The Ransacking of the Baghdad Museum Is a Disgrace

News Abroad

Mr. Michalowski is professor of Near East Studies at the University of Michigan.

If you like the service HNN provides, please consider making a donation.

It has now been more than twenty-four hours since the first news of the looting of the Baghdad Museum started coming in; the details mount, and the mourning becomes unbearable. I sit at my desk looking at a photo of a woman's head made of marble, whose empty eyes have stared back at me for my whole adult life. This amazing face had survived for more than five thousand years and I always took it for granted that it would gaze out at the world long after I was gone. Now, together with approximately 170,000 other objects: statues, stele, figurines, vases, cups, diadems, clay tablets inscribed with everyday accounts as well as with hymns, myths, and epic poems, it has been brutally ripped from its shelf and has very likely disappeared forever. The pillaging of the Baghdad Museum is a tragedy that has no parallel in world history; it is as if the Uffizi, the Louvre, or all the museums of Washington D.C. had been wiped out in one fell swoop. Some compare the event to the burning of the Alexandria Library. The full range of losses will probably never be known because the catalog records were scattered and destroyed and the living record of more than eight thousand years of human history has been erased in two days.

The looting of the museum is all the more tragic because so many of the objects were still unpublished. Almost everything that was officially excavated in Iraq since the twenties of the last century was deposited there. In the years following the first Gulf War, the Department of Antiquities fought an uneven battle with looters and organized armed gangs of robbers who were systematically stripping archaeological sites and smuggling tens of thousands of ancient objects to the West for sale to rich collectors and investors. During this period large numbers of Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian antiquities were saved from these robbers. More objects were excavated by Iraqi archeologists from the mounds of the country in an effort to save some of this cultural legacy, and most of this material was deposited in the central museum in Baghdad. The antiquities service worked with few resources and was very much understaffed, since the country was impoverished by government policies and external sanctions. Therefore conservation efforts were inadequate and almost none of the newly discovered materials, including countless written records, was ever published. Thus the full extent of the loss may never be known.

One can understand that war is by nature brutal, and that during combat the safety of soldiers is paramount, but other concerns are surely of importance to planners and commanders, for this is a tragedy that could very well have been avoided. More than that, in light of various international conventions, it is the duty of an invading army to preserve not only the lives of civilians, but also their cultural heritage. With this in mind, archaeologists had supplied our military and civilian authorities with a ranked list of cultural sites that were to be protected once the war broke out and it was our understanding that the authorities agreed to guard these sites once they were under their control. It is both a tragedy and a disgrace that our forces were not prepared to control Iraqi cities once they had abolished local power, and hence did not fulfill that promise. The looting of museums in northern parts of the country after the last Gulf War provided ample warning and it cannot be said that the events of the last few days were totally unexpected. Most disturbing is the information, related by the New York Times, that a small group of U.S. soldiers, aided by a tank, were summoned by one of the museum workers and succeeded in warding off the looters. Not heeding pleas to stay, they left after half an hour and the pillage began again. It is astounding to think that one tank could have saved 8000 years of history.

The museum contents are gone and little of it will ever be recovered, but that does not mean that we can simply express our regrets and move on. Various archaeological and historical organizations are demanding that our government take steps to stop any further deterioration of the situation inside Iraq and to stop the looting and the export of the loot to the West. Among other matters, the petitions ask that the coalition close Iraq's borders to stop the export of antiquities and offer amnesty and monetary rewards for the return of objects from the museum that still remain within the country. We should also demand that the troops on the ground do everything possible to stop any further looting of museums, monuments and archaeological sites, and that they resist any proposals by organizations such as the American Council for Cultural Policy, that are trying to convince the U.S. government to weaken rules on the importation of antiquities into this country.

The army has finally moved in to protect what is left of the museum, and that is a start. But there is more that must be done. The public reaction of our government officials has been shameful, to say the least. Rather than express remorse and horror to the looting of hospitals and cultural treasures, our secretary of defense has made merry at the site of looters carrying pottery and excused the plunder as "untidiness." In our democracy administrations come and go, with a shelf life or four or eight years, but the consequence of their actions in the name of us all sometimes last forever. Such callousness is unworthy of our country, and no matter what opinions one holds on the justification and legality of this war, one should expect more from out public servants. There is little shame in admitting miscalculations and mistakes; the whole world is watching us and unless we want to be viewed as the great barbarians of the twenty-first century, we must demand that our elected government take responsibility for what has happened and pledge to do its best to repair the damage and prevent any reoccurrence of these horrific events. The fact that this looting took place on our watch is bad enough, but such statements reveal an utter disregard for other peoples' achievements and for our common global cultural patrimony.


comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

cesar ramirez martinez serna - 1/4/2010

In all moments in our lives the obfuscattion is normal sensity of the single person, in my case the index of obfscattion is regular, as 5 or 6 months... for any situations: hungry, excess of sex, and obsessions for any choises: writer, dinner, sleep, because the normality comportaments of artistic or painting mens is also whit obfuscattion... thank you.

Tania Hermis - 11/8/2005

I have been seeing in the past two years many comments regarding the Baghdad Museum looting, but none is looking deeply in this issue. Well I was an Interpreter with the US Army in Iraq 2003, and the way I saw the Palaces destroyed and looted, I can understand why the invasion had happened in the first place.... it is not for Iraqi people to live in democracy, but to get FREE oil! History is not even an issue to be protected, but instead destroying it will give the Kurds a chance to rewrite history the way they want and claim their beloved Kurdistan! The issue on hand is who would be more competent to make such deals with the west to get FREE oil .... unfortunately the Kurds are the second largest group than my ancient people of Assyria (now are called the Christian minority)!

Jason Hensel - 1/18/2004

Shame on you all who have a negative opinion on our country. The president is elected by the people for the people. We have created what ever mess we may be in. However, I do not believe we are in mess. Serving in the military for 6 years I know a bit about it. The military is made up of people, people make mistakes. If you have never made a mistake in your life then you are a better person than all of us. If the people in other countries didn't want their history destroyed.....quit hiding in those places. Not to many of our own places get destroyed because we gaurd them. Sometimes our gaurding fails......but at least we make an effort.

ed hodges - 1/13/2004

Just one question, How many of you, especially Belinda, actually fought in combat in Iraq either in 1990/1991, or in 2003? I've seen entire cities of dead civilians from mustard gas, used by Saddam on his own people, until you do, just shut up and keep your onesided comments to yourself, and if you are from America, support your troops. because if it weren't for them you would be able to say anything, because you would go to jail or be killed for bad mouthing the government. This is an election year, if you don't like how Bush is doing things then cast your vote for somone else.

Belinda - 1/4/2004

Dear Mr. Nielsen,
I could not agree with your assessment more. I am a citizen of the US corporate Regime for the plutocracy by the plutocracy. Please do not blame all Americans. THere are a huge number of hired fascist goons that infest lists on the internet. I know this as I work with the public and would say less than 10% of the people I know support Bush. THe fascists here like their Nazi predecesssor try to create the image of masssive support which they do not have. In our elections here in "democracy" we have a "Choice" of 2 corporate puppets. One mouths a few more socially conscious phrases that are rarely acted upon. No one I know supports the US corporate regimes slaughters of the left around the world. Hey isn't it funny the US terrorists went in to "bring democracy" in Iraq but are renazifiy the country by reinstalling the Baathist fascist party of Saddam. (Whose fascist regime, by the way was installed originally by the US against the will of the people. THe Us has installed oligarchic fascist terrorist regimes around the globe (read ex-state dept official William Blum's book "Killing Hope" for a list of just 50 of the known more than 200). By the way the fascist international centered in the US trains and funds the "Islamic" fascist terrorists. These terrorists are "found" wherever the working class rises up and the US goes in and slaughters the left under the pretense of getting their created terrorists. Quite the set up huh???
My research shows that the Iraqi people likely overthrew the US funded and backed fascist right wing Saddam (US Installeee prototype) in 1990 and this explains the desert holocaust of the Iraqi common people even as they were retreating, the sanctions, and the comical propaganda flooding our controlled disinfo outlets stating that the Iraqis are fighting for Saddams iron fisted fascist junta for the wealthy that murdered anyone who spoke up for the majority .

JOE - 12/17/2003


maher kadmiry - 10/26/2003


You are a genius.This is exactely their senario,but we say in
arabic" they can get big but, not biger than him " i meant god.
remember,things happen for a reason,and every civilisation in this world goes up and then disappears.Every cowboy movie has
a sad ending, at least those i know of.
maher kadmiry

william cooper - 10/18/2003

Subject: this is the letter is sent the new york times

.... I think that even if you don't find as much as a
primer to a bullet cartridge, you have still found
thousands of body parts of the thousands of innocent
civilians who were butchered at the hands of a madman.
You have unending stories of the victims coming
forward and testifying of the brutality that they
lived in every day. You have the Kurds who were
gasses to death. Not soldiers, but women and
children. You have the jubilation of the freed people
as they tore down the statues of their tormentor and
beat the head of it with the bottom of their shoes;
which for them was the highest insult to offer up.
You do the President, Great Britton's Prime Minister,
the military forces from differing contries and their
sending nations a great injustice by calling the war a
bad move to have taken. To clarify this position;
what if Hitler hadn't been grabbing all the countries
he did, but kept to all his secret projects and his
genecidal activities. Would we not had gone after him
once we learned just how brutal he was and how
murderous his power over the peoples of Europe had
become? Perhaps you would have wrote then something
like: "well it's only Jews, Gypsies, Retards,
Handicappers, Elderly, Ministers and a mixed group of
nonGermans, so why waste the fuel and manpower?". I'm
so sick to my stomach to say, that the way the news
and Democrats are using airtime and prose for nothing
better than showing the world your total contempt for
the suffering masses around the world. A very
obnoxious and macabre way to slam the integrity of a
man you obviously want to loose the next election,
while doing it over the tombs of those whose blood
cries out for some justice, and protection to those
they leave behind. The media was so biased against
the then, Governor Bush during Bush's election that it
really opened the eyes of a lot of people who saw your
tactics. But you still didn't learn anything. When
the war started, the networks started the propaganda
machinery all over again and lost ratings, because of
their baseless cries of destruction to the American
Military and other such nonsense. Now you're at it
again with slam articles about not finding weapons of
mass destruction.
I think you and every body else who has verbated all
the parties previously mentioned, owes President Bush
and Prime Minister Blair, and all the other noble men
and women who freed the multiple people groups who
were brutalized in Iraq a huge and resounding pat on
the back for what they did do and not what a madman
with ample warning was able to successfully ship
accross his borders and hide before the war started.
The intelligence that the President used was also from
previously found items that were found before the war
by UN inspectors who saw the illegal hardware with
their own eyes. So continue the antiBush/Blair
stance you seem to be insanely devoted to, but you'll
not find a sympathetic ear from me, because it is
obvious that your minds are so polluted with
prejudice, that every thing appears evil in your eyes,
even when good is all around and in clear sight.
I say this to your shame.
For our noble President, England's Prime Minister, the
troops, the victims, the grieving mothers, fathers,
children of Iraq.
William M. Cooper

tim dicarlo - 9/24/2003

Hi, I am bubba...er, maybe I am Gomer. I don't know. Whoever I am, I was there at the Cana Hotel guarding the Land Cruisers and making no effort to protect works of art.
What a bastard I am. To protect things which could be used by the enemy as a military weapon (because they did) and ignore paintings and pottery!
We from 2/23 are Reservists from different walks of life. This ranges from poorer inner city minorities to upscale sophisticated anglo's. We all are people and we appreciate the things you weep over, but we also know that in a wartime setting the importance to our mission... no, our survival, places more emphasis on keeping each other alive and getting home.

With this said, we were under orders to search individuals who we captured for such items you deem so necessary. If cultural artifacts were found they deemed our protection. We were not allowed to have such items ourselves. But the truth is we did not go searching for ways to protect tapestries or jewelery. I am sorry it dissappoints you, but to do so would be simple foolishness.

This is a late addition but better. If I had seen your posting four or five months ago I would have mustered no more than an "F-you!".

Ruth Foster - 5/10/2003

I was just wondering if anyone had a list of the 16 sites that were supposed to be protected.

thanks so much

Ponessa - 4/27/2003

Dear Chris,
By the time you are old, all the world's oil will have been consumed, and humanity will be using alternative fuels. Iraq and Saudi Arabia will no longer have any commercial influence, and will only be religious centers again.
By the time you are old, if current demographic trends continue, several countries of Europe will be 50% Muslim. Half of the French will be going to Mecca on pilgrimage, and if they are Shiite they will be making stops in Najaf and Karbala. Oil is a temporary episode in Middle Eastern history, but religion is permanent. Over half the people on earth practice some form of Middle Eastern religion now, and that percentage is not likely to decrease by the time you are old.

chris cleutjens - 4/26/2003

The true barbarians don't give a penny for culture.
They only adore the national colours.
In the USA a Stars and Stripes craze went on ever since 9/11.

One good looking bible preacher and lots of bible money will place a bible president in the White House.
The nice evangelic president with all jew counselors.
Isn't that a nice picture?
What? I am an anti-semite?
Certainly not.
They are a God-worshipping and hard working people.

But These people have never forgotten the 6 millions the rest of the world did nothing for to deliver them.
They will bill everyone in the world.
Just wait and see when step by step the world is theirs.
You will remember and curse them.

What is The Plan for this decade?
First 'steal' the Iraqi oil. The pretext of Saddam being a murderer and having weapons of mass destruction is the same as the pretext of a certain German 'premier' who claimed Poland and Gdansk was a treat to Germany.
Then deal with the left-overs from the cold war in the Middle East.
Syria for example will be next.
But that matter will be taken care off by the Israelite Army covered by US marines.
The UNO being powerless and already is the work of the Bush administration.
Now everything goes.
Once the Iraqi oil is in hands of the US.
Who need the Saoudi's?
Not the USA. Saoudi Arabia is next.
The king of that country could die in a military coup.
Then that oil is American too.
The rest of the world will have to beg for a drop.
Iran? Pakistan? They will fight. A lost fight.

This is a crazy scenario? Why? Half of it is already happening.

A country that salutes the national colours in schools everyday is not a patriotic country, it's a fascist country.
Americans are a sleep and don't see that the enemy of democracy is in the White House already. Fascism is creeping in, disguised as patriotism.

World Power is the goal.
And all the other people of the world?

The USA is now ruled by a man who has as much power as an Roman Emperor. His word is law.

About sleeping at night.
How is sleeping in Europe in a cold war climate. Sleeping was easy with the threat of Russian invasion and USA protection, than the threat of US's hunger world power. Political, cultural and religious power.

Give or take 10 or 20 years. And you will see.
I will be old by then.
And smile in my rocking chair.
Because I knew it al the time.
See the classic picture?

If you know The Past, it will help you understand The Present and therefor predict The Future.

Ponessa - 4/25/2003

Now that the initial shock of the damage to the Museum has been absorbed, it is time to look about us and see what is still standing in the realm of Mesopotamian antiquities.
Before the British Mandate, nearly all the artifacts found in what is now Iraq were transported elsewhere -- to Istanbul, London, Paris, Berlin, etc. As a result, they are now safe.
During the period of the Mandate, the law required 50% of the artifacts to remain in Iraq. As a result, 50% of the finds of Leonard Woolley at Ur, 50% of the finds of Max Mallowan in the north, etc. have survived outside the country. It is only since Iraqi independence that there has been a ban on the export of antiquities. While it has been a perfectly understandable exercise of national sovereignty, this policy can now be seen to be flawed. The best insurance policy is wide distribution to many localities -- that is why the printing and dissemination of books is much safer than the preservation of unique incunabulae.
As for the damage to the Museum itself, perhaps our tears are twelve years too late. During the 1991 Gulf War, the collection was dispersed for safekeeping to the 16 or so provincial museums, and during the 1992 Shiite uprising nearly all of those museums were plundered. It took ten years to get the Baghdad Museum up and running again, but the collection had already been seriously damaged. The recent looting was a blow that will take even longer to repair, but it was not the beginning of the destruction of the Museum, only the end of the process. Although some items are being returned by repentant Shiites, these items will have lost their provenance information and will be difficult to reassimilate into the collection.
The worst loss is not the items that are well known and photographed, because knowledge of them will survive. It is the loss of untranslated tablets. Who now will know what they contained? There might have been one single tablet with enough information to revolutionize our knowledge of the ancient world.
Serious steps must be taken to protect antiquities worldwide, both on site and in museums. I support the creation of a UN cultural security force that would have the power to intervene and protect the world's cultural heritage in times of civil disorder. Even more, I believe that the new Iraqi government should use some of its oil wealth to create scholarships for the study of ancient Mesopotamian languages. There are too few scholars to process the bulk of material, and it is dangerous to leave things sitting around untranslated once they have been extracted from the safety of the ground. We need ten times as many scholars able to read ancient Babylonian, and it will take a generation of concentrated effort to get up to speed.

