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Author Topic: Can a culture survive without museums and libraries?
al-Qa'bong
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posted 15 April 2003 12:10 PM      Profile for al-Qa'bong   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
I was holding in my hands the last Baghdad vestiges of Iraq's written history. But for Iraq, this is Year Zero; with the destruction of the antiquities in the Museum of Archaeology on Saturday 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?

The Sack of Baghdad

Is Iraq's culture being deliberately erased so it can be replaced with ArabDisney and the Coca-Cola culture?

Can it survive this cultural genocide?


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Mr. Magoo
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posted 15 April 2003 12:22 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 

Can a population "genocide" itself? And in the rush to make political hay by asking why the U.S. didn't stop looters and arsonists, why is nobody asking why Iraqis would want to loot or burn their own cultural birthright? Isn't it kind of an obvious question under the circumstances?


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WingNut
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posted 15 April 2003 12:29 PM      Profile for WingNut   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
To the first question, apparently, yes. We might still achieve that through environmental degradation.

To the second question, well, c'mon. You really think the Iraqis are different then their "liberators?"

In similar circumstances you think Americans would give their museums, libraries and art galleries a pass during their looting?

And surely if the Americans could find the resources to protect the Interior Ministry and the Oil Ministry they could have protected important cultural sights.


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Mr. Magoo
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posted 15 April 2003 12:40 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
In similar circumstances you think Americans would give their museums, libraries and art galleries a pass during their looting?

Seems to me that in the post-Rodney King looting, the popular targets were electronics stores and clothing stores. Did a museum get it too? I also remember most of the looting being, well, looting. "Property redistribution" if you will. Nobody was torching a warehouse full of stereos just to watch it burn.

quote:
And surely if the Americans could find the resources to protect the Interior Ministry and the Oil Ministry they could have protected important cultural sights.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda. It's a tragedy beyond belief, but the shock barely had time to register before the opportunistic finger pointing began.

If this is such a no-brainer, how come nobody was talking about it before it happened? Why was nobody asking "what about the museums... they'll surely be burned to the ground! What are the plans for them?"


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WingNut
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posted 15 April 2003 12:52 PM      Profile for WingNut   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
They were.
If you were paying attention you would have noticed writer linked to an article indicating the Pentagon had in depth briefings on the cultural treasures of Iraq and the requirement to protect them. They are also required to protect them under the Geneva Convention. This isn't a case of coulda,shoudla,woulda this is a case of criminal negligience.

[ 15 April 2003: Message edited by: WingNut ]


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skdadl
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posted 15 April 2003 12:52 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
People were talking about it before it happened. The Pentagon gave curators and historians assurances that certain sites and collections would be protected.

See this thread: scroll down to writer's second post.

(There has been considerable thread proliferation on this topic is the problem. So many people have had such interesting things to say, but all over the place.)


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al-Qa'bong
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posted 15 April 2003 01:00 PM      Profile for al-Qa'bong   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
"If this is such a no-brainer, how come nobody was talking about it before it happened? "

But they were. Curators of the museums and European and American archaeologists requested, before the sack of Baghdad, that these buildings be protected.

Is making the request in 2002 early enough warning?

quote:
If war is likely to endanger the cultural heritage, the aftermath could be much worse, say archaeologists. In the absence of a functioning government, looters move in.


Here's another link

quote:
"They've known the importance of this museum, I showed them where it was. There's no reason this should be looted," said McGuire Gibson of the University of Chicago, one of the world's top Mesopotamia scholars...Gibson, who has traveled more than 30 times to Iraq, said he met repeatedly in January with Pentagon officials to map Iraq's museum and excavation sites. The meetings were to assure that the sites were spared from coalition bombing. Post-war looting was always the bigger concern, Gibson and others said.

Here's another

quote:
In the months leading up to the Iraq war, U.S. scholars repeatedly urged the Defense Department to protect Iraq's priceless archaeological heritage from looters, and warned specifically that the National Museum of Antiquities was the single most important site in the country.

[ 15 April 2003: Message edited by: al-Qa'bong ]


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Tommy Shanks
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posted 15 April 2003 01:03 PM      Profile for Tommy Shanks     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
It seems as if the looters were interested in grabbing anything and eveything, from filing cabinets and tires, to toilets and rolls of wax paper. Not to mention pillaging universities and museums.

