Friday, July 08, 2005

Casualty of war: Iraq's cultural heritage

In this piece Chalmers Johnson charges that the US has failed to protect Iraq's museums from looting and vandalism and as a result some of the world's most precious historical artifacts have been lost.
The Baghdad archaeological museum has long been regarded as perhaps the richest of all such institutions in the Middle East. It is difficult to say with precision what was lost there in those catastrophic April days in 2003 because up-to-date inventories of its holdings, many never even described in archaeological journals, were also destroyed by the looters or were incomplete thanks to conditions in Baghdad after the Gulf War of 1991. One of the best records, however partial, of its holdings is the catalog of items the museum lent in 1988 to an exhibition held in Japan's ancient capital of Nara entitled Silk Road Civilizations. But, as one museum official said to John Burns of the New York Times after the looting, "All gone, all gone. All gone in two days."
I don't know if it was possible to protect these sites or not, but regardless, the loss of a part of the history of civilization is none the less a great one.

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