A Few Words on Existential Threats, Syrian Refugees… and the Mongols

While Donald Trump and the various Republican fear-mongerers have been crying Lacoön about the so-called existential threat posed by Syrian refugees and outlining vague stratagems about how just a few extra bombs will solve the Middle East’s problems, I’ve been doing some learnzerizing about the Mongols.

Yeah, the Mongols. You know…. Genghis Khan and his prodigal general Subutai. And the sons and grandsons of Genghis as well – Ögedei, Batu, Hulagu and Möngke. Those Mongols. “The fearsome Mongol hordes. The infamous horse raiders from the Eastern Steppe.

I got onto this tangential Mongol reading binge after noticing some parallels between the apocalyptic horse-borne invasions of the Khans and a popular trope in jihadist eschatology which prophesises the arrival of the Mahdi (the redeemer of Islam) at the head of a great horde coming from the cold netherworlds of Khorosan (a historical region to the northeast of Ancient Persia).

The prophecy of the Mahdi has its origins in an unauthenticated transmission from hadith which says: “if you see the black banners coming from the direction of Khorosan, then go to them, even if you have to crawl over ice, because among them will be Allah’s Caliph – the Mahdi.”

Jihadists, of course, see themselves as the manifestation of these storied Riders of Khorosan and in keeping with the spoken tradition that the Mahdi’s Army will one day defeat the Anti-Christ at the gates of Jerusalem, a patchwork of jihadist cells linked to Al-Qaeda Central (the AfPak coven led by Al-Zawihiri) were reported to be operating in Syria under the moniker “Khorosan”.

Screenshots from jihadist videos dealing with the prophecy of the Mahdi and the “riders of Khorosan”


Imaginariums of all-conquering “black swan”-type hordes from the East have played an important role in the history of Islam. Apart from their role in the fantasies of modern salafist-jihadists, the prophecy of the Mahdi and his Black Banners was also invoked by the Abbasids during the revolution of 750 which overthrew the Ummayid Caliphate.

Elsewhere, and from a position which saw the inscrutable East as the dwelling-place of a great and unimaginable evil, the Qur’an contains a story where Alexander the Great is helped by God to build a wall with which to contain Gog and Magog (the tribal personification of chaos) in order to prevent them from wreaking havoc upon the world. Indeed, these apocalyptic ideas remained so strong for believers that centuries later, when the Mongols arrived to sack the Muslim and European worlds, the Khans were seen by many as the Quranic “Gog and Magog” worst-case-scenario finally realised.

A 13th century bestial representation of "Juj and Majuj" (Gog and Magog) from the Qur'an

A 13th century bestial representation of the mischievous “Juj and Majuj” (Gog and Magog) from the Qur’an

Certainly, the Mongols, as far as medieval Muslims and Europeans were concerned, were the ontological (and visceral) successors to the Huns of Rome-sacking fame – a pastoral people from the East who, having formed an almighty confederacy, had mounted an unstoppable cavalry charge to conquer the known world. To Medieval Europeans, the Mongols were like the Four Horsemen of Christian eschatalogia – destroyers of worlds. To the Muslims of the Middle East, the Mongols’ arrival served up an equal helping of doom – the end of the Golden Age of Islam.

Writing about the arrival of the “Tartars” in Muslim lands, the 13th century Arab historian Ali ibn Al-Athir began with the following: “to whom, indeed, can it be easy to write the announcement of the death-blow of Islam and the Muslims, or who is he on whom the remembrance thereof can weigh lightly? O, would that my mother had not born me or that I had died and become a forgotten thing ere this befell! … Nay, it is unlikely that mankind will see the like of this calamity, until the world comes to an end and perishes, except the final outbreak of Gog and Magog.” Even professional historians it seems, had trouble recounting the horrors of the Mongols.

Bearing witness to an approaching Mongol horde must have been terrifying. When Genghis Khan entered Nishapur, one of the first major cities he encountered on the edge of Persia, the riders under his command were said to have murdered 1.7 million people in a matter of hours. The skulls of the slaughtered were piled up in pyramids next to the city gates.

When his grandson Hulagu reached Baghdad (the centre of science and government in the medieval Islamic world), the city was sacked so thoroughly that the Tigris, which had once been described as a river running through town “like a string of pearls between two breasts” now “ran black with scholars’ ink and red with the blood of martyrs”.

