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ISIS and the Curse of the Iraq War by John Cassidy.

I’ve been reading up recently on the ancient history of Iraq and Syria, a region that is often referred to, not for nothing, as the cradle of civilization. Here is where rapid population growth, urbanization, the specialization of labor, manufacturing, written language, money, mathematics, and astronomy all originated.

Today, of course, parts of the region have fallen under the control of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, which, as part of its stated aim to create an Islamic caliphate, is destroying any traces of earlier religions and civilizations. (Evidently, in keeping with its Wahhabi roots, it regards them as antithetical to Islam, despite the fact that they existed thousands of years before the prophet Muhammad was born.) Earlier this year, after occupying Mosul, in northern Iraq, ISIS militants ransacked the city’s central museum, taking drills and sledgehammers to statues and relics from the empires of Akkadia and Assyria, some of which reportedly dated back to the start of the first millennium B.C.

More at The New Yorker.

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