Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Looting Of History

Remember all the indignation during the course of major fighting in the Iraq war, when the battle for Baghdad had been underway for a few days and we were told that all of the artifacts in the Iraq National Museum had been looted? Remember the reports that were broadcast and published for weeks, that all 170,000 artifacts the museum possessed, almost the entire history of the cradle of civilization, were hauled away or destroyed by wild mobs? Remember how the U.S. military was blamed for the incredible loss to human history, because supposedly soldiers stood by and let it happen? Well, I stumbled upon something today that puts the lie to those very public and prolonged accusations.

It's an old post, from July of 2005, by Frank Warner, who gives a very complete history, revealing that most of what was taken from the museum was in an inside job, not the result of militarily-tolerated looting, and could have fit into a single large backpack!! Many of the fifteen thousand items taken were beads, amulets, and the like. Warner writes that a huge percentage of the museum's artifacts remained undisturbed. "Ninety-seven percent of the museum’s items – 485,500 pieces – were preserved, 95 percent undamaged. " Yet U.S. soldiers are still blamed for the ruination of history.

Have you ever seen reports correcting the record? Have you ever heard the American military exonerated by the media, or archaeologists? (One archaeologist Warner quotes, Donny George, director of the Iraq National Museum, as good as admits his intention to milk the U.S. for money because of the terrible "loss." He's definitely not going to admit that the loss wasn't nearly as terrible as first proclaimed.) Apparently, some media sources have admitted their errors, but in the hushed and shy tones the media are wont to use when revealing their own fallibility. I certainly never heard any of the corrections. I'd be interested to know if any of you have. I'm betting the ranks of those who have are pretty thin. History was looted all right, just not the history we thought.