Mustasim, the Caliph of Baghdad himself, was awarded special treatment. Accounts vary between the more “conventional” tale that he was simply wrapped up in a carpet and trampled to death by Mongol horses and the more fantastic story told by Marco Polo in The Travels – that he was locked in his own treasure room without food or water and told to eat as much of his own treasure as he “wilt”.

The havoc wreaked by the Mongols set off a great deal of fear-mongering in the lands of their enemies and in many ways, when we listen to the various pundits taking over our newscasts, we can see much of the same threat rhetoric now being employed to describe the hordes of ISIS.


Mongol cavalry on the move

ISIS cavalry on the move

ISIS cavalry on the move

I should say that the threat rhetoric surrounding ISIS isn’t, in and of itself, wrong. Indeed, if we compare the “Riders of the Khan” with today’s “Riders of Khorosan”, we can observe some astonishing similarities between the Mongols and ISIS. First, there is the almost-unique proclivity for cruelty and destruction. The Khan’s gold-feeding method of execution seems like it would slot perfectly into one of ISIS’ snuff films. And though ISIS’ war on archaeology is perhaps even more intense than the cultural destruction reaped by the Mongols (the Khans were apparently quite respectful of the mosques, cathedrals and pagodas in the cities they conquered) both groups proved themselves very good at making ruins of fine things.

The second similarity however (and the most crucial similarity to this piece), is the one we see when we look at how the Mongols and ISIS were able to exploit the internal divisions of their enemies. Hulagu’s Mongols, it seems, were able to exploit existing grievances by driving a wedge between the Sunni Caliph and some of his non-Sunni subjects. In the final years of his rule, Mustasim had gained some notoriety after throwing a copy of a celebrated Shia poem into the Tigris – an unforgiveable insult to an already-livid Shia population. The Caliph’s own Shia vizier would later defect to the Mongols and prove integral in the eventual fate of Baghdad.

Likewise, in modern Iraq where a post-Saddam Shia-dominated government oversaw the widespread repression of non-in groups, ISIS was able to obtain bay’ah from the anti-Maliki Sunni tribes in Anbar, creating a tribal union which accelerated ISIS’ military advances in early 2014. Indeed, just as the Mongols took Baghdad riding on the coat-tails of internal weakness, so too ISIS has shown itself capable of riding Baghdad-ward on the backs of angry Sunni tribesmen.

Ex-Pres of Iraq Nouri Al-Maliki. A modern day stand-in for Caliph Mustasim of Baghdad? (note: "malik" means "king" in Arabic).

Ex-Pres of Iraq Nouri Al-Maliki. A modern day stand-in for Caliph Mustasim of Baghdad? (note: “malik” means “king” in Arabic).

Insofar as these problematic internal divisions can be observed in our own society, there is perhaps no clearer example of Mustasim-style division-making than some of the recent discourse concerning the moral value of Islam (and its place in our society) and the “threat” posed by the Syrian refugees waiting on our borders.

When, just days after the Paris attacks, it was revealed that one of the perps was carrying a (rightfully- or wrongfully-acquired) Syrian passport an uproar about the so-called existential threat posed by Syrian refugees  (and Muslims more generally) began in earnest. Donald Trump began talking about a religious ID card for American Muslims (with terrific responses from those same Muslims). Marco Rubio proposed refusing entry to certain refugees based on their Syrian-ness. Letting Syrian refugees into the West, these people have argued, might be akin to “letting in a Trojan Horse”.

A similar bout of refugee fear-mongering began when the Mongols arrived on the doorstep of Medieval Europe. Having conquered most of Asia, when the Mongols descended upon Hungary, they did so harassing the fall-behinds of a wave of refugees from a place called Cumania. The Cumans were a nomadic Turkic people (i.e.: they looked different and had a different God) and when a wave of about 40,000 of them were allowed to settle in the lands of King Bela IV, many of the Hungarian nobles immediately suspected the Cumans (in particular their leader Köten) of having Mongol sympathies.

A medieval mosaic depicting a Hungarian noble killing a Cuman... the two groups had some baggage

A medieval mosaic depicting a Hungarian noble killing a Cuman… the two groups had some baggage

Eventually, discord between the settled Hungarian agriculturalists and the itinerant Cuman pastoralists reached boiling point. Köten was assassinated by a group of angry nobles on suspicion of being a spy. A rabble of angrier Cumans began plundering the Hungarian countryside. Things fell apart. Unfortunately for all parties concerned however, this internal discord also happened to coincide with the eve of the main Mongol invasion – the real existential threat menacing Europe. The Hungarians were routed, utterly, at Mohi. And Hungary suffered a similar fate to that of Baghdad under Hulagu.

