[R-G] US graffiti on ancient Babylon's walls
sandinista at shaw.ca
Sat Oct 30 02:15:29 MDT 2004
US graffiti on ancient Babylon's walls
Friday 29 October 2004 5:38 AM GMT
Troops from various countries currently patrol Babylon's ruins
Hammurabi the law-giver was here. So were Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the
Great, Saddam Hussein and now, apparently, Sergeant Woods.
US soldiers are the latest in a long line of powerful forces visited on
ancient Babylon and they have left their mark, in graffiti scratched into
walls Saddam added in the hope of joining his predecessors' pantheon.
"Folks come through here and are like, 'Kilroy was here'," says Major David
Gilleran, an army chaplain guiding 16 US reservists among the mud-brick
walls and shards of cuneiform-inscribed tablets.
Carrying automatic weapons, US soldiers and their foreign allies walk
through the world-famous cradle of civilisation, now within the walls of a
military base run by Polish soldiers 80km south of Baghdad.
"You could almost say all roads lead to Babylon," says Gilleran, 50, from
Daphne, Alabama. "This is a focal point in history. Alexander the Great was
fascinated with Babylon. Saddam, too.
"This place represents the greatness in human history. We're just passing
Iraqi security forces are supposed to take over the base by the year's end,
and Iraqis say they cannot wait.
Babylon dates back 4000 years
"For me, Americans and Polish, out!" a man at the site said in English.
"Babylon is 4000, 5000 years [old]. It's for all civilisations, not
Americans. They must go." He asked not to be identified.
"The Americans are here. They've occupied the country and put Saddam away,
and I think everyone appreciates that," said Donny George, a Ministry of
Culture official, who directed an archaeological dig at Babylon during
"But going back to these ancient cities, it does nothing for the image of
the Americans," George said.
The English-language graffiti is not widespread and does not appear to have
caused extensive harm. Arabic script is also scrawled on the walls. US-led
forces have spent tens of thousands of dollars repairing ruins and
protecting them from looters, and are investigating whether US and Polish
heavy machinery and rotor wash from helicopters are inflicting damage.
"Babylon surpasses in splendor any city in the known world"
Greek historian Herodotus
The city dates back some 4000 years. Hammurabi, credited as the first ruler
to encode law, made it his capital. His code, written 1700 years before
Christ, includes the timeworn maxim: "If a man put out the eye of another
man, his eye shall be put out."
Rebuilt by Nebuchadnezzar more than 1000 years later, the city boasted the
Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Nebuchadnezzar sent his vast army from here to Jerusalem to put down an
uprising and bring the Jews back as slaves. "Babylon surpasses in splendour
any city in the known world," wrote Herodotus, the Greek historian, in the
Alexander the Great died suddenly in Babylon around 320 BCE, possibly
poisoned. Saddam Hussein rebuilt atop Nebuchadnezzar's original walls, to
the chagrin of archaeologists.
"There were direct orders from Saddam to put up the walls. As
archaeologists, we didn't like this, but we couldn't say no at that time,"
George, the ministry official, said.
Saddam ordered walls to be put
up around the ancient site
The site, which includes a 2600-year-old stone lion, its snout missing, drew
few foreign tourists during Saddam's government.
Now US-led forces photograph Saddam's walls, studded with bricks recording
his claims of glory.
"My kingdom will last forever," Gilleran translates from the classical
Arabic script, to chuckles from the American soldiers.
Gilleran offers words of caution, though: "America's a young country. We
have Jamestown, Williamsburg. This is another, 3000 years older. Americans
need to stop and think a bit. We're a great power, but we weren't the first.
We need to treat sites like this with reverence."
Then, pointing up to a Saddam-era palace looming over the ruins, he lays out
his own scenario for the future: "It's possible to imagine a Marriott with a
five-star restaurant. There could be a bed and breakfast up there."
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We do not inherit this land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our
children. (Haida saying)
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