Iraqi Museum Looting

Anti-war folks keep referring to the tragedy of the looting of the Iraqi museum, as a substitute for a serious objection to the war. Imagine in February if we were told that we shouldn’t invade Iraq because it would but the Iraqi Museum’s at risk.. That is the effective content of this carping. Anyway, here are the details.

>From here
So, lets think about this. The Museum, full of
priceless antiquities, is located in a country run
by a ruthless tyrant who has treated the country
and its treasures as his personal playthings. It
has been closed to the public for years. War has
been threatened for months, and the tyrant knows
that the city will be bombed, so does the museum
staff. Rumors abound that the tyrant, his henchmen
and their families are stashing treasure in
foreign countries against the possibility of
flight. When the army of liberation arrives, the
Museum is empty, its displays and vaults
ransacked. The staff blames an anonymous mob of
civilians. . . . Motive, Means, Opportunity; isnt
that what Miss Marple would wonder about? The
tyrant would certainly have them in spades.

>From Kanan Makiya

I spoke by sat-phone with friends in Baghdad.
According to them, the breakdown of authority
familiar to the world is getting better. Citizens
groups are forming to keep order in the streets,
and meeting little preliminary resistance. People
want to be safe, and now that the ministries have
been ransacked, it appears the worst of the
looting has passed. In Basra, too, I understand
these same groups are forming. One friend told me
that the looting of the National Museum–something
that cut deeply into me–was the work of newly
deposed Baathist officials, who had been selling
off our patrimony as they saw their days were
numbered. As the regime fell, these (ex-)Baathists
went back for one last swindle, and took with them
treasures that dated back 9,000 years, to the
Sumerians and the Babylonian

>From Glenn Reynolds:
Most of the claims that its Americas fault,
however, boil down to people saying that the
United States let it happen.

But what, exactly, does let it happen mean?
The United States wasnt in control of Baghdad last
week. Saddams forces were in the process of
collapsing, but the United States hadnt subdued
all resistance (theres still some sporadic
shooting, etc., going on) and didnt have effective
control over the city. As an occupying power, we
do have the responsibility to maintain civil order
once hostilities are at an end but nobody has a
responsibility to maintain civil order in the
midst of a battle.

>From th AP:

The fact that the vaults were opened
suggests that employees of the museum may have
been involved, said the employee, who declined to
be identified. To ordinarily people, these are
just stones. Only the educated know the value of
these pieces.

>From Gen Brooks:
GEN. BROOKS: …The efforts to secure antiquities.
First, as we entered Baghdad, we were involved in
very intense combat, and our focus was the combat
actions necessary to remove the regime and any of
its appendages. In removing the regime, there is a
vacuum that is created — that certainly did occur
— and the vacuum will be filled as time goes on.
I don’t think that anyone anticipated that the
riches of Iraq would be looted by the Iraqi
people, and indeed it happened in some places. So
while it may now be after the fact that that
looting has occurred, it’s still important to try
to restore it as much as possible. It’s simply not
useful to speculate as to why we did, did not,
what could we have done differently. We did what
we did, and our operations were focused on
objectives at hand at the time. And we believe
that as time goes on we will be able to sort out
this issue as well.

>From Alex Jacobson:
If the major cost of this war was the looting of
the Museum, it was well worth it. It serves no
one to complain that the US should have protected
the musuem as well. If the issue is PR, we just
have to keep talking about what we did well. No
one is perfect. Anyone will be a failure held to
that standard.


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