October 19, 2006
"Remains of the giant columns, temples and fortifications of the 2,600-year-old city of Hatra tower over the Iraqi desert. This was a major city along the Silk Road. Hatra sent caravans of traders throughout the Middle East with spices, woodwork and gems. It was a tolerant center of diverse religions that twice repulsed Roman invaders. Now the 1st Battalion of the 37th Field Artillery Regiment from Fort Lewis does daily combat patrols in the area, and religious tolerance is hard to come by. Just a month ago, a suicide car bomber killed several people in the neighboring settlement of al-Hatra. But the U.S. soldiers draw inspiration from the beautiful ruins, hoping someday they can be a world-renowned center of tourism." "The Mosul area, where most Fort Lewis soldiers in Iraq are stationed, was the capital of the powerful Assyrian empire 700 years before the birth of Christ. Jonah, the biblical figure fabled for being swallowed by a whale, is said to be entombed in a mosque in a dangerous part of Mosul. There’s an abandoned Christian monastery dating from sometime before 595 A.D. on Forward Operating Base Marez, where Fort Lewis soldiers in Mosul live. The chaplain gives tours." [For this Dair Mar Elia (St. Elijah Monastery), see Walsh] "A U.N. archeological team investigated the site and found looters damaged two features after the U.S. invasion in 2003. The archeologists also complained the U.S. was threatening the stability of the buildings through the destruction of stockpiles from a nearby Iraqi ammo dump. ... The blasts were reduced, and the U.S. and Iraqi forces now have secured relative calm in this area, although insurgents operate not far away." "The Stryker brigade troops said they want to add Hatra protection to the list, although a bid for a security fence came in too high at $700,000. The unit is working on other ways to secure the site."
• S. Cockerham, "Along the Silk Road, troops find hope," in The [Tacoma] News Tribune (Washington), October 18, 2006
• S. Walsh, "War exposes history," in [Gary] Post-Tribune (Indiana), February 6, 2005, with a sidebar by F. Deblauwe