I have no words. The barbarity. The callousness. The incomprehensibility.
Nimrud: Outcry as IS bulldozers attack ancient Iraq site
It's the Bamiyan Buddhas all over again, only larger, more systematic.
I'm trying to make sense of it, but I can't. My knowledge of Islamic theology is pretty basic, but I'm guessing that it's OK, even helpful, to have reminders of your idolatrous, pre-revelation past around, to remember how mistaken you were in your youth. It's not like anyone is revering those idols now, right? And for how long was Islam the repository of human knowledge anyway? And if it is a genuinely principled act of iconoclasm, why sell some on the black market? Should they not all be destroyed? No, the only way I can make the least bit of sense of this is that it's something like Cortes burning his ships -- there is no past, no return, only going forward with the new guys.
Between Christmas and New Year's, I visited the Oriental Institute in Chicago, which is loaded with these kinds of artefacts. At the time the Institute collected most of its stuff, it got to keep half of what it found -- which is an incredible ratio, and a reason why a collection such of theirs could never be put together today. I made a joke about cultural plunder, that it was a good thing we (the West) had stolen all this stuff, since we bombed the shit out of the other half that was still there. It was a joke, but one with a fair bit of truth behind it.
There were some Iraqis (Kurds?) who were in the museum that day, and were entranced -- the great winged lion came from a few miles from their village. They couldn't visit the ones there because of the violence, but were thrilled to finally be able to see their heritage there, in Chicago.
Looking at this destruction now, I don't want to say that it's good overall that the West plundered so much stuff, but it's certainly good for the moment. Let's say that we are holding it in trust for the world, and for a safer day. Maybe one day they can go back. Let's hope.
In the meantime, it's all putting a very different perspective on what I saw that day.
Oriental Institute Statement on Cultural Destruction in Iraq