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Subject: Cultural heritage in Iraq

Cultural heritage in Iraq

From: Charles S. Tumosa <tumosac>
Date: Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Some comments on the current Iraqi museum situation.

To hold the U.S. responsible for the looting of the Iraqi museums is
irrational and represents a very narrow view of war. The museums
were looted by Iraqis or other locals (possibly insiders), whether
amateur or professional thieves, not American soldiers. The extent
of the looting is also a subject for investigation since government
officials used the museums as their own private source of objects.
Where were the local police and museum guards? The looting went on
while Baghdad was an active war zone and not secured. The suggestion
of sending non-military police into an active combat zone to secure
the museums or libraries is at best impractical if not dangerous.
The U.S. military went out of its way to protect non-military
targets from destruction. However, its primary responsibility is to
protect its troops and non-combatants, not buildings or objects
however valuable. Whining about the outcome of the war because of
ideological concerns is not particularly useful.

The question of whether the war is legal or immoral is hardly
appropriate to this list. The irony of the comments from the German
correspondent is not lost. Perhaps the European museums would like
to return materials from their collections to fill the Baghdad (and
other) Museum(s). There seems to have been silence from the museum
community as Saddam's Government exterminated tens of thousands of
Kurds, Shiites and marsh Arabs along with their culture, surely this
is as much a loss as sherds, pots, and tablets.

Each person is responsible for their own behavior whether or not
there are police or soldiers around to enforce law and order. The
looters are simply thieves, destroying cultures, and hardly unique
in history.  Frankly, however, nothing in any museum is worth the
life of any American soldier.

Our opinion and the usual disclaimers.

    **** Moderator's comments: You are correct that matters of
    politics are not appropriate for the DistList and it is often
    difficult for me to determine where to draw the line. Having
    allowed this current posting to balance Martin's posting
    yesterday, I am, however, drawing that line here. Future
    discussions of the Iraq situation are very welcome, but only to
    the extent that they pertain directly to the preservation of
    cultural property. Let's take it as read that there are lots of
    strong feelings and opinions about the political aspects of this
    issue that will implicitly inform what we write here, but if you
    wish to discuss those, there are other venues available. Thank
    you for your cooperation.

Charles S. Tumosa
David von Endt


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