How could it have been stopped? It appears the only way would be to place troops in every building, store, and museum.

I guess my question though is motivation. Did they destroy priceless artuifacts because the were resisting the coalition, or was an expression of hatred toward Saddam and anything he came in contact with? Or, more simply, was it a case of I'm finally getting mine?

Whatever the reason its disturbing to say the least that anyone would do such a thing. You would have thought that a group of people would have stood up the looters and say enough.


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Mr. Magoo
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posted 15 April 2003 01:13 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
This isn't a case of coulda,shoudla,woulda this is a case of criminal negligience.

Ok then, fair enough. But this still makes NO sense to me. And no, if anarchy overtook Ontario I would NOT be down at the ROM setting fire to priceless treasures.


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al-Qa'bong
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posted 15 April 2003 01:27 PM      Profile for al-Qa'bong   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
How can you tell? Perhaps, after living through three wars, twelve years of sanctions, and seeing your city get bombed...again, some "shock and awe" might set in and you'd act differently than you would in your comfortable Ontario home..
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DrConway
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posted 15 April 2003 02:03 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
As to the question of this thread...

I don't believe a culture can survive entirely on pure inertia and an ahistorical understanding of itself. The United States is a prime example of a culture attempting to do just this - its population, unfortunately, is treated to an often ahistorical explanation of current world events, and has a distorted understanding of its own history - such common flaws as not remembering that the first President of the USA would not have been George Washington as the Republic as presently constituted was not set up until 1783 or 1787 (?).... and see, there I go again. Even *I* can't remember entirely that extra tidbit about the US's history.

Now this is not to say the US lacks its museums and libraries; it has a lot of them. But what do you expect would happen if all of them just disappeared? They are the collective store of the knowledge of the country, by and large. The loss of the nation's history and historiography, if you wish, would be.. well, nearly incalculable.

We are only beginning to calculate the impact of the loss of the artifacts of the first known civilization to exist in the Iraqi area that used some sort of writing. A large library in Baghdad also reportedly went up in flames.

This is actually rather depressing.


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Jingles
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posted 15 April 2003 02:07 PM      Profile for Jingles     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
With all the prior specific warnings and consultations on the preservation of these cultural items, it seems we can only conclude that this isn't negligence, this is a deliberate act by the US government.

To destroy a people, you must destroy their culture and history. The Americans, and us, have had over 200 years of practice at this, including using the members of the targetted people to do the dirty work for us.

It's a page from the fascist playbook. There is the Superior culture, to which all others are worthless and less-than human. And, like Bush says, only American values matter, and the only legitimate way of life is the American Way.


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al-Qa'bong
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posted 15 April 2003 03:17 PM      Profile for al-Qa'bong   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
We are only beginning to calculate the impact of the loss of the artifacts of the first known civilization to exist in the Iraqi area that used some sort of writing.

It would be tragic even if it were only "the Iraqi area," but this is, as we learned in school, the origin of all writing. The Garden of Eden is supposedly in the area. It's the CRADLE OF CIVILIZATION!

In a thousand years, when people look back on history, the words "American" and "Mongol" will be synonymous.


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Trinitty
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posted 15 April 2003 05:43 PM      Profile for Trinitty     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I haven't been able to watch the stories. This is a tradgety beyond description. Yes, I do distinctly remember the requests to save these sites, they were repeated over and over again.

It's the Library of Alexandria all over again, and humanity is poorer for it.

When will it stop? When will we learn?


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ronb
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posted 15 April 2003 06:15 PM      Profile for ronb     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
And no, if anarchy overtook Ontario I would NOT be down at the ROM setting fire to priceless treasures.

If the iraqi situation unfolded here in Canada, with a yearlong countdown to anarchy, there wouldn't be any priceless treasure to burn in the AGO, it'd all have been stolen and whisked away into the black market long before it ever occurred to you and the rest of the mob to head down there. There were billions of dollars in antiquities in those museums, you think that rarified kind of booty isn't going to attract serious attention from some pretty sophisticated criminals? Your LA riot smash and grab analogy is pretty lame.