Ponessa - 4/24/2003

Dear Mr. Larry,
Are you related to Mr. Bob? You have the same FIRST name.
Neither of you seem to mind the fact that you have been robbed of your inheritance. That is your privilege. If you don't mind being robbed of your car, either, why don't you try leaving your keys in it tonight?
(It's just a dumb car. You've seen one, you've seen them all!)

Ponessa - 4/24/2003

Dear Christian,
If America is the anti-cultural monster that you think we are -- Were we anywhere near when the library of the University of Louvain was destroyed in 1914, and all of its medieval manuscripts were lost? Were we anywhere near when the entire faculty of the University of Krakow were shot in 1939? Were we anywhere near when the entire city of Warsaw was flattened by the occupying army in 1944? Were we anywhere near when the National Library of Romania burned in 1989? Were we anywhere near when the National Library of Sarajevo was burned in 1992?
Our only fault in Baghdad was that we did not arrive fast enough. So you can't have it both ways, can you Christian? Are we Americans damned if we don't come and damned if we do?
Between the two World Wars, two American universities began a massive microfilm campaign to save the manuscripts of Europe. Many of the documents ended up destroyed in the second war, and their contents were saved for posterity by American academics.
Europeans like to start wars, and Americans like to finish them. You may think that America started the war with Iraq, but there has been a technical state of war between Iraq and at least one of its neighbors (Israel) since 1948, and between Iraq and the United Nations since 1990. The American military action has put an end to a disgraceful false peace.
No one laments the loss of the artifacts in the Baghdad Museum more than I do, and I intend to hold Rumsfeld responsible for giving the appearance of excusing the looting. But surely lectures from Europeans, in view of the way you people have damaged your own cultural heritage, are not tolerable.
PS -- New York has existed longer than Saint Petersburg or Berlin. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Derek Catsam - 4/24/2003

As opposed to brave posts on internet chatrooms from the hellish landscape of Falls Church?

Stephen McIntyre - 4/23/2003

I agree that these disparaging terms were inappropriate and previously acknowledged this. But there is a fiasco here and one that is really hard to understand or justify. Also, one that is really unfair to soldiers and marines, who tried hard to do a good job. Instead of being praised for a campaign that minimized collateral damage, the U.S. military is being vilified for (needless) cultural destruction unparalleled for centuries, while soldiers and marines were standing around.

I have not seen any justification for placing 50 tanks around the Oil Ministry and not protecting the Baghdad Museum or for protecting a fleet of Land Cruisers. I don't think there can be any. Attempted justifications just change the topic - pointing out individual casualties, which, regardless of the courage of the individuals involved, doesn't justify the policy. Alternatively, some justifications have tried to argue that there was active conflict at the nearby Republican Guard headquarters, but, when you look closely, that conflict had ceased prior to the main wave of looting on April 11-12.

I think that the problem resides with the orders. It doesn't look to me like that U.S. military had a clear idea what they were going to do once they won. To the extent that they left it up to unit commanders on the ground to decide what to protect, without conveying priorities to them - this wasn't very effective policy, since it permitted completely incorrect priorities such as the Land Cruisers. Or elsewhere, I saw a story about a platoon commander effectively stopping looting at a football club premises. If this guy had been at the Museum, we might have been talking differently.

Bottom line - it was a screw-up. The screw-up has brought discredit to your brave friends and acquaintances, and you and they should require some accounting from the fatuous Rumsfeld as to why proper orders were not given to troops on the ground in Baghdad as to what to do when they won.

Again, my apologies for my previous intemperate language.

Kevin Watson - 4/23/2003

Mr. McIntyre, you are a bigot pure and simple and you make it clear to everyone when you use the words "gomer" and "bubba" to describe the Marines of 2Btn, 23rd Regiment who's Headquarters and Supply Company had a temporary command and guard in the UN offices.

I know personally some of the men in that unit. They are all reservists, who had been on call to active duty since shortly after September 11th, leaving families, jobs and college behind. They've done their job admirably in Iraq, some of them have died, some of them have been crippled and all of them deserve more respect than the school-yard insults you hurl at them.

If you value the treasures of Mesapotamia so much, then why don't you quit making cowardly posts on internet chat rooms and go to Baghdad yourself to assist in their safe keeping.

-Kevin Watson
Falls Church, Virginia

Lootin' Larry - 4/23/2003

there is some good crap from the museum on eBay.

if you want some more modern clay pots and crap you can go to Crate & Barrel and get some nice stuff.

I Matjecko - 4/23/2003

It's a matter not of reasoning but of sensibility and, I suppose, values, for while I agree with you that all of the information that you mention could be obtained at the Oil Ministry, so far as either of us could possibly know (unless you're with the CIA), I just think that the looting of the Museum of far more consequence. Call it the long-term view.

JohnnyZap - 4/22/2003

You sound like the typical Euro American Wannabe! All of you whine, piss and moan - except when it's time to get the American dollar loan!
How about this - have the useless French pay back all the loans to the USA!
And now that reconstruction of Iraq is at hand, I recommend that the French and Germans be allowed to clean the US military toilets! But I'm sure the French will screw that up as well.

Olaf Brakmaker - 4/21/2003

Re the statement:

"Hitlers SS soldiers were elite troops well educated, and got their well deserved punishment, as your warcriminals hopefully will get."

Your hopes are faint, Mr. Nielsen, unless Europe can find a new Churchill-like figure with vision, or in some other credible way rally behind a viable alternative to latter-day Hitlers. Somehow, Schroeder and Chirac remind one more of Chamberlain and Petain.

Europe Full of Pussies - 4/20/2003

Euro's are pansies... except for Great Britain.

The USA RULES THE WORLD... get used to it.

Roderick Smith - 4/20/2003

Mr. Nielsen's interesting post implicitly posits a question:

Is criticism of his original messages equal to an attempt to stifle his freedom of speech on the Internet?

Certainly not. If freedom of speech is anything, it is that I have as much freedom to criticize whatever Mr. Nielsen, exercising his freedom of speech, writes.

The tendency of many who oppose the war to characterize legitimate challenges to their stated beliefs as "McCarthyite" or as attempts to "limit free speech" is a sad, sad thing.

In furtherance of my right of free expression, I will add that I think Mr. Nielsen's strange comments regarding "perfect English" and "Disneyland" are silly and I hope that Mr. Nielsen can engage in a more serious and academic discussion here. But I don't hold out much hope for that.

Christian - 4/20/2003

Your comment on language is interesting and redicuolous.

Christian - 4/20/2003

I see your point.
And I understand that a nonamerican ( = untermensch) is not really entitled to use freedom of speech on the open internet. I understand that only americans ( = ubermenschen) with a perfect english have access to the internet. And I understand you do not have the slighest understanding of what is happening outside Disneyland.

Roderick Smith - 4/20/2003

Mr. Nielsen,

Your vainglorious "test" was foolish and reflects very poorly on the university you are affiliated with, if indeed you are affiliated with a university.

I imagine what would happen on a Danish-based website if I insulted the intelligence, bravery and morals of Denmark's soldiers and compared its current leadership to the Nazis and the Soviets, and if I impunged its national character.

Probably as much as happened here. To throw the apple of discord invites conflict, not conviviality.

Christian Nielsen - 4/20/2003

It has been an interesting debate. The Subject : "USA lost the war" was intended to test the american response to a provocative and false argumentation against the war in Iraq. I have visited US many times and have a great admiration of US, Its people and its nature. The test shows how bad a debate can turn out. At the buttom line I still believe USA has created a major problem with the looting of the museums. And the reason for attacking Iraq: The weapons of mass destructions. They has to be found.
An apology for comparing your soldier both present and former with German SS troops. That one was maybee a little to harsh, but it worked. Of course US army was the decisive factor both in ww1 and in ww2. And if US army had stayed home in ww2 Denmark would probably either have been German or Russian now. And also in the ww2 aftermath during the Cold War USA kept us as a free nation.
Another apology to american tourists. They shall be very welcome and treated with great sympathy. Many of them will have European ancestors. I hope the close connections between USA and Europe (Denmark) will exist in the future. I am sorry if I have offended
anybody with my litlle test.

Arch Stanton - 4/20/2003

"I think this just stands on its own, don't you?" "Squats on its own" might be better. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf had his faults, but at least his English was good.

Toby H - 4/20/2003

Am sure most of the loot will end up in Europe in a store right next to a german, danish, french or dutch porno shop....

Toby H - 4/20/2003

You are an apologist for de fuhrer,it is little wonder that the Germans ran over Europe. If it wasn't for the cowboys there wouldn't be a Montgomery to rescue Denmark. Unfortunately Roosevelt felt he could deal with Stalin, a grave mistake; perhaps you have a better idea of how Yalta should have been handled ( I doubt it)...Yes I think a few years under the Red Army might not have been such a bad thing for Denmark; am sure those peasant soldiers would not distinguished much between danish and german....hande hoog kamaraad!! Unfortunately many SS troops were not punished at all, your attitude reflects that so very well.

Roderick Smith - 4/20/2003

Wow. This, from the Danes.

I think this just stands on its own, don't you?

Roderick Smith - 4/20/2003

Disneyland is an amusement park in Southern California. There is also a Disneyworld in Florida, and several others in the world.

You can access information on Disneyland here:


Hope this helps.

Christian Nielsen - 4/20/2003

Hello Bob

Tell us about Disneyland. Maybee you have some knowledge about that place.

Christian Nielsen - 4/20/2003

Hello H. Vanstiphout.

You describe the Bagdad tragedy very precisely. I agree totally.
We shall learn from this. We shall put every effort into restoring and rebuilding of the damaged treasures. It is not an easy task with the present fascism in the US leadership. Probably the future is the though market ($) future. I would not be supprised if a lot of the stolen artefacts from the Bagdad Museum is ending up in private collections in US.

Christian Nielsen - 4/20/2003


You make it quite personal. You are right. Europe shall not call upon USA for help in case of war. There would be no need, because US would have created it. The British (Montgomery) liberated Denmark in ww2 not the US cowboys. USA did not liberate anything. Stalin and his good friend Rosevelt met at the Jalta-konference and took ½ of Europe each. Why do US still have it gunmen stationed in Europe (Germany)? Still an occupation?
You are offended. Thats your pronblem. The fact is that your Marines are responsible for the worst destruction of culture for many, many centuries. And they probably know absolute nothing of
ancient cultures, raised in a country build on the genocide of the Indians and the history written by Disney. Hitlers SS soldiers were elite troops well educated, and got their well deserved punishment, as your warcriminals hopefully will get.

Toby H. - 4/20/2003

Chris, as a Dutchman whose parents lived under nazi occupation, whose friends and neighbors were sent ro concentration camps I am appalled at your crass stupidity and lack of historical knowledge. To even remotely compare our soldiers to those of hitler is a gross insult to those who died to free Europe. Perhaps your sorry that the Red Army didnt free Denmark because they wrote the book on rape and looting (though they did sacrifice much). If you are a reflection of Europe now its been tainted by ignorance. Next time the europeans have a war..Dont call US(A).

Christian Nielsen - 4/20/2003

The world has now learned that USA is a brutal dictatorship (Bush gettint less votes than Gore, but Bush became President anyway) who uses its barbaric and illiterate Marines to destroy the cultural heritage of mankind. Even Hitlers SS troops were not that cruel. Rumsfeld respons to the destruction of the Bagdad Museum was laughing it became crystal clear, that US wants the oil in Iraq and the power in The whole world. But they will not succeed. The fact is that a barbaric USA with its Bush Nazi-regime without any cultural knowledge is stupid and will disappear soon. The only decent thing USA could do was to jail their war criminals ( Powell, Bush, Rumsfeld and military Pentagontop) and pay a lot of their holy Dollars to make some repair to the Museum in Bagdad. But it is probably to late and the americans will be rightfull blamed their vandalism for many centuries. It is and wil be a shame to be an american.
I recommend to avoid buying american products and to act hostile to all americans tourists in Europe. We do not want that kind of people here. USA is at present a disgrace to the world.

Christian Nielsen

H. Vanstiphout - 4/20/2003

Everybody with any knowledge of and interest in the Near East past and present, all signatories worldwide to the urgent petition to the UNESCO, and in fact anybody with a remnant of cultural decency and care for our own past owes a great debt of gratitude to Piotr Michalowski for his timely, courageous and wonderfully dignified but still completely factual comment on what is perhaps the greatest cultural crime known to history.
A few comments may be not out of place. The tragedy of the sack of the Museum is both symbolic and symptomatic. Symbolic, since the outrage deprives us not only of a colossal number of artifacts dating from the first stages of what we still dare to call 'Western civilization', but even more importantly of a host of written evidence which now is probably lost for ever - and which for a large part has not even been read. In a truly specific way this is highly detrimental to our understanding of ourselves. For the Mesopotamian civilization, especially the third and early second millennium BC, is not just a quaint and esthetically or intellectually pleasing collection of curiosities: it represents the basic structures and guidelines for what we still recognize as our very own culture. I mention only a few things. First, of course, there is writing; second, there is the idea that civilization implies city building with the ensuing sense and idea of civic culture. But other aspects are just as important now as they were 4000 years ago: a society built on basic equity, personal responsibility, human dignity, solidarity and the absence of ethnic, sectarian or even social segregation. For some of these things we had to await the French Revolution to discover them again. And now we just throw the evidence away, or, which is far worse, we allow it to be corrupted by market forces.
The crime is therefore also symptomatic. The callousness with which the tragedy was dismissed, and a number of comments on this site which must remind everyone with a sense of modern history of the heydays of Nazism is perhaps the symptom of a lethal illness threatening our cultural identity, and sapping our social strength. For the sake of all our children I fervently hope that this criminal shock will awe the powers that be into a more responsible, perhaps even a humanly acceptable, stance.

Herodotus - 4/19/2003

Mr. McIntyre,

Your experience as a soldier and military historian, and therefore ability to judge the mission and abilities of U.S. forces in a captured city of five million, as well as your on-the-ground experience in Baghdad over the past few days, is noted.

If you were a historian, you would understand that careful analysis requires, first and foremost, the dispassionate displacement of anger lest it overwhelm your ability to evaluate the evidence. All of the evidence.

Stephen McIntyre - 4/19/2003

My language was inappropriately offensive, but I am extremely angry. I do not for one minute underestimate the abilities and native intelligence of soldiers or ordinary people. But the planning of this mission was a fiasco - with a critical failure forfeiting other accomplishments. I don't see how this conclusion can be acoided.

The failure to secure the Museum is a fiasco, that could have been avoided, that serves no policy objective and saved no lives. The spectacle of Marines guarding some Land Cruisers or the Oil Ministry while the antiquities are being stolen or destroyed is completely unedifying. Aside from the cultural disaster, it has given ample ammunition to U.S. political enemies - a provision which was completely unnecessary.

If it were not so tragice, there would be low comedy to this - the Marines guarding Land Cruisers, while the crime of the century is being committed. Whoever allocated resources in this fshion - either generals or colonels or lieutenants - deserves any contemptuous term. I don't see what other conclusion you can come up with. Someone goofed and goofed hugely. Perhaps Inspector Clouseau would have been more apt. Actually, the theft of the antiquities is in most ways less bad than the apparent destruction of the Sippar archive and other unedited cuneiform.

The only long-term memory of this war will be the unprecedented sack of Baghdad. The allocation of blame between the Baghdad mob and negligent American soldiers depends to some extent on one's politics, but there is plenty of blame to go around and enough to stain the reputation of the latter, together with the fatuous civilian supervision of Donald Rumsfeld, and George W. Bush, the ultimate worthy simpleton - the true Gomer Pyle if you will.

