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."
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.