Bearing in mind that for the most part, we humans as a species are very bad at learning from the lessons of the past, there are some very important takeaways from the case of the Cumans in Hungary – the main one being that we should be careful about domestic fear-mongering when there are real threats overseas.

While we’re on the point of refugees, I should point out that history is replete with negative repercussions caused by sudden mass immigration. Just ask today’s Gazans what they think of the Jewish refugees who ended up on the shores of British Palestine. Multi-culturalism is not always pretty. Racism is common in ethnically-diverse communities because, as a general rule of thumb, people tend to get along better with people that look like they do and think like they do.

But though I’ve commented extensively about the need to return to a more isolationist world outlook, ultimately, there’s really only one course of action to take on the refugee issue. Let a few of them in. Because what harm can these people really do? At the very very worst, our post-Paris fears are realised and some kind of shoot-up occurs.

Indeed, as an article in Foreign Policy recently suggested, ISIS-inspired attacks “will not disappear, but they will be too few and [too] small in scope to topple a government”. A terrorist attack – hell, even a nuclear terrorist attack – is not an existential threat to our society. A nuclear bomb exploding in Sydney or New York would be a real bummer, but it wouldn’t spell the end of our society.

Indeed, the real “existential danger”, as political anthropologist David Killcullen has argued, is that “our response to terrorism could cause such measures that, in important ways, we would cease to be ourselves”.

The refugee crisis is more complex than some commentators like ex-soldier Harry Leslie Smith have painted it to be. The economic reality is that Western countries can’t open their borders to everyone from every warzone around the world. We have to be comfortable, if only for the sake of our own sanity, with the fact that we can’t eliminate the suffering of all of the world’s refugees.

But if we follow the medieval Hungarian example and begin demonising people based on who they are (Muslims) and where they come from (Syria) then all we are likely to achieve is the creation of a society with widening schisms between the different faiths and worsening tensions between the different ethnic groups. A recipe for a domestic societal crisis. And all this is likely to do is weaken us against the real existential threats – such as the Mongol-Khorosan hordes on our doorstep.



20 thoughts on “A Few Words on Existential Threats, Syrian Refugees… and the Mongols

  1. Wow! This story has more holes than a pack of Fortran cards. Tell Chip to post it. I can hardly wait to read another comment from son of Zaky. 🙂

    • Lol. Well go on then Son of Jor-El – poke holes in it! There are more forums than the comments sections of ABCpolemics.gov. Proceed with thine fisking! Or is the Daily Planet’s finest unwilling to show us his super-intellect?

      • No super intellect, Elliott. Just a simple mathematical calculation. But this line made me laugh: “…were said to have murdered 1.7 million people in a matter of hours. The skulls of the slaughtered were piled up in pyramids next to the city gates.” Did you study mathematics? Next time do some calculations before you print it. 🙂 Back in my day we didn’t have Internet. We used to use the slide rule, smoke pot and leap over tall buildings in a single bound. 🙂

      • Actually, it is true that I’ve never been much good at mathematics (I dropped it so I could study history) but since you asked here’s some mathematics for you. The nominal strength of Genghis Khans army was estimated between a lower end of just under a 100,000 to over 180,000 when he invaded Western Xia just before he died. Now, for arguments sake (remember, the historical record is not perfect), let’s take a more conservative estimate and say that his army numbered 170,000 when it sacked Nishapur.
        1.7 million killed / 170,000 killers = 10 deaths per killer. In a medieval city-sacking scenario 10 deaths per raging Mongol in a matter of hours does seem theoretically (mathematically anyway) possible.
        Now, I hear you when you say “you laughed” when you read that. Such a massacre dwarfs anything conceivable in the modern era. Even Rwanda (around a million dead but in a few months). And actually I did do a double take before writing that figure because it is rather extreme. But here is where the joke is not on what I wrote but on what YOU read my friend. You will note that I wrote that the Mongols “were said” to have killed that many people in that timeframe indicating that this is what was recorded by historians at the time and that the historicity (make sure you take note of the suffix -icity when you read that last word) is the subject of debate. I did not write “the Mongols killed this many people”. I also linked in an external article (embedded into the text of the line you quoted) concerning the maths of that figure. Evidently you are all the poorer for not having had access to the Internet in your day. Similarly, the pot smoking seems to have affected your reading comprehension. But let’s not get ad hominem. Let’s just stick to the facts. And debate the facts.

