JackRiddler wrote:https://theintercept.com/2018/04/09/vid ... f-century/
This is pretty good, if weak on the 1970s and the 1980 turn.
JackRiddler » Wed Jun 29, 2011 5:07 pm wrote:.
I'm surprised everyone here isn't aware of the American role in the looting of the Iraqi National Museum, which I believe was in the vein of shock and awe, an intentional move to break the spirit of the Iraqi people and make them acquiesce to whatever order the occupiers would provide.
At the very least the American invaders showed they were aware that their arrival in Baghdad would unleash potential for chaos and looting, by either the government or by mobs, by preparing to occupy, secure and protect the locations of certain important treasures.
These were the Oil Ministry and the Interior Ministry. I presume I don't need to explain why?
That the national museum and library were not on this list, although known as the location of priceless treasures, is at the very least an act of gross negligence.
However, there was the following report in the Swedish press:
What the most incisive war correspondents and critics of the mainstream media fail to mention
US Forces deliberately encouraged the Looting
by Ole Rothenborg
Article in Swedish published in Dagens Nyheter, 11 April 2003.
Translation http://www.globalresearch.ca 15 April 2003
Khaled Bayomi looks a bit surprised when he looks at the American officer on TV regret that they don't have any resources to stop the looting in Baghdad.
- "I happened to be there", he said, just as the US forces told people to commence looting.
Khaled Bayomi departed from Malmoe, Sweden to Baghdad, as a human shield, and arrived on the same day the fighting began. About this he can tell us plenty and for a long time, but the most interesting part of his story is his witness-account about the great surge of looting now taking place.
- I had visited a few friends that live in a worn-down area just beyond the Haifa Avenue, on the west bank of the Tigris River. It was April 8 and the fighting was so heavy I couldn't make it over to the other side of the river. On the afternoon it became perfectly quite, and four American tanks pulled up in position on the outskirts of the slum area. From these tanks we heard anxious calls in Arabic, which told the population to come closer.
- During the morning everybody that tried to cross the streets had been fired upon. But during this strange silence people eventually became curious. After three-quarters of an hour the first Baghdad citizens dared to come forward. At that moment the US solders shot two Sudanese guards, who were posted in front of a local administrative building, on the other side of the Haifa Avenue.
- I was just 300 meters away when the guards where murdered. Then they shot the building entrance to pieces, and their Arabic translators in the tanks told people to run for grabs inside the building. Rumours spread rapidly and the house was cleaned out. Moments later tanks broke down the doors to the Justice Department, residing in the neighbouring building, and looting was carried on to there.
- I was standing in a big crowd of civilians that saw all this together with me. They did not take any part in the looting, but were to afraid to take any action against it. Many of them had tears of shame in their eyes. The next morning looting spread to the Museum of Modern Art, which lies another 500 meters to the north. There was also two crowds in place, one that was looting and another one that disgracefully saw it happen.
Do you mean to say that it was the US troops that initiated the looting?
- Absolutely. The lack of scenes of joy had the US forces in need of images on Iraqi's who in different ways demonstrated their disgust with Saddam's regime.
But people in Baghdad tore down a big statue of Saddam?
- They did? It was a US tank that did this, close to the hotel where all the journalists live. Until noon on the 9th of April, I didn't see a single torn picture of Saddam anywhere. If people had wanted to turn over statues they could have gone for some of the many smaller ones, without the help of an American tank. Had this been a political uproar then people would have turned over statues first and looted afterwards.
Back home in Sweden Khaled Bayomi is PhD student at the University of Lund, where he since ten years teaches and researches about conflicts in the Middle East. He is very well informed about the conflicts, as well as he is on the propaganda war.
Isn't it good that Saddam is gone?
- He is not gone. He has dissolved his army in tiny, tiny groups. This is why there never was any big battle. Saddam dissolved Iraq as a state already in 1992 and have shad a parallel tribal structure going, which since then has been altogether decisive for the country. When USA begun the war Saddam completely abandoned the state, and now depends on this tribal structure. This is why he left the big cities without any battle.
- Now USA are forced to do everything themselves, because there is no political force from within that would challenge the structure in place. The two challengers who came in from the outside were immediately lynched.
Khaled Bayomi refers to what happened to general Nazar al-Khazraji, who escaped from Denmark, and Shia-muslim leader Abdul Majid al-Khoei, who both where chopped to pieces by a raging crowd in Najaf, because they where perceived to be American marionettes. According to Danish newspaper BT, al-Khazraji was picked up by the CIA in Denmark and then brought to Iraq.
