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Hero of Palmyra Dies

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http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/18/middleeast/isis-executes-antiquities-expert/index.html

 

Khaled al-As'ad spent his life on the painstaking task of preserving antiquities, saving the relics of our ancestors for generations yet to come. He was working in Palmyra, a Syrian city full of ancient monuments and temples -- a city that was, in the second millennium B.C., a caravan stop for people making their way across the desert.

 

But over the past month al-As'ad, 82, ran into a very modern menace -- ISIS, the most brutal terrorist group in recent memory.

 

 

guy also known as gaius

 

(Thank you Ancientnoob for helping to bring this story to our attention.)

Edited by guy

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He did a lot of harm by sticking around, he should of left and wrote about it.

 

I'm not going to let this guy become a martyr for history. His duty was to survive, and write about what was lost, and coordinate the documentation of the destruction of antiquities from afar.

 

By sticking around, nobody benefited. He wasn't in a position of doing anything positive by hanging about ISIS territory. Their soldiers aren't going to be moved by a passionate plea on his part not to destroy, they are a bunch of thugs who would look at him as a preserver of idols.

 

If he got a chance to live at all once they figured out who he was, it was to help them coordinate the exploitation of the site for sale on the black market, and what had priority in western minds for destruction for future propaganda purposes.

 

If your involved in antiquities, be it a historian, archeologist, or life long volunteer involved in the system, and a similar iconoclastic militia shows up hell bent on destroying your life's accomplishments, get the hell out. There is nothing you can do. If you have time, and they did here.... move the treasures out, snap some photos of what you can't, and get out of Dodge. You have a duty to preserve the knowledge, not to die like a idiot or worst, become a pawn in the destruction of the site when at the last moment you realize when given the ultimatum, you do indeed want to live. Last thing we need is a specialist with intimate knowledge of archeology sites turn coating because they had a existentialist awakening at the barrel end of a gun.

 

Zero tolerance for this kind of silliness.

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He did a lot of harm by sticking around, he should of left and wrote about it.

 

I'm not going to let this guy become a martyr for history. His duty was to survive, and write about what was lost, and coordinate the documentation of the destruction of antiquities from afar.

 

By sticking around, nobody benefited. He wasn't in a position of doing anything positive by hanging about ISIS territory. Their soldiers aren't going to be moved by a passionate plea on his part not to destroy, they are a bunch of thugs who would look at him as a preserver of idols.

 

If he got a chance to live at all once they figured out who he was, it was to help them coordinate the exploitation of the site for sale on the black market, and what had priority in western minds for destruction for future propaganda purposes.

 

If your involved in antiquities, be it a historian, archeologist, or life long volunteer involved in the system, and a similar iconoclastic militia shows up hell bent on destroying your life's accomplishments, get the hell out. There is nothing you can do. If you have time, and they did here.... move the treasures out, snap some photos of what you can't, and get out of Dodge. You have a duty to preserve the knowledge, not to die like a idiot or worst, become a pawn in the destruction of the site when at the last moment you realize when given the ultimatum, you do indeed want to live. Last thing we need is a specialist with intimate knowledge of archeology sites turn coating because they had a existentialist awakening at the barrel end of a gun.

 

Zero tolerance for this kind of silliness.

 

what on earth are you talking about? Zero tolerance fo this kind of silliness on my forum, you sir are done on this site.... for good

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Can we all agree that if every single member of ISIS were to undergo spontaneous cranial detonation, the world would be a better place?

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I'll quit if you want me to Viggen. I have zero tolerance for false martyrs. It was the Romans, after all who pioneered this concept when some Christians would intentionally provoke pagan administers to martyr them. It was declared a sin of pride by the Roman Church in that era. Absolutely no difference here. Zero.

 

He had a chance to leave, and it was when the Antiquities were pulled out by Assad's government. He obviously was a subject matter expert on the site. His knowledge of artifacts would be essential to identifying any future black market sales, as well as documenting future destruction of the site.

 

He had zero capacity to positively effect the site. He was far too old to fight to preserve the site. He was very, very unlikely to reason in the preservation of the site to ISIS, they are iconoclastic, and view guts like him as preservers of the very pagan heritage they sought to destroy. By leaving, he could of potentially served history, by staying, absolutely no one benefited.