  2. The reliable sources of the facts of the past events are best found in the academic circles, such as in The History Departments of the universities and/or in the peer-reviewed articles. Not in the internet websites or Wikipedia. If you take out the propaganda bits from your story and present the rest to your lecturer as historical facts, you will get D-minus. First of all, you don’t know the number of the Mongol warriors who entered Nishapur. When you start applying sly and weasel words such as “were said to be (who said it?), it seems (to whom), the best estimates (by whom?)”, then your story becomes an opinion-piece. You know what they say about “opinions and facts”, don’t you..? If not, Google it and find out.

    Otherwise, I can do the same: According to an estimate of the Persian historian Rashid-al-Din Hamadani, the Mongols killed more than 190,000 people in Nishapur. Therefore 19,000 mongol killers killed 190,000 people. One to ten ratio. You can add as many zeros as you like to both numbers but it doesn’t make it true. Or 190,000 mongol killers killed one each!!! Who knows?

    Not even Roman killers were this much efficient. It took more than two weeks to exterminate Carthaginians with sharp instruments AND fire when Romans burned Carthage to the ground. 1) Siege of Carthage (146 BCE), Population reduced from 500,000 to 55,000 (Durant, Caesar and Christ), 2) Ben Kiernan, “The First Genocide: Carthage, 146 BC,” Diogenes 203 (2004), pp. 27–39.: 150,000 died in the fall of Carthage..

    I’m ex-army sergeant (infantry), I know how wars were fought in medieval times. The war-siege-capture scenario you created above has added more holes to your story.

    As for the “suffix -icity”, you are judging the historical events and the characters involved in with today’s morals, and comparing them with the present events. But at the same time you’re conveniently forgetting about what has happened and who’s done what to whom in Medieval Europe during the same period.

    So, East is bad and West is good.

    Pure propaganda…. Goebbels would have been proud of that one.

    “Similarly, the pot smoking seems to have affected your reading comprehension. But let’s not get ad hominem.” —– But you just DID !!!

    “Let’s just stick to the facts. And debate the facts.” — You mean the facts according to Elliot?


    Sayonara – Over and Out.

  3. You have correctly identified this blog article as an opinion piece. Well done. This website is not a peer-reviewed journal (see my academic publications for all that yawny stuff) nor has it ever pretended to be anything other than the rantings and ravings of the author. It is a blog – a “web log”. Basically a diary.
    In saying that, as an ardent student of the academy, I try to apply the same intellectual rigor to anything which I write for the public domain. And I try to embed as many sources in my blog posts as I can in order to properly reference what I present as fact. So thank you for that redundant lesson in academic sourcing. Although, I have to disagree with your assertion that online articles are not reliable compared to what is produced by, as you put it, “The History Departments” (the capital letters are important here, apparently). I see Internet sources as just that – they are sources. Taken by itself, no single source possesses the Truth entire but taken as a part of a whole, a source can point towards something which IS true. As Richard Burton wrote: “Truth is like a shattered mirror, strewn in myriad bits, with each thinking his part the whole to own”. I’m not sure whether it was the poet Burton or the explorer Burton who wrote this – the internet won’t give me a definitive answer. This homily about Truth is the same for ALL sources – including your mate Rashid Ad-Din Hamadani (note that the way you have transliterated his name from Arabic to English is wrong). Remember Rashid was not a peer-reviewed source either and yet you have quoted him as if his reports were Gospel Truth.
    I’m not sure that your background as a “sergeant (infantry)” gives you any special insights into medieval history. My own training (infantry) certainly didn’t illuminate anything about the history of the siege.
    The word “historicity” has nothing to do with ascribing a moral value to anything (again, you need to read more carefully and research when you are unsure of the definitions of words) – it deals only with the authenticity of sources – precisely what we have been talking about – so your assertion that I see “the East as bad and the West as good” is utterly meaningless.
    The reference to Goebbels. Argument ad hitlerum. Look the term up if you are unsure about what it means (as with historicity).
    The comment indicating my aversion to ad hominem attack was actually a self-directed comment where I, as the progenitor of such an attack was admonishing myself for its use (again, if you’d read more carefully you would have gleaned that from the context).
    The reference to ancient Roman massacres as demonstrative of how something in the Mongol Age could not have happened is like saying, to use a Nazi/WW2 example, “Germans, who are renowned for their efficiency, could only kill a few thousand Jews per day in the camps, therefore the bomb dropped on Hiroshima could not have killed hundreds of thousands”. Different times, different weapons – apples and oranges.

