Syria: Will "Cradle of Civilization ... become its Grave"?
President Nixon, in his last official address, left a cryptic warning of the Middle East "...so that the cradle of civilization will not become its grave."
The "cradle of civilization" is the Mesopotamian Valley, also called "the fertile crescent."
The Fertile Crescent begins south of Mount Ararat, the traditional resting site of Noah's Ark, and continues south to the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
This area later became the lands of:
Assyria is mentioned in the Book of Genesis, where it describes the location of the Garden of Eden, states (2:4):
"And the name of the third river is Hiddekel (Tigris): that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria."
The first documented language in Assyria was "Akkadian," written in Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform characters.
In this language was the world's first great work of literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh, around 2,500 BC.
The Epic gives the account of Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, going on a long journey to meet his ancient ancestor who had survived a global flood by building a large boat and covering it with tar. He boarded it with his family and animals.
In the flood, all life on land drowned.
When the flood waters receded, they repopulated the world.
Over a hundred ancient civilizations have accounts tracing back to a flood in the distant past.
Gilgamesh is credited with being the first to defend his city using a novel innovation - he built a wall.
Around the year 2,371 BC, Sargon of Akkad conquered a number of walled cities to create "the first empire."
It was called Assyria.
The name "Assyria" is derived from "Asshur," its ancient capital city on the Tigris River, named after its founder, "Asshur," the second son of Shem, the son of Noah.
A pagan practice developed of considering deceased kings as "deified," and Asshur was depicted as a feather-robed archer.
As explained by Peter BetBasoo, the Assyrian Empire under Sargon of Akkad absorbed the original Sumerian civilization of the Mesopotamian Valley.
In the 2nd millennium BC, the world's major cities included:
The ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in the Nineveh plains, near present-day Mosul, was a major religious and cultural center.
Being in a city afforded inhabitants protection and financial opportunities, but it was in exchange for giving loyalty to the king of the city, who claimed to be appointed by the local deity.
Kings ruled, in a sense, like glorified gang leaders, ruling through fear.
Around 1,800 BC, Abram was called out from the city of Ur.
Abram left Ur with:
his father Terah,
his wife, Sarai,
his brother, Nahor.
Nahor's wife Milcah, and
his nephew Lot, who was the son of Abram's deceased brother Haran.
They traveled north to a place they named Haran, in the field of Aram (Paddan Aram)
Aram was a son of Shem and a grandson of Noah.
The descendants of Aram, called Arameans, had migrated into the land of Assyria.
Abram, following God's call, went further west, with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot.
God change Abram's name to Abraham and Sarai's name to Sarah.
Abraham's brother Nahor, and his wife Milcah, stayed in the area of Haran and had several sons.
One of them was Bethuel, father of Laban and Rebekah.
Rebekah became the wife of Isaac, the son of Abraham.
Isaac and Rebekah had sons Esau and Jacob.
Jacob married Laban's daughters Rachel and Leah.
Deuteronomy 26:5 "... Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: 'My father (Jacob) was a wandering Aramean (some translations Syrian), and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous.'"(NIV)
Assyria's capital city of Nineveh continued growing, and by the 8th century BC, it had become the largest city in the world.
The Old Testament Prophet Jonah preached there in 760 BC.
The city of Nineveh repented, and lasted another 150 years.
Jonah's tomb existed in Nineveh until July 24, 2014, when it was destroyed by the resurgence of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) after President Obama had withdrawn U.S. troops.
From 745 to 727 BC, Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III conquered most of the known world.
His son, King Shalmaneser V, ruled the Neo-Assyrian Empire from 727 to 721 BC, being notorious for carrying away Israel's ten northern tribes into captivity.
Assyrian King Sennacherib, 705-681 BC, is considered to have made Nineveh the most magnificent capital in the world.
The word "Arab" is actually the Assyrian word for "westerner," and was first used by King Sennacherib in telling his conquest of the "ma'rabayeh"-westerners.
Assyrians and Babylonians laid down the fundamental basis of mathematics:
the Pythagorean Theorem,
the concept of zero,
360 degrees in a circle,
parabolic domes and arches, and
longitude and latitude in geography.
The Telegraph reported (August 24, 2017) of a recent archeological discovery:
"A 3,700-year-old clay tablet has proven that the Babylonians developed trigonometry 1,500 years before the Greeks and were using a sophisticated method of mathematics which could change how we calculate today ...