- Now we have an occupying power in place in Iraq, that has not said how long they will stay, not brought forward any time-plan for civilian rule and no date for general elections. Now awaits only a big chaos.
Translated from the Swedish by Kenneth Rasmusson, Copyright Dagens Nyheter 2003. For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .
And in case you think that's just one source reporting, here is an article that provides much more evidence for systematic facilitation of the looting by the invaders in the days after the fall of Baghdad, as well as failure to meet treaty obligations to protect cultural heritage:
http://www.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudi ... /smith.htm
Volume 3, Number 2 (July 2006)
“Furious Envy”: Baudrillard and the Looting of Baghdad1
I kept crying when they burned the National Library. …Wasn’t that my country that they burned?2
There is strong suspicion that the American failure to protect Iraqi heritage sites was more than mere negligence, but a deliberate oversight – perhaps a kind of cultural “shock and awe” – designed to devastate a sense of shared culture among Iraqis, leaving a blank page for the imprint of the US occupying force and the reconstruction to follow. This paper examines what has happened in Iraq since April 2003 drawing on reports from a variety of recent scholarly and journalistic sources. They point to the distinct possibility that we have witnessed a premeditated cultural genocide of the magnitude rarely experienced over the 7000-year time span of the artefacts in question. Further, we are faced with exactly the kind of humiliation likely to bring, according to Baudrillard, terrorist reprisals upon the US and its allies in the West.
Early on, among non-embedded journalists, doubts were raised about the seemingly random nature of the looting. In Baghdad, UK journalist Robert Fisk asked:
But for Iraq, this is Year Zero; with the destruction of the antiquities in the Museum of Archaeology and the burning of the National Archives and then the Koranic library, the cultural identity of Iraq is being erased. Why? Who set these fires? For what insane purpose is this heritage being destroyed?3
Jean Baudrillard provides us with a theoretical model with which to begin answering this and related questions. In this article “Our Society’s Judgement and Punishment”4, Baudrillard argues that: “It is the mission of the West to make the world's many cultures interchangeable and subordinate to the global order. A culture bereft of values, taking revenge on the values of other cultures”.5 As Baudrillard understands the very complex dynamics involved:
The rise of the globalizing system has been driven by the furious envy of the indifferent, low-definition mono-culture, confronted by high-definition cultures. Envy is what the disenchanted system which has lost its intensity feels when facing high-intensity cultures. It is the envy of a deconsecrated society that emerges when confronted with sacrificial cultures and structures6.
The importance Baudrillard attaches to the loss of capacity for “giving back” can be equated, in a cultural sense, to unequal exchange. If all cultures are interchangeable and subordinated, there can no longer be cultural exchange and humiliation breeds resentment and potential terrorist reprisal. A capacity for “giving back” across North and South – between the West and the rest of the world – ultimately provides humanity’s sole common ground. This is precisely what is missing under globalisation and war (seemingly inseparable phenomena these days), and the humiliations they bring.
To understand the hatred the rest of the world feels towards the West, Baudrillard calls upon us to reverse commonly held assumptions:
The hatred expressed at the West by non-Westerners is not that of a people from whom everything has been taken. It is the hatred of those who have received everything, but have never been allowed to give anything back. This is not the hatred of the dispossessed or exploited, but that of a humiliation – of those who can give nothing in return. It is this symbolic understanding that explains the attacks of September 11, 2001 – acts of humiliation responding to another humiliation. The worst thing that can happen to global power is not to be attacked or destroyed, but to be humiliated. Global power was humiliated on September 11 because the terrorists inflicted something the system cannot give back. Armed reprisals are merely a means of physical response and cannot respond to the challenge the terrorists symbolically represent. On September 11, global power was symbolically defeated. Armed attacks or war is a response to an aggression, but not to a symbolic challenge. A symbolic challenge is accepted and removed when the other is humiliated in return (and this does not happen when the other is killed by bombs or locked away at Guantanamo Bay).7
Baudrillard’s understanding of humiliation suggests that the US views peoples outside of the West as a kind of “universal” other. In this formula, an Iraqi is interchangeable with someone from al-Qaeda, who can change places with any other Arab, Muslim, Asian etc. Today, this vengeance assumes the proportions of a cultural genocide in the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad – a vengeance that can again be interpreted as a further humiliation. As an Iraqi archaeologist told the New York Times:
A country's identity, its value and civilization resides in its history. If a country's civilization 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.8
In Baghdad the loss of treasures was the result of a few fiery days of looting. But to what extent did deliberate oversight by the US, as a possible manifestation of the “furious envy” Baudrillard speaks of, typify the conduct of the war? We now know from the images of Iraqi prisoner abuse at the hands of US troops at Abu Ghraib, that America wantonly perpetrated acts of humiliation. In this case it is now also known that high levels in the chain of command knew of the abuse by the guards.9 It appears that here too we see the presence of that “furious envy” at work as a common element in the occupation plan.
