In an attempt to provoke a western response, ISIS has declared war on ancient history
ISIS has proven itself to be, perhaps, the most comic-book ideal of a terrorist group I have seen to date. They spare no expense in time or money to make themselves appear barbaric and stylish in their campaign of destruction. Recently this includes an incident in which ISIS militants were smashing priceless ancient artifacts in the city of Mosul.
In ISIS’s attempt to re-create their “Caliphate”, they have set out on a campaign to eliminate all things “non-Islamic” across the parts of Syria and Iraq they control. Part of this program has been a systematic destruction of priceless artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia, which was recently taped and distributed by ISIS on social media.
The video takes place in a museum in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, and for me it was hard to watch. These artifacts are irreplaceable, some well over 3,000 years old. To put it in context, some of the items destroyed by ISIS are older than the oldest books of the Bible (and much older than the Koran). Mesopotamia is also the famed “Cradle of Civilization,” so studying from those artifacts has revealed much about many key developments of civilization.
As a student of history, watching the senseless destruction of those priceless artifacts made me sick. The history that has been destroyed by ISIS goons is heartbreaking, let alone the myriad of other atrocities and violations of human decency they have committed. Any and all culture and history that does not fit their radical narrative is to be destroyed. If ISIS ever took over Egypt, I bet they would destroy the Sphinx and the Pyramids too.
The madness perpetrated by ISIS is not new. This act is reminiscent of terror tactics, such as book burnings, done by dictatorships in the past. The book burnings of the Fascists in Europe perhaps come to mind. The object is to destroy everything that does not conform to the narrative. While committing these acts of vain destruction, though, ISIS merely forces us to take them less seriously.
Clearly these acts, while an affront to all decency, are there mainly as provocations. The object of the destruction of the artifacts in Mosul and elsewhere is both to erase non-conformed history and to provoke the West and wider region to attack them. Nothing gets ISIS more recruits like more war.
There is a method to the madness. While many acts of ISIS seem unnecessarily cruel and without purpose, there is a line of reasoning. ISIS is fueled by war, especially war against the “infidels.” One of the main reasons for being so outwardly brutal is to draw in Western and regional powers to fight them, to give ISIS the “Holy War” it so desperately wants.
While I deplore what ISIS has done to priceless pieces of history in Iraq, I also understand that this is only a strategy to provoke more violent reactions. While ISIS may have a method to its madness, giving in to that method only proves its effectiveness. We shouldn’t combat ISIS on their terms, but on ours.