Skip to comments.Baghdad archeological museum looted
Posted on 04/13/2003 7:01:06 PM PDT by Hermann the Cherusker
Baghdad archeological museum looted
A Baghdad mob looted Iraq's largest archeological museum amid a breakdown in civil authority following the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, an AFP reporter said.
A dozen looters helped themselves in ground floor rooms at the National Museum of Iraq, where pottery artefacts and statues were seen broken or overturned, while administrative offices were wrecked.
Two men were seen hauling an ancient portal out of the building, and empty wooden crates were scattered over the floor.
Upstairs rooms seemed to have been spared for the time being.
Iraq, among the earliest cradles of civilisation and home to the remains of such ancient Mesopotamian cities as Babylon, Ur and Nineveh, has one of the richest archaeological heritages in the world.
The museum housed a major collection of antiquities, including a 4,000-year-old silver harp from Ur.
International cultural organisations had urged that the archeological heritage of Iraq, one of the cradles of civilisation, be spared ahead of the US-led war launched on March 20.
I still think the Museum Directors are probably guilty.
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McGuire Gibson, (who I believe has a title something like) professor of archeology and antiquities at the University of Chicago, and who may be the leading American scholar on what were the contents of the Iraqi Museum, was interviewed on National Public Radio Weekend Edition at about 8:20 a.m. Sunday, April 13, before Russert's broadcast. (Check www.npr.org, click on "Transcripts" and type in "McGuire" as keyword.)
Gibson said he had TWICE contacted the Pentagon before the latest invasion of Iraq to tell them that the Iraqi National Museum, as a world treasure (thousands of artifacts, all indexed, some as old as 3,500 to 4,000 years, including Sumerian writing clay tablets, Ur of Chaldees, priceless gold statues or statuettes of historic kings, ancient carved jewelry with precious stones, the basis of all western civilization, not just "Arab countries") should be preserved at all costs, no matter what happened to other buildings. To the best of my knowledge, the museum was not bombed.
We do not know whom exactly in the Pentagon Gibson contacted or by what means, but hopefully Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., among others will find out.
Gibson said that U. S. soldiers stood by while looters went in and out of the museum carrying things and when asked about it, the soldiers said (presumably truthfully) that they had no orders to stop the looting. I do not think the soldiers should be blamed in any way, since they were just carrying out orders, as they had been carefully trained to do. Later inspection inside the museum showed not only almost all irreplaceable clay tablets smashed and obvious treasures carried off but even the indexing itself was largely destroyed amid the litter of jagged broken objects scattered across the floors.
The point is that persons in the Pentagon who were very well acquainted with all the specific military targets in Baghdad and who knew all about the museum as a non-military target important to the Iraqis and people all around the world, DELIBERATELY declined to pass along orders to soldiers on the ground to stop any destruction of this priceless treasure. These persons KNEW that after a U. S. military government was set up it would be important for a reasonably smooth transition to avoid NEEDLESS irritation of an already devastated Iraqi population and that the international reputation of the United States as a humanitarian nation was at stake in this matter. Therefore they had to know that destruction of this museum would SEVERELY DAMAGE the reputation of the U. S., but they DELIBERATELY IGNORED this situation anyway. I can only conclude that these persons in the Pentagon WANTED to help destroy the United States.
But it's not just a matter of our reputation as a country. The fact is that many Muslims of different nations will be happy to use this terrible event as a means of further stirring up hatred against the United States and terrorism against its individual citizens. So the PERSONAL SAFETY of Americas has been endangered and additional American lives may be lost in the future as a result. Iraqis are already blaming the Americans for this disaster (see attached AP story in the Billings Gazette), even though all the pillaging was done by Iraqis, and we can be confident that no American soldier stole anything at the museum.
Some apologists for the Pentagon are suggesting that Saddam Hussein may have stolen some of the most valuable treasures from his own museum. This however would have clearly been counter-productive, because all the educated persons in Baghdad knew what was in the museum and it was to Saddam's personal interest to be the ruler of the "most important country in the world," which in this particular respect Iraq undeniably WAS. People from all over the world came to see the museum.
