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                                         Baghdad Archaeological Museum -
                           Heritage of Humanity A Total Loss Thanks to Americans
                                        7000 Years Destroyed in 48-hours

MID-EAST REALITIES - MER - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 4/16/2003:    Thanks to one of the world's most thoughtful and courageous, not to mention prolific, Middle East journalists we now know what the Americans did carefully protect...not just what they did not.  Though repeatedly warned by Academics and Experts for months in advance that the most valuable site to safeguard in Baghdad was the National Museum of Antiquities, nevertheless the Americans callously and irresponsibly allowed irreplaceable human history to be utterly destroyed.   The 7000-year-old history of Iraq, indeed of early human civilization, is no more.  One of the curators who had spent his life in the Museum said with a look of painful death in his eyes, "my life is now over, shoot me in the head right now".  The two Ministries the Americans did protect from destruction are the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Oil -- imagine that.   Quite clearly control and oil are what those in charge in Washington ordered their troops to preserve -- short-term political and financial gain at the expense of irreplaceable human history, now lost forever.  Thank you once again American Empire.

                     BOMB BEFORE YOU BUY
 What is being planned in Iraq is not reconstruction but robbery
                           By Naomi Klein

The Guardian -April 14, 2003:
On April 6, deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz spelled it out: there
will be no role for the UN in setting up an interim government in Iraq.
The US-run regime will last at least six months, "probably longer than
that". And by the time the Iraqi people have a say in choosing a
government, the key economic decisions about their country's future will
have been made by their occupiers. "There has to be an effective
administration from day one," Wolfowitz said. "People need water and food
and medicine, and the sewers have to work, the electricity has to work.
And that's coalition responsibility."

The process of how they will get all this infrastructure to work is
usually called "reconstruction". But American plans for Iraq's future
economy go well beyond that. Rather than rebuilding, the country is being
treated as a blank slate on which the most ideological Washington
neo-liberals can design their dream economy: fully privatised,
foreign-owned and open for business.

The $4.8m management contract for the port in Umm Qasr has already gone to
a US company, Stevedoring Services, and there are similar deals for
airport administration on the auction block. The United States Agency for
International Development has invited US multinationals to bid on
everything from rebuilding roads and bridges to distributing textbooks.
The length of time these contracts will last is left unspecified. How long
before they meld into long-term contracts for water services, transit
systems, roads, schools and phones? When does reconstruction turn into
privatisation in disguise?

Republican congressman Darrel Issa has introduced a bill that would
require the defence department to build a CDMA cellphone system in postwar
Iraq in order to benefit "US patent holders". As Farhad Manjoo noted in
the internet magazine Salon, CDMA is the system used in the US, not in
Europe, and was developed by Qualcomm, one of Issa's most generous donors.

Then there's oil. The Bush administration knows it can't talk openly about
selling Iraq's oil resources to ExxonMobil and Shell. It leaves that to
people like Fadhil Chalabi, a former Iraqi petroleum minister and
executive director of the Center for Global Energy Studies. "We need to
have a huge amount of money coming into the country. The only way is to
partially privatise the industry," Chalabi says.

He is part of a group of Iraqi exiles that has been advising the state
department on how to implement privatisation in such a way that it isn't
seen to be coming from the US. Helpfully, the group held a conference in
London on April 6 and called on Iraq to open itself up to oil
multinationals shortly after the war. The Bush administration has shown
its gratitude by promising that there will plenty of posts for Iraqi
exiles in the interim government.

Some argue that it's too simplistic to say this war is about oil. They're
right. It's about oil, water, roads, trains, phones, ports and drugs. And
if this process isn't halted, "free Iraq" will be the most sold country on

It's no surprise that so many multinationals are lunging for Iraq's
untapped market. It's not just that the reconstruction will be worth as
much as $100bn; it's also that "free trade" by less violent means hasn't
been going that well lately. More and more developing countries are
rejecting privatisation, while the Free Trade Area of the Americas, Bush's
top trade priority, is wildly unpopular across Latin America. World Trade
Organisation talks on intellectual property, agriculture and services have
all got bogged down amid accusations that the US and Europe have yet to
make good on past promises.