The tablet, which is thought to have come from the ancient Sumerian city of Larsa, has been dated to between 1822 and 1762 BC ...
However unlike today's trigonometry, Babylonian mathematics used a base 60, or sexagesimal system, rather than the 10 which is used today. Because 60 is far easier to divide by three, experts studying the tablet, found that the calculations are far more accurate."
By the 8th century BC, so many Arameans had immigrated into Mesopotamia that the Aramaic language became the lingua franca (common trade language) for the entire region, replacing the older languages of the Akkadians/Assyro-Babylonians.
Aramaic was spoken through the time of Christ, and was still in use by Christians in the small Syrian village of Ma'loula till the city was overrun by fundamentalist Muslim fighters in September of 2013, following the U.S. troop withdrawal.
Isaiah 23:13 stated: "Behold the land of the Chaldeans, this people was not, till the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness."
Beginning in 538 BC, Assyria was ruled by other empires for centuries:
Persian Achaemenid Empire (Cyrus the Great);
Macedonian Empire (Alexander the Great);
Seleucid Empire (Antiochus IV Epiphanes, infamous oppressor of Jews);
Parthian Arascid Empire (Roman General Crassus killed at Battle of Carrhae in Parthia, battle famous for the "Parthian shot.");
Roman Empire (Roman General Pompey began to annex Syria in 64 BC, following defeat of Armenian King Tigranes the Great);
Sassanid Empire (arch rival the Byzantine-Roman Empire for 400 years, till defeated by the Muslim army).
Greeks had popularized using the shortened name "Syria" to refer to western Assyria.
The Gospel of Matthew, 4:23-24, states:
"And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria."
Saint Thomas, Saint Bartholemew and Saint Thaddeus founded the Assyrian Christian Church in 33 AD.
A dialect of the Aramaic language called "Syriac " became the new lingua franca for that part of the world.
The Apostle Paul was thrown off his horse and converted on his way to Damascus, Syria.
The very name "Christian" was first given to followers of Jesus Christ in Antioch, Syria. (Acts 11:23-26)
By the year 265 AD, Syria was one of the first nations to be completely Christian.
In 269 AD, Syrian Queen Zenobia led a famous revolt against the Romans.
In the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries, Christian Assyrians began a systematic translation into the Syriac language the Greek works in religion, science, philosophy (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle) and medicine (Galen).
One of the greatest Christian Assyrian achievements of the 4th century was the founding of the first university in the world -- the School of Nisibis -- with departments in theology, philosophy and medicine.
It was a center of intellectual development in the Middle East and the model for the first Italian university.
Assyrian Christians pioneered hospitals, with the Bakhteesho family having nine generations of physicians and founding the great medical school at Gundeshapur in present-day Iran.
The Assyrian Christian physician, Hunayn ibn-Ishaq, wrote a textbook on ophthalmology (anatomy of the eye) in 950 AD which remained the authoritative source until 1800 AD.
Assyrian Christian philosopher Job of Edessa developed a physical theory of the universe rivaling Aristotle's.
In the 5th century, nine Christian Syrian Monks translated Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac works into the Ethiopian language of Ge'ez and organized Christian monastic orders and schools in Ethiopia, some of which are still in existence.
Saint John of Damascus in Syria, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, was one of the greatest scholars in the 8th century.
The literary output of the Assyrians and Jews was vast.
There are more ancient Christian writings in the language of Syriac than any other language, except for Greek and Latin.
Assyrian missionaries brought Syriac "Nestorian" Christianity into:
then into the Persian Sassanid Empire,
the Tang Dynasty of China,
Beginning in 634 AD, Arab Muslims swept in a torrent through the Middle East.
Chaldean and Babylonian astronomers were forcibly Islamized till they eventually disappeared.
In the 7th century, Syrian Christian scholars translated Greek works into the Arabic language.
The book, How Greek Science Passed to the Arabs, documented the work of 22 scholars, 20 of which were Christian Assyrians, with only 1 Persian and 1 Arab.
These translations were later taken by Moors into Spain, where Europeans translated them into Latin, laying the groundwork for the Renaissance.
As Muslims conquered trade routes to the east, they co-opted advances made by other civilizations, leading some to give them the attribution.
Eventually, the thousands of years of rich Assyrian civilization was expropriated into the Arab culture.
