I'm tired of thinking about the massive goatfuck that has been the BushCo administration's Iraq "war"/occupation, and how our tax dollars and our economy and our futures are being squandered on no-bid contracts to corporate fuckers like Halliburton and Blackwater. I remember reading these articles about just how wisely all that money was handled in Iraq: from giant pallets of cash that just vanished to people tossing around bricks of hundreds in the most bizarre games of football ever played.
We still hear a lot about the funding of the war and occupation, and many blogs have those little dollar-counter widgets in their sidebars, tallying the ever-rising cost of the boondoggle in Iraq. However, we don't read too much anymore about the looting of artifacts that took place in Iraq shortly after the initial Shock and Awe (aka "nuke 'em 'til they glow") phase of the Iraq invasion. Here is an article from TomDispatch introducing an excerpt from Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Public, written by my personal hero Chalmers Johnson, about just what was lost in Iraq in those turbulent days--and how much our world has lost in terms of the history of human civilization. Note: I did a review of Chalmers' great book here.)
These lines really galled me:
These events were, according to Paul Zimansky, a Boston University archaeologist, "the greatest cultural disaster of the last 500 years." Eleanor Robson of All Souls College, Oxford, said, "You'd have to go back centuries, to the Mongol invasion of Baghdad in 1258, to find looting on this scale." Yet Secretary Rumsfeld compared the looting to the aftermath of a soccer game and shrugged it off with the comment that "Freedom's untidy. . . . Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes."
So one person compares the looting to that of the Mogol hordes; another calls it merely "untidy." In a testament to the BushCo mindset regarding anything remotely intellectual--history, culture, the arts, museums, and so forth--the entire quote was "Stuff happens. Freedom's untidy.... Free people are free to mistakes and commit crimes." (and yet they're still picking up people and throwing them into Gitmo--for what, exactly?) Truly mind-boggling.
We'll never know what all was lost, and what continues to be lost. I almost start crying when I think of that thrilling scene in National Treasure, where they discover among the treasure all the materials from the library at Alexandria--intact. To an old English major like me, it would be like Lancelot finding the Holy Grail.
But that was just a movie. No one will ever recover what was lost during the looting of Baghdad. From Tom Engelhardt:
Worse yet, the looting of antiquity, words and objects, not only never ended but seems to have accelerated. From well organized gangs of grave robbers to American engineers building bases to American soldiers taking souvenirs, the ancient inheritance not just of Iraqis but of all of us has simply headed south. According to
Reuters, more than 1,000 Iraqi objects of antiquity have been confiscated at American airports; priceless cylinder seals are evidently selling on-line at eBay for a few hundred dollars apiece; and this represents just the tiniest fraction of what's gone. The process is not only unending, but in the chaos that is America's Iraq beyond counting or assessing accurately.
Another interesting article, from 2007, from the museum point of view. This was the most recent mention of the looting in Iraq that I was able to find on the interwebs.