So what is a recessionary, growth-addicted superpower to do? How about
upgrading from Free Trade Lite, which wrestles market access through
backroom bullying at the WTO, to Free Trade Supercharged, which seizes new
markets on the battlefields of pre-emptive wars? After all, negotiations
with sovereign countries can be hard. Far easier to just tear up the
country, occupy it, then rebuild it the way you want. Bush hasn't
abandoned free trade, as some have claimed, he just has a new doctrine:
"Bomb before you buy".

It goes much further than one unlucky country. Investors are openly
predicting that once privatisation takes root in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia
and Kuwait will all be forced to compete by privatising their oil. "In
Iran, it would just catch like wildfire," S Rob Sobhani, an energy
consultant, told the Wall Street Journal. Pretty soon, the US may have
bombed its way into a whole new free trade zone.

So far, the press debate over the reconstruction of Iraq has focused on
fair play: it is "exceptionally maladroit", in the words of the European
Union's commissioner for external relations, Chris Patten, for the US to
keep all the juicy contracts for itself. It has to learn to share: Exxon
should invite France's TotalFinaElf to the most lucrative oil fields;
Bechtel should give Britain's Thames Water a shot at the sewer contracts.

But while Patten may find US unilateralism galling, and Tony Blair may be
calling for UN oversight, on this matter it's beside the point. Who cares
which multinationals get the best deals in Iraq's pre-democracy,
post-Saddam liquidation sale? What does it matter if the privatising is
done unilaterally by the US, or multilaterally by the US, Europe, Russia
and China?

Entirely absent from this debate are the Iraqi people, who might - who
knows? - want to hold on to a few of their assets. Iraq will be owed
massive reparations after the bombing stops, but in the absence of any
kind of democratic process, what is being planned is not reparations,
reconstruction or rehabilitation. It is robbery: mass theft disguised as
charity; privatisation without representation.

A people, starved and sickened by sanctions, then pulverised by war, is
going to emerge from this trauma to find that their country had been sold
out from under them. They will also discover that their new-found
"freedom" - for which so many of their loved ones perished - comes
pre-shackled by irreversible economic decisions that were made in
boardrooms while the bombs were still falling. They will then be told to
vote for their new leaders, and welcomed to the wonderful world of
 * Naomi Klein's latest book is Fences and Windows (Flamingo).

                                                                       By Robert Fisk in Baghdad

[The Independent - 14 April 2003}:   Iraq's scavengers have thieved and destroyed what they have been allowed to loot and burn by the Americans and a two-hour drive around Baghdad shows clearly what the US intends to protect. After days of arson and pillage, here's a short but revealing scorecard. US troops have sat back and allowed mobs to wreck and then burn the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Irrigation, the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Information. They did nothing to prevent looters from destroying priceless treasures of Iraq's history in the Baghdad Archaeological Museum and in the museum in the northern city of Mosul, or from looting three hospitals.

The Americans have, though, put hundreds of troops inside two Iraqi ministries that remain untouched and untouchable because tanks and armoured personnel carriers and Humvees have been placed inside and outside both institutions. And which ministries proved to be so important for the Americans? Why, the Ministry of Interior, of course with its vast wealth of intelligence information on Iraq and the Ministry of Oil. The archives and files of Iraq's most valuable asset its oilfields and, even more important, its massive reserves are safe and sound, sealed off from the mobs and looters, and safe to be shared, as Washington almost certainly intends, with American oil companies.