    When I suggested that we debate the facts I was most certainly suggesting that we debate the facts, as you have put it, “according to Elliot” (“Elliott” is spelt with two Ts by the way. Fact. Read more carefully). You present your facts. I present mine.
    The use of the passive past tense (eg: “was said to have been killed by”) is a perfectly valid way to present history, particularly since history happens in the past and is usually passive (it happens by someone other than the historian). Would you not agree that “Jesus was said to have turned water into wine” or that “Mohammed was said to have been the best and last prophet of God”? Neither of those statements specified exactly who said those things but from context (if we read carefully) we can guess who said it (either that, or the comparative truth or falsity of the statement isn’t all that important). You will also note that by saying either of those things the author is not necessarily representing either of them as true.
    The figure of 1.7 million comes from historical estimates of the population of Nishapur when Genghis arrived… And he WAS SAID to have wiped out the entire city (including, according to a Mongol text called The Secret History of the Mongols, the cats as well). So 1.7 million deaths is credible.
    And in regards to the exact death toll in Nishapur, I will ultimately argue that it doesn’t really matter how many people died, even if Hamadani was correct. This may sound like a cop out, but hear me out. If only 190,000 died then that doesn’t invalidate the point I was trying to make. That it “must have been terrifying to watch an approaching Mongol horde”.
    Basically, you have failed to sufficiently critique my argument that “ISIS/the Mongols were/are an existential threat and the Cumans/Syraqi refugees aren’t/weren’t”. Here’s how I would have argued against my own central thesis. I would have argued that either a.) modern jihadists are antithetical to the Mongols since medieval salafists such as Ibn Tammiyah were actually framing some of their ideas about jihad in response to the threat to Islam posed by the Mongols (cf – Bin Ladns comparison of the US invasion of Iraq as being like Hulagu Khans invasion) or b.) the Cumans were unlike the Syrian refugees because they had a rocky history with the Hungarians which is incomparable to the one we have with the refugees or c.) Syrian refugees actually are an existential threat to us for X, y, z reasons.
    You should have argued your point like that – but you didn’t. I did. And here’s why. Because my training (anthropological) has given me some (I emphasize SOME, I am not God) ability to translate cultural phenomena across time and space using mainly contemporary but also historical examples.
    In this article, I have pointed out some translatable similarities between the Mongol age and our age. One could argue that these similarities aren’t actually there. But you didn’t. Instead of focussing on the substance of my argument (“you’re wrong because Genghis wasn’t like ISIS) you have focussed instead on the details (“you’re wrong because Genghis didn’t actually kill as many people as you say”) – a very military sensibility indeed (for which I will not blame you).
    And now for my own detailed nitpicking – a lesson in military communications. You signed off your previous reply with a Hollywood military-style “over and out” but when terminating a transmission over a military radio one simply utters “out”. I would have expected an Australian sergeant (infantry) to know this. But then, maybe you just got your Diggers to carry the radio for you.
    We aleykum as-salam. Out.

  4. I have been thoroughly enjoying reading the too and fro between C August and Mr Ex sergeant (infantry). I admit I have insufficient knowledge on the history referenced in this article to add to the debate. That said I will make two peripheral comments.

    I have extensively worked with Infantry/Marine Infantry from multiple Western and Middle Eastern Armies. One thing I can honestly say is that every single Infantry “s”ergeant I have met is extremely proud to hold the rank and hence forth spells it with a capital letter like all rank should be. In short, it is spelled Sergeant.

    In addition, no military member of any rank, corps, ECN, AOC, or MOS will ever state “over and out”. None, no one, not anyone EVER says this. There is no single comment that a Hollywood actor can say that will be more cringe worthy than “over and out”. I once said “over and out” when I was a recruit and I got kicked in the head by an Infantry CPL (That’s the abbreviated version of Corporal).

    Clark Kent, you have discredited your entire argument on everything by showing your ineptitude in basic military standards. Kindly go pound sand.