II. Occupation Responsibilities And What Was Actually Lost?
To establish grounds for a strategy of deliberate oversight where cultural artefacts are concerned, we can begin by measuring the US response in Baghdad against three key indicators: 1) In the first days of occupation, what responsibilities were taken up by US forces in the city and what capability to protect Iraqi sites did they exhibit? 2) Given the long and premeditated nature of the invasion of Iraq, did the US, as chief occupying power, owe a duty of care to Iraq’s cultural heritage? And 3) to what extent was action against cultural sites encouraged by the actions (and lack of action) by US forces on the ground?
There was a clear difference in priority given to protection of economic as opposed to cultural sites by US occupying forces in Iraq. The safeguarding of the files and secrets within the Iraqi Oil Ministry reveals the motives and capabilities of the invading forces. The case of Iraqi Oil Ministry shows the impressive abilities of American forces to safeguard an institution they wanted protected. It experienced round the clock surveillance and was guarded by US tanks at every entrance. It was also one of a very few public buildings to remain untouched by looters. Many cultural sites were close to each other in two small precincts. It is now widely understood that the US had enough of its troops in these areas to prevent looting but withheld such orders.10
The US did have a duty to protect Iraq’s heritage by three international treaties which form the basis for protecting cultural heritage in time of war and its aftermath. These are: The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907; the Geneva Convention of 1949 (and its two Protocols); and the Hague Convention of 1954 (and its two Protocols). Together these cover threats to heritage sites. However, during the US-led invasion of Iraq, no plans were in place to counter threats of deliberate attack, incidental damage, pillage, or outright theft.11
The anguish of many was taken up by Robert Fisk in one of his more blunt dispatches.
Why? How could they do this? Why, when the city was already burning, when anarchy had been let loose – and less than three months after US archaeologists and Pentagon officials met to discuss the country's treasures and put the Baghdad Archaeological Museum on a military data-base – did the Americans allow the mobs to destroy the priceless heritage of ancient Mesopotamia? And all this happened while US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was sneering at the press for claiming that anarchy had broken out in Baghdad.12
“Stuff happens”, was Rumsfeld’s reply. “It’s untidy. And freedom’s untidy. Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.” He then attempted to make light of the situation saying: “Television is merely running the same footage of the same man stealing a vase over and over”. He then added that he didn’t think there were that many vases in Iraq.13 Drawing this image of a stolen vase being replayed repeatedly it is ironic that Rumsfeld unwittingly makes reference to Baudrillard’s conception of the virtualization of the real in the hyperreal.14
The people taking to the streets included a organized element. These were antiquities smugglers and militants who incited further waves of looting by the poorest victims of the regime. In this state of chaos, organised crime had time to plan and execute these heists under a cover of general plundering.
The FBI’s Top Ten Art Crimes list now includes Iraqi looted and stolen artefacts. This list indicates that between 7000 and 10,000 items are still missing. The most valuable pieces are by now either in the hands of, or on their way to, wealthy collectors. These items will be too famous to be put on the black market again. Of the 40 most valuable stolen artefacts from the museum looting, 25 still remain unaccounted for. They include the diorite statue of Entemena; the almost life-size head of the Goddess of Victory and a gold and ivory plaque of a lioness attacking a Nubian.15
As we now know, there was a level of exaggeration in the first reports of the Museum looting. They failed to understand that curators often shifted “missing” items to more secure vaults just prior to the outbreak of war. In a number of surveys since then scholars have been able compile a more accurate “lost and found” ledger.
The American Journal of Archaeology (AJA) is one source that has tried to track the fate of missing relics. It put the initial losses at up to 15,000 items. But 5000 of these pieces, says the AJA, were found in a world wide recovery operation. On his website of record, Francis Deblauwe has compiled data from a range of scholarly sources. His database showed 11,500 items as still missing. He then took into account pieces recovered abroad but not yet returned. With this adjustment, he settles on a figure of 8,500 items actually lost.16 These figures corroborate the numbers on the FBI’s list. The picture is a little brighter then than was originally believed for museums. But success in the recovery of items stands in contrast to events at some institutions where there was a heavy loss of books and manuscripts.