It casts an interesting reflection on America's supposed war aims. Anxious to "liberate" Iraq, it allows its people to destroy the infrastructure of government as well as the private property of Saddam's henchmen. Americans insist that the oil ministry is a vital part of Iraq's inheritance, that the oilfields are to be held in trust "for the Iraqi people". But is the Ministry of Trade relit yesterday by an enterprising arsonist not vital to the future of Iraq? Are the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Irrigation still burning fiercely not of critical importance to the next government? The Americans could spare 2,000 soldiers to protect the Kirkuk oilfields but couldn't even invest 200 to protect the Mosul museum from attack. US engineers were confidently predicting that the Kirkuk oilfield will be capable of pumping again "within weeks".

There was much talk of a "new posture" from the Americans yesterday. Armoured and infantry patrols suddenly appeared on the middle-class streets of the capital, ordering young men hauling fridges, furniture and television sets to deposit their loot on the pavement if they could not prove ownership. It was pitiful. After billions of dollars of government buildings, computers and archives have been destroyed, the Americans are stopping teens driving mule-drawn carts loaded with second-hand chairs.

            By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles and David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent

[The Independent - 14 April 2003]:    The United States was fiercely criticised around the world yesterday for its failure to protect Baghdad's Iraq National Museum where, under the noses of US troops, looters stole or destroyed priceless artefacts up to 7,000 years old.

Not a single pot or display case remained intact, according to witnesses, after a 48-hour rampage at the museum perhaps the world's greatest repository of Mesopotamian culture. US forces intervened only once, for half an hour, before leaving and allowing the looters to continue.

Archaeologists, poets, cultural historians and international legal experts, including many in America itself, accused Washington of violating the 1954 Hague Convention on the protection of artistic treasures in wartime.

British experts were distraught at the loss. "This is a terrible tragedy. Iraq is the cradle of civilisation and this was a museum which contained a large portion of the world's cultural heritage. The British Museum stands ready to help our Iraqi colleagues in whatever way we can," Dr John Curtis said. He is keeper of the Department of the Ancient Near East at the British Museum, which holds an important collection of Mesopo-tamian treasures.

Dr Jeremy Black a specialist on ancient Iraq at Oxford University, said: "What has befallen Baghdad and Mosul museums was foreseen by archaeologists worldwide. Meetings were even held with the American military before the war to warn of the extreme likelihood of looting should an invasion occur.

"Sadly, however, the occupying forces failed to implement in practical terms the measures to protect Iraq's and the world's cultural heritage. US and British forces must now act immediately to safeguard what remains in the museums and at key archaeological sites."

A Chicago law professor, Patty Gerstenblith of the DePaul School, said the rampage was "completely inexcusable and avoidable".

In Iraq itself, art experts and ordinary demonstrators made clear they were far angrier at President George Bush than they were at the looters, noting that the only building US forces seemed genuinely interested in protecting was the Ministry of Oil.

One Iraqi archaeologist, Raid Abdul Ridhar Muhammad, told The New York Times: "If a country's civilisation is looted, as ours has been here, its history ends. Please tell this to President Bush. Please remind him that he promised to liberate the Iraqi people, but that this is not a liberation, this is a humiliation."

Dr Eleanor Robson, a member of the council of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq, said: "The looting of the Iraq Museum is on a par with blowing up Stonehenge or ransacking the Bodleian Library. For world culture, it is a global catastrophe." Among the many treasures that have vanished, perhaps for ever, are a solid gold harp from the Sumerian era, the sculptured head of a woman from the Sumerian city of Uruk, a Ram in the Thicket statue from Ur, stone carvings, gold jewellery, tapestry fragments, ivory figurines of goddesses, friezes of soldiers, ceramic jars and urns.

The museum held the tablets with Hammurabi's Code, one of the world's earliest legal documents, early texts describing the epic of Gilgamesh and mathematical treatises that reveal a knowledge of Pythagorean geometry 1,500 years before Pythagoras.

Some of the treasures might have been removed from the museum before the war for safekeeping, but there is no indication of where they could be. Saddam Hussein may have taken some artefacts for display in his private residences.