Ponessa - 4/19/2003

Dear Colonel,
I see what you mean. I guess I was not familiar enough with these particular nicknames.
I thought that "Gomer" here was the Hebrew word for a pagan priest -- I see now that it is a reference to "Gomer Pyle."
That's what I get for reading the Hebrew Bible more than watching television!
All the best,

Phil Cavalier - 4/18/2003

Dear Reverend Ponessa,

Thank you for your comments on the good Colonel’s post. Except for calling him the “Anonymous” Colonel I found the post informative and I appreciate getting it.

I was not sure what your answer to the good Colonel’s post was about. Here are his thoughts in outline form. I don’t see any personal attacks, or name-calling and you and Professor Michalowski are not even mentioned.

1. Bubba and Gomer? I'm sure this was meant as an insult to our superb armed forces, but I'd expect nothing less from this site. These Buddas and Gomers have more character and common sense than 90% of the historians, college professors, and graduate students I've observed. Its not the University elite that make this country what it is. Its the Bubbas and Gomers who make this country great and who will keep it great.
2. As far as the looting are concerned, excuse me; I thought it was the Iraqis who looted their own museums and libraries. Museum officials failed to take rudimentary precautions to protect or move their collections despite having full knowledge that the coalition would not target the buildings. Coalition forces at the time these crimes were committed were still fighting a hot war.
3. Commanders had two priorities at the time of the initial lootings: the mission and protecting their soldiers, period.
4. There is not a single Iraqi antiquity worth a soldier’s life.
5. Historian Victor Davis Hanson has observed that there hasn’t been a single major war devoid of pillaging. The only difference in this war was that none of the the looting was committed by invading soldiers

As for the April 14 comments by you, (Someday when all of history is judged, it will not be written that a free country exported its freedom, but that a country without history destroyed everyone else's history) and the April 14 article of Professor Michalowski, my primary disagreement is that you both draw conclusions that are based upon incomplete facts. On April 17th, the UN at a meeting in Paris concluded that: “Much of the looting of treasures at Iraq (news - web sites)'s national museum was carried out by organized gangs who traffic in works of ancient art, according to experts at a United Nations (news - web sites) conference called to examine the war-damage to the country's cultural
heritage.” "Probably (it was done) by the same sorts of gangs that have been paying for the destruction of sites in Iraq over the last 12 years and the smuggling out of these objects into the international market,"

Meanwhile, as I look back on the past few days since the Professor’s article I have come to a somewhat different perspective on the article and the reaction to it. I focus primarily on his comment: “The public reaction of our government officials has been shameful, to say the least. Rather than express remorse and horror to the looting of hospitals and cultural treasures, our secretary of defense has made merry at the site of looters carrying pottery and excused the plunder as "untidiness." The comment by Rumsfeld was unfortunate and I can see how it would rightfully anger anyone who spent his life with these cultural treasures. In my Crododile Tear – Update post I repeat answers by Rumsfeld and Meyers. I am convinced that Rumsfeld was not fully aware of what had happened at the Baghdad Museum when he misspoke the day after, and he was trying to be flip with a press corp that is provocative and often asks dumb questions. Meanwhile this board exploded with vicious personal attacks on our government officials and the military which I the Colonel and others believed was irrational and not fair. This lead to some heated comments. I am sure you and the Professor must have experienced similar feelings.

I believe the only real detailed deal between the military and the archeological scholars was over the bombing of unearthed archeological sites. The problem of looting was primarily handled by the Baghdad Museum and I believe we may ultimately find the damage was not as bad as initially predicted due to reported actions by the Museum staff and the help of other world scholars. To turn this into a political argument would be unfortunate since as much blame can be put on the Museum staff as others try to put it on the military. I would appreciate it if you would bring these comments to the attention of Professor Michalowski. He has a good friend in you for coming to his defense.

Army Colonel - 4/18/2003

I don't necessarily disagree, however, it seems that you didn't read carefully my post. I was specifically referring to the ad hominum attacks on the military (Gomers and Bubbas) by Mr. McIntyre. In addition, I was trying to educate the folks who inhabit this site about military realities facing commanders on the ground. Believe me, if you are still conducting combat operations, stopping looting is not a high priority.

However, the so-called Middle Eastern experts have been wrong more often than not. I'd rather listen to real experts such as Bernard Lewis. Not the anti-semites who populate most Middle Eastern studies departments these days.

Ponessa - 4/18/2003

Dear Cassandra,
I am so glad that you're praying. I would be honored to offer a prayer for the person on your list, if you do not object.
Calling any Polish person a Marxist is a very low blow. The only reason Poland suffered 50 years of Communism is because they were not "liberated" at the end of WWII but abandoned to the Soviet beast. A poll was taken in the streets of Warsaw in 1980 asking 100 people if they supported Communism. The results were -- none of them. There is no more anti-Communist nation than Poland. The reason they are not Communist now is thanks to their prayers and ours.
Professor Michalowski happens to know his subject. Therefore I respect what he says. There are millions of know-nothing liberals out there saying uninformed things right now. Why don't you pick on one of them?
I now believe you are not Bob.

cassandra - 4/18/2003

Frankly, I have just one on my prayer list.
How can you possibily not see that your embrace of this cleverly crafted, spiteful article is noting more than an artful piece of Marxist-generated propaganda? There's going to be payback for this not so subtle effort by sleeper agents undermining support for our troops.

Ponessa - 4/18/2003

Dear Anonymous Colonel,
The University of Nebraska at Omaha contributed substantially to our war effort in Afghanistan by contributing something that the intelligence community greatly lacked at the time: knowledge of the country. They had been gathering Afghan knowledge for over 30 years and had just what our country needed at the right time. They were attacked in the Chicago Tribune for "dallying with the Taliban for 20 years." The university responded by pointing out that the Taliban had not existed for longer than 10 years, so it would have been impossible to "dally" with them before that time.
The University of Michigan, where Professor Michalowski works, is respected throughout the world for their Middle Eastern Studies program. That is why the professor was drawn there from his native Poland nearly 40 years ago. The University of Pennsylvania has over 120 years of experience in Mesopotamia. These are the people who could have helped us fight the Iraq war and can still help us win the Iraq peace. Instead they are being attacked at this site, just as the Tribune rewarded the Nebraskan academics for their service by public attacks.
Our troops are not fighting to make the world safe for stupidity. A smart army can do efficiently what a dumb army cannot. A smart government can accomplish what a dumb government cannot. Any army and any government requires "intelligence," which is more than spy photos.
Our country should be enlisting the expertise of those who know the Middle East and not attacking them. I cannot see how we can fulfill our duties as the world's only superpower unless we draw upon our all our domestic talent. If Hitler had not persecuted the Jews, he would have had the atomic bomb before the end of the '30s, and Germany would be the only superpower today. If we turn upon our academic community and treat them as the enemy, we ensure that some other nation, somewhere, will be the next superpower sooner rather than later.
It is quite likely that the next superpower will not have our tradition of military discipline.

Ponessa - 4/18/2003

If any of our soldiers are mistreated in Texas, they are welcome here in Montana. They can wear their uniforms here with pride. Its their civilian commanders that we consider a disgrace.
By encouraging looting in Baghdad, Rumsfeld has put our troops on the ground there at greater risk, made their job more difficult and lengthened their tour of duty.
I am not an academic. I do not now and have never held a university position. But, as I said before, I will not let anonymous denunciations go unchallenged. Our troops have won the war against Saddam, our government is losing the peace, and you are attacking academics at home. How does this help?
There are only over 100 people in the whole world who have the knowledge that Prof Michalowski does of ancient Babylonian language and culture. He is one of the few people who would have the skills to help repair the cultural damage over there in Iraq. By attacking him you are compounding the damage.
I have 50 American soldiers on my prayer list. How many are YOU praying for, Cassandra/Bob?

Stephen McIntyre - 4/18/2003

The Marines were untrained and unprepared for their duties in Baghdad. For example:

"Marines ordered to crack down on looters The Australian "I have not trained in what I am doing right now. We got about a two-minute briefing, but the whole war has been like that," said Second Lieutenant Ron Winchester, as his platoon from 1st Battalion 7th Marines fanned out across the main street of an affluent suburb. "Anyway, the Marines are the best in the world. We can do anything."

I guess the two-minute briefing didn't mention the Baghdad Museum. I don't blame these young guys for not knowing what to do if they hadn't been trained. The problem is that the U.S. military at senior levels seemed to have no idea what to do when they took Baghdad. Rumsfeld seemed to think that everyone would throw down rose petals.

The fault lies right at the top - with Rumsfeld and Bush. One is very bright, the other not; but both seem to men of very low and limited cultural knowledge. Whatever one may think of the French - they would not have made such a colossal screw-up in this part of the war.

cassandra - 4/18/2003

He's not me.
Ponessa and his other hate-America buddies who are posting the anti-military screeds will be happy to read this story in the San Antonio paper that says the commander of the Army base there told his troops to stop wearing the uniforms off base:
So go ahead, academics, and tear down our military. Don't bother waiting to question if there is any factual base for your anti-American tirades, or the not-so-subtle propaganda effort to turn the Baghdad museum into another Dresden bombing. This Marxist-reared professor learned his lessons well.

Army Colonel and History PhD - 4/18/2003

Bubba and Gomer? I'm sure this was meant as an insult to our superb armed forces, but I'd expect nothing less from this site. These Buddas and Gomers have more character and common sense than 90% of the historians, college professors, and graduate students I've observed. Its not the University elite that make this country what it is. Its the Bubbas and Gomers who make this country great and who will keep it great. As far as the looting are concerned, excuse me; I thought it was the Iraqis who looted their own museums and libraries. Museum officials failed to take rudimentary precautions to protect or move their collections despite having full knowledge that the coalition would not target the buildings. Coalition forces at the time these crimes were committed were still fighting a hot war. Commanders had two priorities at the time of the initial lootings: the mission and protecting their soldiers, period. There is not a single Iraqi antiquity worth a soldier’s life. Historian Victor Davis Hanson has observed that there hasn’t been a single major war devoid of pillaging. The only difference in this war was that none of the the looting was committed by invading soldiers.

Lootin' Bob - 4/18/2003

I have no idea who Cassandra is ... This is my first visit to this HNN site ... liked to it from Google and couldn't resist imparting a little "wisdom" on some of the left wing loonies on here....


Lootin' Bob - 4/18/2003

back again ...

liberals are amazing ... first they use their "freedom of speech" to voice out against 24 million Iraqi's having "freedom of speech".

now... the liberal media is all over the loss of some stupid clay pots from the MoA in Baghdad.

The MoA in Baghdad doesn't even appear on the radar screen of great Museums.... the British Museum, the Egyptian Museum and even the Louvre have much more important items.

oh yeah ... and I didn't see Rummy and Bush hauling off the stupid pottery from the museum ... IT WAS THE IRAQIS that hauled it off ... even some employees of the museum.

Ponessa - 4/18/2003

Hey Bob,
You keep shifting and changing. In one message you adore Tomahawk "missles" and in the next you care about Democracy and People.
I think you are really Cassandra in disguise. "She" couldn't maintain a train of thought from one message to another, either.
I think you and Cassandra are one and the same person, paid to roam through the internet and do character assassinations.
You also live on the East Coast, because your messages start pretty early in the morning. I have bad news for you. All across America, the conservative heartland is disgusted with the wanton wreckage in Iraq, and you do not lessen our disgust by low-brow rationalizations. We voted for Bush, but we don't think you do him any favors with the way you are trying to defend him now.

Looting Bob - 4/18/2003

no... I just care more about Freedom. Democracy and Humans than I do about stupid ass clay pots...

A-hole ... it was the IRAQI's that looted the museum ... not Americans !!!

Carlo Canteri - 4/18/2003

The evidence is already pretty solid re the deliberate'ignoring' of warnings.

When you consider that this has all the hallmarks of a fundamentalist xtian crusade to take Iraq back to year zero so that xtianity, coke and the Klueless Klutz Klan can take over, and that the Geneva conventions have been broken, we all need to work together so that the neocon Admin, the leaders of the 'coalition' and the military brass are prosecuted for their war crimes and put away behind bars.

This has been a cultural genocide.

After that, a revivified UN HQ'd in Geneva can set about making USA, England and Australia pay reparations.


Ponessa - 4/18/2003

Hey Bob,
Don't call me a liberal, you moron.
So you can form complete sentences after all, can you?
The spelling is "missile" not "missle."
Some of us conservatives do care about grammar, spelling, art and culture. As a matter of fact, some of us want to conserve the English language. Some of us want to conserve all that is best about humanity, including all that is best about the past.
You're no conservative. People like you will join any mob to destroy anything, regardless of ideology. You are a cultural terrorist.

Ponessa - 4/18/2003

Hey Bob,
Don't call me a liberal, you moron.
So you can form complete sentences after all, can you?
The spelling is "missile" not "missle."
Some of us conservatives do care about grammar, spelling, art and culture. As a matter of fact, some of us want to conserve the English language. Some of us want to conserve all that is best about humanity, including all that is best about the past.
You're no conservative. People like you will join any mob to destroy anything, regardless of ideology. You are a cultural terrorist.

Alec Lloyd - 4/18/2003

Once again, the need to make a political point trumps basic reasoning.

The Oil Ministry is the heart of Iraq's considerable wealth. Records at that office could provide invaluable information on trade partners, technology exchanges and terrorism links. Was Iraq providing money to North Korea? How much did Syria benefit from the illicit pipe line?

These are all key questions--and ones many countries don't want answered. There was a clear danger that the records could be destroyed.

Looting a musuem is of a totally different character.

In numerous examples of civil disorder even the US, museums are not targeted. Why the Iraqis would destroy their own heritage is somewhat inexplicable, given their cultural contributions to humanity.

And as we have recently learned, this appears to be an inside job. People familiar with certain exhibits and possessing keys took specific, easily movable items. The time frame is uncertain, but expecting an invading army to immediately secure every quarter of a city of five million while under constant sniper fire is highly unrealistic.

Stephen McIntyre - 4/18/2003

The fault is with the generals. Forgetting about the Oil Ministry for a minute, their "plan" allowed the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines to protect Land Cruisers and not the Museum:

"John Daniszewski, LA Times BAGHDAD, 12 April 2003 in Arab News—Outside the Canal Hotel, former headquarters of the United Nations here, scores of men waited like vultures Thursday [April 10] and eyed the fleet of white four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers. Maybe it was the lure of the unobtainable — the Land Cruisers were one of the few prizes left in this city not already grabbed. They were being protected by 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines. And the Marines weren’t letting the cars go...The US forces’ hands-off policy had encouraged the looters to more and more thefts, such as when they broke into the vacant German Embassy in Karada Street, helping themselves to chairs, desks, fans and air conditioners."

Civilization is being robbed and Gomer and Bubba are out watching the Land Cruisers. Meanwhile it seems that criminals, if not Saddam's thugs, are stealing the crown jewels. It's like a bad movie. Then the mob is following up with wanton destruction of the cuneiform so it becomes a tragedy. And Rumsfeld is laughing. The strategic problem is that every critic of America can now regard the whole campaign as about oil, and there is nothing to contradict them. Certainly no WMD.

Alec Lloyd - 4/18/2003

Perhaps you read the article far enough to discover the account of the snipers *within* the museum, which prevented US troops from taking up position.

Their presence gave US forces three bad options:

1. Return fire and risk destroying the artifacts,
2. Concentrate our fire on the looters, thereby putting civilians at risk, or
3. Pulling back and hoping to recover the stolen pieces later.

As I said, evidence strongly suggests this was a planned affair.

The point that I have made is that the blinding speed with which Coalition forces were blamed by the academy contrasts sharply with the foot-dragging and prevarications used in far more clear-cut cases of academic fraud.

On the basis of a few preliminary wire reports, this board filled with bitter invective, blaming the Bush administration for actions (on the part of others, no less) that hadn't even been verified.

It is a clear double-standard.

What looting did occur was regrettable and certainly the incident should recieve a full and thorough investigation.

However, it is also important to keep in mind that the tactical situation in a climate-controlled office in the US is much different than that in the streets of Baghdad where people are shooting at you.

Once again we have academics coming off as irate cranks, demanding perfection in an operation few if any supported in the first place.

Given their intense hostility, a reasoned person might conclude that this isn't about art treasures but rather one more opportunity to castigate ideological enemies.

