Secretary of State John Kerry pledged that the United States would defend Iraqi and Syrian cultural sites from the Islamic State during a museum event that took place Monday, as U.S. airstrikes in Syria began.
Islamic State fighters destroyed Iraq’s Tomb of Jonah in July. “How shocking and historically shameful it would be if we did nothing while the forces of chaos rob the very cradle of our civilization,” Kerry said at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Extremists want to rob future generations of any connection to this past. That is profoundly what is at stake. And if you leave it unstopped, if you don’t stand up, we are all complicit. I want you to know that President Obama and our Administration are laser-focused on protecting the cultural heritage of countries all around the world.”
Kerry added that “our heritage is literally in peril in this moment, and we believe it is imperative that we act now.”
While Kerry touted American funding for conservation efforts, the U.S. military was preparing for air strikes in Syria.
“American fighter jets and armed Predator and Reaper drones, flying alongside warplanes from several Arab allies, struck a broad array of targets in territory controlled by the militants, known as the Islamic State,” the New York Times reported. “American defense officials said the targets included weapons supplies, depots, barracks and buildings the militants use for command and control. Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from United States Navy ships in the region.”