Wednesday, 8 July 2015

How Dare they?

As Iraq celebrated the return of hundreds of historical artefacts which had been looted, lost or loaned abroad over recent decades ('Iraq celebrates return of antiquities, appeals for world help', 9th Jul 2015) American collectors and dealers are aghast. They ask whether in the case of the objects returned by their own State Department,  repatriation of artefacts to the source country serve the interests of "protecting an artifact for future generations" or is it not merely an element of soft power (a diplomatic measure). Ummm, duh. That's what you get for entrusting cultural matters to the Department of State and not a Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. Because the US has as yet no such ministry. But that of course means that those collectors opposing these measures are working against the interests of their own country. But that is nothing new, US dealers and collectors as a whole spare no effort in discrediting their own country and the ideals many of its other citizens hold dear.

The US Government 'has repatriated artefacts to a war zone' the fringe loonies scream. Any war in Iraq at the moment is in the northern borderlands, not Baghdad. And after all, the Iraqis have their American big brother to protect them, don't they? Do US collectors and dealers doubt their own country and its ability to police the world?  American collectors have a lot of gall to denigrate the current situation in Iraq, since the rest of us can plainly see that the present troubles are a direct consequence of what America did to Iraq in the 1990s and then 2003, and then - after awarding a whole load of lucrative contracts to their pals - just waltzing off home leaving the job of rebuilding what they had wantonly destroyed totally unfinished.

We note in this context that two hundred of the returned items (a quarter) were a set of porcelain stolen from a Presidential palace, which the press release is rather coy about:
The collection included nearly 200 items that went missing from Iraq's presidential palaces in the turmoil which followed the U.S.-led invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein, they said. 
This is not a handful of old coins or a cylinder seal among the socks in a soldier's kitbag, transporting 200 pieces of porcelain is a small truck. This is not accidental "going missing", it is organized theft from a war zone. How dare US dealers oppose sending back to Iraq what was stolen from Iraq during the US invasion on the grounds that the regional conflict they started is escalating?

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