There are many things to be said about Iraq, and the political pundits are weighing in non-stop on MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, FOX, PBS from the left to the right. (This is in-between keeping us abreast of what’s going on in Honduras, Syria, Israel, Gaza, Ukraine and Afghanistan). I am speechless over the terror gripping virtually every continent, but with Iraq, I cannot help but remember sixth grade history when we learned that it sits amid the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, otherwise known as “The Cradle of Civilization”.
The heritage of Iraq is one of greatness. It descends from the Persian Empire, a civilization once populated by the Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Akkadians and their sophisticated comprehension of the world should be celebrated, not forgotten. The Sumerians recorded the first written word, (circa 2900 B.C.), figured out that a circle was 360 degrees, and grasped that the planets circled the sun and not the other way around:
Constellations that we still use today, such as Leo, Taurus, Scorpius, Auriga, Gemini, Capricorn, and Sagittarius, were invented by the Sumerians and Babylonians between 2000-3000 B.C. These constellations had mythical origins, the stories of which are common throughout the western world.
From excavations and archaeological digs we know that these earliest urbanites brewed beer, wrote poetry and were savvy commercial traders. We also know that they were craftsmen. Within the ancient tombs and buried cities, archaeologists have discovered golden filigreed crowns, necklaces of delicately chiseled leaves, and beautifully sculpted silver spouted vessels which were used either for libations or cult objects.
To remember all this and to balance it against the knowledge that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, “ISIS”, now known simply as the Islamic State, has not only eclipsed Al Qaeda as the world’s most powerful and active jihadist group, but seeks to monomanically annihilate history is beyond heartbreaking:
In areas that fall under their control, the jihadists work carefully to entrench their rule. They have attracted the most attention with their draconian enforcement of a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic Shariah law, including the execution of Christians and Muslims deemed kufar, or infidels.
The goal of ISIS is to destroy. It boggles the mind, but perhaps it is not so novel or exceptional, given that it was war and violence that ultimately brought down the Persian Empire.
And yet there is wisdom being spoken and hopefully it will prevail. Ali al-Nashmi, a professor of history at Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, was quoted in The New York Times on July 27, 2014:
The world lost Iraq, but we must fight, you and me and all the friends, to do something, something mysterious and very far off. We must teach history in the primary school and show our kids Iraq’s great civilization.