Looting Bob - 4/18/2003

Hey all you Liberal Loonies...

If these stupid clay pots were so important to you ... why the hell didn't you protect them before the war started ???

The blame here is not on Rummy or Bush... it is on all the left wing lunatics that think a clay pot is more important than freedom for 24 million people.

The crap will be on eBay soon... so silly that you people have nothing better to do.

Again ...%.0000001 of the world population would have ever seem that crap anyway. Wanna see a piece of art... take a look at a Tomahawk missle.. now that is a masterpiece !!!

Stephen McIntyre - 4/18/2003

You are completely wrong.

Looking only at one report, the April 6 Knight-Ridder report states:

"Of particular concern to many in the archaeological community is the fate of Baghdad's Iraq Museum, the national archaeological and Islamic art museum. This world-class museum, whose antiquities holdings rival those of the British Museum, contains a priceless selection of objects including Neanderthal skulls, thousands of the earliest cuneiform clay tablets, a pure copper head of a king dating from 2300 B.C., and a series of 2500 B.C. royal tomb objects.

"Most of us are very concerned about the cuneiform clay tablets that are held in the museum but haven't been translated and published yet," said Elizabeth Stone, a professor of archaeology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. "If there is any instability in Baghdad, the danger of the museum being looted of this valuable material is very high."

If the war destroys any of Iraq's unique archaeological holdings, it will only compound the considerable loss the country suffered during and after the Persian Gulf War of 1991."

Elsewhere McGuire Gibson says that the museum was put at the top of the list.

There was looting in Basra prior to Baghdad so they knew what to expect. The problem is that all the Gomers and Bubbas in the military up to and including the fatuous Rumsfeld mis-judged what would happen. Dspite the comments, there are thousands of unstudied, unedited cuneiform. But why would Bubba and Gomer care?

Worse for any strategic objectives - the U.S., through its protection of oil but not of civilization, has completely forfeited any high ground it might have had. It looks either venal or stupid - Im not sure which is worse.

Phil Cavalier - 4/18/2003

At a recent press conference, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said: "But certainly the targeting people, (the military) were well aware of where it, (the Baghdad Museum), was and they certainly avoided targeting it. Whatever damage that was done was done from the ground." Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. military Joint Chiefs of Staff, quickly added that Rumsfeld did receive advance warnings about archeological sites around Baghdad and that these warnings were passed on to the military's Central Command with responsibility for the war. "I think it was the American Archeological Association -- I believe that was the title -- wrote the secretary with some concerns," Myers said. "We tried to avoid hitting those sites ... to my knowledge we didn't hit any of them."
Meyers memory was right on target. In January scholars gave Defense Department officials the names of archeological sites they hoped to spare. ”[The military] had a list of 150,” says McGuire Gibson, professor of Mesopotamian archeology at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. “We gave them over 4,000 more—but that only covers the 10 to 15 percent of the country we’ve studied.” The main concern of the AAA was that these sites could be bombed and valuable new materials would be destroyed. As Meyers says “we didn’t hit any of them”. The Defense Department bent over backwards to accommodate the Association concerns, and put together a database of over 4,000 targets to avoid bombing. As for looting, the scholars did not offer any plan, or at least they have never revealed the details of such a plan, as they did with the bombing targets. Some Monday morning quarterbacks are saying they were talking about looting but no evidence has been presented.
Why was the American Archeological Association primarily concerned with the unexcavated archeological sites being bombed? As one scholar put it, “except out of professional solidarity, Western scholars care less about museum thefts than about the plundering of unexcavated sites. Objects in museums have already been photographed and studied, and if they were properly excavated, their archeological context is known. “Archeologists don’t want the objects themselves,” explains Russell, “but the stories they represent. When you yank a clay tablet or a cylinder seal out of the ground, you lose everything but the pretty object itself.”
The bombing theme was again highlighted in an April 6 article in a Knight Ridder newspapers. “Just beneath the war's battlefields lies a honeycomb of archaeological sites that tell a regional history that stretches from prehistoric man of around 500,000 B.C. through 3500 B.C., when the land of Mesopotamia was cultivating its status as the cradle of civilization, and beyond. Scholars estimate that the country has some 500,000 archaeological sites, only 10,000 of which are fully known and cataloged”. Further on in the article this is added, "I hope the military has been instructed on how to avoid damage this time around," Potts said. "But in the heat of battle, we all know what the priorities are going to be, and it won't be any of these precious monuments. It will be to win the war." Again the emphasis is on bombing not looting.
In a MSNBC article on March 24th is written: “This time the Iraqis seem better prepared for postwar chaos. The Iraq Museum in Baghdad was heavily sandbagged last week and closed to the public while workers frantically packed its immense treasure into metal trunks. Rare documents and books, including gold-leaf copies of the Qur’an printed on silk paper, were being packed away at Baghdad’s Abdul Qader Al-Kailini mosque. “Four thousand museum pieces were stolen in 1991,” says Jaber al-Tikriti, the Iraq Museum’s director of antiquities. “This time we have a plan.”

The military did its job perfectly, evidently the scholars plan was not that good, or was it? Let us find out.

Stephen McIntyre - 4/18/2003

Looters May Have Destroyed Priceless Cuneiform Archive Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A48178-2003Apr17.html Looters at Iraq's National Museum of Antiquities pillaged and, perhaps, destroyed an archive of more than 100,000 cuneiform clay tablets -- a unique and priceless trove of ancient Mesopotamian writings that included the "Sippar Library," the oldest library ever found intact on its original shelves. Experts described the archive as the world's least-studied large collection of cuneiform -- the oldest known writing on Earth -- a record that covers every aspect of Mesopotamian life over more than 3,000 years. The texts resided in numbered boxes each containing as many as 400 3-inch-by-2-inch tablets.

George Sipos - 4/17/2003

Mr Kipper,

You fascinate me. Why do you feel a need to throw insults at someone you do not even know? Why would you say things like "if you are indeed capable of absorbing facts?" Why does the possibility of someone disagreeing enrage you?

I assure you that I would love to see facts even if they cause me to change my mind. Please do tell us how the credibility of the "rest" does or does not retain. You obviously feel strongly that the "rest" is not credible and I would like to know what makes you think so. Maybe in a civilized debate you could convince me that I am wrong.

By the New York Times (April 13, 2003) article, are you referring to the one titled "The Poisons That Came From the West" by Gary Milhollin and Kelly Motz? Is this the same article that ends by stating that American firms show up on lists of suppliers of anthrax strains to Iraq, and of advanced electronics for nuclear and missile sites?

Look, I try to keep an open mind. I love Rush Limbaugh just like the republican next door, but I try also not to close my mind to other perspectives. You know, Rush is great..., but so is Noam Chomsky.

As for supplying Iraq, please keep this in mind too - the article you mentioned refers to dual use equipment and chemicals during the 1980's. Now if you'll take a glance at your history book you will find that at this time the regime in Iraq was our buddy to such an extent that Reagan and the elder Bush had no problems with authorizing the sale of poisonous chemicals and deadly viruses (anthrax, bubonic plague, etc.) to our friend, Saddam. We also had no problems with having the CIA provide intelligence to Saddam enabling him to better deploy chemical weapons against the Iranian troops. Sure, the use of chemical weapons was outlawed by the 1925 Geneva Protocol but we had bigger fish to fry at the time (namely Iran).

And so it happened that the State Department approved all sorts of goodies to the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission including helicopters (some of which were used to spray poison gas on the Kurds), chemical-analysis equipment, shipments of “bacteria/fungi/protozoa” - bacteria cultures that can be used to make biological weapons like anthrax, and 1.5 million atropine injectors (Newsweek article "How Saddam Happened" by Christopher Dickey and Evan Thomas, September 23 , 2002).

But if you really want to have some interesting reading material, get a hold of the staff report released by Chairman Donald Riegle and Ranking Member Alphonse D'Amato of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on May 25, 1994 - from the second round of hearings on "Gulf War Syndrome." I do not want to spoil the fun and tell you what it says but I am certain you would find it interesting.

Finally, if you wish to throw articles back and forth, I recommend the Washington Post article, 2002 Dec 30, by Michael Dobbs. The following extract is from his article:

"Although U.S. arms manufacturers were not as deeply involved as German or British companies in selling weaponry to Iraq, the Reagan administration effectively turned a blind eye to the export of 'dual use' items such as chemical precursors and steel tubes that can have military and civilian applications. According to several former officials, the State and Commerce departments promoted trade in such items as a way to boost U.S. exports and acquire political leverage over Hussein.

When United Nations weapons inspectors were allowed into Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, they compiled long lists of chemicals, missile components, and computers from American suppliers, including such household names as Union Carbide and Honeywell, which were being used for military purposes.

A 1994 investigation by the Senate Banking Committee turned up dozens of biological agents shipped to Iraq during the mid-'80s under license from the Commerce Department, including various strains of anthrax, subsequently identified by the Pentagon as a key component of the Iraqi biological warfare program. The Commerce Department also approved the export of insecticides to Iraq, despite widespread suspicions that they were being used for chemical warfare.

The fact that Iraq was using chemical weapons was hardly a secret. In February 1984, an Iraqi military spokesman effectively acknowledged their use by issuing a chilling warning to Iran. 'The invaders should know that for every harmful insect, there is an insecticide capable of annihilating it . . . and Iraq possesses this annihilation insecticide.'

In late 1987, the Iraqi air force began using chemical agents against Kurdish resistance forces in northern Iraq that had formed a loose alliance with Iran, according to State Department reports. The attacks, which were part of a 'scorched earth' strategy to eliminate rebel-controlled villages, provoked outrage on Capitol Hill and renewed demands for sanctions against Iraq. The State Department and White House were also outraged -- but not to the point of doing anything that might seriously damage relations with Baghdad.

'The U.S.-Iraqi relationship is . . . important to our long-term political and economic objectives,' Assistant Secretary of State Richard W. Murphy wrote in a September 1988 memorandum that addressed the chemical weapons question. 'We believe that economic sanctions will be useless or counterproductive to influence the Iraqis.'

Bush administration spokesmen have cited Hussein's use of chemical weapons 'against his own people' -- and particularly the March 1988 attack on the Kurdish village of Halabjah -- to bolster their argument that his regime presents a 'grave and gathering danger' to the United States.

The Iraqis continued to use chemical weapons against the Iranians until the end of the Iran-Iraq war. A U.S. air force intelligence officer, Rick Francona, reported finding widespread use of Iraqi nerve gas when he toured the Al Faw peninsula in southern Iraq in the summer of 1988, after its recapture by the Iraqi army. The battlefield was littered with atropine injectors used by panicky Iranian troops as an antidote against Iraqi nerve gas attacks.

Far from declining, the supply of U.S. military intelligence to Iraq actually expanded in 1988, according to a 1999 book by Francona, 'Ally to Adversary: an Eyewitness Account of Iraq's Fall from Grace.' Informed sources said much of the battlefield intelligence was channeled to the Iraqis by the CIA office in Baghdad.

Although U.S. export controls to Iraq were tightened up in the late 1980s, there were still many loopholes. In December 1988, Dow Chemical sold $1.5 million of pesticides to Iraq, despite U.S. government concerns that they could be used as chemical warfare agents. An Export-Import Bank official reported in a memorandum that he could find 'no reason' to stop the sale, despite evidence that the pesticides were 'highly toxic' to humans and would cause death 'from asphyxiation.'"

Joan Jackson - 4/17/2003

You were born too late, Bob. The German Nazi party was dissolved nearly 60 years ago.

Robin Tremont - 4/17/2003

Contrary to the latest Rumsfeld apologist trying to shout down reality, the Wall Street Journal article does NOT contradict Michalowski. His comments were made several days ago and were reasonable based on the information then available. The Wall Street Journal article updates Michalowski by indicating that the looting was probably not done in “one fell swoop”. By no stretch does the Journal exonerate the blunder by the U.S. military top brass in not making the museum and library even a minor priority, still less does the Journal excuse Rumsfeld’s cowardly and barbaric remarks, and there is not a shred of evidence that Michalowski attempted anything fraudulent. (Whether “Cassandra” would know how to properly cite his or her sources like any B- college sophomore, IF he or she HAD any sources, is a different, though not unrelated matter).

Nobody here is “blaming America”, “Cassandra”. That is a typical pro-chickenhawk lie heard often around here, and it becomes more not less stupid with each mindless repetition by fake conservatives shrilly denouncing ANY criticism (from ANY political perspective) of an incompetent president as being “leftist”. Several commenters ARE apparently interested in rescuing OUR country from fascists like Rumsfeld who are taking full advantage of that president’s colossal inexperience.

P.S. to Reverend Joseph: We could have shifted troops from the oil ministry to the Museum, if we had only found a way to tap the vast supernatural energy being generated by the trans-Einsteinian speed at which Republicans Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt are now spinning in their graves. By the way, both of them championed new political parties.

Frank Lee - 4/17/2003

Bush had "anti-Taliban credentials" (BEFORE 9-11-01, when pretensions to such "credentials" became politically expedient) ???!!

Can you back up your assertions with facts, student Safranski ?

Let's hear the evidence, if you have any. The Texas Rangers made charitable donations to the Northern Alliance throughout the 1990s ?

cassandra - 4/17/2003

Those who hate America are looking for any excuse to disparage what military experts around the world acknowledge was an unbelievably successful military campaign. So rather than find ways of attacking the campaign, the assault from the radical left is coming on its aftermath. It's not me who posted this article disparaging American troops in Baghdad as "a disgrace," and stating that America must step up take responsibility for the pillaging of the museum.
We didn't do it _ and it wasn't done, if you read the Wall Street Journal story, which apparently you still have not read. Whatever dalliance with Marxism Michalowski may have enjoyed in his youth isn't the issue. The issue is that he's flat wrong on the facts. There was no catastrophic loss of Iraq's patrimony, and his posting moaning about a pillaging is the bald-faced big lie campaign, and a not-so-subtle effort to undermine the United States.
I have no idea why UNESCO is meeting. Perhaps one United Nations institution will decide to do something for a change, but I sincerely doubt it.
As for his credentials, I note the four books you cite on Amazon seem to be out of print, and includes a dated anthology.

Rev. Joseph Ponessa SSD - 4/17/2003

Cassandra, Cassandra.
You are still quoting out of context and leaving out the parts you don't like. You are still slandering Prof Michalowski. You are still hiding behind your pseudonym.
Prof Michalowski grew up under Communism, when an anonymous denunciation could lead to imprisonment or death. He knows far more about the kind of regime that existed in Baghdad than you do, from personal experience. Shame on you, an American, for treating him this way. You are trashing him the way the mob trashed the museum. I can't stand by and watch this happen. I may not be able to save the Museum, but I stand by the Professor.
We Republicans of the heartland are fed up with you ideologues who rant and rave all day long on the "all-news" networks. You do not represent our Republican Party, and we would appreciate it if you would not defend our President by the tactics you are using. We of the heartland, Democrats and Republicans alike, hate lies, hate propaganda, hate needless controversy, and don't like to see nice things wrecked whether in this or in any other country. So do President Bush a favor and stop wrapping yourself in the flag to perform character assassinations. That's not the American way.
God bless you, Professor Michalowski. You are an American treasure, and we honor you.
And, Cassandra, why is UNESCO holding an emergency meeting this evening about the Museum in Baghdad? I suppose you think it is some kind of plot?

Mona Hedin - 4/17/2003

It truly sickens me to hear the weak excuses of our administration concerning the destruction of the museum in Bagdad. It shames me that I am part of a country run by men and women who have no regard for the world in which they live. It is as if they situate themselves in some other realm detached from reality. Just because the museum was in Bagdad does not mean it was worth destroying. It is not the fault of the museum and all of its artifacts that Sudam was a vicious leader. I do not hold the soldiers responsible for the looting and desruction, for I am a veteran and understand one has to follow the orders of one's superior. That being said, the officers commanding the soldiers too had to follow the orders of their superior(s);thatbeing our beloved Commander in Chief. Of course little or nothing will be done and those of us who understand and appreciate the true loss of countless artifacts and historical data will have to accept as we so often do the acts of our so called republic. I ask this to Bush and his "oil buddies," how would you have felt if the Museum of Natural History or the Smithsonian would have been hit on September 11th. Would you give the same lame excuse that you give for the atrocity in Bagdad? How stupid can you people be?

