Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Two wrongs make a Right for collector?

The Americans are not renowned for knowing much about the world outside the frontiers of their own country - so Peter Tompa gets a "D -" for knowledge of foreign affairs with his repeating verbatim a story about the "brother in law of the Prime Minister of Iraq" who according to a tale "circulating in the internet" was arrested at Dubai with "Sumarian" (sic) antiquities in his luggage which he was allegedly on the way to the US to sell. The problem is that in Tompa's version of the story the name given was that of the current PM the shoe-dodging Nouri Kamil al-Maliki. This story is in fact, in the roughly translated version Tompa uses, lifted verbatim from the Iraq Crisis list which clearly reports it as unconfirmed. Strangely, instead of coming clean about where he got it from, Tompa instead cites as his source an Arabic version - can ancient coin collector Tompa read Arabic as well as Greek?

Tompa's conclusion is surprising:

If true, this article demonstrates the continued hypocrisy of the Iraqi Government when it comes to antiquities. During Saddam's reign, common people were executed for dealing in antiquities while the Baathist elite collected and sold what they wished. Today, no one is executed, but they are punished when found with such items. Yet, connected people still apparently continue to deal in them. We will see if the Iraqi PM's family members are ultimately treated like everyone else, but the article already suggests that will not be the case. If harsh laws cannot be applied equally, perhaps it is time to loosen them for everyone!
Everybody: "Yay!!!" So who was BUYING these antiquities then in the US (they would not be ACCP people would they)?

Now let us suppose a US Democrat senator is found one morning asleep slumped over the wheel of a car in the bushes at the side of the road out of Washington, dead drunk and wearing nothing but women's underwear. Now, although you can't get much more "connected" than that, does this mean (applying Mr Tompa's logic) that the USA would suspend its drink-drive laws? Or would there be calls from people like Mr Tompa and all his like-thinking friends for that democrat to step down from office? So... why would Mr Tompa wish to have the consequences of the Iraqi Prime Minister treated any differently?

I did post a comment to Mr Tompa's website pointing out who Mr Nouri Kamil al-Maliki was and suggesting this was faulty reporting - and of course pointing out that the buyers here were as much at fault. Nobody will be much surprised to learn that he rejected the comment. He corrected the spelling but left the accusation of a head of a foreign goverment up on his blog.

Although this story has not been picked up by the western press so far (so is it the Iraqis giving him special treatment?) other sources suggest that the allegations might concern Abu Ali Al-Asfahani, the son in law of the PM. Let us see how the story develops, but I certainly do not think many will be joining Mr Tompa's gleeful calls to loosen the "retentive laws" put in place to prevent the commercial use of looted and stolen Iraqi artefacts. Maybe the Collectors' Guild would like to stage a "test case" of that too?

Photo: accused by Peter Tompa (Nouri Kamil al-Maliki is on the right).


Paul Barford said...

What larks. Somebody who claims to be a “Cultural property Observer” cannot even read English, even the English he himself writes. In a long “comment” on his blog, Peter Tompa now posts a comment of mine that he REJECTED (!): In doing so, he merely muddies the water further.

1) Tompa specifically claims in his blog post that his text is based on an Arabic website, to which he gave a link. He then says it is in some way confirmed that the same information appears elsewhere (an example of the “I know it’s true, I read it on the Internet” syndrome): “I trust by now you have seen a similar report on the Iraq Crisis List with regard to the subject of this blog post. I believe that renders your other questions moot.” No, no it does not. Far from it.

So where did Mr Tompa get the TRANSLATION from? Well, not from the website he points us to, maybe another? Google "Lamia al-Gailani Werr" "Nouri Kamil al-Maliki" and see what you get… "Lamia al-Gailani Werr"+"Nouri Kamil al-Maliki" Odd, that.

So did Ms Lamia mail it to Tompa and he posted it for her an hour before it appeared on the Iraqi Crisis list based in Chicago? Who knows.

2) Tompa then goes on to „explain” that “Incidentally, though the translation of the Arabic source is confusing, the title of the blog post should make clear that the Iraqi PM's relatives stand accused of smuggling-- not the PM himself.” Eh? But the text BEGINS “Nouri Kamil al-Maliki the Brother in Law on the Prime Minister of Iraq Dr al-Maliki had s been detained at Dhubai airport, he was caught with Sumerian antiquities trying to smuggle them to the United States”. Now my question to the lawyer was: “Is Nouri Kamil al-Maliki no longer the Prime Minister?” Well, as far as the rest of us are aware he is, and he is not his own brother in law. Neither has he been arrested at Dubai airport. So not only has Tompa has got something wrong, but he apparently still does not understand where.

3) Tompa "justifies" his interest in the gentleman's fate: “The Arabic sources suggested these relatives were also getting preferential treatment, which is what prompted my original post”. How many "relatives"? I think that if Mr Tompa was arrested in an airport (let it be Dubai airport) on similar charges (czego mu serdecznie zyczę) I think there would be some people from the US embassy and his pals trying to get him out too.

4) He did not like my comment because "I found it potentially defamatory of the officers and members of the ACCP." Well, we are told the ACCP no longer exists. I actually asked who it would be buying such objects, and a group of people that came to mind was a group of collectors etc. who were reportedly urging back at the beginning of that decade the "loosening of the laws for everybody", specifically with regard to ancient collectable objects from Iraq (though former members of the group now claim they never said any such thing). The board of the "Institute" of which Mr Tompa is now a member of the board is comprised mainlty of ex-ACCP people: could that explain his sensitivity to remarks about ideas being propagated by the former ACCP?

Paul Barford said...

Peter Tompa just does not get it does he?

He's still posting about what he read on the internet...

So HOW many people were arrested, and who are/were they? Mr Tompa?

So, the lawyer will be able to tell us on what grounds they were "arrested". What law of Dubai was broken?

Mr Tompa presumes the story happened as presented - and assumes that it was "swept under the carpet". Does this mean that those illicit artefacts (if such there were) are now in the US? So who would buy them now? Or perhaps Mr Tompa's story can be implied to mean its OK to buy them, as members of the state elite of the source country are encouraging it?

All very confusing. I'd suggest Mr Tompa gets his facts straight before casting stones at me or anyone else (including the Iraqi PM who he names and says is guilty).

In Iraq a man went to jail for insulting a foreign head of state (with two shoes while Nouri Kamil al-Maliki looked on), obviously in the state that person heads one can say whatever insulting rubbish you like about Iraqi heads of state.

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