Sean Hannity, a pro-administration liar, gave this spin Tuesday afternoon, April 15 in his syndicated radio broadcast (something like this): "Then there's this flap about the Iraqi museum, as if we could expect American soldiers to be excited about people carrying sofas outside the building". Hannity then quickly went on to other things. (Of course it was a lot more than sofas they were carrying.)
April 13, 2003
Last modified April 13, 2003 - 4:11 am
Iraqis blame looting, lawlessness on U.S.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - At first they cheered, smiled, offered hearty thumbs-ups to the U.S. soldiers newly in their midst. But across Iraq's lawless capital, that sentiment is evaporating as quickly as Saddam Hussein's government melted away.
Baghdad was bursting with anti-American feeling Saturday as residents saw their city being stripped by its own citizens while U.S. forces stood by, rarely intervening and in some cases even motioning treasure-laden men through checkpoints.
Some still agreed with the United States' assessment of itself as a liberator. In the middle-class Zayuna neighborhood, friendly people offered American Marines baths, bread and buoyant greetings - and asked for both autographs and help against looters.
But for other Iraqis, in dozens of interviews conducted across Baghdad, the assessment was drastically different: America as conqueror.
"The coalition forces are responsible. Where is the law?" said Safa Hussein Qasim, 44, a jeweler. "This is the promise of the United States to Iraq? This is democracy in Baghdad?"
To walk the streets Saturday was to wade through a crazy-quilt blend of disarray and sadness, rage and jubilation and self-hatred. Though available booty was running low, looting continued apace, as did citizen resistance to it. One man carried a purloined tuba up the street. Baghdadis fretted and argued: What would become of their country?
"Saddam Hussein's greatest crime is that he brought the American Army to Iraq," said Gailan Ramiz, 62, helping a mob that was trying to tear down yet another Saddam statue at Shorji market, Baghdad's biggest.
It is stories like Hassan Shrawa's that are making them turn their backs on the uniformed Americans who swept in days ago.
Shrawa, 30, an engineer from Baghdad's Saddam City section, said he and his neighbors captured a Syrian mercenary and turned him over to U.S. troops Friday. As Shrawa tells it, the commander flatly refused to take custody of the man.
"What happens in the future?" Shrawa mused.
U.S. forces say they are doing the best they can under chaotic conditions - chaos, many Iraqis point out, that the United States itself created. Few praised Saddam. But at least, they said, he offered stability.
Baghdad lacks that right now. Water, electricity and gasoline are pipe dreams, and food is becoming almost as scarce.
On the streets of Zayuna, curious children milled around Saturday, trying out English phrases and asking for Marines' addresses. One presented Sgt. Paul Coughlin of Boston with a red flower that he nestled in his grenade pouch; another played marbles with medic Brent Cook, 23, of Houston.
Elsewhere, the Marines received less enthusiasm. In front of the Palestine Hotel, an area thick with U.S. Marines, several dozen Iraqis demanded a new government - now. "We want peace," they chanted in English as Marines looked on from fighting vehicles.
Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, at U.S. Central Command, says reports of looting in Iraq are overblown - that many parts of the country are peaceful, and lawlessness "is already tapering off significantly."
U.S. officials insist that the restoration of law and order will become a higher priority. The State Department said Friday it was sending 26 police and judicial officers to Iraq, the first component of a team that will eventually number about 1,200. And on Saturday, the U.S. military and the Iraqi police said they've agreed to joint patrols to restore order - "sooner rather than later," one Marine said.
For Iraqis on the ground, such promises mean little until they're delivered.
Residents, fearing looting would move on to private homes, set up neighborhood patrols to prevent it. One family put a girder across the street at the end of their block and stood by it with guns. They, too, denounced America.
"The United States breaks into the palaces and then threatens all the people who steal from them," said Efil Adnan, a 48-year-old oil engineer guarding the barricade with two of his sons and his brother. He held a pistol; the brother wielded a Kalashnikov.
"The United States is a liar," Adnan said. "They are not going to make anything better."
Copyright 2003 Associated Press.
Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.
Calm down, wait a few weeks, and most of the stuff will be returned, after the army pays off the thieves.
The hand-wringing over this museum is, frankly, incomprehensible to me. It happened, it will be fixed to the extent possible.
Bitching and bellyaching and acting as if soldiers should have paid attention to a friggin' museum when a shooting war was going on is a bit unrealistic.