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david 40
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posted 15 April 2003 07:25 PM      Profile for david 40     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Dear Correspondents:
People untrained to weapons think that those who are armed and uniformed--police and soldiers--are largely interchangeable. They are not. This is akin to thinking that because both terriers and thoroughbreds have fur, they are equally suited to yard-guard duty. Police typically carry small arms, but are trained to apply increments; persuasion conversation, dissuasion, command, restraint, containment, and only in extremity, deadly force.
Soldiers are trained only in deadly force: If someone fits a contact criteria (generally speaking, this means carrying/using arms against your side, or looking like they are helping those who do) they are to be killed. Soldiers' discretion is limited to deciding on-the-spot which weapons system to use. You could consider civil police operating on a rheostat, and soldiers on an "on/off" switch.
There is a third option, a "police army". Such forces are designed, armed and motivated not to face armed opponents, but to control, selectively murder, and intimidate civilian populations. They are characteristic of police states. Such forces would be particularly well-suited to immediate post-combat property guard, but the USA, Britain, Australia and Poland do not have them.
If you propose that soldiers guard museum pieces you must be willing to sanction killing people to protect historical artifacts. Unless you are ready to sign off on killing people to protect property, soldiers are unsuited to guarding it. If you don't expect them to kill for that purpose, then by default you've chosen to to wait for the follow-up of military policing units, which are rather farther back in the order of battle. In the interim, looting happens.
My impression has been that the Coalition army is reluctant to shoot unarmed civilians to protect property. I find no fault with this.
Best, David

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Gir Draxon
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posted 15 April 2003 08:02 PM      Profile for Gir Draxon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yeah its too bad the Americans are not as culturally aware and tolerant as the Hussein regime. I'm sure they showed the utmost respect and care for all important historical sites.
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DrConway
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posted 15 April 2003 08:50 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
david 40, while I am well aware of the reasoning you have outlined and in fact have used it myself to justify why militarizing the police force is a very poor strategy in the United States, the simple fact is this:

The Pentagon was well aware of the requirement of securing cultural assets both as a matter of service to humanity and in order to not violate the Geneva Convention. One tank in front of each Ministry building and museum would probably have deterred looting of the governmental apparatus and the all-important artifacts that should be preserved until the situation settles down.

Therefore on balance, while using the military to do crowd control is a poor second to civilian police, when there is no effective police force the military maintaining order is preferable to nobody maintaining order.


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nonsuch
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posted 15 April 2003 08:58 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Is Iraq's culture being deliberately erased so it can be replaced with ArabDisney and the Coca-Cola culture?

Sure.
It wasn't a question of failing or forgetting or being unable to protect the library and museum; it was a question of shooting the doors down with a tank and telling people to go for it. Some did; some stood by helplessly. (I just read this in a heart-breaking eye-witness report, which probably has already been quoted on another forum.)
It's no secret that the Bush administration does not revere Islamic texts of whatever age.
I don't know whether they've picked the food and video franchisees yet, but i'm sure American culture will figure largely in the 'reconstruction'.

quote:
Can it survive this cultural genocide?

I think so, yes. Resentment sharpens memory and reinforces old loyalties. People under hated foreign rule are far more likely to cling to their roots, to treasure the stories and ceremonies of their ancestors than are free people. This is not necessarily a good thing for them and their grandchildren and their nation, but it's likely to happen.

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TommyPaineatWork
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posted 16 April 2003 01:54 AM      Profile for TommyPaineatWork     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
It's no secret that the Bush administration does not revere Islamic texts of whatever age.

I'd say they wouldn't mind anything older than 6000 years disapearing.


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Flowers By Irene
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posted 16 April 2003 03:33 AM      Profile for Flowers By Irene     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
I'd say they wouldn't mind anything older than 6000 years disapearing.

Well, that and all the incriminating stuff from the past couple decades or so as well. Anything in between is just a, er, casualty of war / "MIA" or somesuch... no doubt.


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Michelle
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posted 16 April 2003 08:29 AM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Seems to me that in the post-Rodney King looting, the popular targets were electronics stores and clothing stores. Did a museum get it too?