Looting Bob - 4/17/2003

who cares ? ... stupid ass clay pots.

%.00000001 of the world population will ever go to Baghdad to see that crap anyway.

Looters got crap.

Fred Dillon - 4/17/2003

Stephen, Thanks for digging up the citations. Facts are important to historians, though they may be outnumbered by the juvenile chickenhawk contingent in recent posts here.

Constitutionally, the order needs to be:

1. Impeachment by the House
2. Conviction by the Senate
3. Trial in civil court

See U.S. Constitution, Article 1, sections 2 & 3, Article 2, section 4.

In the tabloid media world of today's America, however, step 0 may have to come first: catch Donald with an female intern with his pants down.

Francis Muir - 4/17/2003

US Culture Advisers Resign Over Iraq Museum Looting
April 17, 2003

By Niala Boodhoo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two cultural advisers to the Bush administration have resigned in protest over the failure of U.S. forces to prevent the wholesale looting of priceless treasures from Baghdad's antiquities museum. Martin Sullivan, who chaired the President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property for eight years, and panel member Gary Vikan said they resigned because the U.S. military had had advance warning of the danger to Iraq's historical treasures.

"We certainly know the value of oil but we certainly don't know the value of historical artifacts," Vikan, director of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, told Reuters on Thursday.

At the start of the U.S.-led campaign against Iraq, military forces quickly secured valuable oil fields.

Baghdad's museums, galleries and libraries are empty shells, destroyed in a wave of looting that erupted as U.S.-led forces ended Saddam Hussein's rule last week, although antiquities experts have said they were given assurances months ago from U.S. military planners that Iraq's historic artifacts and sites would be protected by occupying forces.

"It didn't have to happen," Sullivan told Reuters. "In a pre-emptive war that's the kind of thing you should have planned for." Sullivan sent his letter of resignation earlier this week.

The Iraqi National Museum held rare artifacts documenting the development of mankind in ancient Mesopotamia, one of the world's earliest civilizations. Among the museum collection were more than 80,000 cuneiform tablets, some of which had yet to be translated.

Full article:

Stephen McIntyre - 4/17/2003

"We have lost masterpieces from the Syrian and Sumerian ages from 5,000 years ago," George said. He turned to a soldier, pointed his finger and said: "You are too late."

The National Library was also burned on the U.S. military watch.

Rafael Gomez - 4/17/2003

"The plain fact is that the world historians were the guardians of these treasures, they knew they were going to be looted well before the war started and they failed to protect the most valuable knowledge needed for their profession."

Mr. Cavalier,
your assertions reveal total ignorance of the situation. Historians and archeologists did indeed repeatedly warn the US military about the historically important sites and treasures. And they provided detailed information about the location and state of these treasures. There's plenty of evidence of that on the news, if you care to search for it. Somebody else has posted a list of dates of news articles related to the warnings. So don't blame historians and archeologists for this. They did as much as they could.
Here's a link to recent CNN news about this:

And how can Rumsfeld be so surprised about looting of a museum, when there were very carefully executed plans to prevent looting of the oil and other ministries????? That just shows where the priorities of these cowboys are. Oil is all-important and it's worth the risking some soldier's lives, while "a couple of old vases" or even hospitals are not.

And even if they can honestly claim to be susprised by the looting, why go wreak havoc in a country without first learning very well about the conditions there and about the possible consequences of the invasion?

cassandra - 4/17/2003

If you read the same article that I cited, (Wall Street Journal, April 17, p. 8A), you would know that it was not a marine who said this but George himself, standing side by side with Army Lt. Col. Eric Schwartz:
"Donny George, the director general of restoration at the Iraqi Antiquities Department, yesterday said his staff had preserved the museum's most important treasures, including the kings' graves of Ur and the Assyrian bulls. These objects were hidden in vaults that haven't been violated by looters.
""Most of the things were removed. We knew a war was coming, so it was our duty to protect everything," Mr. George said. "We thought there would be some sort of bombing at the museum. We never thought it could be looted.""
I am happy to repeat my basic complaint that Michalowski's
article is a fraud, and he has no concrete basis on which to opine on the fate of his much-loved statue other than his obvious and basic blame America first reaction.

Rafael Gomez - 4/17/2003

Here's a link to recent CNN news about the museum looting:

I Matjecko - 4/17/2003

"Looting is an unfortunate thing. Human beings are not perfect," Rumsfeld said, earlier this month. "To the extent it happens in a war zone, it's difficult to stop."

Funny though how they successfully executed a plan to immediately station considerable troops around the Oil Ministry offices. Why? To prevent its being looted. I keep forgetting that this isn't about oil though.

Rev Joseph Ponessa SSD - 4/17/2003

Dear "cassandra," no doubt you are using a "nom de plume" because falsely to accuse a professional person of fraud is a criminal offense. Professor Michalowski is a specialist in the field of Middle Eastern antiquities, and has four published books currently offered by amazon.com. And what are your credentials, "cassandra"?
I saw the same article you did from the Museum. It was not director George who said the looting was overstated, but a 23-year-old Marine in front of the building. (Thank God he was there, and I praise him for it.)
George held up two sets of glass-cutters that were left on the floor and pointed out that all the most important pieces were taken while the replicas were left behind. Yes, it was not an unthinking mob who did this. It was probably the international art-thief Mafia, who will be reselling on eBay at greatly reduced prices. They are lurking outside every great American museum as we speak, waiting for the slightest breach of security, and they know exactly what they want.
Instead of politicizing the tragedy in the Baghdad Museum, we should be adding museum security to our spectrum of home front and international concerns.
It's none of your business, "cassandra," but I voted for Bush. Does that mean I have to like the looting of the Museum? Secretary of State Powell stated yesterday that the damage to the museum "irreparably damaged our knowledge of history." Is he a party to Michalowski's suppposed fraud?

Alec Lloyd - 4/17/2003

Note also that such thefts as did occur seem to have been from the most secure areas of the musuem and targeted specific artifacts.

Unless everyone in Baghdad are expert safe-crackers and have the keys to the museum vaults, an inside job is a distinct possibility.

mark safranski - 4/17/2003

Oh, I think Bush's anti-Taliban credentials are, in the view of everyone other than Z magazine wingnut types, rather solid.

The art student proletariat posting on this thread are so emotionally desperate to find anything, anything at all to criticize about the war they were so wrong about that they are illogically blaming U.S. troops for the actions of Iraqis as if it was part of a grand master scheme.

Their concern is Bush, not art or artifacts. Watch, the next time some genuine barabarians, say some Islamist clergy, burn some books, or films or helpless little girls trying to get an education - the miserably hypocritical collection of elitists jackasses posting here will be as quiet as whores in Church.

But, I understate :o)


cassandra - 4/17/2003

This article is a classic that belongs in the ranks of the Viking map, and Piltdown man discovery. Talk about setting up a straw horse! Wall Street Journal story today shows that Danny George director of general restoration at the Iraqi Museum says stories of ranksacking of the museum were much over-stated, and the treasures were protected. It looks like they screamed murder to get the U.S. Army to protect them, and it worked because there's a "company sized tank unit" there now.
But in the last few days on this site, we have been treated to an outpouring from the academic blame America first crowd, who couldn't wait to hear the truth, and seized on something to pillory U.S. troops. This is unprofessional, and absolutely disgraceful. Piotr Michalowski owes everyone an apology for his the hype about pillaging that never occured.

Alec Lloyd - 4/17/2003

Now it seems some of the looters had keys.


This is looking more and more like a long-planned operation.

Stephen McIntyre - 4/17/2003

Who cares? Add incompetence to negligence. If the U.S. military allowed Saddam's thugs to escape with world treasures from under their noses, they are even worse idiots.

It sounds to me more like the Defence Department is trying to spin the story - to avoid the increasing firestorm of criticim about negligence. They are not going to return as heros; they are going to return as incompetent fools - the efforts of many good-faith soldiers turning to dust as they are associated with this cultural My Lai.

Stephen McIntyre - 4/17/2003

"When was the Museum looted? Was it before the war started? Was it while fighting was going on in the South? Was it while the military was advancing on Baghdad? Was it when the military entered the outskirts of Baghdad, etc.? These questions have not been answered but for many of the scholars on this post, the facts are not important." Here's your answer:

A few looters were at the Museum on Thursday, April 10, but they seem to have disprersed without serious damage. Intrestingly, Marines seem to have been given orders on the evening of April 10 to prevent looting. The Museum was looted from Friday, April 11, subsiding on Saturday April 12. It was being looted as Rumsfeld laughed on Friday, April 11 - "how many vases can there be?" - to the shameful laughter of the U.S. press corps.

McGuire Gibson and others met with the Defence Department in January; the Archaeological Institute of America made a statement on March 8; based on statements by archaeologists, there are specific press accoutns of warnings of the risk in CNN on March 1; Chicago Tribune, March 11, Washington Post, March 3; Natinoal Geographic, March 21; The History Net, March 25; Wall St. Journal, April 1; Star-Telegram Apr. 2; Times (London)April 2, Knight-Ridder April 6; ABC News April 10 - specifically saying that the most critical time was right that instant.

There were repeated, clear, specific, well-documented warnings. The negligence is total. Even after the destruction of the Museum, the Islamic Library was not protected.

Rumsfeld should be impeached or tried as a war criminal.

Clayton E. Cramer - 4/17/2003

My local paper carried a wireservice story today indicating that replicas weren't stolen, and most objects of lesser value weren't taken--only the really valuable, really unique items. This doesn't sound like a mob of looters did it. I would think it more likely that certain members of the old government decided to take their 401k plans with them.

dsalmanson - 4/17/2003

It wasn't unforseen. Anthropologists and historians had tried to work closely with this administration to come up with a list of protected sites before the invasion as HNN readers are well aware because they predicted widespread looting. The museum was on the final list that the administration guaranteed. Yet, in the end, the oil ministry proved to be a more important priority. So, that leads to two questions. Did the administration just flat out lie to the historians? Or to the general public that when spokespeople said it was not a war for oil.

Phil Cavalier - 4/17/2003

“It was the military’s responsibility to protect the Museum.” What a cowardly cop out. At least Professor Michalowski admitted that while fighting a deadly war in which American and coalition soldiers were being killed, the military responded within 24 hours to protect the Museum. Some posters might want to read his article.

When was the Museum looted? Was it before the war started? Was it while fighting was going on in the South? Was it while the military was advancing on Baghdad? Was it when the military entered the outskirts of Baghdad, etc.? These questions have not been answered but for many of the scholars on this post, the facts are not important. The military is no good and because of there corrupt reasoning this incident gives them another reason to justify why they hate America. The amount of shame expressed on this post is amazing. Would only it had been expressed when millions of Africans were being massacred.

The plain fact is that the world historians were the guardians of these treasures, they knew they were going to be looted well before the war started and they failed to protect the most valuable knowledge needed for their profession. Those are the facts. No one else is to be blamed.

Using the military and the looting to justify ones failed political position is unacceptable. Sorry millions of soldiers weren’t killed as in Mogadsihus. Maybe you live in a better country then you realize. Time to reexamine your thinking.

Richard Kurdlion - 4/17/2003

T. R. Wingate's comment is a multifaceted absurdity.

It was the duty of America's military leaders to insure that troops protected the Museum, as they've been protecting the oil fields and the oil ministry, because the Museum's holdings are a valuable resource which the Iraqi people (and all civilized people) need to have safeguarded, not because local "natives requested it".

If it was worth putting hundreds of thousands of Americans at risk by sending them to Kuwait and Iraq, it was certainly worth detailing a dozen or so to guard that building (e.g. after they knocked over the statue for CNN), and a clear dereliction of duty on the part of the commanding officers that this was not done.

Finally, it is not the job of "academics", reposed in hammocks or otherwise, to explain to mothers in "Kansas or Montana" why their sons are risking their lives. Fortunately, those mothers know very well what their sons are doing, and would probably also have a good idea where to tell Wingate to go with his disrespect.

Ricardo - 4/17/2003

Al Czervikjr implies that I am off-base for criticizing Alec Lloyd's opinion without expressing a comment myself. Both assertions are incorrect.

My view is that I agree with the substance of the original comment by "Hesiod" which began the thread.

I am not taking issue with Alec Lloyd's write to express his views as profusely as he wishes, and have no desire to "assassinate" his "character", whatever that may mean.

The purpose of my earlier comment was to point out to other readers, some of whom may be new to HNN, that it is hypocritical of Alec Lloyd to criticize others for propagandizing when he has been such a prolific propagandist himself.

If Alec Lloyd wants to continue to try to cast doubt on there being any culpability of the Bush Administration in what happened to the Iraqi National Museum, he of course, has every right to so strive. My point was simply that if he were wise, and if he really wanted his heroes reputations to benefit from his prose, he would choose a different issue.

John Kipper - 4/17/2003

When will the canard that the US supplied Iraq with chemical weapons finally go to its long over due grave? Please check the April 13th edition of the New York Times (definitely not a right wing conspirator) read the article _What Iraq admitted about its chemical weapons program _ Learn(if you are indeed capable of absorbing facts) that 78% of the equpipment Iraq obtained was from,TAAADAA, Germany, France and Austria, in order of culpability. As far as the ingredients are concerned, 14.5 tons, out of a declared amount of 17602 tons, came from, in order, Singapore, the Netherlands, Egypt and India. But don't dispair, Germany still contributed and additional 1,027 tons.

Now for the big question. If the Iraqis had indeed purchased significant amounts of either ingredients or equipment from the United States that Baghdad Bob would have trumpeted it from the roofs, to both the UN inspectors and to the world press? Or was he merely trying to spare the American government's feelings.

If this part of your arguemnet can be so easily disposed of by the publication of facts, how much credibility does the rest of it retain?

T. Russell Wingate - 4/17/2003

Let us put the blame squarely where it belongs. The Iraqi looters did it. No one forced them to wipe out their country's heritage. As for U.S. troops, get real. They were there to protect their own lives and to smite the enemy. Only someone who has never imagined himself under fire from unpredictable quarters would expect troops to guard a building because the natives, who are obviously of divided mind, request it. SOldiers do what they are ordered to do, and suppressing the enemy in Baghdad had a higher priority than protecting Nebuchadnezzar's chamberpot. You try telling some mother in Kansas or Montana that her son died because Iraqis fought hard against Americans who were plainly determined to steal their country's ancient heritage, as would be proven by the presence of substantial U.S. weaponry at the museum. What are you academic hammockheads thinking of?

R. Kurdlion - 4/17/2003

"Phil" would have us blame the whistle blowers for not blowing more loudly.

Against the better judgement of many in their own political party, and against the advice of seasoned diplomats of varying ideologies, Rumsfeld and his cronies hatched this war, got it past a weak president and a spineless Congress, and launched it. Even if the Iraqi masses had called for it, even if the American public had clamored for it, even if Rumsfeld & Co had kept it as a last resort rather than pursuing it as an obsession, it would STILL have been THEIR responsibility, as leaders of an invasion, to protect significant world historical sites. Instead, the troops went around knocking down statues for TV cameras, taking naps with their souvenirs from the palaces, and scouring the country for one old Palestinian terrorist (so that our politicians could "prove" that Osama, Saddam, and Arafat were in league, perhaps).

Give up, Phil Lloyd. The cat is out of the bag. The chickenhawk blunderers have caused a shameful disaster they will not be able to sound-bite their way out of. Americans have to move on now, and the first step is to liberate ourselves from the arrogant fools who have hijacked our foreign policy.

Stephen McIntyre - 4/16/2003

First of all, there is nothing after the fact about the warnings. There were repeated and specific warnings - amply documented and even numerous media reports from major press on the warnings in the weeks leading up to the sack of Baghdad. Google "baghdad museum mcguire gibson" and you'll see many of them. Or google "baghdad museum gerstenblith". They petitioned the Defence Department and gave them listings; reportedly the Defence Department seemed to understand - adding to a sense of betrayal to the sense of loss.

Your characterization of the behaviour of the military is false. They did not get help; they abandoned the scene. Meanwhile Rumsfeld is accusing the media of exaggeration - "how many vases can there be in Iraq?" - to laughter from the supine press corps. Pretty funny - Don, you're a real card.

