Saturday, April 12, 2008

Theft of a nation

Al-Ahram Weekly, 10-16 April 2008

What happens when the vandals are the US military? Nothing, writes Azmi Ashour*

Who is responsible for the looting of Iraq's national museum, ransacked in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Baghdad in 2006? Are the occupation authorities to blame for failing to provide protection on the spot, the Iraqi state for failing to anticipate what would happen or the international community for watching from the sidelines?

The British Museum's John Curtis has no doubt Iraq's occupiers must shoulder most of the blame for what he describes as the systematic destruction of the country's national collections. Doors were kicked down, papers and computer discs removed and files were shredded, all of which suggests a degree of premeditation.

These acts of vandalism appear designed to erase the memory of Iraqi civilisation, and more significantly of the unity that prevailed under the Babylonians, the Sumerians and the Assyrians. Mesopotamia, as an entity, is clearly something we are intended to forget.

A team of British archaeologists visiting the site of the ancient city of Babylonia (or Gate of God), 55km south of Baghdad, was appalled by the destruction wrought by US troops. The ancient road on which Nebuchadnezzar reviewed his army as part of the Babylonian celebrations of the new year had been crushed beneath advancing US tanks. Hills containing unexcavated ruins had been bulldozed. The Americans might want us to believe they are building a new Iraq, but did they really need to destroy the old one?

Continued . . .

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