During Islam's Golden Age, a famous Arab scholar and philosopher was Al Farabi (872-951). He became an expert in Greek science and philosophy.
Another prominent scholar was the Persian Avicenna (980-1037) who wrote 450 works on philosophy, medicine and math.
Another scholar during the Islamic Golden Age, was Averroes (1126-1198), a philosopher in Andalusia-Spain, who wrote on physics, music, geography, medicine and math.
They attempted to moderate Islam, even suggesting Paradise may not be a place of sensual gratification.
Their efforts were abruptly ended by Ghazali (1052-1111), a fundamentalist Muslim scholar, who was considered the single most influential Muslim after Mohammed.
Ghazali was a "mujaddid" or "renewer of the faith" in Baghdad, who condemned moderate influences, writing:
"One should restrain anyone who would immerse himself in these mathematical sciences ...
for even though they do not pertain to the domain of religion, yet, since they are among the foundations of the philosophers' sciences, the student will be infected with the evil and corruption of the philosophers."
Where Al Farabi, Avicenna and Averroes failed in keeping the Islamic world open to philosophy and science, Thomas Aquinas succeeded in the Christian West.
Aquinas' work aided the universities springing up in Catholic cities of Paris, Naples, Bologna, Toulouse, and Oxford, which helped in preparing Western Europe for the Renaissance.
As the heavy burdens of the "dhimmi" status and intermittent persecutions caused the Assyrian Christian communities to decline, the so-called Golden Age of Islam correspondingly declined.
Mongols conquered from Korea to Eastern Europe, 1206-1227.
A branch of the Mongols under Berke Khan converted to Islam and conquered west.
Gregory Bar-Hebraeus (1226-1286), a Syrian Orthodox Church leader, wrote how initial tolerance changed:
"And having seen very much modesty and other habits of this kind among Christian people, certainly the Mongols loved them greatly at the beginning of their kingdom, a time ago somewhat short.
But their love hath turned to such intense hatred that they cannot even see them with their eyes approvingly."
In 1268, Mamluk Sultan Baibars conquered Antioch, Syria, and slaughtered all the Christian and Jewish men and sold the women into slavery. He smashed church crosses, burned Bibles, desecrated graves, and dragged every priest, deacon, and monk to the altar and slit their throats.
Mamluk Sultan Baibars destroyed the Church of St. Paul and the Cathedral of St. Peter.
In response to cries for help, France's King Louis IX -"Saint Louis" -set sail from Aigues-Mortes in 1270 leading the 8th Crusade to come to the aid of Christian states in Syria.
Tragically, King Louis was diverted to Tunis where he was defeated and died of dysentery.
In 1271, Edward I, the future King of England, undertook a 9th Crusade to help in Syria.
Tripoli (in present-day Lebanon) fell to Mamluk Sultan Qalawun in 1289, and Acre fell to Mamluk Sultan as-Ashraf Khalil in a bloody siege in 1291, thus ending the last traces of Christian rule in Syria.
When Marco Polo traveled east in 1271 AD, he noted Assyrian Christian missionaries had converted tens of thousands in India and China to Syrian "Nestorian" Christianity.
Even the influential mother of Kublai Khan, Sorghaghtani Beki, was a Nestorian Christian.
The first Mongolian system of writing used the Assyrian "Syriac" alphabet, with the name "Tora Bora" being an Assyrian phrase meaning "arid mountain."
As during China's Tang Dynasty, there was a thriving Syrian Nestorian Christian community in China which existed through the Yuan Dynasty.
Nestorian Christianity declined in China when the Ming Dynasty forced out Mongolian and other foreign influences.
Nestorian Christianity was eradicated from Persia and Central Asia by the Muslim crusader Tamerlane, who massacred an estimated 17 million.
Tamerlane killed every man, woman, and child in the ancient city of Asshur, ending a city which had been continually occupied for nearly 4,000 years.
In 1399, Tamerlane invaded Syria, sacked Aleppo, and captured Damascus. He massacred the inhabitants and erected towers made out of skulls.
Northern Iraq had remained Assyrian Christian until Tamerlane systematically decimated the population.
When Turks began imposing the Turkish language throughout the Ottoman Empire, the Syrian Christian scholars were credited for helping to preserve the Arabic language.
For centuries, Syria was under Ottoman Muslim rule from 1549 to 1918.
Beginning in the 16th century, France made treaties with the Ottoman Empire against Spain, England and Russia.