Ideas in books and texts may well be closer to what is the core of culture than corresponding objects and artefacts. In this sense artefacts work partly to substantiate ideas. As a result of the loss of texts, the Iraqi people would be more isolated from the meaning of treasures on display in their museums.
The events at the National Library were catastrophic. For scholars who visited following the looting, the tour, which began at the Museum, showed a long trail of devastation that went from one site to the next. UNESCO’s Mounir Bouchenaki was one of these witnesses. He said he felt a sense of pain while crunching through the 20 to 30 centimetres of ash in the rooms of the burned Library collections.17 Speaking to members of a library world body in August 2005, Rene Teijgeler revealed the extent of damage to Iraqi book collections. Most shocking, he says, is how the National Library lost 25 percent of its books. The National Archives lost 60 percent of its holdings.18 Another scholar, Nabil Al-Tikriti, went to Baghdad in May 2003 to interview staff from libraries and manuscript houses. He learned that at the time of the invasion, the National Library and Archives contained 12 million documents among which was “the largest Arabic newspaper collection in the world”. As a result of the looting it seems the entire periodical collection was lost; the only ray of hope was that staff had time to move some of the papers to a safe place.19
Jeff Spurr, on behalf of the Middle East Librarians Association, also reported on the state of Iraqi libraries. At the National Library, he found that looters destroyed as much as 60 percent of the Ottoman and Royal Hashemite documents. He concurs that about 25 percent of the book holdings were lost.20
III. What Occupation Forces Did (And Didn’t Do)
Another devastating loss took place at the Iraqi Academy of Sciences and this begins the story of what was and was not done to protect Iraqi cultural sites. According to staff members, the pillage began after a US tank crew crashed through the front gate. They rolled over and crushed the Academy’s main sign, removed the Iraqi flag flying at the entrance, and left. With the gate torn open looters swarmed into the facility taking up to half of the Academy’s holdings of 58,000 published works. Based on the extent of empty rooms, these losses may be as high as 80 percent.21
One of the most unsettling stories told is from the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs Central Library (also known as the Awqaf library) – the oldest public manuscript collection in Iraq. Fire totally destroyed the two-story building on April 13-14, 2003. As was the practice at similar places, staff had relocated most of the 7,000 manuscripts as a precaution. Their attempts to move the last quarter of their collection (about 1,740 manuscripts) failed when US troops shot and killed one of the guards and then disarmed the Iraqis protecting the new site. Staff describe how, on the same afternoon that the manuscripts were moved back, a highly organised looting and burning took place. As an eyewitness reported:
Roughly 15 Arab males in civilian clothes drove up to the library in various vehicles, including a white Lada and a white VW Passat with “TV” taped to their windows and bodies. While most of the men proceeded to remove manuscript trunks and burn the library, two men (civilians) remained at the entrance filming the event. Once 22 of the trunks were removed, the men used some sort of yellow substance to burn the entire library in under 15 minutes.22
As is evident from some of these incidents, it was the actions of US troops that sparked or enabled looting at cultural sites. This is also true of what happened at some museums.
On April 11, 2003, Stockholm’s newspaper Dagens Nyheter provided an on the spot report by “human shield” Khaled Bayomi. Bayomi described the role of US soldiers in the looting:
The soldiers shot two Sudanese guards who stood at their posts outside a local administration building. Then they blasted apart the doors to the building and from the tanks came eager calls in Arabic encouraging people to come close to them… Arab interpreters in the tanks told the people to go and take what they wanted in the building. The word spread quickly and the building was ransacked… The next morning the plundering spread to the Modern Museum, which lies a quarter mile farther north.23
Walter Sommerfeld (Professor and Head of Ancient Oriental Studies at the University of Marburg), was in Baghdad in May 2003 (a few weeks of the plundering). His report notes an emerging trend at the time:
The most surprising detail of the descriptions was that American soldiers made the lootings possible by breaking or shooting often well-secured gates open, shouting to by-standers ‘Go in, Ali Baba, it’s yours!’. This stock phrase was repeated over and over again by witnesses; ‘Ali Baba’ seems to be the American catch phrase for looting Iraqis.24
In describing the looting of the National Museum, one of Sommerfeld’s observers adds that US soldiers incited the crowd with the words “this is your treasure, get in!” One of those he spoke with was a guard at a neighbouring mosque. The guard told him:
The Americans came back at 4:30 the next morning, and an officer ordered his troops to advance into the museum. Kuwaitis were there with the American troops. ...They took archaeological artefacts out of the museum and loaded them onto seven trucks of the U.S. military. The whole convoy drove away accompanied by armoured cars.25
The BBC’s Jonathan Duffy provided a similar account of the role of US troops in the looting at Nasiriya’s Technical Institute. The Dean, Dr Khalid Majeed, said the Americans arrived in five vehicles, but refused to ward off looters. Instead the soldiers fired several dozen rounds at the college’s south wall. The crowd, says Dr Majeed, saw this action as the “green light” to looters.26
Robert Fisk suspected that a wave of arson came after the looting and he agrees with Professor Sommerfeld that the burning was a separate event:
The arsonists came afterwards, systematically dousing the looted buildings with gasoline… and lighting them ablaze. The difference in time between the looting and burning of a building was sometimes as much as four days.27
Fisk pointed to other interesting aspects such as the use by the gangs of blue and white buses to move around hitting a chain of institutional targets in the city:
The arsonists were an army. They were calculated and they knew where to go, they had maps, they were told where to go. Who told them where to go? ... This is a very, very important question that still needs to be reconciled and answered.28
How did these gangs act beyond the control of US forces that was strong enough to force the melting away of the well armed Republican Guard?29
Article 9 of the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict30, sets out the rules that apply to states in control of occupied territories. They must prevent “any illicit export, removal or transfer of ownership of cultural property” (this of course includes looting). Also banned are actions to “destroy cultural, historical or scientific evidence” (which includes arson).31
The US Attorney General and Interpol32 accept that the most valuable items were not taken by casual looters but by criminal groups who knew precisely what they were looking for with a waiting market of private wealthy collectors. Despite such knowledge and admissions, US lawmakers remained slow to protect Iraqi heritage. Bills before the Congress stayed “parked” for months. The Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act was the outcome; it became law on December 3, 2004 (more than a year and a half after the looting). The Act bans the import of relics from Iraq unless certified as “not removed in violation of the laws of Iraq”. US Customs is also empowered by the Act to seize illegal items and to return them to Iraq.33
Even if found pieces are unharmed, thieves remove accession numbers to make illegal sale easier. The theft of museum pieces to become art commodities tears them away from their cultural context. Philip Kennicott of The Washington Post points to the profound and irreparable change this causes: “Once an object has been stolen from a museum, it begins a metamorphosis, losing its scholarly and archaeological context and becoming a mere commodity.34 How well this plundering of Mesopotamia’s treasures fits Baudrillard’s classic analysis of the reparation of Pharaoh Rameses II as: “…an irreparable violence towards all secrets, the violence of a civilisation without secrets”.35 The desire to unmask Egypt’s secrets is a link to the “furious envy” of a global power faced with the symbolic order of Iraqi (and world) heritage that do not easily fit into the New Global Order.
IV. Further Symbolic Violence and Humiliation in Planning
In “Our Society’s Judgment and Punishment”, Baudrillard notes that war is a mix of a number of events:
As an extension of politics and economics by other means, warfare (including the conflict in Afghanistan) normalizes savagery while beating unorthodox sectors into line. War is also used to reduce zones of resistance and to colonize and subdue any terrain – geographical or mental.36
While the US has failed to protect Iraq’s heritage, it has also been active in the further destruction of places of symbolic importance. In one case, a base has been established for 2,000 troops on the site of the ancient city of Babylon. This action went ahead despite the warnings of archaeologists in the field that it put at risk iconic objects such as the huge basalt Lion of Babylon sculpture. In one spot, souvenir hunters have tried to gouge out the decorated bricks that form the famous dragons of the Ishtar Gate. The British Museum was most scathing in its reaction to the establishment of the camp in this spot: “This is tantamount to establishing a military camp around the Great Pyramid in Egypt or around Stonehenge”.38
According to Baudrillard we might also expect to find the presence of simulation models alongside the conflict in Iraq. We now know that the Pentagon has plans for a dozen or more “enduring bases” in Iraq. This would appear to signal an indefinite occupation of the country. Over the long term these bases are the spearhead of what could ultimately be a massive further penetration of American culture. War preparations in Kuwait included the build up of base camps like mock cities. The same template is being used in Iraq, often superimposed on the site of Saddam’s palaces (“The Green Zone”) or his old bases. One of the few concessions to Iraqi sensitivity has been to rename the signs over the front gate. Thus the former Camp Cooke is now Al Taji Camp; and Camp Victory is Camp Al-Nasr. These bases, complete with PX stores, fast food halls, Internet cafes, and movie theatres, are a model that anticipates the “new” Iraq the US seeks to impose in its own image.39
While the US “builds” one model in Iraq, it destroys a different kind of simulation back on US soil. Furious envy finds a new “target” in the war terrain of the near future – the Third World city. US training now includes a venture into virtual “battle space” of the streets of Third World cities and slums. Here, they construct miniature villages – Arabic in style – for the sole purpose of staging military assaults. Like a phosphorous lit Fallujah, we can see how these tiny Middle Eastern neighbourhoods have no other purpose than the assumption of an attack against them.40
A type of modular architecture is one form of the model and it also exists as software. Here too, it seeks to humiliate the culture it represents. Not only in the lesson of how to attack but also in the desire to unmask all secrets: by surveillance; the planting of listening devices; and tracking of the “enemy”.41 The denizens of these “cities” are all interchangeable by means of computer code. With this method it builds a “furious envy” into the artificial intelligence of a re-playable game world.
