History Foretold: What Invaders Have in Common

Category: Life & Society, Middle East Views: 3655

An ill-advised edict by the Taleban government early 2001, to obliterate some of the world's oldest Buddhist masterpieces in the Afghani province of Bamiyan, sent "dark shivers through the international community", as described by ABC news. Shortly after the toppling of the Buddha's statues, the Taleban itself was toppled; their leadership in disarray, some killed and others on the run.

An unforgettable scene of the destruction of a particular statue of the Buddha, the largest in the world, on March 2001, triggered fury, and unequivocal condemnations from world governments and NGOs. "I told them (the Taleban) that the international community is baffled at the moment and it would create international outrage if the edict is carried out," the UN's special envoy to Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, told AFP in Kabul prior to the detonation of the statues. And an "international outrage" it was. But as some were genuinely concerned about the world's irreplaceable cultural heritage, others cultivated the Taleban's foolish decision to rid themselves of "false idols", politically. That single event arguably laid the foundation for the propaganda campaign that preceded the war on Afghanistan by the United States and a band of local warlords. 

Was the Taleban's religious dogma truly threatened by the presence of a 175- foot Buddha statue? Or was the decision a desperate call for attention, for validation, perhaps a display of evidently so deficient a strength? Ahmed Rashid, author of "Taleban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia", remarked in an ABC interview: "The Taleban has gone completely bananas." 

I would've settled for this intellectually atypical analysis if it were not for the fact that hostile regimes and foreign invaders habitually aim much of their hostilities toward illustrations of history. In many instances, history is also a causality of war. Iraq and Palestine are prime examples. During a visit to Iraq in April 1999, I was dissatisfied by an explanation given by an employee at the Iraq National Museum that the building was closed due to constant bombings by American warplanes. Bombs seemed to target and evidently ravished much of the museum during the 1991 war and subsequent years. Thus, unparalleled historic pieces were hauled into an underground area, adjacent to the main building. My relentless hackling and pleas finally paid off however, as I was allowed to gaze for a few moments at segments of history so unequaled with lessons beyond astute. Large edifices, that date back thousands of years, stood in a dark basement wrapped in white sheets, dusty and battered.

My body was no longer responding to the scorching heat of Baghdad, as it gave in to a wave of endless shivers. I witnessed the making and remaking of history set in stone. Every giant block seemed to testify to one unmistakable end: Invaders never prevail. The likeness of history as narrated by images was startling: Invaders, giant and powerful, local inhabitants, tormented and enslaved, a rebellion, rivers of blood, decapitations, screams of agony, joy and victory. Then, a new cycle of history begins, hidden under another white sheet, dusty and battered. 

Was it the threatening prophecies of these strident edifices that impelled the wild-west style theft and desecration of the remaining symbols of ancient Iraq, following the fall of Baghdad last year? In some peculiar way, by permitting the robbing of Iraq's cultural and historic treasures, the most modern invaders unwillingly validated the course of history. But this was not the first persecution of historic symbols in the Middle East. More modernly, Israel and its intellectual Zionist cliques, whose proliferation of one radical and self-servingly constructed version of history, deny any historic entitlement of the dwellers of the land to their own land, is a patent example. Both Palestine's ancient and recent history is being denied, physically and allegorically. Since 1948 onward, hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns, some as old as history can recall, have been wiped off the map.

But history in Palestine is still in the making. Between December and January 2004, the Israeli army has actively demolished scores of buildings in Nablus, the largest city in the West Bank. Nablus' roots are traced back to 72AD, when the Roman Emperor Titus built a town in honor of his father. Flavia Neapolis it was named, "the New City". But the New City is decaying under the chains of Israeli Army tanks and bulldozer blades. During the recent weeks alone, Nablus and its refugee camp, Balata, have lost 16 people to the Israeli siege and raids. Aside from the loss of precious lives, ancient treasures have also been blown up or bulldozed, in Nablus' Old City, in Al-Qarun area and throughout. 

The Palestinian Authority's "urgent appeals" to world governments and NGOs to save Nablus and its historic symbols have fallen on deaf years. Alas, "international outrage" is yet to be reported.