In the late 18th century, when the French military ordered a young artillery officer named Napoleon to teach them western fighting techniques, Napoleon resigned in protest.
Napoleon later invaded Egypt in 1798 and marched into the Holy Land.
In 1867, Mark Twain visited Syria, writing in his book Innocents Abroad:
"Then we called at ... the mausoleum of the five thousand Christians who were massacred in Damascus in 1861 by the Turks.
They say those narrow streets ran blood for several days, and that men, women and children were butchered indiscriminately and left to rot by hundreds all through the Christian quarter; they say, further, that the stench was dreadful.
All the Christians who could get away fled from the city, and the Mohammedans would not defile their hands by burying the 'infidel dogs.'
The thirst for blood extended to the high lands of Hermon and Anti-Lebanon, and in a short time 25,000 more Christians were massacred and their possessions laid waste ...
How they hate a Christian in Damascus! - and pretty much all over Turkeydom as well."
In 1908, a Turkish Spring began.
There was a brief euphoria when the Ottoman tyrant Sultan Abd-ul-Hamid was forced from power, but it quickly turned to horror.
Three Pashas, known as "The Young Turks" promoted the idea of "Ottomanization" - creating a homogeneous Turkey of one race, one language, and one religion - Islam.
Fundamentalist Turkish Muslims systematically expelled or exterminated hundreds of thousands of non-Muslims.
While the world focused on Germany, France and England during World War I, Turkish Muslims massacred ethnic minorities.
Over 750,000 Assyrians, 1 million Greeks, Albanians, Serbs, Syrians, and Bulgarians, and over 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children were killed.
Historian Arnold Toynbee wrote:
"Turkish rule ... is now, oppressing or massacring, slaughtering or driving from their homes, the Christian population of Greek or Bulgarian stock ...
Armenia and Cilicia, and Syria, where within the last two years it has been destroying its Christian subjects ...
The Young Turkish gang who gained power when they had deposed Abd-ul-Hamid, have surpassed even that monster of cruelty in their slaughter."
After World War I, the Ottoman Empire fell.
Britain took Iraq as a protectorate, allowing them independence 1932, but one of Iraq's first governmental acts was to massacre 3,000 Assyrians in the village of Simmele.
France took Lebanon and Syria as protectorates, allowing them independence in 1943 and 1946, respectively.
Though a republic, Syria soon experienced upheaval, coup d'etat, socialism, riots, and civil disorder.
During the period of President Obama's foreign policy, an "Arab Spring" occurred, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, to oust moderate leaders and re-establish the caliphate - a totalitarian Islamic State.
When President Obama reduced U.S. support of moderate leaders, and pulled the last U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2014, it left a power vacuum.
In exchange for Army defector Sgt. Bowe Berghdahl, the U.S. released five senior Afghan Taliban commanders capable, according to a 2008 Pentagon dossier, of leading Muslim fighters in the Middle East and in America. They were: Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Mohammed Nabi Omari.
During this time, the U.S. supported the Muslim Brotherhood's ousting of U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, then supplied arms to fundamentalist Muslim fighters in ousting Muammar Gaddafi in Lybia.
The U.S. then supplied and trained Muslim fighters to oust Assad in Syria.
When Russia came to Assad's defense, these fighters took the name ISIS and invaded Syria and Iraq, killing, raping, and beheading tens of thousands.
Since 2012, over a quarter of a million have been killed in Syria and Iraq by fundamentalist Muslim ISIS fighters.
Retired Gen. Wesley Clark reported on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper," August 25, 2014, that ISIS is supported by U.S. allies of the Arab Gulf, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Turkey.
Reuters reported July 14, 2014, the U.S. was selling to Qatar $11 billion of Apache attack helicopters and Patriot and Javelin air-defense systems.
Just as political organizer Saul Alinsky recommended constantly changing tactics to keep opponents off-balance, fundamentalist Muslims have employed the use of different names: wahhabi; al-Qaeda; taliban; Muslim Brotherhood; ISIS; ISIL; Syrian rebels; etc.
Though using different names, they are united in the same ultimate goal of re-establishing the caliphate.
There was concern that any support the U.S. may send will find its way into the hands ISIS fighters operating under another name, and be used to remove Assad in the quest to re-establish the caliphate.
Gen. Thomas McInerney stated in a Fox News interview, September 4, 2014:
"We backed I believe in some cases, some of the wrong people and not in the right part of the Free Syrian Army and that's a little confusing to people, so I've always maintained ... that we were backing the wrong types ...
