Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Your Biblical Hubris of the Day

Back in the day, Saddam Hussein decided that he would rebuild the ancient city of Babylon. It's a nice idea, from a man who didn't have that many, and profoundly unrealistic. Realism was one of the many virtues Hussein lacked.

It never happened, of course. While I'm a huge fan of archaeology, actually reconstructing the city would have been a fantastically expensive boondoggle, in a country without the resources to spare, and Iraq had plenty of other problems to deal with. But Hussein, whose refusal to cope with reality seems to have increased the longer he was in power, kept soldiering along with various grandiose plans. American journalists would sometimes use this as a symbol for Hussein's delusional pigheadedness: throwing money into an ancient hole in the ground. What kind of fool would do that?

Now, of course, everything is different, and Iraq no longer has any pressing difficulties or strains upon its resources. So the Rebuild Babylon initiative is back, with a new backer: us. The New York Times's Dave Itzkoff reports that the State Department has put up $700,000 for the project.

That's just for a study, mind you. This is only the preliminary stage.

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