Nonetheless, history has a way of teaching lessons, even though it often chooses vulgar, bloody ways of stressing its points. One massive rock dotted with images of war and victory in Baghdad makes it painfully clear that giant invaders would eventually concede, even cower before their war booty and enslaved subjects. The Buddha statues' destruction highlighted the futility of undermining the cultural and spiritual mix of Afghanistan. Accordingly, an acceptance of such a realization is the first step toward true peace and harmony in the warring nation. Bulldozing history in Nablus with such dreadful thoughtlessness shall not discontinue the mere existence of the Palestinian people or their moral and legal entitlement to their own land. What hostile regimes and cruel invaders fail to realize is that the lessons of history don't weaken when its symbols are turned into heaps of rubble. It is the spirit that is carried on by successive generations that ultimately matters. Those who admire the Buddha's teachings have not grown less faithful even with the destruction of his colossal statues; Iraqis are embarking on a new chapter of an almost foretold future, just another interval in the existence of ever-resilient Mesopotamia; Conversely, the people of Nablus will persevere, despite the unbearable dust, mounting bodies and malicious bulldozers. 

I wish that those who seek to smother the symbols of history would make an effort to learn from them, just one more glance before reducing them to debris. There is an invaluable lesson to be learned, which I realized, years ago, in a dark, underground museum in Baghdad, so dusty and battered. 

Ramzy Baroud is an Arab-American journalist, editor in chief of Palestine Chronicle online.

  Category: Life & Society, Middle East
Views: 3655
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Older Comments:
tarique....or should I say Mr.Chander and co., tell us about the "cosmopolitian" culture of infanticide, murderous tribalism, and racism. Do tell. Did I just describe aspects of western "culture" ? Oh never thats a different thread. I doubt you have any interest in the Buddha statues or anything else for that matter except your visceral hatred of Islam.

Islam has always been a vicious invader starting with
Mohammed himself who wiped out the cosmopolitan
society in Mecca. What the Taliban did to the Buddha
statues was quintessentially Mohammedan.

John, you're a typical jewish extremist, and an idiot to boot. I'm surprissed Islamicity hasnt banned vermin like you yet.
Maybe they feel that letting a lunatic yid go off will prove how utterly inhuman your kind are.

Taliban was wrong, "even" Khomeni condemned the destruction. But let's not bow to outrage in Western press and opinion that largely ignores both the "colleteral damage" in Afghanistan and Iraq and direct purposeful greedy and/or hateful destruction and vandalism in places like Iraq. Human sites older than any of the faiths of any "peoples of the book" are not to be retroactively condemned and wantonly destroyed by those favored with later Prophecy. They are not a threat in any way to what we have favored with since Muhammad (PBUH).

The Taliban had no choice, the UN team sent in there to help feed the hungry was not giving financial aid to the Taliban, after excessive reading, i have come to a conclusion, the UN was willing to spend 25 million dollars on these statues, instead of feeding the Taliban and the hungry children of Afghanistan. This act was Just!

Of course, Baroudy is right. That is why Muslim colonialism and imperialism cannot be allowed to prevail

Oh please Romesh, since when did Hindu fanatics like you become the defenders of Buddhism ? For those who dont know...Buddhism was founded in India, until Mr.Chander's brahmin ancestors decided to uproot it and plant their own supremascist religion based on the inhuman caste system. We havent forgotten the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhiya either by hindu terrorists.
That being said, I was against what the Taleban did, but the outrage coming from the rest of the world was bogus....if they were so concerned about historical artefacts....why are they so often silent and COMPLICIT in the decimation of Palestinian and Iraqi history ?
No sale, hypocrites.

Comment on Post by AssadUllah:

You argue that it was fine to destroy Statue of Buddah in Afghanistan. OK. Then why do muslims take an extremely violent exception to destruction of a page from Koran? So violent exception that they will (and do) kill plenty of people. After all, we can print unlimited number of copies of Koran immediately and quite cheaply; but not Statues of Buddha, which took long time to create and existed for 2000 years as a part of the world history. And this Statue was unique; it was the only one in the entire world.

I would like to believe in this, and it is undoubtedly true in many cases as history shows. But history also shows that many invaders have succeeded and the invaded no longer exists.
The European settlers in what is now the United States have not only wiped off the Native Indians, but they are invading other parts of the world too. Does the author predict a defeat and replacement of the United States at the hands of the Native Indians?