 

I speak the obvious truth, the onus of responsibility was leaving. It was never in staying. If he had loved ones that needed protecting, he should of unhesitatingly gotten them out, he had plenty of advance warning.

 

The end result was obvious. Why is he a martyr? For what cause? Shall we emulate him, be like him? No. Under no circumstance be like him. He threw away his duty and responsibility. It's a unpalitable truth only because our society has conditioned us to be uncritical about such matters. He was a old man who died for what he believed in, for history. We shall have icons made of him, and dedicate a history of Palmyra in his name. He can become the new Saint of History.

 

No.... the unpalatable truth is, what this man did was wrong. He gave up on either romantic tiredness, or a flight of fancy that somehow sticking it out would save, or preserve so aspect of the site, offer a symbolic Victory in retrospect.

 

Let me tell you this, every historian covering the plundering and pillaging of war. War Crimes are always irreprehensible and disturbing, a lot of outright rape and butchering. Severe, gut wrenching violence. Average people, the kind of people you see everyday suddenly getting beaten to death. Wounded, raped infront of their children. Storefronts and monuments ripped apart, burnt. Anything of beauty, anything of memory gone.

 

There are two kinds of people. People who understand this in advance, can read the signs, and leave. And the second type, those foolish enough to stay. I prefer civilians to be of the first, and soldiers of the second. But it doesn't work out that way, far too many fools stay put.

 

Does it make the actions of the invading Army any less evil? No, he was a old man, a non-combantant, and in Islam's eyes a good Muslim undoubtedly. He simply shouldn't of died. But it was obvious knowing who he was, he would. It be right up there with being a luxury store owner in a communist revolution, chances are.... your bid to sovietize your employees into a luxury guild isn't going to pass the central committee's approval. It's how prejudice works. These armies of not fountainheads of enlightenment. They exist to mangle and break. Chances are local stone sculptures in ISIS lands have found business to be rather depressed as well if they are still alive.

 

There is a overriding, fundamental importance that we all someday may potentially have to make, depending on where our life will take us. If we end up in some perspective hellhole, and Syria wasn't always a hellhole, the subject matter expert in our field, and were facing a Army such as ISIS, and have zero reason pragmatically of positively effecting anything by sticking around, but can do much in documenting the destruction by going elsewhere, into a safe rear area, then we have a absolute moral duty to do just this. Staying is a prideful, immoral suicide.

 

It's right to be appalled by such acts, as ISIS's brutality, but its equally wrong to make false martyrs of a fool who was intelligent enough to know better. It only encourages others to replicate the behavior in this war and future Wars. It's a cycle that unnecessarily depletes the intelligencia dedicated to history and its preservation.

 

Only reason we even know about this story is because for some odd reason, destruction and exploitation of antiquities are becoming a war crime (destruction of inanimate objects = the violence of genocide, I doubt this, but for devil's advocate, lets accept it here). He had zero chance of successfully emulating General Gordon in 19th Century Khartoum, under siege my the Madhi's Army. The General tried shamming the British Empire into rescuing him, falls talking the fall of Sudan to the Islamic forces. This guy had zero pull. I can't name a single archeologist alive that NATO would parachute a unit in to defend on site, in situ. If it is becoming a war crime (silly, but I can think of worst candidates. I recall Marx and Engels horrified at making the destruction of industrial property in Russia illegal internationally in wartime) then we infact have a duty to aide in the documentation. At his age, he couldn't be expected to do much else infact. His economic worth is more or less shot otherwise.

 

We have the beginnings of sites and movements dedicated to documenting this destruction. We have a emergent awareness of the necessity to document artifacts on the black market even when taken out of its archeological context, we have a cosmetic and romantic need to recreate sites destroyed. This is good. We're now the worst of in Syria because this fool threw his life away.

 

Hence why he can't ever be accepted as a martyr. Is it a tragedy? Yes. Was ISIS any less wrong in killing him? No. Are we right in upholding him as a martyr, as a object of emulation? Absolutely not.

 

Unless you have fighting skills, arms, and a desire to form a resistance, or tied to a impossible to move assortment of dependents locally who couldn't be moved, you have a singular duty to be one of the people who flee in advance. The statues in the museum managed to get out, why not him?

