Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Remember That Vase?

The one Dick Cheney said was stolen as a result of the unruliness of war? Well, one more thing the election in Iraq didn't fix was theft of national treasures. Asia Times:

CARACAS - One million books, 10 million documents and 14,000 archaeological artifacts have been lost in the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq - the biggest cultural disaster since the descendants of Genghis Khan destroyed Baghdad in 1258, Venezuelan writer Fernando Baez told Inter Press Service (IPS).

"US and Polish soldiers are still stealing treasures today and selling them across the borders with Jordan and Kuwait, where art merchants pay up to $57,000 for a Sumerian tablet," said Baez, who was interviewed during a brief visit to Caracas. (A Sumerian tablet is pictured at right.)

The expert on the destruction of libraries has helped document the devastation of cultural and religious objects in Iraq, where the ancient Mesopotamian kingdoms of Sumer, Akkad and Babylon emerged, giving it a reputation as the birthplace of civilization.

His inventory of the destruction and his denunciations that the coalition forces are violating the Hague Convention of 1954 on the protection of cultural heritage in times of war have earned him the enmity of Washington. Baez said he was refused a visa to enter the US to take part in conferences.

In addition, he has been barred from returning to Iraq "to carry out further investigations", he added. "But it's too late, because we already have documents, footage and photos that in time will serve as evidence of the atrocities committed," said Baez, the author of The Cultural Destruction of Iraq and A Universal History of the Destruction of Books, which were published in Spanish.

I'll admit, the interview with the author that follows in the linked article is a little odd (and before anyone gets on my case about the veracity of Asia Times let me just say: CNN, bitches). Baez seems to have quite a bias against Western intellectuals-- I don't know where his claim that Nabakov burned a copy of Don Quixote came from, first I've heard of that one and Goebels may have been a philologist but it was only so he could prove his pet theories about racial purity and Arrianism. Also, Baez takes Hussein's "writing" of three books at face value-- we all know they were ghost written by hacks.

However, the overall point, that US and Coalition forces are stealing priceless artifacts and selling them on the black market needs looking into. Not that I expect it will happen. Bush and Cheney are too busy looting this country to concern themselves with our troops looting another one.

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