Farewell to history

April 15th, 2003 § Comments off

Of all the senseless and unnecessary consequences of the senseless and unnecessary war in Iraq, the most lasting will be the looting of Iraq’s National Museum and the burning of the National Library and Archives.

As the BBC explains, “The national museum was home to artefacts that dated back 10,000 years, from one of the world’s earliest civilisations. The development of writing, abstract counting, the wheel and agriculture were all charted in its exhibitions.” Up to 170,000 artifacts were stolen from the museum after American troops seized Iraq. The vast majority of those artifacts are gone forever. As for the library, a witness to the blaze found handwritten documents dating to the Ottoman Empire blowing through the streets.

Troops from the United States stood by as Iraqis looted the museum and burned the library, which is bad enough. Worse yet, scholars warned the Pentagon for months that historical sites—especially the museum—would be looted and urged the military to protect them. The military promised to do so. And yet U.S. soldiers did almost nothing.

Meanwhile, Donald Rumsfeld appeared on Meet the Press and made pathetic excuses. Looting, he said, “isn’t something that someone allows or doesn’t allow. It’s something that happens.” Bullshit. The United States has thousands of troops on the ground, armed with enough materiel to kill everyone in Baghdad. They can allow or not allow almost anything they want. The National Museum was looted because the United States military couldn’t be fucked to do anything about it.

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