One gets the impression that U.S. military had no idea what to do when they actually won. Not simply the soldiers, but the commanders. It's as though the entire military was made of idiot savants, whose idea of high culture was a meal at Arby's instead of MacDonald's. At the end of the day, there was a colossal failure on Rumsfeld's watch. The breach of the Hague and Geneva Conventions is a war crime. The poor planning, inaction and negligence have created a cultural My Lai, that will be the defining moment of the Bush Presidency.

Phil Cavalier - 4/16/2003

“It is now more than twenty-four hours since the first news of the looting of the Baghdad Museum started to come in; the details mount and the mourning becomes unbearable.”

These were all the facts presented by Professor Michalowski on the looting of the Baghdad Museum.

But then he trickles out some historical perspective, “The pillaging of the Baghdad Museum is a tragedy that has no parallel in world history; it is as if the Uffizi, the Louvre, or all the museums of Washington, D. C. had been wiped out in one fell swope.”

I did not know this fact, and I suspect many others in the world did not, although Professor Michalowski, and other historians probably knew this all of their careers.

The Professor, and many other historians, however, were aware that “In the years following the first Gulf War, the Department of Antiquities fought an uneven battle with looters and organized armed gangs of robbers who were systematically stripping archaeological sites and smuggling tens of thousands of ancient objects to the West for sale to rich collectors and investors” It was probably worst than that for I am sure there are rich collectors in the Mid-East and Asia who value these items just as much as the French, Germans and others.

He goes on to say, the looting of museums in northern parts of the country after the last Gulf War provided ample warning and it cannot be said that the events of the last few days were totally unexpected. This is an amazing after the fact statement. Why was it not blazoned in the headlines of the New York Times and other major world papers many weeks ago.

Professor Michalowski also points out that the Iraqi antiquities service worked with few resources and was very much understaffed. It then becomes quite clear that an organized group of robbers could clean out 170,000 items within days. Both the robbers and Professor Michalowski knew these tantalizing facts but it appears only the looters acted on the knowledge. He goes on to tell us that, now at this late date, “Various archaeological and historical organizations are demanding that our government takes steps to stop any further deterioration of the situation …” Where was this select group of defenders of our history over the past 10 years, or more.” Wouldn’t it have been better if these scholars had published the above information before an invasion of Iraq, and petitioned the UN to protect this valuable treasure, as well as alerting the world about the serious danger to the world’s greatest Museum? A petition, similar to the one that over 1,000 history Professors sent to Congress, with all its attendant publicity, would be in order and a necessary and proper undertaking for the profession.

As for the military’s reaction, it was admirable during this difficult and dangerous twenty-four hour period. Exhibiting common sense, the tank crew realized it could not prevent the looting of 170,000 pieces of antiquity and did the only sensible thing. They went and got help and Professor Michalowski was able to tell us in his article that within twenty-four hours, “The Army has moved in to protect…the Museum. This is another example of the caring and skill of our soldiers.

His final paragraph is just a rant and an attack on our secretary of defense. What can one say. As Professor Michalowski notes, “In our democracy administrations come and go….”. But, Professors have lifetime tenure and we expect them to act more courageously in scholarly interests.

Shame on all those who had knowledge about the robbing and looting that has gone on at the Baghdad Museum for so many years and did not have the courage to act. For these scholarly individuals to be asleep at the most import event in the history of their profession is shameful and unforgivable.

George Sipos - 4/16/2003

I found this to be an interesting piece. Not sure who wrote it but it really seems to hit the nail on the head. I am hardly what you would call a liberal (spent almost two decades in the military, been a republican ever since I could vote and voted for Bush this last election) but nevertheless I find this to be a sad time for us. I suppose that museums are not as important to our culture as the oil fields.


PeaceNik: Why did you say we are we invading Iraq?

WarMonger: We are invading Iraq because it is in violation of security council resolution 1441. A country cannot be allowed to violate security council resolutions.

PN: But I thought many of our allies, including Israel, were in violation of more security council resolutions than Iraq.

WM: It's not just about UN resolutions. The main point is that Iraq could have weapons of mass destruction, and the first sign of a smoking gun could well be a mushroom cloud over NY.

PN: Mushroom cloud? But I thought the weapons inspectors said Iraq had no nuclear weapons.

WM: Yes, but biological and chemical weapons are the issue.

PN: But I thought Iraq did not have any long range missiles for attacking us or our allies with such weapons.

WM: The risk is not Iraq directly attacking us, but rather terrorists networks that Iraq could sell the weapons to.

PN: But coundn't virtually any country sell chemical or biological materials? We sold quite a bit to Iraq in the eighties ourselves, didn't we?

WM: That's ancient history. Look, Saddam Hussein is an evil man that has an undeniable track record of repressing his own people since the early eighties. He gasses his enemies. Everyone agrees that he is a power-hungry lunatic murderer.

PN: We sold chemical and biological materials to a power-hungry lunatic murderer?

WM: The issue is not what we sold, but rather what Saddam did. He is the one that launched a pre-emptive first strike on Kuwait.

PN: A pre-emptive first strike does sound bad. But didn't our ambassador to Iraq, April Gillespie, know about and green-light the invasion of Kuwait?

WM: Let's deal with the present, shall we? As of today, Iraq could sell its biological and chemical weapons to Al Quaida. Osama BinLaden himself released an audio tape calling on Iraqis to suicide-attack us, proving a partnership between the two.

PN: Osama Bin Laden? Wasn't the point of invading Afghanistan to kill him?

WM: Actually, it's not 100% certain that it's really Osama Bin Laden on the tapes. But the lesson from the tape is the same: there could easily be a partnership between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein unless we act.

PN: Is this the same audio tape where Osama Bin Laden labels Saddam a secular infidel?

WM: You're missing the point by just focusing on the tape. Powell presented a strong case against Iraq.

PN: He did?

WM: Yes, he showed satellite pictures of an Al Quaeda poison factory in Iraq.

PN: But didn't that turn out to be a harmless shack in the part of Iraq controlled by the Kurdish opposition?

WM: And a British intelligence report...

PN: Didn't that turn out to be copied from an out-of-date graduate student paper?

WM: And reports of mobile weapons labs...

PN: Weren't those just artistic renderings?

WM: And reports of Iraqis scuttling and hiding evidence from inspectors...

PN: Wasn't that evidence contradicted by the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix?

WM: Yes, but there is plenty of other hard evidence that cannot be revealed because it would compromise our security.

PN: So there is no publicly available evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

WM: The inspectors are not detectives, it's not their JOB to find evidence. You're missing the point.

PN: So what is the point?

WM: The main point is that we are invading Iraq because resolution 1441 threatened "severe consequences." If we do not act, the security council will become an irrelevant debating society.

PN: So the main point is to uphold the rulings of the security council?

WM: Absolutely. ...unless it rules against us.

PN: And what if it does rule against us?

WM: In that case, we must lead a coalition of the willing to invade Iraq.

PN: Coalition of the willing? Who's that?

WM: Britain, Turkey, Bulgaria, Spain, and Italy, for starters.

PN: I thought Turkey refused to help us unless we gave them tens of billions of dollars.

WM: Nevertheless, they may now be willing.

PN: I thought public opinion in all those countries was against war.

WM: Current public opinion is irrelevant. The majority expresses its will by electing leaders to make decisions.

PN: So it's the decisions of leaders elected by the majority that is important?

WM: Yes.

PN: But George Bush wasn't elected by voters. He was selected by the U.S. Supreme C...-

WM: I mean, we must support the decisions of our leaders, however they were elected, because they are acting in our best interest. This is about being a patriot. That's the bottom line.

PN: So if we do not support the decisions of the president, we are not patriotic?

WM: I never said that.

PN: So what are you saying? Why are we invading Iraq?

WM: As I said, because there is a chance that they have weapons of mass destruction that threaten us and our allies.

PN: But the inspectors have not been able to find any such weapons.

WM: Iraq is obviously hiding them.

PN: You know this? How?

WM: Because we know they had the weapons ten years ago, and they are still unaccounted for.

PN: The weapons we sold them, you mean?

WM: Precisely.

PN: But I thought those biological and chemical weapons would degrade to an unusable state over ten years.

WM: But there is a chance that some have not degraded.

PN: So as long as there is even a small chance that such weapons exist, we must invade?

WM: Exactly.

PN: But North Korea actually has large amounts of usable chemical, biological, AND nuclear weapons, AND long range missiles that can reach the west coast AND it has expelled nuclear weapons inspectors, AND threatened to turn America into a sea of fire.

WM: That's a diplomatic issue.

PN: So why are we invading Iraq instead of using diplomacy?

WM: Aren't you listening? We are invading Iraq because we cannot allow the inspections to drag on indefinitely. Iraq has been delaying, deceiving, and denying for over ten years, and inspections cost us tens of millions.

PN: But I thought war would cost us tens of billions.

WM: Yes, but this is not about money. This is about security.

PN: But wouldn't a pre-emptive war against Iraq ignite radical Muslim sentiments against us, and decrease our security?

WM: Possibly, but we must not allow the terrorists to change the way we live. Once we do that, the terrorists have already won.

PN: So what is the purpose of the Department of Homeland Security, color-coded terror alerts, and the Patriot Act? Don't these change the way we live?

WM: I thought you had questions about Iraq.

PN: I do. Why are we invading Iraq?

WM: For the last time, we are invading Iraq because the world has called on Saddam Hussein to disarm, and he has failed to do so. He must now face the consequences.

PN: So, likewise, if the world called on us to do something, such as find a peaceful solution, we would have an obligation to listen?

WM: By "world", I meant the United Nations.

PN: So, we have an obligation to listen to the United Nations?

WM: By "United Nations" I meant the Security Council.

PN: So, we have an obligation to listen to the Security Council?

WM: I meant the majority of the Security Council.

PN: So, we have an obligation to listen to the majority of the Security Council?

WM: Well... there could be an unreasonable veto.

PN: In which case?

WM: In which case, we have an obligation to ignore the veto.

PN: And if the majority of the Security Council does not support us at all?

WM: Then we have an obligation to ignore the Security Council.

PN: That makes no sense.

WM: If you love Iraq so much, you should move there. Or maybe France, with all the other cheese-eating surrender monkeys. It's time to boycott their wine and cheese, no doubt about that.

PN: I give up!

Frank Lee - 4/16/2003

Where was Afghanistan on George W. Bush's map of the world, and was he able to find it, when the Taliban blasted ancient statues of the Buddha all to hell ?

Richard Kurdlion - 4/16/2003

Obfuscation will not cover up the permanent scar inflicted upon America by its government this past week.

In his three comments so far, Alec Lloyd makes diverse and sundry
observations before finally getting around to the real issue here:

“I would expect (indeed, demand) a full investigation. Which unit was assigned, what were its orders, and what else was going on in that area.”

The precise percentage of the Iraqi National Museum destruction and pillaging done by Baathists is not the issue, nor is the comparative degree of rape, torture, and monstrous repression perpetrated by Saddam Hussein (before or after he shook hands with Donald Rumsfeld). Still less pertinent are the relative punctuality of trains under dictatorships, the personal politics of Humanities professors, or the behavior of rioters in Detroit in 1967.

What we, and all Americans, especially those studying history need to know is:

What did Donald Rumsfeld and his generals know, and when did they know it ?

A closely related question is that of who will conduct the “full investigation” which Alec Lloyd “demands”. Whether or not General Secretary Rumsfeld possesses the minimal level of basic morality necessary to apologize for the harm done to our country by his mistakes, it should be abundantly obvious that he cannot “investigate” himself. That would not be any kind of “investigation”, let alone a “full investigation”, it would be a whitewash.

Al Czervikjr - 4/16/2003

>>Lloyd has posted hundreds of comments on this website over the past months.

And you have not challenged a single fact or argument from any of them.

>>Generally he emphasizes current politics over history.

In case you haven't noticed, Mr. Lloyd is commenting on columns and articles written by others (hence the term "comment.") If your complaint is that too many of the articles on this site focus on current politics, perhaps you should direct your criticisms to Carpenter, Spencer, Markowitz and the rest of the herd of independent thinkers (and to Pipes and Radosh for that matter).

>>To my knowledge, he has never uttered a single word of criticism of George W. Bush.

While paranoid, hyperbolic, and gratuitous criticism of Bush may be a necessary component of any comment for you, regardless of the topic at hand, others (like Mr. Lloyd) may choose to focus on more substantive issues. I certainly have not read all, or even most of Lloyd's comments, but most of those that I have read have not expressed any opinion (either positive or negative) about Bush.

If you have any substantive criticism of Lloyd's facts or argument, then by all means let's hear them. If not, perhaps you should heed your own advice about self control and knowing when to keep your mouth shut.



Alec Lloyd - 4/16/2003

The current holocaust? I'm sorry, the latest news is even more hapless people are being freed from living death in various sadistic dungeons.

Remember, it wasn't the US Marines who ran in there and stole everything; it was the Iraqi people. Maybe they aren't fit to be trusted with those antiquities and we should move them to London and Paris, where more "civilized" people can respect them?

US cities have been known to experience riots and civil disorder, yet these have rarely (if ever) targeted museums and historical sites. The mobs in 1967 didn't head for the Detroit Institute of Arts.

A question: if the artifacts are recovered or are found to have been hidden elsewhere, will you retract some of your bitter invective?

Somehow I think not.

Alec Lloyd - 4/16/2003

The reverse could be said of most posters on this forum: they have never said a good thing about Bush, let a lone a Republican.

The fact remains, however, that Iraq was a bandit state run by a brutal kleptocracy.

Could Coalition forces have done more to prevent the looting? Perhaps. That remains to be seen.

Again, it is interesting to note whenever the issue involves condemning Bush, academia can’t rush to judgement fast enough.

But if it involves their own, years must pass before even the most tentative decision is made.

And I must admit there is something almost ghoulish about the way the torture and rape of the Iraqi people raised hardly any notice on this site, the but disappearance of pottery shards and ancient stonework elicits overwhelming outrage.

The humanities, it seems, aren’t very interested in current humanity.

The old joke about killing millions but keeping the trains on time has a different spin here: it isn’t the trains we’re worried about, though, it’s the museums.

I would expect (indeed, demand) a full investigation. Which unit was assigned, what were its orders, and what else was going on in that area.

Could the looting have been stopped short of lethal force? Was it clear that the looters were in fact looters? Has anyone verified that the museum was stocked before the bombing began, let alone US troops entered Baghdad?

These are critical questions for determining true culpability.

Most on this board don't seem interested in that, of course. They hate Bush and this gives them one more excuse for their invective.

Bob Greene - 4/16/2003

You on the lunatic left are so paranoid that I wonder if you are ever able to sleep at night. When the true barbarians were in power, Clinton and Co., I always managed to sleep well. I always knew the country would come to its senses and elect conservatives. Of course that is the difference. Deep down you know you are wrong and what is worse the country knows it too. But never give up hope. Mass hysteria could erupt and a wave of liberalism could sweep the country. And we would survive it. We always do.

Bob Greene - 4/16/2003

To Mr. Cleutjens
If you feel threaten by who is in power feel free to leave any time. To quote a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. " we will put no impediments in your way , we will wave a fond farewell as you sail into the sunset." But I hope you stay. It is so much fun to argue with you, pointless perhaps , even hopeless that you will see the error of your ways, but fun.

Bob Greene - 4/16/2003

Your right I did not spell looser correctly. You know what I do not care. You regrarded my post as a rant, tough, there was plenty of ranting on this thread before I posted to it. I saw no reasoned argument, only liberal screeds by people desperately trying to attack this administration. But there was no context no historical perspective. I did see many cries of Bush being a barbarian and much blame ascribed to Bush and company but none to the Bathists or to Saddam. Life is about choices and not about perfection. Sure we probably could have done more and if we ever need to do this again I hope we will. Wars are messy, brutal but sometimes necessary. Of course we secured the oil fields first. Remember 1991, the oil well fires in Kuwait. If we had not secured the fields and Saddam was able to torch them you people would have been the first to complain about the ecological diaster and the lost of income to the Iraqi people. All you want to do is carp and harp. You just have not gotten over the 2000 election. Well your side lost. Get over it.

mark safranski - 4/16/2003

Another satisfied customer.

Where was your indignation when the Taliban blasted ancient statues of the Buddha all to hell ?