Those of us with a little background in the area are putting our bets on this alleged "looting" as a coverup for a Saddam Bargain Sale that's been going on since Gulf War I.
And as for taking soldiers off combat duty to guard a museum -- it's no go. The key is even visible in these articles: once the situation is stabilized you can place guards on nonessential duty. Winkling out snipers and suicide bombers, protecting American military installations, holding a perimeter, and preventing damage to water, power, and essential administrative installations all take precedence before artifacts. And at the time this allegedly happened, our people were still getting shot at. No way a CO is going to take his men off looking for Fedayeen trying to kill them until he's sure they're all gone.
Amen and amen. I think two things are at work here. (1) The operation was such a howling success that the armchair critics forget that it was still a combat situation and our soldiers were still being shot at (and in some cases killed). (2) The folks who hate George Bush and this administration are going to seize on ANYTHING to criticise him, and frankly this looks like the only game in town, such as it is.
I don't recall any of these people having such an overwhelming interest in art and archaeology before this thing came down. Why do they suddenly care so much? I took a lot of undergrad courses in Classical Archaeology (primarily Greek & Roman, but some Middle and Near East as well) and I love and honor the work of the past, but I can't see all this vitriol about what is COMMON FORM in any war. Ask any Arch. major about what happened to all the precious golden Mycenean artifacts in the Berlin Museum after WWII (the Russians looted 'em, though they denied it for 50 years), or the Rosetta Stone, or even old Belzoni walking on golden mummies "as thick as autumn leaves in Vallambrosa."
That assumes that there was anything actually still left in this museum to loot . . . which I think is highly unlikely. This was in all likelihood a coverup for the systematic liquidation of the museum's collection by Saddam and his cronies.
But, but...Rummy promised!
"I'm kind of old-fashioned. I begin with a couple of principles: one is the job of the Pentagon to prepare for contingencies we do that all across the globe, we have all kinds of contingency plans that we've prepared."
"And as a matter of fact, I think I've mentioned to some of you that we've issued some new contingency planning guidance which is classified and we are significantly changing the process for contingency planning. The speed of the cycle for contingency planning is going to be accelerated and they are going to be less stale and more current than they have been in the past, which I think is critically important for this country."
Meantime, Rumsfeld commenting about the news reports of various US plans to attack Iraq said yesterday "One of the responsibilities of the Department of Defense is to see that we have thought through a host of different contingencies and possibilities."
"What we expect is that it's our job to be prepared for any conceivable contingency. And therefore all the way from that unhappy thought -- and dangerous thought -- all the way over to catastrophic success where so many people surrender so fast that the task becomes very quickly humanitarian assistance and medical assistance and water and those types of things. So they have developed contingency plans for the full spectrum of contingencies."
"artistic contingencies", no.
This whole thing is just a bunch of dedicated administration-haters beating any issue they can find. Quagmire - oops, that won't work. Iraqis hate us - oops, that won't work either. No WMDs - that's looking unreliable right now. Antiquities! That's it! We'll blame the Army for not instantly securing everything of any value in the entire country of Iraq! Yeah!
He had on a knowledgeable international culture spokesperson, a woman, who also faulted the Pentagon on this matter.
She also said coalition troops DID protect the Oil MINISTRY Building -- not the oil fields.
O'Reilly was fairly quick to get her off the air and he did not successfully rebut what she said.
The story said in part:
"A senior Pentagon official said the military had never promised that the buildings would be safeguarded.
" 'We could never guarantee ahead of time the safety of a single building,' said Dr. Joseph Collins, a deputy assistant secretary of defense for humanitarian and peacekeeping operations.
"At the Pentagon, defense officials said that the museum had in fact been put on the American military's no-target list in response to the scholars' warnings, and that the military had refrained from bombing it.
"But in an e-mail message Mr. Collins said that 'in no case' had his office instructed military commanders to provide protection for the museum or library.
"We leave such decisions to commanders on the scene," he said.
(END EXTRACTS FROM NEW YORK TIMES)
This shows typical deceitful spin from the Pentagon when it has been caught.
Of course the Pentagon could not guarantee ahead of time the safety of a single building. But it could TRY, which in this case it deliberately did not do.