Curators said the looters came in two categories the angry and the poor, most of them Shias, who were bent largely on destruction and grabbing whatever they could to earn some money; and more discriminating, middle-class people who knew exactly what they were looking for. Some of the more famous pieces may be too easily recognisable to be sold on the international market, leading some experts to fear they will be destroyed.

Although the museum is only one of hundreds of buildings to fall prey to looters, its status as one of the most important repositories of ancient civilisation is likely to inflame particular resentment towards the Americans, in the Arab world and beyond.

Several commentators are already starting to see more sinister motives in the US troops' neglect. Professor Giovanni Bergamini, curator of the Egyptian museum in Turin, said: "I don't know ... Perhaps it was only fathomless ignorance." He added: "But that's quite bad enough in itself."


                             PENTAGON WAS TOLD OF RISK TO MUSEUMS
                                       U.S. Urged to Save Iraq's Historic Artifacts
                                                           By Guy Gugliotta

[Washington Post - April 14, 2003]:   In the months leading up to the Iraq war, U.S. scholars repeatedly urged the Defense Department to protect Iraq's priceless archaeological heritage from looters, and warned specifically that the National Museum of Antiquities was the single most important site in the country.

Late in January, a mix of scholars, museum directors, art collectors and antiquities dealers asked for and were granted a meeting at the Pentagon to discuss their misgivings. McGuire Gibson, an Iraq specialist at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, said yesterday that he went back twice more, and he and colleagues peppered Defense Department officials with e-mail reminders in the weeks before the war began.

"I thought I was given assurances that sites and museums would be protected," Gibson said. Instead, even with U.S. forces firmly in control of Baghdad last week, looters breached the museum, trashed its galleries, burned its records, invaded its vaults and smashed or carried off thousands of artifacts dating from the founding of ancient Sumer around 3,500 B.C. to the end of Islam's Abbasid Caliphate in 1258 A.D.

Asked yesterday about the looting of the museum, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld blamed the chaos that ensues "when you go from a dictatorship" to a new order. "We didn't allow it. It happened," Rumsfeld said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "There's a transition period, and no one is in control. There is still fighting in Baghdad. We don't allow bad things to happen. Bad things happen in life, and people do loot."

Although the National Museum may have been the biggest prize, Iraq also has 13 regional museums at risk, including another world-renowned facility in the northern city of Mosul, as well as thousands of archaeological sites, ranging from the fabled ancient cities of Ur, Nineveh, Nimrud and Babylon to medieval Muslim villages abandoned in the country's vast western reaches.

"To the extent possible, and as soon as though it were yesterday, someone needs to post border guards to intercept antiquities as they try to leave the country," said archaeologist and art historian John Russell, of the Massachusetts College of Art. "There is a smuggling network in Iraq, and there could have been professional thieves among the looters."

Scholars first sounded a public alarm about the possible destruction of Iraqi antiquities in January, when a statement from the Archaeological Institute of America called on "all governments" to protect cultural sites during an expected conflict and in its aftermath.

Gibson and others said they were especially concerned because of the example provided by the 1991 Gulf War. Allied forces had scrupulously avoided targeting Iraqi cultural sites during the bombing of Baghdad 12 years ago -- one attack put only a shrapnel dent in the National Museum's front door even as it leveled a telecommunications facility across the street.

The end of that war kicked off a looting rampage, and eventually allowed systemic smuggling to develop. Artifacts from inadequately guarded sites were dug up and hauled away during the 12 years between the wars. "We wanted to make sure this didn't happen again," Gibson said, and Pentagon officials agreed.

"They said they would be very aware and would try to protect the artifacts," Gibson said, recalling January meetings with Pentagon officials charged with target selection and the protection of cultural sites. "We told them the looting was the biggest danger, and I felt that they understood that the National Museum was the most important archaeological site in the entire country. It has everything from every other site."

Pentagon officials knowledgeable about those meetings referred questions to the public affairs office, which said the military has tried to protect the sites.

