The Gift of God…. ?
By Maxwell Pereira
Jt. Commissioner of Police/Traffic, Delhi

For those of us who grew up with stories from the Bible… be it of Adam and Eve in the story of creation and the Garden of Eden of the forbidden fruit fame, or the heart warming ones from that part of the Old Testament that dealt with Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath or King Solomon - the topography and terrain covered in this Book of the Greatest Story ever told, is starkly familiar. A majority of place names from the Bible that I grew up with, have suddenly been catapulted into our lives, resurrected once again - should I say 'thanks' to the Iraq War… where the "clash of civilizations" has taken place in what is considered the very "cradle of civilisation". Ironically for me, it was around the same time as the commencement of this 'clash' that a trip to South Africa's Johannesburg for the recent Cricket World Cup finals had provided an opportunity to tour through another 'cradle' - what they termed the "Cradle of Mankind" where man in his homo sapiens form is said to have taken first birth.

But just as 'Brahmavarta' the land between the Saraswati and the Drishadwati rivers of ancient India is credited with the origin of the Vedas and the Upanishads…. it is the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers that is credited with having given the world and mankind a majority of its first inventions - cereal agriculture with irrigation of the Mesopotamians, the plough and the wheel and the wheeled chariot of the Sumerians, knowledge and development of the art of writing and literature, the cities and codes of law for community living, counting systems, accountancy and banking, the science of mathematics based on the number 60, the study of astronomy with the creation of the calendar, and the defining of the latitude and longitudes, discovery of bronze - were all inventions from these very once fertile plains that now stand ravaged by the Allied 'coalition-of-like-minded' forces led by America and Britain in their so-called 'laudable' task of liberating a people who had not sought any liberation!

Among the seven wonders of the world of my childhood were the Hanging Gardens of Babylon - a name from the Bible, though for the Iraqis it may be just a place of tourist attraction. Babylon had once become the capital of the largest empire humans had built, and was famed as the commercial and cultural centre of the Middle East for 2000 years. And be it the Tower of Babel and Hammurabi, the Epic of Gilgamesh; the City of Ur; Niniveh and Mesopotamia, the Iraqi land is redolent with names that echo down the Biblical millennia. While historians tell us that history itself began 8000 years ago in Iraq, everything before that was just pre-historic; and that the Iraqi civilisation is twice as old as that of ancient Egypt and four times as that of Rome. Mesopotamian civilisation in this area is placed at 6000 BC while that of the Sumerians at 3700 BC. Picture symbols to keep track of property and the simpler cuneiform of writing with lines pressed into clay already in practise here had evolved by 3000 BC into full syllabic alphabet.

In Persian meaning "given by God" Baghdad's foundation stones were laid by The Abbasid Caliph Mansur in 762 AD calling it Madinat-al-Salam or the city of peace. A city for the next five centuries that absorbed and distilled the wisdom of the east and the west to became the centre of the world's greatest and the oldest civilisation. But with the decline and pillage that started with the Mongol invasion in 1256 AD through to the British Mandate of the 1900s Baghdad and the Iraqis remained an unfortunate lot - which is reason why it became fertile ground, history records, for an authoritative regime to evolve, making room for the cult of personality combined with a doctrine of infallibility in the form of Saddam Hussein to emerge. The rest is again history…

No one is flying a flag for the now deposed leader or would support the atrocities he ostensibly committed on his people - as would inevitably be listed…. But the question that bugs one and all… "Where are those Weapons of Mass Destruction?" which were supposed to be the root cause and reason for external armed intervention. And would the fact of not agreeing to sign the Hague Convention for protection of cultural and religious cities during hostilities buy immunity to those nations or be absolution enough against culpability to those who watched the heritage plundered? Who would mankind hold answerable for the looting of the museums and the loss of 4000 year old cultural heritage suffered by humanity?

(The author can be reached at or his email: )750words. 22.04.2003: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// and


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