  5. …see, you’re assuming that I’m muslim. “We aleykum as-salam” – If this particular choice for a sign-off wasn’t a giveaway! Sorry to disappoint you but I’m not muslim. I’m atheist. The religious extremists, particularly muslim extremists, are the scum of the earth. Also, you’re assuming that I’m debating with you. Sorry to disappoint you again, Elliott with two tees, but I’m not. I don’t debate assumptions, allusions – propaganda. Why do you persist with that “1.7 million & dead cats” rumour?.. you’re just digging yourself further into the hole you’re already in. When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. It is better not to make too many assumptions.

    buenos dias – over and out

  6. Lol. Nowhere in this thread did anyone attempt to presume or ascertain your religious affiliations. I could not think of anything more irrelevant to this discussion than whether you self-describe as an atheist, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Jedi or recent inductee to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
    The phrase “we aleykum as-salam” while it is a standard Islamic greeting, is also a standard greeting in the Arabic language more generally – it has religious origins but does not, necessarily, always have to have religious contexts in its daily use (insofar as it can be said that Arabic culture can be identified as distinct from Islamic culture). I simply used a “salam” because you used a similar “goodbye” from another language and thought we would both profer from a multi-lingual repartee. A little, break the ad hominem moment, if you will. Clearly, you missed the context or you did not do your reading (about the different contextual uses of “as-salamu aleykum”) once again.
    Now, re: Nishapur.
    Here is some PEER-REVIEWED literature (since we are now, at your request, excluding online sources and single-author historical sources like “The Secret History” and Hamadani) which corroborates the claim that millions were killed by the Mongol Khans (including the claim that at least a million were killed in Nishapur).

    See the below bibliography for a brief (but not definitive) list of corroborating sources (both in English and in Persian):

    De Hartog, Leo. 2004. “Genghis Khan: Conqueror of the World”. London. Tauris Parke Paperbacks.
    Joyvani, M. 1958. “Tahrik-e Jahangosay, Vol. 1” (translated by JA Boyle: “The History of the World Conqueror”). Manchester. Manchester University Press.
    Leon, WF. 2005. “The Savage Fury: The Life of Genghis Khan”. London. Trafford Publishing.
    Pinker, S. 2011. “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined”. New York. Penguin Books.
    Zerjal, Tatiana et al. 2003. “The Genetic Legacy of the Mongols”. The American Journal of Human Genetics. 72(3): pp. 717-721.

    Although these sources corroborate the claim that millions and millions died under the invasions of the Khans and the contiguous claim that a population of more than a million was wiped out by Genghis Khan in Nishapur, I imagine that you will of course once again repeat (like a man saying his vows for the fifth time and hoping for a different result) that the number I quoted is inaccurate. And in response, once again, I will argue that it doesn’t actually matter how many died at Nishapur because the point of my article was not the numbers but the substance beyond the numbers – that the Mongols were pretty scary.

    As with a man practicing his tennis stroke against a brick wall, responding to comments such as yours can only deliver benefits to the tennis player for so long. Sooner or later one must retire the racket and admit that despite the tennis player’s best efforts the nature of a brick is to be a brick and the nature of the brick wall is to block anything and everything – tennis balls, broken rackets and logic, all inclusive. Continuing a debate with you would involve an ethnographic study in the law of diminishing returns.

    As for the hole I’ve apparently dug for myself. In this case, it seems like I’ve struck gold. There is perhaps nothing more satisfying in this vapid modern age of ours than winning at the Internet. And no, I don’t have a source for that last claim. That is just pure opinion…

    Allah ma’ak, ya akhi. Out.

  7. You are still under the illusion that you are having a debate here. This reminds me of Don Quixote…. Haa…by the way, tell Sancho Panza to keep a civil tongue in his head. He hurt my feelings. 🙂 He has been a naughty boy. We are not in the army anymore. Besides, you wouldn’t want to see your blog descend into a forum of ill repute with such bad language.

    Now, going back to the sources you discovered, did you find out how many big bad scary mongol warriors entered the city of Nishapur to destroy all the inhabitants, and the cats? Did they spare the dogs and the cows and the goats? I can’t look it up myself really. Can you do it for me?

    Hasta la vista – over and out

    • Ack on all. I’ll pay the Quixote/Panza comment but I’ll let you do your own reading. One of the greatest things about doing your own research is having your preconceptions challenged as you read and being conscious of your opinions changing as it happens.
      I have actually thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of reading the various angles about the different supposed body counts in Nishapur so thank you for inspiring me to do more research. The whole thing reminds of the controversies surrounding the different body counts in Iraq – eg: the methodologies employed by Lancet and IBC. There, as here, of course, I would still argue that it doesn’t really matter whether the number of dead was 109,032 (US military figure), 654,965 (Lancet survey) or 1,033,000 (ORB poll) – the point is the Iraq War was a great big avoidable tragedy. I’m ultimately not interested in the numbers.
      Happy reading.
      I would also recommend the historian Dan Carlin’s podcast series “Wrath of the Khans” (free to download) for those lazy moments where you’d prefer to listen and not to read.

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