I am distracted today from events in the ancient Near East by events in the contemporary Near East.
Note the Biblical reference in the New York Times report:
The reports are like something out of a distant era of ancient conquests: entire villages emptied, with hundreds taken prisoner, others kept as slaves; the destruction of irreplaceable works of art; a tax on religious minorities, payable in gold.
. . .
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has presented itself as a modern-day equivalent of the conquering invaders of Sennacherib’s day, or as Islamic zealots smashing relics out of religious conviction.
The Assyrians acted like that in the 6th century before Christ. So did Ammonites, Moabites, and, indeed, Israelites. I am always encouraged by Hosea’s condemnation of the “blood of Jezreel” and God’s refusal, against Jonah’s wishes to destroy Nineveh. There are anti-violence notes in the divine symphony of the Hebrew Scriptures, so the idea of a warlike Old Testament God is an oversimplification. (Of course, violence is what will eventually stop this, so I find it hard to be pacifistic.)
I do not know much about the Koran, but I expect that there are mixed voices there too.
From the point of view of the historian the destruction of ancient art and artifacts is not worse than the human suffering caused, but is very sad because so much of the past is already lost.
I was reading just the other day about a carved relief from the Ramses era in Egypt. It was in a museum in London when it was bombed in WWII. It was a fragment of a monument that already was partly lost, but it had important carvings on it. Much of the information we have from ancient Egypt and Assyria is visual and requires careful examination and interpretation. No one had ever photographed this Egyptian monument, apparently. We just have some line-drawings of it.
So among the war crimes happening now are crimes against culture and history.