The ancient Iraqi city of Mosul—actually, its rubble—stars in the opening shots of the new movie Mosul. The scene is one to which we’ve become accustomed and thus inured. Did human beings ever live among those piles of rock and chunks of concrete, cities and villages reduced to a modern Stone Age?
We don’t know and maybe we don’t want to know. “There are known knowns. There are things we know we know,” said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the lead-up to the Iraq war, a conflict that would give the planet a large portion of its 80 million refugees, not to mention ISIS. “We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” Of course the soul-dead bureaucrat wasn’t spewing that mumbo jumbo about human beings—he was wink-winking around the lie that Iraq was hiding nuclear or chemical weapons, the Bush administration’s chief excuse for war with Baghdad. But he might as well have been talking about the nameless people of Iraq, who endured “shock and awe” and a brutal civil war only to find themselves living under a playbook called The Management of Savagery, deployed by the fanatics hatched in postwar chaos.