Collins' statement that "We leave such decisions to commanders on the scene" was a deliberate cop-out, since protection of the museum was a high policy international American reputation matter, where instructions had to be issued from the top and not merely left to field commanders guided only by military considerations.
Case proved: Rumsfeld DID ALLOW looting of museum to happen and DID LIE.
Read the last quote, honey.
Especially on an active battlefield, there's a tremendous difference between the two. The shelling of Monte Cassino is an example of "target/no-target" status. Reducing that historic monastery to rubble was highly controversial at the time (and since), but the debate was whether to make it a target because German troops might use its walls for cover, or to make it a "no-target" because of its historical and artistic value. That's a static decision that can be made fairly high up and far away. (The troops who were under the walls would have voted 100% to take the whole place down.)
A discussion of whether to protect Cassino monastery from looting by Italian civilians would be an entirely different issue. Whether to protect a particular building MUST be left to commanders on the scene, because the battlefield is a highly volatile, rapidly changing situation. It's not a "cop-out", it's placing decisions in the hands of the people who have the information to make them.
As far as the oil ministry, it's been thoroughly thrashed out either here or on another thread - by somebody knowledgeable about the business - that the records in that ministry are vital to keeping the oil wells functioning as a valuable resource for the Iraqi people. So they are higher up the scale of importance than the museum.
That all said, it's a shame that the artifacts are apparently missing. It would also be nice if we had had the building under surveillance from the git-go to avoid all the controversy about whether looting actually took place while U.S. troops were in the area, or whether that was simply a cover-up story. But I don't think blame can be laid at the feet of the military - protection of non-essential property is way down their list of priorities.
Please note this particular quote:
Lt. Col. Schwartz, whose functions also include feeding the lions in the abandoned Baghdad Zoo next door, said he couldn't move into the museum compound and protect it from looters last week because his soldiers were taking fire from the building -- and were determined not to respond. There is an Iraqi army trench in the museum's front lawn, and Lt. Col. Schwartz said his troops found many Iraqi army uniforms inside. "If there is any dirty trick in the book," he said, "they sure used it."(Emphasis supplied.)
This has been blown out of all proportions and allowed lefties to heap calumny upon those undeserving of such treatment. There IS an aganda being subtly fulfilled by some unscrupulous people and the gullible are buying at least some of it. That's the REAL story.
I think you owe Rummy an apology. Saddam looted much of this long ago, and he caused us to need to go in there.
Ultimately, if Iraqis want to destroy their own country they will be able to do so, that's not the sort of contingency that should be Rummy's priority. We should all thank Rummy for the speed of our victory and the low number of casualties.
170,000 objects smashed ... thousands of looters ... America is guilty ... blah, blah, blah ... LIES!
I prefer CINOs...CONSERVATIVES IN NAME ONLY. :-)
In NO war, is the protection of " stuff " ( antiquities, museums, hosues of whorship, etc. ) primary, secondary, or even 1,0005th on the list. Much of it was pretty high up there, in this one. That's remarkable and an historical first. OTOH, Saddam et co. has been " looting " the national treasures ( not excluding oil !) for decades. You haven't bothered, I wager, to even read all, or even some of the more factual threads, on FR, let alone news papaer article and magazine articles previously, about this stuff being GONE. Well, HAVE YOU ?
Just how much do you even KNOW about Mesopotamian/Babylonian/Assyrian antiquities anyway ? How about early Koran, for that matter ? Fact is, that a vast horde of this stuff is all over the world, extanat in some of THE finest museums, private collections, college/university collections, and easily available to scholars. Early Korans ? I can tell you where to go to buy one, if you have enough money, or where you can see one, as soon as you pick youreself up and hgo there, in the blink of an eye.
We didn't loot nor pillage. We aren't raping the women and children. Our military is now safegaurding banks, recovering stolen money, going after the ragged " Ali Babas, as well as trying to keep the peace, fight off those still firing at us AND catching the missing high ups. NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU ? Well, now, ain't that a bloody shame; tough!
AS to Rummy and pals ... they've done a rewmarkably GREAT job and that you fail to see and understand that, leaves one to believe that you don't have enough intellect to even dare debate the subject. ; ^ )