Ricardo Weiss - 4/16/2003

Lloyd has posted hundreds of comments on this website over the past months. Check the archives. Generally he emphasizes current politics over history. To my knowledge, he has never uttered a single word of criticism of George W. Bush. That incredible record of bias is a hard to beat qualification for designation as pure propaganda. If his comments were at all convincing, the Bush Re-Election committee would probably have hired him by now. Lloyd's lack of self control is evident by his inability to keep his mouth shut on a clear cut issue where there is no possible spin which can make his beloved leader look good.

mark safranski - 4/16/2003

For starter's Arnold is a naturalized citizen and is ineligible for national office.

Secondly, in regards to the histrionic Mr. Cushman - I'm at least as well qualified to comment on a spectacularly elitist article as you are to comment hysterically upon me. You would think the Marines had looted the Museum from the way the author was carrying on. Third, I was defending the position the young soldier was in on the ground - he couldn't just opt out of mission objectives or become a one-tank Alamo d' Art.


Bart Bellamy - 4/16/2003

Be not dismayed, Mssrs McTague and Elbl.

Be alert, stay informed, and talk to your friends.
And make sure you all vote next year.

Foul-minded crypto-fascists like Bob Greene may be prominent on this cornpone redneck website. They are not in the majority in America as a whole.

Bob Greene - 4/15/2003

You people are the the ones who are ignorant of history. See ,I can say that too. Your over the top reactions to an unforseen tradgedy and calling this a nation of barbarians is the reaction of an elitist snob. You are on the wrong side of history and the country understands that you were wrong about the war and we were right. The facts on the ground support our position and refute yours.
We should and we are trying to recover the lost antiquities. The fact remains the war was just,legal and moral. Was it perfect of course not but the belief that life should be perfect is a juvenile idea. Thus I submit it is my critics who are the teenagers, in mental capacity anyway. If Mr. McTague does not like people who criticize his elitist,snobbish, juvenile opinions then he is free to go elsewhere. I will not be silenced by the likes of him

Jay Raskin - 4/15/2003

We, who learn, study and teach about ancient civilizations, have a certain intellectual bond with these cultures and their artifacts. We know that we can only preserve knowledge of the lives of these ancient peoples through these artifacts. These ancient peoples are our ancestors and they link us to the present through the past.

The Oil and Military Men who are overseeing this catastrophe and the present general holocaust in Iraq do not share this bond. How can we blame them for that? Their concerns are with the movement of oil, the profits from oil, and the technologies of mass killing and control. They see this affair as a slight media-image problem to be corrected with a few well placed phrases in the mass media they control.

These same types of men have mercilessly destroyed the foundations, histories and cultures of non-Western peoples for hundreds of years. Now they are destroying the foundations, histories and cultures of Western Civilization itself. History is ironic.

We cannot blame them for following the logic of their game. We do have to find their "off" switch.


Dr. Jay Raskin
Humanities Instructor
University of Central Florida

Mark McTague - 4/15/2003

Absolutely. I agree on all counts.

Mark McTague - 4/15/2003

One only hopes that Mr. Greene is a teenager, which both the tone and tenor of his argument suggest, since he could be forgiven for his otherwise witless outburst.

Mark McTague - 4/15/2003

This is a perfect example of why I have felt, for the past month at least, that I have fallen down the rabbit hole. This is the kind of drivel that spews daily, around the clock, from nearly every media outlet in this looming dystopia. It's beyond surreal. It's beyond despair. It's simply numbing. Where do you begin to try to communicate with someone so clearly lacking in historical knowledge, someone so clearly in thrall to a Bumblebee Reader version of reality? There is no deception like self-deception. I fear darker days lie ahead.

Mark McTague - 4/15/2003

Holding despair at arms' length these days. Rumsfeld's comment (that's dignifying his braying), "You gotta wonder 'How many vases do they have?'" was simply stupefying, as was the laughter and snickering from the assembled hyenas of the press corps (and that's surely dignifying what they are). As a young man I recall wondering, as I read of the rise of fascism in Europe and the particularly Germany, how civlized society could let such barbarism come to pass. I no longer wonder. I only hope that Mssr. Cleutjens is wrong about the future, though I have little hope these days. Dreams of empire do not fade so quickly, I'm afraid.

Stephen McIntyre - 4/15/2003

If the Baathists did it under the noses of the American military so much the worse. Add incompetence to negligence. It's bad enough allowing a street mob to destroy things, how much worse is it to allow Baathists to either steal billions of dollars/destroy irreplaceable objects after the U.S. military was in control.

The failure to secure the Museum is proven. Everything else is an excuse. Given that the Oil Ministry was secured, every excuse fails. It's criminal negligence pure and simple.

Look at Rumsfeld's comments today. He's going from bad to worse. He tried to say that he wasn't warned. (Myers contradicted this). Gen. Vince Brooks suggested at a press conference that it was possible that the Americans were not an "occupying force" under the convention since this was a precise legal term. Rumsfeld earlier laughed and said - "how many vases can there be? - ha, ha, ha". Pretty funny, Don.

This is going to be the defining moment of the Bush Presidency. 300 years from now, this will be remembered when George Bush is as forgotten as Calvin Coolidge.

Martin Elbl - 4/15/2003

Indeed, how much is truth worth? I keep hearing here and there on the net, in the New Republic, and so on--the Museum was destroyed already; no, it was not destroyed but I heard from a friend (this in the New Republic) that the Baathists did it; no, the employees of the museum did it; no, it's all propaganda. This is an utter disgrace. One set of things is utterly clear--(a) over a number of days and hours in those days a large number of independent witnesses, people on the scene and numerous journalists from a variety of organizations and with a variety of affiliations, have securely documented the destruction as recent (the material is available in all languages, fourteen of which I happen to read, and offers different and intimately detailes angles bespeaking accuracy [this is not hearsay of caliber "I heard it from a friend"--or "I read an e-mail"--so I do not know where Jens's information might come from); (b) the ruins of the National Library and Archives, the other important destroyed cultural site, were still smoking, and priceless shreds of old documents were blowing in the wind (sure, they have been blowing in the wind since March--truly a fantastic feat of imagination); (c) numerous witnesses have documented the indifference and ignorance of the officers and soldiers who could have interevened had they wanted to; (d) the museum's employees (those that were left), were far too few to inflict the amount of damage that has been internationally witnessed, and accusations against them are monstrously obscene.

Martin Elbl - 4/15/2003

Who did it is entirely beside the point. The simple and established fact is that the only two sites protected by the United States army in Baghdad were the Ministry of Interior and the Oil Ministry. Repeated requests, by staff and reporters, to protect antiquities, to protect the National Library and Archives, and to protect the collection of historic Korans deposited at the Ministry of Religious Endowments, went unheeded. This was a clear statement of priorities. Culture, no matter how valuable, does not matter ... Given that any controlling military force has an explicit and implicit international OBLIGATION to protect irreplaceable heritage, this is and was a clear failure and the responsibility for that failure lies squarely with the United States of America. A direct order from the highest command echelon would have ensured the safety of these artefacts and archives. That order was not given.

Alec Lloyd - 4/15/2003

"Hesiod's" litany in no way contradicts my theory.

The fact that a single columnist raised the issue means nothing. An increasing number of important stories have been ignored by Big Media and the academic establishment. This may be one of them.

How much of the collection was on display? When did the museum close? Surely it wasn't open during hostilities.

And did the museum have no guards of its own, or was that a duty of the Republican Guard before they threw away their uniforms?

It's also curious to see how eager people are to jump on this particular issue given the paucity of evidence to date.

Martin Elbl - 4/15/2003

Bob Greene's reaction throws me in utter dismay. There is MUCH to apologize for, but apologies are not enough. This negligence is a major cultural crime against the whole of humanity. Obviously, Greene thinks that the United States is above such paltry matters as protecting what cannot and never will be restored--not to Iraq, but to us all.

Jeff Ericson - 4/15/2003

It is high time for the Bush Administration to stop pointing finger and making excuses and (FOR ONCE !!) own up to making a big mistake and apologize.

Al Madison - 4/15/2003

Sounds like we need an investigation, Alec. Perhaps you meant to say that, but were just in a hurry to shower us with your balanced and objective wisdom. After all, if Al-Qaeda had hit the National Archives and the Smithsonian, I suppose you wouldn't just say:
"terrorism is untidy".

Frank Lee - 4/15/2003

This much is clear: There were American troops all over Baghdad but detailing a tank and a few soldiers to protect one of the greatest historical museums on the planet was not a priority.

There is no excuse for this preventable tragedy. On a monumentally smaller scale, there is also no good excuse for a website which claims to be about history being riddled with needlessly rude postings from those who are palpably ignorant of history and who cannot spell.

The Baathists Did It - 4/15/2003

This is probably closer to the truth than the comments below:


"One friend told me that the looting of the National Museum--something that cut deeply into me--was the work of newly deposed Baathist officials, who had been selling off our patrimony as they saw their days were numbered. As the regime fell, these (ex-)Baathists went back for one last swindle, and took with them treasures that dated back 9,000 years, to the Sumerians and the Babylonians. One final crime perpetrated by Saddam's thugs."


Hesiod - 4/15/2003

1. The Museum had been open to the public since 2000.

2. The reason it had not been open for the prior decade was because the collection was crated up and dispersed due to the first Gulf War.

3. The vast majority of the news reports utterly and completely contradict the unsupported assertion that the Ba'athists looted the museum. That assertion is based on one single, unsourced report from a pro-war commentator on the New Republic website, and spread by disinformation specialists, Glenn Reynolds on his weblog.

4. Even if it was Saddam's cronies who did this, the U.S. could have stopped it by simply deploying a minimal number of troops to protect the Museum from looters, be they Ba'athist thugs, or common Baghdad residents.

5. Instead of protecting the Museum, the U.S. somehow found the time and resources to protect the Iraqi Oil Ministry from looters. Imagine that.

6. Any way you slce it, this should be considered a violation of the spirit of the 1954 Hague Convcentions. The U.S. is not a signatory to that convention, or its protocols [to our shame, incidentally], but it does have an obligation as the invading and occupying power to make sure that the heritage of the PEOPLE of Iraq is protected.

There is absolutely no excuse for our behavior in this matter. The fact that lying Bush apologists would bother to post here to deflect from our responsibility is an example of how low we have fallen in honest discourse.

Peter August - 4/15/2003

"When Arnold Schwarzenegger runs for governor of California.
And when elected he will run for the presidency... "

The first he can do, the second is prevented by the US constitution.

Alec Lloyd - 4/15/2003

Lost in the rush to blame US forces for "allowing" the museum to be plundered are some basic facts.

Saddam and the Baath Party used Iraq as their personal piggy bank for years.

All we have is the testimony of the curator (no doubt a Baath adherent) and an empty building. We don't know who took what, or even when.

It is my understanding that the musuem was not open to the general public and certain collections had been "off-limits" for years. Could they have already been sold? Would anyone be surprised that a man with a personal penchant for torture might also sell off or hide his nation's national treasures?

Given Saddam's regime was known to use hospitals as ammo dumps and regularly stored weapons and loot in nondescript areas (one Baath Party arsenal and food cache was in a building named "cotton factory") one has to wonder if maybe these treasured artifacts were gone long before the bombing even began.

Once again, I am amazed at the speed with which the supposedly thoughful academic community jumps to conclusions. The museum MUST have been looted, and the US MUST be responsible.

Had we used the same standard of proof in the Bellesiles case, he'd have been fired two years ago on the first initmation of inaccuracy.

Dennis St Delore - 4/15/2003

The other people submitting replies have either been too polite to point out that Mr. Greene did not spell 'loser' correctly, or they simply find his Rush level rant not worthy of a reasoned reply and refrain from replying in kind.

C.P. Scherrer - 4/15/2003

After the battle Iraq is being pillaged! Not only that the Iraqi people became victims of superpower aggression, even their heritage is being destroyed.
Let us remember how the invasion was justified. In the USA the governments and media propaganda machinery made Saddam the scapegoat for 9-11. Any operational link with al-Qaeda is--due to ideological and political incompatibility--to be excluded. The US government also maintained that Saddam Hussein possesses what the UN inspectors did not find, but what the US and UK stockpile and might even use in case of failing to achieve Iraq’s surrender: weapons of mass destruction.
For those who did believe all of this, it is now time to start asking questions. Latest in the aftermath we know for sure that these were big lies. It is also time to figure out the significance of the horrors we see happening in front of our eyes. Five general remarks:
1. - This aggression against Iraq is illegal, illegitimate and immoral. The response of the world community must be determined and swift. People died in masse in the streets of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities — despite almost universal condemnation of such an act of unprovoked aggression. Across the globe millions have already demonstrated and will continue to demonstrate against war. The UN must act!
2. - In practical reality the war was targeting the Iraqi people since city-dwellers are, in large majority, defenseless civilians and pin-pointing military targets again proved impossible. The USA admittedly used Depleted Uranium weaponry massively, and even announced it publicly, knowing about the horrible impact these radiological-cum-nuclear weapons have on the middle and longer term health of the masses of the city populations in Iraq and even on their own soldiers (in the US called `Gulf war syndrome`!). Thousands of children have, since 1991, died long, antagonizing deaths due to nuclear intoxication and the spread of all kind of cancers and leukemia. These extremely hazardous and illegal DU weapons from day one of the war against Iraq. This is more than a war crime!
3. - The real reasons for the war of aggression are not alleged support for terrorism or possession of WMD. One of the known real reasons is the abundant Iraqi oil reserves, thus the attempts to loot, to undermine OPEC and drive the oil price down. The other one is in my view geopolitical: the third gulf war ushers in a new era of unilateralism and anarchy in the state system in which the US wants to achieve supremacy.
4. - Certainly unilateral war will have grave implications for the UN, the EU, NATO and the entire multilateral framework. Let us believe that the period of relapse into 19 century gun-boat imperialism will be short due to the democratic possibilities allowing people to change those at the helm of the present new regression into raw imperialist onslaught.
5. - The USA seems poised to transform into the new evil empire. The use of WMD like DU and cluster bombs in Iraq by US-UK was in the name to destroy Saddam’s non-existing WMD! This war of aggression undermines world peace and global security - possibly for a long period of time.
Are we facing a new evil empire, violating all existing rules and turning the rule of international law into the law of the jungle?
Wayne Madsen wrote in his excellent piece “Was Saddam Right? Are Americans the New Mongols of the Mideast?” that
“U.S. troops stood by while Iraqi mobs looted and destroyed artifacts at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad. They also reportedly joined looters who pillaged other lucrative targets like office buildings, stores, and private homes.
America’s turning the siege of Baghdad into the pillaging of Baghdad should be condemned by every nation and person. The study of human history, indeed, humanity’s very birthright, has suffered a terrible blow from the Bush regime. No amount of monetary compensation from oil revenues will ever compensate the Iraqi people, the Arab nation, and the world for the loss of a crucial record of world civilization. The Bush regime and its modern-day Mongol vandals must be made to account for their crimes against humanity.”
And, I agree with Wayne Madsen that Bush-Blair must be indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, an idea I have been circulating three weeks ago.
Dr. C.P. Scherrer

robert roether - 4/15/2003

Going beyond the issue of blame, I would urge that the professional archeological community organize an effort to restore the treasures. A fund-raising and restoration effort similar to efforts to save buildings in Venice from water damage and on a smaller scale to repair and save architectural treasures like Falling Water.

Orson Olson - 4/15/2003

I concur that the US government blundered in not preventing this sad event.

However, it is not irremediable.

Too many commentators beleive that sheer greed was the motive, rather than revenge for being persecuted, abused, and puppetted as Saddam's regime clearly did to many many people.

The first level of recovery should be education and public spirited prodding. The contending leaders of the future goverment ought to be at the forefront of establishing public spiritedness that civil society there simply has yest to develop, but is clearly developing already!

Second, the self-interest of the burger class can be mustered in the museums recovery, since the artifacts of the museum can still be a huge tourist drawing card--only in the future, lots of people will benefit instead of mostly the mafia classes.

Thirdly, only last should repossession be rewarded with cash. This will root out those whose biggest interest was merely greed.

In these three steps, not only is recovery and rebuilding possible, but so is a better and more public spirited ethos!

Onward and upward for the people of Iraq!