Some of those weapons from Benghazi ended up in the hands of ISIS - so we helped build ISIS. Now there is a danger there."
Senator Rand Paul told Erin Burnett in a CNN interview in May 9, 2013:
"I've actually always suspected that, although I have no evidence, that maybe we were facilitating arms leaving Libya going through Turkey into Syria ...
I have never quite understood the cover-up - if it was intentional or incompetence ... Were they trying to obscure that there was an arms operation going on at the CIA annex? ...
I'm a little curious when employees of the State Department are told by government officials they shouldn't testify and then they are sort of sequestered and kept away from testimony, so I think there may be more to this."
In June of 2014, Reporter Aaron Klein of WND was told by Jordanian officials:
"Dozens of future ISIS members were trained at the time as part of covert aid to the insurgents targeting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria ... (They) were trained in 2012 by US instructors working at a secret base in Jordan ...
The officials said dozens of future ISIS members were trained at the time as part of covert aid to the insurgents targeting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The Jordanian officials said ... ISIS members ... received US training to fight in Syria."
German journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter told RT.com, August 21, 2014, the U.S. is supporting ISIS through its allies:
"In order to fight against the Islamic State in a successful way the West needs to sanction and punish all those powers that are supporting the Islamic State, namely Turkey and the Gulf states ...
'We have to see the Islamic State terrorists as a Western-created monster ...
The Islamic State would not exist without the fierce Western help and also the support by the Arabic Gulf States, as well as the support from Turkey ...
Nobody was talking about helping Christians in the region."
Christian and Yazidis minorities are given the choice to convert to Islam or die, or pay the exorbitant dhimmi jizyah tax.
Hundreds of thousands of Christians fled.
ISIS destroyed hundreds of Christian churches in Syria and Iraq, such as the ancient 1,800 year old church in Mosul.
Since the first invasion of Islam in 634 AD, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, the Maronite Church, and the Chaldean Catholic Church, quietly suffered 33 major genocides, averaging one every 40 years.
As reported by CNSnews.com, the Patriarch of Antioch, Gregory III, who oversees the 1.6 million members of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Palestinian territories and Sudan, stated:
"Who created this hell in which our people have been living for months? ...
Every day, Islamic extremists from all over the world are pouring into Syria with the sole intent to kill and not one country has done anything to stop them ..."
Gregory III concluded his assessment of Syria:
"For the last two and a half years, Eastern and Western countries have not stopped sending weapons, money, military experts, secret service agents and Salafist fundamentalist armed gangs of thugs and criminals, who have fallen on Syria like a destructive new flood."
The Chaldean Catholic Church is comprised of an estimated 500,000 ethnic Assyrians in northeast Syria, northern Iraq, and areas bordering southeast Turkey and northwest Iran.
Chaldean Catholic Church Patriarch Louis Sako stated in September 2014 when asked by reporters at Beirut's airport of remarks attributed to him in the daily Ad-Diyar in which he accused the U.S. of supporting ISIS:
"The U.S. is indirectly responsible for what is going on in Iraq ..."
"Our Muslim neighbors did not help us ...
Issuing a fatwa preventing Muslims from killing fellow Muslims is not enough."
Patriarch Sako stated:
"For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians."
After eight years of President Obama's Middle East foreign policy, the Syrian Christian population has gone from 2.5 million down to just a few hundred thousand.
Secretary of State John Kerry formally declared the exodus and deaths a "genocide," as reported by FoxNews (3/17/16; CNN, 3/18/16): "Kerry declares ISIS committing genocide against Christians, others
While Americans were distracted by politics, The Los Angeles Times reported (3/27/16): "In Syria, militias armed by the Pentagon fight those armed by the CIA."
President Trump ended Obama's secret CIA program, as TIME Magazine reported (7/28/17): "President Trump ends covert plan to arm Syrian rebels."
In October 2019, Turkey invaded Syria again, sparking an international outcry.
As the headlines reveal major world powers fueling tensions in the area that used to be ancient Assyria, the words from President Richard Nixon's last public address, August 8, 1974, are a warning:
"In the Middle East, 100 million people in the Arab countries, many of whom have considered us their enemy ... now look on us as their friends.
We must continue to build on that friendship so that ... the cradle of civilization will not become its grave."