Baudrillard, however, also alerts us to the ever present possibility of reversibility. In the case of Abu Ghraib, “those who live by the spectacle will die by the spectacle”.42 Abu Ghraib is as an “atrocity museum” or new model for humiliation but one that provided “an immanent justice of the image” as the photos were taken by the US purveyors of humiliation themselves. According to Baudrillard:
These scenes are the illustration of a power… without aim, without purpose, without a plausible enemy, and in total impunity. … It only manages to humiliate itself, degrade itself and go back on its own word in a sort of unremitting perversity. The ignominy, the vileness is the ultimate symptom of a power that no longer knows what to do with itself.43
Perhaps all of this, all the looting and arson and losses are, in the end, nothing but a story of reversal. Perhaps the price to be paid for an even greater reversal is the loss of the cultural heritage of Baghdad. The world will never again be naïve about the various underlying motives (more than oil certainly) that led the Americans to Iraq – will it?
It appears that no sooner has the shadow of Saddam Hussein moved on than the shadow of US-led reconstruction is cast over Iraq and the entire Middle East. If, as Baudrillard says, there is an attempt to make the world’s wealth of cultures interchangeable, this would certainly create an unequal exchange. Despite former glories, the humiliated peoples of nations such as Iraq would have nothing to give back in return, except the symbolic challenge of terrorism. The war in Iraq, like the war on terror, despite all of its uncertainties, seems certain in one respect: it will provide the motivation for further terrorist attacks on the US and its Western allies. We have already seen what this can do in the homelands of fellow members of the Iraq invasion forces: Spain (2004) and the United Kingdom (2005). If Baudrillard’s understanding of humiliation and symbolic exchange has it right, Americans and other allies may well find themselves asking a very serious question in the not too distant future: was the looting of Baghdad and the humiliation of Iraq worth it?
Stephen Smith is a freelance writer living in Canberra, Australia. He has worked in the area of public policy for libraries and is at present working in the area of broadcasting policy. He has written a number of Baudrillard inspired pieces for the website Electronic Iraq: http://electroniciraq.net
1 This is an updated version of an article which first appeared in Electronic Iraq: http://electroniciraq.net/news/1065.shtml (September 4, 2003). Much water has flowed under the bridges of the Tigris since. One response to the looting of Iraq’s cultural treasures in April 2003 has been to foster closer ties between the world’s scholars and their counterparts in Iraq. This in turn has assisted the flow of information about what was lost or recovered. While the main focus of the earlier article was on the National Museum, it is now clear that the more severe level of devastation was suffered by libraries and manuscript collections.
2 From the documentary film About Baghdad. In-Counter Productions (2004): http://www.aboutbaghdad.com/) cited in Jeff Spurr. “Indispensable Yet Vulnerable: The Library in Dangerous Times. A Report on the Status of Iraqi Academic Libraries and a Survey of Efforts to Assist Them, with Historical Introduction”. Middle East Librarians Association Committee on Iraqi Libraries, produced in collaboration with The Oriental Institute, University of Chicago: http://oi.uchicago.edu/OI/IRAQ/mela/indispensable.html
3 Robert Fisk. “Library Books, Letters, and Priceless Documents are Set Ablaze in Final Chapter of the Sacking of Baghdad”. In The Independent, April 15, 2003. See: http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0415-07.htm
4 Jean Baudrillard. “Our Societies Judgment and Punishment”. International Journal of Baudrillard Studies. Volume 3, Number 2, (July 2006): http://www.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudi ... jb_soc.htm
The original from which this material is taken is: Jean Baudrillard. "La Violence du Mondial”. In Power Inferno. Paris: Editions Galilée, 2002:63-83. A longer English translation by François Debrix appears in Ctheory.net. See “The Violence of the Global”: http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=385. See also: Jean Baudrillard. “The Despair of Having Everything” Le Monde Diplomatique, November 22, 2002. Translated by Luke Sandford: http://MondeDiplo.com/2002/11/12despair (also posted at http://amsterdam.nettime.org/Lists-Arch ... 00067.html).