Indeed, since the 1920s, Iraq has required that anyone digging within its borders file a report with the museum. In more recent years, expeditions had to submit all excavated material to the museum for formal cataloguing after each year's digging "season."

Looters apparently burned or otherwise destroyed most of those records last week, but Gibson suggested that scholars worldwide could duplicate the archive by copying their own files and reports and resubmitting them to Iraqi authorities.

The museum's artifacts, however, are another matter. Although the damage done is almost certainly catastrophic, Russell said, "it's going to be a matter of weeks or months before we're going to be able to identify any particular thing."

The possibilities are almost infinite. Iraq is the home of ancient Mesopotamia and has a cultural heritage that extends for thousands of years and encompasses the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Parthians, Sassanids and Muslims, to name only the best-known civilizations.

"There are thousands of unique items," said Boston University archaeologist Paul Zimansky. "If somebody walks off with those things, we'll never see them again. It is a disaster of major proportions."

The museum houses the 5,000-year-old alabaster Uruk Vase, which shows a procession entering a temple -- the earliest known depiction of a ritual. Also from Uruk is the "White Lady," the stone face of a woman that looks as if it was carved during the Greek Classic period but is 5,500 years old, one of the earliest known examples of representational sculpture.

The bust of an Akkadian king, dated 2300 B.C., is the earliest copper casting ever found. The Neolithic collection, of items about 9,000 years old, includes small sculptures of birds' heads from Nemrik, north of Mosul.

Russell said the museum staff attempted to pack up all the portable items on display and stash them in vast below-ground storage rooms and vaults, but looters found them. The museum also contained a spectacular cache of gold artifacts from the burial tombs of Assyrian queens in Nimrud.

"They were sent away to the Central Bank, and I told the Pentagon about those, too," Gibson said. "But I hear they looted the Central Bank as well."

Zimansky said Iraq's isolation during Hussein's rule meant that a great deal of material had remained unstudied and uncatalogued for years. An as-yet unresearched Sippar library of cuneiform clay tablets lay in the museum's basement and -- if it survived -- may contain the missing pieces of the Gilgamesh Epic, a heroic tale conceived by the Sumerians and written and rewritten in Mesopotamia for more than 1,000 years.

"I wasn't there [when the looting took place], and I don't know what the situation was, but I do know what's at stake," Russell said. "The need for policing should have been obvious. If it was impossible to do, then I'm sympathetic; if it wasn't, then I'm really irritated."

                                            THE LIKELY FATE OF THE STOLEN ANTIQUITIES

The antiquities being looted in Iraq fall into two different categories.

In terms of serious money up to several million pounds per item the more internationally famous statues, bas-reliefs, early manuscripts and groups of ivories are the more difficult, though lucrative, items to smuggle. Worldwide there are probably only a few hundred potential buyers for the more well-known material.

Such items might include the celebrated Sumerian stone statue of Dudu, the Prime Minister to the royal court of Lagash, dating back to 2600BC, or the 2300BC image of the god Abu and his consort. These would have to be sold in great secrecy. The larger objects are in danger of being deliberately damaged and then made unrecognisable to make it more difficult for police and others to trace them.

In terms of pure volume of illicit traffic, the smaller, often unpublished items such as coins, cylinder seals, cuneiform tablets, pottery, figurines, flint tools and bronze weapons are likely to dominate sectors of the antiquities market. They will probably end up at the art markets of Paris, via Jordan, Israel, and Switzerland, New York, London and Tokyo.

Their value, in total, could quite conceivably run to billions of pounds with the profits lining the pockets of the more unscrupulous of the European and North American-based dealers. Somewhere between Switzerland and antique shops in Britain and elsewhere, all knowledge of an object's Iraqi provenance will be lost.

The museum's computer system, with the inventory of its contents, is understood to have been smashed but whether the hard disks have been damaged is not yet known.  


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