Lame comparison. Although there were riots, there was likely still tight security over banks and museums and places like that. During the US riots of recent memory, there wasn't an entire collapse of all civil authority and all political systems.

As for shooting people to protect property - get real. No one wanted the US troops to shoot people. If they had parked a few tanks near the entrances and provided security and therefore a disincentive to the looters, that likely would have been good enough.

This idea that somehow the Iraqis are savages who would commit such atrocities while we are more "civilized" and would never do such a thing is total bullshit. There are lots of people in our society who would loot museums for priceless goods if they were completely open for the taking. Maybe we're not among those numbers of people - but then, lots of Iraqis weren't among those numbers either. Lots of them, as mentioned above, stood by helpless and despairing, watching as their history was pillaged by opportunists.

There are opportunists everywhere. I hate to pull out the "race card", but it IS racist to suggest that Iraqis would be more susceptible looting a museum than we would out here in the West.


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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posted 16 April 2003 11:02 AM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Besides, how many museums and libraries are there in Watts? Pawn-shops, yes, lots of those.
People are much the same everywhere: some go wild and stop thinking altogether; some keeep a cool head and look for things they want; some will destroy property in anger - and quite a few won't even go near a looting opportunity. Watching a crowd from this distance doesn't give us anything like a clear picture of the population as a whole.

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Rebecca West
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posted 16 April 2003 02:27 PM      Profile for Rebecca West     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
If you propose that soldiers guard museum pieces you must be willing to sanction killing people to protect historical artifacts. Unless you are ready to sign off on killing people to protect property, soldiers are unsuited to guarding it. If you don't expect them to kill for that purpose, then by default you've chosen to to wait for the follow-up of military policing units, which are rather farther back in the order of battle. In the interim, looting happens.
My impression has been that the Coalition army is reluctant to shoot unarmed civilians to protect property. I find no fault with this.
If this had been a UN-sanctioned event, if the US administration hadn't been hell-bent on keeping the UN uninvolved, this wouldn't be as much of an issue. We have police-soldiers. They're called peacekeepers, and they and a whole host of international observers should be in place, in Bagdhad and elsewhere, to maintain order and protect civilians. Or to bear witness when these things fail.

But the US doesn't want anyone keeping an eye on what they're doing over there, now that the war is "over". They want the freedom to engage in their own brand of looting - imperialism.


From: London , Ontario - homogeneous maximus | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
david 40
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posted 16 April 2003 05:52 PM      Profile for david 40     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Dear R. West:

You are unlikely to change your mind, but your assertion that the US was "...hell-bent..." on discouraging United Nations participation is demonstrably false. The US spent a large number of months trying to get the UN to join in enforcing their own resolutions, to do something other than pontificate. In fact, the Coalition accepted any nation willing to join.

Secondly, your faith in the efficacy of U.N. peacekeepers is likewise out of touch with reality. The U.N. let the Rwanda butchery happen, and would have likewise let the Serbian government murder Muslims in the hundreds of thousands, had not the US-led NATO made the Serbs stop with methods that actually worked.

I observe that the discourse of "progressives" or the "left" leans heavily on one premise (the USA is always wrong) and two techniques. One is to assert untruths loudly and frequently. The other is to name-call. I shall be interested to see if you can avoid them.
Best. David


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al-Qa'bong
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posted 16 April 2003 06:54 PM      Profile for al-Qa'bong   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The Komodo dragon, the world's largest living lizard, is found on the steep-sloped island of Komodo ....in the lesser Sunda chain of the Indonesian Archipelago....and the nearby islands of Rinja, Padar, and Flores. We have two in this
country at the National Zoo in Washington....which were given to the U.S. by the late former premier of
Indonesia....Sukarno....some years ago.

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bakunin
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posted 16 April 2003 07:19 PM      Profile for bakunin     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
i'm sorry david....


...that you live in surrey and thus have to interact with so many halfwit right wing religous wackos.


From: we may not convince you but we'll convince your children | Registered: Apr 2003  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 16 April 2003 08:01 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
*roars with laughter*

Oh, that's GOOD, bakunin... Goooooooood.