Bob Greene - 4/15/2003

You idiots who are are trying to demonize one of the most noble actions ever taken by this nation just can not stand it that you were ptoven wrong. Yes it is tragic that priceless antiquities have been lost. But out army was a little busy for the last few weeks. We just defeated one of of the greatest mass murderers of our time. The Iraqi people for the most part seem pretty happy about it. And all you clowns can do is whine and carp. Well you were wrong about the war and you lack the guts to admit it
I too wish we could have foreseen everthing that could have gone wrong but the pecfect is not the enemy of the good. In World War Two many priceless treasures were lost , that was the price of defeating the Nazis. No I am proud of our country and we have NOTHING to appologize for. It would have been nice to have the UN back us but the weasils in Paris, Moscow, and Berlin chose not to. They were too concern with their oil contracts.

C.P. Scherrer - 4/15/2003

Shame, shame, shame
The shamelessness of apologizers of US barbarism, Safranski-style guys, does not come as a surprise.

USA--the new Mongols? Probably worse, the Mongols had no Depleted Uranium weapons that kill over generations! The destruction of the oldest archeological artifacts and ruins comes second, it shows not only the contempt of the US army generals for culture, worse, it seems a planned culture-cide, 100 percent success!

Fiachra Gibbons in ‘The end of civilization’ in the Guardian, 2 April 2003, wrote “American bulldozers razed the ruins of Tell al-Lahm, south of Ur, during the last Gulf war. What might a squadron of B52s be able to do?”

The US army had already precision bombed (to use these stupid propaganda words) the museums of Mosul and Tikrit were already destroyed before the invaders reached in Baghdad, invaluable world treasures have been lost! The discussion if the US had the bravery to bomb the national museum or not seems futile since the museum is located next to a telephone exchange and a television transmitter in the Salihyia district, civilian targets though, which, as you may have noticed, became prime targets—to secure the suppression of information coming out of Iraq.

Dr. C.P. Scherrer

pamur - 4/15/2003

Or someone with a key and a gun to his temple. You don't need a conspiracy for this one.

Ellen Neri - 4/15/2003

Further problems relating to calls of "Just buy it back".

Once context has been lost, and provenance has been removed, scholarship is at a standstill of hypotheticals and suggestions. I would not be surprised to see a flood of forgeries hit the art markets, especially given the recent actions of a few who would like to see the laws governing the import/export of antiquities relaxed.

Let's not forget the Boom/Bust of the art market in the 1980's, and the front it provided for money laundering. Buying those antiquities back would not only be illegal under US and Iraqi laws (not withstanding trade sanctions) it might actually be giving a leg up to the very regime we're supposed to be toppling.

Thoughts about how we were going to install order after the invasion should have been paramount during the planning of the attack. With a bit more planning and manpower, this tragedy (and those to follow) could have been avoided. Shame on the administration for the short-sighted encouragment looting.

Congratulations Mr. Michalowski, on a thoughtful and well written essay. As an art historian, I share your sense of loss, and your outrage at an insensitive administration.

Winslow Shea - 4/14/2003

When I first heard of this atrocity last Friday, I felt a surge of shame and rage such as I have not felt in years. This is just the latest in a long string of such derelection, complicity and cowardice, beginning with the British refusal to protect the power plant in Basra, the failure to come and protect the Shiite ayatollas in Najah when they pushed the panic buttons on the cell phones they had been given to call us if their lives were threatened, and on and on. And by now most of you will have heard of the National Museum tragedy being repeated by the looting of the Assyrian antiquities at the Mosul Museum. All Rumsfeld and the Pentagon seems to have cared about saving in Iraq is the oil wells; and all the troops have been ordered to go and get is some evidence of WMD to buttress that rationale for the war.
My reaction is the same as that of many others: we have a moral obligation to pay the billions that may be needed to repair or recover the treasures lost because of our guilt in this -- though the treasures themselves are priceless, and may be lost forever.

chris cleutjens - 4/14/2003

Please, don't be so naive...

The gold and the silver artifacts are melted as we speak.
The figurines, claytablets broken...
The jewelry cut and sold.
Every greedy jeweller will be happy to buy.
What does the looter know of the real value?

The human mosses are the ones to be sad of in the first place.
The looting comes second, and very close I know after reading Piotr statement.

Thank God some of the artifcats are spreaded in British, American and European musea. Or the existence of Sumeria would be a far echo heard in books, and books can burn too...

The Bush administration will go in history as barabarians. No doubt.

On the long run, if things keep going this way. And if a Schwarzenegger, or worse a 'Billy Graham' type of president is elected in the USA, a coalition 'Rest of the World' against that religeous fascist USA will be to expect.

That, gentlemen will be world war III.
A date?
Give or take 15 to 20 years.
And call me a fool if you want to...
I whish I was . But I regret to say I fear I am not a fool.
I know about a thing or two about History and the rising and the falling of so-called Empires.
And I have a very bad feeling about all this.

I hope those crazy people in Washington won't have the nerve to attack Syria.


chris cleutjens - 4/14/2003

Don't worry now George, do that toomorrow...
It can get worse...

When Arnold Schwarzenegger runs for governor of California.
And when elected he will run for the presidency...

The Safranski's in power of the USA!
God help us.


Rev Joseph Ponessa SSD - 4/14/2003

I am not a principal pacifist, but I believe that wars like peace must be judged by their fruits. The first fruits of this war are bitter fruits indeed. The Baghdad Museum represented the intense labor and dedication of hundreds of scholars and thousands of field workers through most of the 20th Century. Many American and British scholars were among those who contributed to this great quest, most notably the joint expedition to Ur led by Sir Leonard Woolley and comprising talent from both the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania. They and others gave of themselves because they believed that we had a unique opportunity by means of archaeology to recover a knowledge of the past, and by means of it to create the opportunity for a better future. All their dreams and all their labor has now been squandered. To topple one corrupt ruler, 7000 years of history has been destroyed. Saddam was a footnote to history, and frankly America is too in the vast span of historical time. The footnotes have destroyed the history. Someday when all of history is judged, it will not be written that a free country exported its freedom, but that a country without history destroyed everyone else's history. It is not a single museum that has been sacked, but the place inside each human soul where there is a reverence for all who have gone before us and all who will come after us. This generation is the one that has broken the link. Anyone who does not feel the immensity of this tragedy is lacking in some fundamental human quality. Saddam Hussein would have died a natural death in a few years anyway, and had already performed most of his crimes decades ago. What fiend dictated that the Third Millennium had to begin with the destruction of every millennium heretofore? The museum was not the patrimony of Iraq alone but of the entire human race. It is not a building that has been sacked, but my very self.

Rev Joseph Ponessa SSD - 4/14/2003

I am not a principal pacifist, but I believe that wars like peace must be judged by their fruits. The first fruits of this war are bitter fruits indeed. The Baghdad Museum represented the intense labor and dedication of hundreds of scholars and thousands of field workers through most of the 20th Century. Many American and British scholars were among those who contributed to this great quest, most notably the joint expedition to Ur led by Sir Leonard Woolley and comprising talent from both the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania. They and others gave of themselves because they believed that we had a unique opportunity by means of archaeology to recover a knowledge of the past, and by means of it to create the opportunity for a better future. All their dreams and all their labor has now been squandered. To topple one corrupt ruler, 7000 years of history has been destroyed. Saddam was a footnote to history, and frankly America is too in the vast span of historical time. The footnotes have destroyed the history. Someday when all of history is judged, it will not be written that a free country exported its freedom, but that a country without history destroyed everyone else's history. It is not a single museum that has been sacked, but the place inside each human soul where there is a reverence for all who have gone before us and all who will come after us. This generation is the one that has broken the link. Anyone who does not feel the immensity of this tragedy is lacking in some fundamental human quality. Saddam Hussein would have died a natural death in a few years anyway, and had already performed most of his crimes decades ago. What fiend dictated that the Third Millennium had to begin with the destruction of every millennium heretofore? The museum was not the patrimony of Iraq alone but of the entire human race. It is not a building that has been sacked, but my very self.

Jens Ulff - 4/14/2003

This question has less to do with meat or pottery: Your opinion is being manipulated. The destruction of the Baghdad Museum happened already in March, and I already heard about the event in the beginning of april as evidenced by an e-mail of April 5.
The real problem is, can we trust the news to be objective?
If not, cancel your subscription to NYT!

> On Sat, 5 Apr 2003
> >
> > Did you hear that the US army precision bombed the National
> Museum
> > in Bagdad, invaluable world treasures have been lost? There
> has
> > not been any information about Babylon or Ur in Chaldea, the
> home
> > town of Abraham, which were on the route of the US Army.
> > Best wishes, Jens
> >
> > Quoting Verne A Moberg :

Sarah Washburn - 4/14/2003

Is an ancient piece of pottery more valueable than seeing one more Iraqi hung from a meat-hook?

Wesley Smart - 4/14/2003

Does Jens Ulff have additional information to add on whether or not the museum _was_ bombed? The video footage taken from inside the museum seemed to indicate pretty clearly that the roof and walls were still intact, and the curator was walking around unimpeded by the sort of rubble you'd find from a bomb strike.

In fact, the museum was not bombed weeks ago, and Jens Ulff is misleading us. The museum, like hospitals, mosques and other sites of significance, were all identified beforehand as non-military targets. According to the British press, the curator had "UNESCO" painted on the roof in large letters in case there was any question about it from the air.

Wesley Smart - 4/14/2003

" The Mongols in 1260 brought devastation to Baghdad, and now the United States has done likewise."

...the legacy of two decades of Ba'athist / Hussein regime and three wars started by him notwithstanding...

Wesley Smart - 4/14/2003

"You seem to have no hesitance to comment on any issue on this site even when you know NOTHING about the facts."

An accusation that can be thrown at just about anyone in this thread. None of us are on the ground, none of us witness exactly what occurred, and all of us are abandoning our proper skepticism and the need to withhold judgement until we see all the evidence.

Gregory T. Cushman - 4/14/2003

Mark Safranski: a name we can trust when it comes to idiocy. You seem to have no hesitance to comment on any issue on this site even when you know NOTHING about the facts. I am ashamed of you. The fact that you can apologize for this terrible disaster in any way is ludicrous.

Its incalculable cultural cost notwithstanding, this is an enormous financial loss to the future Iraqi state: this could have been an enormous tourist draw in a stable, peaceful country. My cousin is over there fighting. What is he fighting for? To make the world safe for idiots like you, so it seems.

Jens Ulff - 4/14/2003

Why not tell the truth? The US Army bombed the National Museum weeks ago, only rubble could have been looted. It would have been a happy situation if the museum was merely looted, then the treasures might have a chance to re-emerge.

H Hotson - 4/14/2003

Mark Sanfranski writes like the people in Washington whose inaction he defends: i.e. like someone with no respect for the birthplace of western civilisation and 5000 years' worth of its physical remains -- that is to say, like a barbarian. Were the oil installations which American soldiers jealously guarded from the outset of this war more valuable than the contents of this museum? Evidently in the eyes of the Barbarian in Chief. One of the worst things that a conqueror can do to a subject people is deprive them of their entire cultural inheritance. Was this part of the much celebrated American war plan?

Charles Witke - 4/14/2003

The Mongols in 1260 brought devastation to Baghdad, and now the United States has done likewise. The loss of the patrimony of several cultures has occurred because of ignorance and lack of concern with anything but military objectives and economic exploitation. Decontextualizing civilizations cannot be accepted as collateral damage. Thanks to Piotr Michalowski for his forceful statement.

mark safranski - 4/14/2003

" When we "broke" the system that maintained law and order in Baghdad we took on responsibility for the actions of the people there; in that, we have failed, and for that we will be paying for generations "

Please, what nonsense. The young soldier in the tank might have had a slightly higher priority that day - like not getting his head shot off by a Feydayeen sniper by remaining a stationary target. It's highly regrettable from the comfortable and well-fed standpoint of an a Western antiwar intellectual that the looting occurred but the author needs to put himself in the shoes
of Iraqis who have been squeezed by a barbaric government for thirty years and have nothing.

Describing a ghoulish regime that felt the need to jail toddlers for political crimes, methodically rape women and dip dissidents in vats of acid as " the system that maintained law and order " is to engage in intentional moral blindness. To prefer Saddam's rule with an intact museum is to say the least, lacking in empathy.

Gary Ostrower has the most sensible suggestion. Just buy the stuff back. An Iraqi looter needs cash,food and potable water not ancient pottery shards


Wallace B. Hicks PhD - 4/14/2003

I am completely shocked that a nation like the United States of America has demonstrated to the world where our priorities are placed. We had plans in advance to secure the Oil Fields of Iraq against ruin and promptly executed those plans at the beginning of the war, but where were we when the museum was sacked? 7,000 years of history at the birthplace of humanity were disregarded and can never be restored to the original condition again.

Shame on all of us! We allowed our leaders to do this overtly or covertly. It makes no difference. The results are the same.

Karen Gould - 4/14/2003

First, I wanted to thank Piotr Michalowski for the article on the significance of the cultural record of thousands of years that was looted from the Baghdad Museum. I am an art historian, and I remember from my earliest undergraduate studies the awe that I felt upon seeing these treasures from the distant past. And just as priceless are the archaeological records about these varied objects which have also been either destroyed or dispersed.

However, the idea of buying back the looted objects is not so simple. For one thing, it assumes that the people into whose hands they have fallen want to sell them. In some cases, they may want simply to possess the object or to try to preserve it. But since undoubtedly some people will want to make money by selling some of these objects, the market for art and antiquities is complex and cut-throat. One complication of many is that this event will produce a large number of faked and forged antiquities. Sometimes these forgeries are so good that it takes a considerable amount of expertise and technical analysis to determine whether an object is genuine or a fake. So, the negative impact on historical scholarship and on the art market will be felt for countless years.

George Larson - 4/14/2003

Do we know for sure that the the escaping Iraqi government and military men did not loot the museum? We know the Nazis did such things in WWII. Leaving the museum open to looters after taking the "good stuff" is a good way to cover it up.

Pam B - 4/14/2003

I really gained insight into not only the importance of the loss of life going on over there, but the loss of so much important history for our world. These items could have taught us so much of who we were, and who we could become, and now we might never know.

Francis Deblauwe - 4/14/2003

For a video of the damage:

* L. Hilsum, "Baghdad Museum Looted," in Channel 4 News (UK), April 12, 2003: this is disturbing: "The door to the vault bears no mark of being forced. It seems that someone who had a key must have let the mob in – not looting, but sabotage"; with online VIDEO!!! of the damage

For more, see my continuously updated 2003 Iraq War & Archaeology site (http://cctr.umkc.edu/user/fdeblauwe/iraq.html). This site lists and maintains meaningful information regarding the Iraq War and its impact on archaeological/historical sites/monuments/artifacts.

Peace and justice,

Francis Deblauwe, Ph.D.

R. Gassa*n - 4/14/2003

As an American, I am enormously embarassmed and ashamed that we allowed the destruction of Iraq's National Museum, a destruction that was even more thorough than if it had been hit by one of our massive bombs. When we "broke" the system that maintained law and order in Baghdad we took on responsibility for the actions of the people there; in that, we have failed, and for that we will be paying for generations.

This is part of the whole, rushed, ill-formed plan for the destruction of Iraq, and typical of the whole grotesque affair. - The removal of Hussein's government could have been a nearly absolute positive had it well handled, with international support, careful planning, and a long-term, meticulous committment to diplomacy. Instead, we sought the quick solution, and like so many quick solutions this will, over time, degrade into disaster. The triumphalist images on American television have lulled my people to sleep.

The loss of the National Museum will become the rallying cry for the next generation of anti-Americanism. Our foolishness just created the next ten Al-Quaidas, and the American people won't even realize what caused it.

Marcial E. Ocasio-Melendez, PhD. - 4/14/2003

I agree completely with Professor Michalowsky´s statement. I was a student of Dr. Tom Jones, a great historian and expert on the MIddle East, and learned through his guidance to love the remains of the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia. It is appalling to see the insensitivity of the military leaders of the US and Great Britain to not only the safety of the museum in Bagdad but to the recommendations of their academic communities, who are not at war with Iraq. Now, photos and research papers are all that remain of the lost historical treasures. Very difficult to teach on the past only by faith. University of Puerto Rico

Gary Ostrower - 4/14/2003

If the U.S. can spend a billion dollars a day on the war, then it ought to allocate some of those funds to buy back the museum's treasure from the looters. No arrests, no questions asked. Just buy the collection back.