Thursday, 10 September 2009

Dealers' advocate on the Looting of the Iraqi National Museum

An individual well-qualified to speak on the situation has raised some serious issues on these subjects on the Iraq Crisis List”.

Certainly the allegations which Zainab Abdul Jabar Mohammed Alzubaidi, an Iraqi now living in the USA published on the IraqCrisis list are serious ones. Whether or not the gentleman’s credentials prove him to be "well-qualified" to speak on these matters as Mr Tompa asserts, I leave to the reader to decide, especially after reading his cunning plan to get the Jews to finance a museum in the United States to the greater glory of Iraq and con US institutions to give (him? "us") huge sums of money to excavate the "most damaged" sites in Iraq. Weird naive stuff.

Anyway Tompa's main gripe is that those nasty archaeologists (from SAFE, the AIA and elsewhere) were able to use the real public concern over the looting in Iraq to highlight the problems inherent in the current state of the international antiquities market. But its OK, because the American invaders (casting themselves now as "liberators") are not to blame:
"History will show that angry mobs looted the Iraq Museum because the local Shia community viewed the cultural landmark as just another outpost of the hated Baathist regime”.

Ah well, that’s all right then. Taking the antiquities had nothing to do with the value they have on the black market after all. Stuff just happens. According to Tompa the Shi’ites are to blame. This "angry Shi'ite mob" was filmed a bit earlier venting their anger on a Baathist statue encouraged by US troops. So I guess those who say it was a rent-a-crowd for a staged US photo op must be wrong then. It is not recorded if they were all Shi'ites, but certainly some involved("Regrets of the Statue Man - Iraq") feel they were betrayed by the total lack of strategies on maintaining law and order by their "liberators", which began in those first days and was bound to persist for years after.

The Iraqi student in the US accuses the museum of being unprepared for the aftermath of the invasion, what is even more clear (and also was from the very beginning) is that the Americans ("the Coalition") were not either. In the one case some vases and cylinder seals were lost and ruined, in the other however countless human lives were lost and ruined.

The Americans invaded the capital of a sovereign country in 2003. On the Americans therefore rested the obligation to impose law and order and not encourage lawlessness and destruction of civilian targets. What part of that obligation is so hard to understand? That "angry Shi'ite mob" did not get into the Oil Ministry just down the road, even though that was par excellence the embodiment and basis of Baath'ist rule.

"History", Mr Tompa, will show that the looting of that museum was by no means as simple as either you or Zainab Abdul Jabar Mohammed Alzubaidi attempt to suggest. By then, no doubt some of the missing artefacts will have surfaced and we'll find out who had them. Until then, whether you like it or not, we will continue to remember and continue to criticise the no-questions-asked market in portable antiquities which you support and represent.

Vignette: Rummy's magic vase.

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