5 Jean Baudrillard. “Our Society’s Judgement and Punishment”. International Journal of Baudrillard Studies. Volume 3, Number 2 (July 2006): http://www.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudi ... jb_soc.htm
6 Ibid., Emphasis mine.
8 John F. Burns. “Pillagers Strip Iraqi Museum of its Treasure”. In the New York Times. April 13, 2003: http://truthout.org/docs_03/041403C.shtml
9 See: Seymour M. Hersh. Chain of Command: the road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. New York: Harper Collins, 2004; See also: “Lifting the Hood. The Prisoner of Abu Ghraib”, by reporter Olivia Rousset. Dateline, SBS Television, November 9, 2004, http://news.sbs.com.au/dateline/index.p ... 2005-11-09
[SBS is Australia's multicultural and multilingual public broadcaster].
10 Nabil Al-Tikriti. “Iraq Manuscript Collections, Archives, and Libraries Situation Report”. (June 8, 2003). Middle East Librarians Association Committee on Iraqi Libraries, produced in collaboration with The Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, http://oi.uchicago.edu/OI/IRAQ/docs/nat.html; See also: “Oil Ministry the most secured building”. In The News International, Pakistan (April 17, 2003).
11 James A. R. Nafziger. “Protection of Cultural Heritage in Time of War and its Aftermath”. Art Loss in Iraq. International Foundation for Art Research, http://www.ifar.org/heritage.htm
12 Robert Fisk. “A Civilisation Torn to Pieces”. In The Independent. (April 13, 2003). Also available online at: http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle ... temID=3456
13 Lawrence Smallman. “Rumsfeld Cracks Jokes, but Iraqis aren’t Laughing”, Aljazeera.net, April 13, 2003. Also available online at: http://www.asiantribune.com/show_article.php?id=390
14 Jean Baudrillard. Simulations. New York, NY: Semiotext(e), 1983:146.
15 United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. Top Ten Art Crimes – Iraqi Looted and Stolen Artefacts, http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/arttheft/topten/iraqi.htm; and http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/arttheft/asia ... aqart.htm; Kim Sengupta. “World is the Poorer for Loss of Iraqi Antiquities”. In The Canberra Times. (November 12, 2005: B4). See also: Kim Sengupta. “Pillaging the Gardens of Babylon”. The Independent Online Edition (November 9, 2005): http://news.independent.co.uk/world/mid ... 325740.ece
16 Matthew Bogdanos. “The Casualties of War: The Truth about the Iraq Museum”. In American Journal of Archaeology, Volume 109, Number 3, July 2005, http://www.ajaonline.org/index.php?ptype=content&aid=5; Dr. Francis Deblauwe. “Best guess of the losses at the National Museum”. The Iraq War and Archaeology, a joint project of Archaeos Inc and Institute of Oriental Studies, University of Vienna: http://iwa.univie.ac.at/
17 David Tresilian. “Assault on Heritage”. Al-Ahram Weekly Online, Issue No. 723, (December 30, 2004 - January 5, 2005): http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2004/723/sc111.htm
18 Rene Teijgeler. “So Yesterday Was the Burning of Books” – Wartime in Iraq”, Lecture Held at Responsible Stewardship Towards Cultural Heritage Materials, Preconference of the IFLA Rare Book and Manuscript Section, Copenhagen, The Royal Library (August 11, 2005). Published online by: The Iraq War and Archaeology, a joint project of Archaeos Inc and Institute of Oriental Studies, University of Vienna, October 5, 2005, http://iwa.univie.ac.at/teijgeler.html
19 Nabil Al-Tikriti. “Iraq Manuscript Collections, Archives, and Libraries Situation Report”. (June 8, 2003). Middle East Librarians Association Committee on Iraqi Libraries, produced in collaboration with The Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, http://oi.uchicago.edu/OI/IRAQ/docs/nat.html.
20 Jeff Spurr. “Indispensable Yet Vulnerable: The Library in Dangerous Times. A Report on the Status of Iraqi Academic Libraries and a Survey of Efforts to Assist Them, with Historical Introduction”. Middle East Librarians Association Committee on Iraqi Libraries, produced in collaboration with The Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, See: http://oi.uchicago.edu/OI/IRAQ/mela/indispensable.html.