That is just 1 of a million examples of course

well said Charles Jacks, if only the US could deals fairly and justly with Muslims,we could be the best friend America ever had.Jews like John Norman knows no loyalty not even to God.Here is my prediction : As soon as America is no longer able to support Israel financially due to a declining economy, watch how fast they will turn on you Americans and align themselves with the Chinese (Buddhist), whose economy is starting to emerge .Already they are selling the Buddhist some key high tech weapons even though the US disapprove.

If the statues were so important to the world then petition to have them commemorated at Ground Zero in New York City. Propose that replicas be constructed of glass and steel, towering 1,776 feet tall, if you like. In my opinion, those statues were only so much mud and stone. Those statues were, in my opinion, hostages held for ransom - for foreign aid to feed and to warm and to educate the hungry and shivering and illiterate children of Afghanistan - and the outside world refused to pay. I remember hearing estimates of anywhere from $200 to $500 million (US) required to restore those statues but not one dollar to ease the suffering of the people of Afghanistan.

Those who refuse to submit to the will of Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) are liable to be destroyed but it is not my place to slander them - nor is it my intention to remain silent while the vanquished (insha'Allah) are slandered. I apologize for any offense taken at my comments by survivors of 9/11, by members of the Taliban, by opponents of the Taliban, by archeologists, by Ramzy Baroud or by anyone else.

I agree with the rest of the article. I hope the history repeats itself and the invaders are punished and pushed back.

I agree to the whole of the article except the beginning where author condemned destroying of the buddhist statues. I donot understand why do we value man-made statues more than human life. When people are hungry and dying in a country why do unesco and others worry more about the decaying "beauty" of pieces of stone? Instead of giving aid to the victims of civil war, people are spending money on statues? I am no fan of Taleban but I think they were justified in this act. The statues were no longer being used for worship. Even if you abandon a mosque and do not pay the rent or property tax in a coutry, they will take over and they will demolish it if they do not like it there. Even the champions america and britain would do so.
If I do not want to keep a statue so huge in my house, I have the right to get rid of it.
People tend to worry more about a statue of a man in yoga position than an alive man in prostration and praying to God. This just sickens me.

Well said! It is a sad fact that many countries in the world have lost their history due to colonies. Africa is the most affected by this, whenever the Europeans have found a civilization and a history of a civilization in Africa they completely destroyed, leaving intact the heritage of the backward ones. They have done this so as to strip the identity from their victims and make them feel lesser of a people. They succeeded.

If you have ever read any Buddhist books with titles like "If you meet Buddha on the Road, Kill Him", you know the Buddhists are very aware of the dangers of hero worship and the wish to abdicate responsibility for self governance to a Christ, messiah, caliph, madhi, king, etc. etc. etc. So oddly enough, the least up in arms one way or the other over the destruction of the statues were the Buddhists.
And yes waves of political power, big and small, tend to play across the face of the earth like waves on the oceans. Rising for a little while only to sink below the surface latter. It is relatively predictable.
When I first started commenting on some of these stories John Norman wanted to hear something from me different from the ongoing "woe is me, we are supposed to be a kalifia" lament. I responded with "the strong man strengthens his neighbors and becomes stronger thereby while the bully gathers strength to himself and turns his neighbors into allies of his enemy. The generous man enriches his neighbors and enjoys a prosperous community while the miser improvises himself selling nothing to impoverished neighbors. The wise man teaches his neighbors so that his children might have teachers while the tyrants plans are dashed on the heads of rock headed henchmen."
You may not have recognized these as predictions but one of the gracious and merciful things about God's creation is that it allows us to predict things. So John Norman, do you feel safer now that the percentage of Muslims that dislike the U.S. has gone to over 90%. Are would you be more worried that U.S. allies in "old Europe" have people winning elections to high posts by running on anti-U.S. platforms. "turn your neighbors into allies of your enemies".
Do you feel enriched with the breakdown of the Pan-American trade agreements, of does the fact that the IMF is putting out papers warning the U.S. that its fiscal policies may cause its economy to collapse give you a warm and fuzzy. I live here, dami