight by America I mean the United States. But to send illegal aliens home would be bad for the tamale trade, if I remember right. Anyway, I think we should all brace for the other shoe to drop.

As all Americans know -- the ones that are subject to military service and American taxes, at least -- whenever there is a crisis presented by some assortment of mottled loons somewhere, you hear two arguments, the second one following the first within three days:

1. Bomb 'em back to the Stone Age.

2. Hush. Hush. They are very sensitive, proud people. Besides, it's our own fault.If Jefferson (Monroe, Madison, Jackson, Tyler, Roosevelt, McKinley, Wilson, Cleveland, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon or Carter) hadn't (done zub, zub or zub) then Hitler (Nicholas II, Wilhelm, Idi, Mao, Stalin, Bongo Bongo) wouldn't have felt obliged to (and fill in the blank).

I hardly presume to speak to the present Iranian mess, in which American hostages are being held in the American Embassy, except to wonder why we have not yet heard Argument No. 2.

It is bound to be our fault -- it always is -- that the embassy was seized. But I suppose it will take a few days longer for our better pundits to think exactly why.

We do know, of course, it would be outrageous to send back home any Iranian students who have broken the terms of their visa here.

These idealistic young men ("Death to Carter," etc.) should on the contrary be encouraged in every extravagant slogan they can think of, especially since it will be the only time in their lives they will have the opportunity, assuming they eventually return to holy spots like Qom.

We all know now that shah was a bad man, and we are obliged to rejoice at the new improved Iran we now see.

Some people -- too squeamish for this world -- object to chopping off hands and other Iranian techniques, forgetting that the Venus of Milo was much improved by the treatment, and no doubt the Persian Venuses are too.

President Carter, a mean man if I ever met one, has tentatively questioned whether it's a good idea for Iranian students to holler for his head in his own capital and has even proposed sending some of the more blatantly illegal ones home.

But not so fast, now. If a citizen of a state like Iran cannot call for the death of the president, without the inhuman threat that he will be sent home, then our Constitution is toppling and the only way we can save it is by throwing roses.

That argument we have already begun to hear.

No distinction is to be drawn, you understand, between an American student parading with "Ban the Bomb" placards and an Iranian student parading with "Death to the Shah" in front of the shah's hospital in New York, or in this somewhat uneasy capital at the time Amercians are being held hostage in Iran. And if you move against the Iranian demonstrators, you move against the Bill of Rights, and by Friday you won't be free to say you liked Adlai Stevenson.That is the argument.

Even American courts, increasingly befuddled as they are, will hardly buy that one.

But I still haven't heard the expected argument that the Iranians are poor Third World, soft-eyed, sweet-souled shepherds, herding their little flocks between the ugly American oil derricks.

Of course we must not exaggerate our troubles in Iran. I think it likely the gorgeous mosques and monuments of Isfahan, Qom, Shiraz, are safe. Indeed, it would not surprise me if the shah's program of restoring the mosques of Isfahan is being continued. The great Persian gardens of the past are safely beyond damage, having been left to decay some centuries ago, so there is no danger there.

The only trifling question is the seized embassy, and of course that will be worked out provided you keep your voice down and take a nice barbarian to lunch.