 

It is good to mourn him, ethically very wrong now to celebrate his act of stupidity as a martyr. If History is to become the domain of Ethics, then historians fall under Ethical teachings. Our actions in times of war are now accountable, we are no longer privileged to become aloof, introspective observers with our heads up in the clouds like Archimedes being slayed by Roman soldiers, unaware of the larger battle raging outside. Our entry into Just War Theory as more than passive observers have trusted responsibility upon us. We can't just expect everyone to jump and serve us, and be careless about ourselves, and the war we now play in society. We now have a legal role that's just now becoming apparent, as documenters of destruction, in explaining the importance of a site. We can't do this if we go down with the ship. We have to be preferably outside the destruction, preferably preserving as many artifacts and primary resources outside of the conflict if at all possible. You cannot justifiably apply a warrior ethos to us. It's not our job to be brave in the face of danger and defy death, but to actively evade it when given the chance. Thus is what it means to be a historian, be you academic or the foremost local expert of lay knowledge.

 

If I was to apply Roman era ethical evaluations, say, from Arius Didymus, qualifying this man as worthy or worthless, in which direction do you think I'd be forced to categorize him as? Plain and simple, you can't get much use out of his corpse. We already knew ISIS was genocidal. What we needed to know was details on artifacts, the state of the site it terms of before and after destruction, identifying which artifacts were pilfered from warehouses, or dug up from the ground. Future trials are this much harder for international dealers and war profiteers now because he decided to be foolish, doing something most of us would of instinctively known not to do.

 

It's right up there with elderly people who decide they aren't complying with the state of emergency declarations, and will ride out the storm from the volcano they built their house on while it blows. It's a remarkably bad idea. I cry for the list of life, but won't make martyrs out of them. We all kinda know why they died. At least they didn't have Just War requirements forming around them as historians are now today in the 21st century. He evaded his duty to society. That's the flip side to everyone crying over historic sites being destroyed or ransacked at the pining of history enthusiasts. It means we just received a public aura of sacred keepers of kinds of knowledge, whereas before we were just civilian professionals or enthusiasts. We know have responsibilities.

 

Think of Spock in the recent Star Trek movie trying to save his planet's council on culture and history. That is the old way of thinking. We as a society have changed so much in our recent thinking in approaching antiquities and war that it would of been common sense, Logic even, for Spock to assumed they left at the very first instance of trouble.

 

If history is this important, we have a absolute duty to retreat, evade, and survive. We of all people should know exactly how nasty a invading, hell bent Army can be, especially if they despise everything we as historians believe in.

 

So no, this man can never be a martyr. It is the caveat of mourning over history, in getting our laws internationally rewritten to support our causes. We can no longer afford to be emotionally impared or stupid in the onslaught of danger. We can't be high priests self sacrificing, or captains trying everything until the last, going down with the ship. Rarely can we be warriors and fight the threat off single handedly, and I am unaware of a single historian, museum director, or historian with enough charisma and cultural pull that he would become a cultural treasure we would go far out of the way to defend under impossible odds. We can't move a Army to our defense, but we can easily direct the ire of a prosecutor in a international war court later on with our expert testimony. We can write books, help future generations remember. The ironic thing about the Library of Alexandria is we have just as many accounts of its many book burnings and destructions as its actual vital life while in operations. We know more about the Jews of Germany in the 1930s than in 1990. Just how it was, and in the future we can do better.

 

Times are changing Viggen. I'm the first to note this, but just that.... the first. A new chapter to the Philosophy of History has opened up, and it will become a increasing pressure upon our future to get historians to realize they are operating in a new Ethical framework, and that we have more responsibility to society and less free will than we had just two years ago. It's going to be very slow for cultural perspectives to change, but were now on a legal footing that will inevitably force all of us to change.

 

I recommend everyone to bookmark this thread, and return to it in twenty to thirty years, and see just how right my predictions turned out. Moral questions regarding the duty of historians and archeologists will be debated in History 101. It's a concept alien to us not too long ago, isn't it? People studying to be museum conservators will take courses detailing working in parallel with national guards and relief organizations in evacuating national treasures. What is the triage? What do you save? Is the conservator's life cheap in a case not everything can be moved? Does he have moral and legal responsibilities to society and future generations beyond the site?