I keep forgetting about Surrey. I often tend to forget that Surrey exists.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Youngfox
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posted 17 April 2003 12:00 PM      Profile for Youngfox   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I think it is evident to anybody who pulls off their blinders that being an educated leader, Phony Blair yearned for the legitimacy of the International community. He urged the U.S. to seek it from the UN, realizing that in the absence of the appearance of (and actual) statesmanship on the part of the U.S. the world might see the large strings of drool hanging off of their chins.
The international posturing on the part of the fraudulent Bush administration was as real as the intent to "liberate" the Iraqi people,
(or was it weapons of ma.., wait no regime change..wait no hey look over there while I rob the country blind and dismantle everything that made America good.)
The fact was that the invasion force was constantly reinforced while the chickenhawks flew around the world greasing palms, issuing economic threats and dangling geopolitical carrots in order to create the facsimile of a "coalition". If you read any international media (and the very occasionally integral American press), it is quite clear that the invasion was a forgone unilateral conclusion YEARS ago. When you break down the final "coalition" roster it is grifter's list of countries that needed money or political favours from the Americans. (A coalition of the willing to except payment or privileges). The Americans wanted to run the whole charade and to involve the international community would have meant patience, statesmanship, accountability for actions and constructive planning for after the mass murders and cultural purging had occurred.

As for the museum, it is beginning to appear more and more like a staged and educated robbery of the most valuable pieces, while the less prestigious pieces were smashed to give the appearance of mass insanity and indiscriminate looting. The curator claimed that keys were used to enter the building.
(searching for articles)


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DrConway
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posted 17 April 2003 12:05 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
"The Plot Thickens". (Yes, I know it's a cliche, but if what you say is true then I have to wonder how much of the looting was indeed provoked and staged in order to create the appearance of a nation whose people are too concerned with grabbing anything that isn't nailed down, although to what purpose I can't imagine.)
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ronb
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posted 17 April 2003 12:20 PM      Profile for ronb     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
It was a heist. End of story. Call the police.
From: gone | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 17 April 2003 01:00 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
It wasn't just any heist. It was... The Mother Of All Heists!

(cliche again, I know, but it's just so... apt!)


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nonsuch
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posted 17 April 2003 01:01 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
...staged in order to create the appearance of a nation whose people are too concerned with grabbing anything that isn't nailed down, although to what purpose I can't imagine.

I can think of several:
Picture of wild, destructive Arabs on every American screen. ("See, they're savages. The few we killed were no great loss. The rest, we'll civilize.")
Valuable artefacts go missing. ("Iraquis took them or smashed them. Oh this pretty little thing? I've had it for years.")
In the melee, a whole lot of documents go missing. ("US looking for paper trail of WMD. Could take a while.")
Islamic culture in shambles. ("Oh well. Time to start baptizing."
- but then, i'm older and more disillusioned than you are.


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ronb
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posted 17 April 2003 01:07 PM      Profile for ronb     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Not to mention providing a handy excuse for putting the loverly Mukharbarat back in charge... check it out!

I really hate it when my worst cynical suspicions are realized.


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marcy
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Babbler # 3562

posted 20 April 2003 08:23 PM      Profile for marcy   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
It is highly likely that at least some of the exceptionally valuable (I know, wrong word, it was all exceptionally valuable) stuff - including pieces deemed "collectable" (maybe that would be all of it) was "pre-ordered" by unscrupulous collectors and thus targetted by thieves (most nations and societies have 'em). Some other artifacts are already on the European art black market. Looks like some mullahs who got into the act last week managed to get a few things returned but by and large, this rotten episode is a cultural disaster of the first magnitude and will be recognized as such. The US did have a responsibility to protect it and as noted elsewhere, it has been an issue for months. Additionally, references to archaeological sites were also frequent. Isn't it the case that U.S. negotiators working on NAFTA didn't understand what culture was? Their notion held that everything could and should be commodified and commercialized, mass produced, standardized, blandized and vulgarized at the same time, and sold. That's why some enterprising entrepreneur will build a "Back to Babylon" theme park in the new Baghdad and stock it with facsimilies and reproductions of all the looted material. Just like Las Vegas, everything will be fake and gaudy and in complete bad taste. Now, that's the spirit of freedom!!!
From: vancouver | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged

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