Wednesday, 30 September 2015

US Department of State Engage in, or Caught out by, Misinformation?

I am a bit bogged down with work at the moment, so for the moment will not be sharing my thoughts on the bulk of the Twitter and video takeaways from the session yesterday at New York's Metropolitan Museum on "Conflict Antiquities". It was obviously an interesting session which produced some nice quotable quotes but, more importantly,  fudged a whole lot of issues. It looks as if the whole thing was another attempt by the US authorities to whip up public opinion against ISIL as the sole culture-smashing barbarians and play down all the rest - a fact not lost on some of the tweeting audience which maintained some healthy scepticism to what they were being told. More of that later.

 Charles Jones has summarised some of the main points here: " Roundup: Conflict Antiquities: Forging a Public/Private Response to Save Iraq and Syria's Endangered Cultural Heritage" with links to Morag Kersel's storify of the twitter stream on the conference, and to documents mentioned.

I want to put on record however my own opinion at the moment - for which I will give the reasons later - about the documents produced by Deputy Assistant Secretary Andrew Kelly which in the    words of one observer "pretty much settles any debate over whether ISIS is making money off looting". This was the verdict of the CBN news report ISIS' records show millions raised by antiquities smuggling September 29, 2015 (with again its nonsensical link of mosaics dug up in Apamea as supporting ISIL funding - Apamea is not and has not yet been in ISIL hands). I am wholly sceptical, I think there are good reasons to believe that these documents have been faked. When analysing documents as evidence, the historian looks at what the author wants us to know. These documents serve well to "show us that ISIL is getting tax from antiquity sales", but as actual "working" tax receipts they fail dismally to convince me.  More later.

Where are the original documents? In the US (why?) or in Iraq (why?). If the latter, was that translation perhaps provided to the Americans by the Iraqi intelligence service, who have been caught out before giving out information about ISIL antiquities dealings of doubtful (and doubted) veracity? Can we see high resolution and unredacted scans of the originals please? And all of them, with a proper report describing the origins, associations and interpretation of these documents as evidence (you can use some of that "5 million dollars reward" to create it).

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