 

Will this "martyr" pop up on a history MBA course? Perhaps not him in particular, but other fools in the future like him. Eventually prosecutors and lawyers are going to snap, pointing out the best expert witnesses habitually die over a stubborn romanticism for sites that were lost to begin with, and really need to stick to the rear and help international efforts to preserve the knowledge they have.

 

Everything this guy knew.... gone. ISIS' destruction is just starting though. We needed him, and the damn fool threw his life away.

 

Times have changed. History itself as a discipline is changing. The old morality has changed too. We have to look towards ourselves as keepers of a flame worth remembering, and that remembering is too precious to throw our lives away. This is, after all, the underlining presumption to making destruction of historical sites a war crime, right? It seems to be the logical ends of it.

 

By upholding the self serving desires of a old man to stick to his site under the onslaught of a genocidal Army, certain to either kill him or abuse his knowledge to maximize their pilfering, is simple wrong. I grieve over the lost of life, I am angered at the crime, but am very stern and emphatic, our era of youthful fun history is over. History has now come into its own as a Ethical and Sacred Profession. The things you know, once they are lost from your carelessness, its as bad a genocide. He had a moral responsibility to Syrians, to the world, and to future generations to evade and survive, to preach his knowledge and keep a keen eye of vigilence on his site from afar, working and unifying every investigator and taskforce out there. It's not glorious, its not brave, but if history matters as much as the UN is claiming it to be, as news attention on Syria has been (and Syria has 15,000 Roman sites, only this one made the news big) then yeah, our responsibilities have decidedly shifted.

 

You might not tolerate it on your site Viggen, but I promise you, it will become the leading Ethical dilemma rooted at the heart of historians everywhere in a generation. We are just now seeing things change now. I don't see how history professors won't be shocking freshmen students with far more inflammatory language and moral questioning, yelling "Nooooo" and slamming text book covers in class to dramatically unaware students that there are ethical dimensions to history and archeology far beyond Indiana Jones, that we can find ourselves in the 21st century in duties a 20th century professional would of found farther absurd or alien.

 

Viggen, your flabbergasted now, give it a few more decades. You'll find I was a relative angel in my stance, and rather prophetic. I won't hold the grudge against you. Heck, I'll probably write another Philosophy of History essay on this very subject here in a few days after I'm done with my current one. It be under my "Rot at the Center of Time" collection someday if you look it up in a few months. Been pumping ideas out slowly.

 

I'll check back in a few days to see if your serious about this ban. I stand absolutely by what I said, I won't allow this man to become a false martyr. Our priorities have just shifted ethically to survival. We must intrinsically somehow matter more, as the chief interpreters of History, if the destruction of History is somehow now a war crime. We can't be children in the face of danger any more.

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That is a fascinating dissertation, and I find some aspects of it to be rational and well-founded.
Other aspects of it smack far too much of the "she was asking for it" defense that has been used in so many rape cases.

It may be that, at his age, having devoted his entire life to preserving his country's heritage, that he voluntarily chose to die

in the ancient city which he loved because he would not want to live in a world where it had been destroyed.  Or he may have

thought that the government's forces would prevail, or he just may have been a slow runner.  I don't know and I'm not sure

anyone outside Syria does.  But I am not going to dismiss him as a fool, as you seem so eager to do.

 

There is an old story that when the Visigoths were sacking and burning Rome, they came to the villa of a wealthy Roman senator.

They found him still seated in his curule chair, watching as his screaming servants were dragged outside to be raped and his

household treasures were plundered or destroyed.  Staring straight ahead, he sat there, unmoving, until finally one of the Visigoths

reached out and touched his beard to see if he was, in fact, alive.  The Senator struck the invader with the flat of his hand, as hard

as he could, and the barbarians immediately descended upon him and cut him to pieces.  Was his conduct foolish or brave?
It depends on what his goal was.  If self-preservation was his motive, it was an epic fail.  If making a statement of Roman dignity

and courage was his motive, he gave a magnificent demonstration.

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Can we all agree that if every single member of ISIS were to undergo spontaneous cranial detonation, the world would be a better place?

 

I think we can! :)

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