Friday, August 20
Desecration as Tactic of Imperial Conquest: Holy Places
Diane Christian, Counterpunch, August 20, 2004
"The holy shrine will remain safe from all attacks that could possibly harm its sacredness." --Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Allawi, about the Najaf Mosque
Despoiling holy places is often a deliberate tactic of war. In ancient Sumer, Iraq 5000 years ago, regime change was often reported by the phrase 'the holy shrine was destroyed and the city overrun.
' When Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem in the sixth century B.C. he, like the later Roman conqueror Trajan, carried off Temple treasures. When the Greeks entered the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem a few centuries later, they slaughtered a hog in the Jewish temple's most sacred place, the Holy of Holies. In the French Revolution a naked whore was placed on the high altar of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Osama Bin Laden deliberately brought down the twin towers which he identified as shrines to the American god-money.
Desecration makes the point that new gods rule, and demonstrates contempt for what you hold sacred. In most codes of war sacred places are supposed to be respected. They sometimes serve as sanctuaries for transgressors who must be held harmless, sacrosanct, in the sacred area. The customs of holy places are ancient and widespread. Many stories tell of divine retribution against those who violate holy places.