Why Poets Should Oppose the Bombing of Iraq
Scorching Fire, warlike son of Heaven
Who like Moon and Sun decide lawsuits
Judge thou my case, hand down the verdict
Burn them, O Fire
Scorch them, O Fire
Take hold of them, O Fire
Consume them, O Fire
Destroy them, O Fire
This excerpt of a poem - written more than four thousand years ago by an unknown poet in the ancient "land between two rivers" - prophesizes the judging fire descending from the skies to decide their nemesis. Now it is just a matter of when. Very soon hell will show up in the skies of Iraq dropping fire and death. Once again America will bomb the cradle of civilization.
Like scorching fire, war-talking is puking out of Washington. And hope fades away like our gloomy short-term memory. If we cannot remember what happened 57 years ago, in August 6 of 1945, we would care less for the venerated birthplace of science and literature. The place where five thousand years ago Sumerians began constructing the first cities of what we know as "civilization." Bombing Iraq is bombing the place where we moved from prehistory to history.
Thousands of lives will be lost in the attack, and that is the most important consideration to oppose the war, but the "Courses of Action" operation could be also devastating for the place that nurtured humanity. Would the "massive" air assaults spare humanity's vestiges still buried in Mesopotamia? Would the sophisticated precision-guided munitions spare the place of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Hanging Gardens of Babylon?
Surrounded by the Euphrates and Tigris rivers Mesopotamia comprises the world's most abundant and richest archeological sites ever known. It is the place where the civilized world originated long before Rome, Greece or Egypt. If there is a country called Archeology Baghdad would be its Capital. Anywhere you look you will find a vestige of our history, anywhere you bomb you will obliterate relics of our ancestors.
Poets should be opposed to the profanation of the place of writing. Because there, Sumerians for the first time in human history recorded their literature; invented writing and gave birth to poetry. Parts of the epic of Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, one of the first most wonderful pieces of literature, may still buried waiting to be discovered or destroyed by the bombardment.
We know just fractions of great primordial pieces of Mesopotamian literature; the lament of Tammuz's death, Pepi's papyrus, or the poetry of the Babylonians in omen tablets describing the dawning of the world. How many more works may be waiting to be discovered or destroyed when America's new strategic doctrine of pre-emption unleash an unprecedented massive air attack against thousands of targets?
The wheel, agriculture, the first alphabet, the lunar calendar, the zodiac, astronomy, a decimal system using zeros, a math system based on the numeral 60; the basis of today's time measurement, medicine, record keeping systems, commerce, brick technology and banking. The plan is all ready laid open. The arm-wavers in the Pentagon are in full gear to level off the place where most of the inventions that propelled human development originated.
Would the scalpels of the "surgically-precise" steal bombers spare the ruins of Ur, the birthplace of Abraham, the Shanidaar Cave occupied by the Nyandirtal man during Stone Age in northern Iraq, the Garden of Eden - 23 miles northeast of the city of Mugairo, the place where the Towers of Babylon where constructed, or the place where the world's first library, bank and hospital was built?
I steal but I don't destroy said once a huaquero - thief of tombs and archeological sites in Peru - interrogated by the police. Would the GPS satellite gear in every million-dollar bomb be smart enough to guide them not to hit the place where the 4,000 year-old statue of a bearded man with a body of a bull was reburied by Iraqi archaeologists unable to transport and preserve it? Or the place where Amorite Dynasty's King Hammurabi created the first of all legal systems?
The Taliban bombing of two ancient giant Buddha figures carved on a cliff will go into history just as a spank in the face of humankind. For the multibillion bombing of Mesopotamia - the nurturing place of modern civilization - will be a stab to the very heart of the history of the "civilized world."
An ancient wise man, in the city of Fara, near Baghdad, once survived a huge flood by building a big wooden ship. This large boat may still be buried in the region. Since Pentagon strategists are known for their "inventive" ways of naming their worldwide military incursions, a good Hollywoodish name for this one could be "Operation The Quest and Final Pulverization of Noah's Ark.
Fernando A. Torres, originally from Chile, is a journalist, commentarist, and foreign correspondent for the Chilean biweekly newsmagazine El Periodista. Mr. Torres can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.