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Nothing Is Forever
It was the twenty-fifth year of the war in Iraq. There were few Iraqi left, most
of them were
dead and the rest of them had gone to other countries and were swallowed up in
the vast sink hole
of the Mideast. An occupying army half-heartedly patrolled the streets in
heavily armed vehicles
but took little interest. They hardly noticed Johnny Pilgrim standing in the
ruins of the Mosque
Johnny Pilgrim looked at the wall frieze behind him, a larger than life bas
relief of the figure
of Hammurabi, the warlike ruler who laid waste to the ancient cities north of
bloated, pitiless face was buried in facial hair. It wasn’t surprising, he
thought, that he was
known as the child of the devil to everyone – except the Babylonians.
It was almost 4000 years ago that Hammurabi had marched north from the Persian
the fruitful Tigris and Euphrates valleys, and turning westward all the way to
Sea. He was careful to destroy only the armies and kingdoms that opposed him –
he spared the
rest, the farmers and the craftsmen. It was the technique of a true despot.
The light in the mosque varied in intensity – flickering as though it might have
torches carried by marching men on a windy road and Johnny Pilgrim thought he
could hear them
passing – their voices muttering, laughing and singing bawdy songs. He could
hear the weeping of
innocent women and children.
Johnny Pilgrim was smart enough to know that tyrants never die. The spirit that
moved them in
life follows them beyond the grave. Hammurabi was no different than Caesar or
Genghis Kahn, and
if Johnny Pilgrim had lived then – even though he was a messenger of God, his
voice would have
been lost in the noise of battle. No one hears the peacemakers, their voices are
blown away by
the winds of war.
Johnny Pilgrim stood in the dimly lit sepulcher and felt the presence of
Hammurabi. His native
Iraqi guide said this was his tomb and marked his northernmost march of
conquest. “From this
point,” the guide told him, “he turned westward and his conquering armies
marched through the
foothills of the Turkish mountains and settled on the south coast of the
“Babylonia was the essence of the world’s civilization,” he said. “We were a
cultured people then
– we named the stars. We predicted the seasons ... mathematics ... literature
... art ...
“Nothing is forever,” Johnny Pilgrim reminded him.
“Even forever,” said the guide.
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