21 Nabil Al-Tikriti. “Iraq Manuscript Collections, Archives, and Libraries Situation Report”. (June 8, 2003). Middle East Librarians Association Committee on Iraqi Libraries, produced in collaboration with The Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, http://oi.uchicago.edu/OI/IRAQ/docs/nat.html.
23 Ole Rothenborg. “US Troops Encouraged Ransacking”, in Dagens Nyheter. Translated by Joe Valasek of Truthout.org (May 12, 2003): http://truthout.org/docs_03/041603D.shtml For the original Swedish language version see: Ole Rothenborg. “USA uppmanade till rofferi”, in Dagens Nyheter, Stockholm, (April 11, 2003): http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=1435&a=129852
24 Walter Sommerfeld. “The Systematic Destruction of Iraqi Culture”. Translated by Christian Hess. University of Marburg, Germany. University of Marburg webpage:
26 Jonathan Duffy. “US troops ‘Encouraged’ Iraqi Looters”, BBC News Online,
(May 6, 2003): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3003393.stm
27 Walter Sommerfeld. “The Systematic Destruction of Iraqi Culture”. Translated by Christian Hess. University of Marburg, Germany. University of Marburg webpage:
28 Robert Fisk and Amy Goodman. “An Anti-colonial War Against the Americans May Have Already Begun: an Interview with Robert Fisk on Democracy Now”,
Znet Iraq, April 22, 2003, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle ... temID=3503
29 The foregoing points to significant and varied evidence of a planned attack on cultural locations. A full independent investigation is now required to examine US complicity.
30 UNESCO, “Second Protocol to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict”, The Hague, March 26, 1999, http://www.unesco.org/culture/laws/hagu ... col2.shtml
31 Neither the USA nor the UK has signed this Convention or the Second Protocol.
32 “Prepared Remarks of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft”. INTERPOL Meeting on Cultural Property Looting in Iraq (May 6, 2003), Lyon, France: http://www.interpol.com/Public/ICPO/spe ... 030506.asp
33 United States House of Representatives. (House Resolution 1047): “Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act”. (Passed: December 7, 2004); American Schools of Oriental Research, Information on Iraq: http://www.asor.org/policy2.htm; See also: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h108-1047
34 Philip Kennicott. “The Vanishing Past”. In The Washington Post (April 18, 2003): http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dy ... Found=true.
35 Jean Baudrillard. Simulations. New York, NY: Semiotext(e), 1983:21.
36 Jean Baudrillard. “Our Society’s Judgement and Punishment”. International Journal of Baudrillard Studies. Volume 3, Number 2 (July 2006): http://www.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudi ... jb_soc.htm
37 http://images.google.ca/imgres?imgurl=h ... ry/dennis/ Visual_Arts/101Images/02_1.21-27_Ishtar_Gate_1.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.luc.edu/depts /history/dennis/ Visual_Arts/101Images/page_001_ALL1.htm&h=375 &w=445&sz= 48&tbnid=tjFpGWR0e34J:&tbnh=104&tbnw=124&hl=en&start=4&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dishtar%2Bgate%2B%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26safe%3Doff
38 Rory McCarthy and Maev Kennedy. “Babylon Wrecked by War”, in The Guardian, January 15, 2005, http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0, ... 42,00.html
39 David R. Francis. “US Bases in Iraq: Sticky Politics, Hard Math”. In The Christian Science Monitor, http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0930/p17s02-cogn.html; “War Preparations Pick Up Pace in Kuwait”. In USA Today. February 9, 2003, http://usatoday.com/news/world/2003-02- ... dup_x.htm; GlobalSecurity.org. Military/Iraq facilities, “Al Taji Camp”: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ ... l-taji.htm
40 Geoff Manaugh. “A Miniature City Waiting for Attack (Military Urbanism)”. In Nettime (August 27, 2005): http://www.mail-archive.com/nettime-l@b ... 2951.html;
See also: http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2005/08/mi ... ttack.html
42 Jean Baudrillard. “War Porn” In International Journal of Baudrillard Studies. Volume 2, Number 1 (January 2004): http://www.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudi ... taylor.htm
©International Journal of Baudrillard Studies (2006)
To further understand that this was pattern and not coincidence, recall that soon thereafter the USG was shipping $18 billion dollars in cash from US-based Iraqi accounts to Iraq, where most of the money was disappeared. They dissolved the only functioning institution, the army, and banned all Baath Party members from employment (even though professionals of all kinds had to be in the party to work, and in marked contrast to how de-Nazification was done after World War II). This made an Iraqi-led recovery impossible. The war of aggression on Iraq was an operation to loot and destroy, from the beginning.
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