Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

A Worthy Cause: Iraq's Archeological Treasures

By imrdkl in Culture
Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 07:50:58 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

The looting which followed the invasion of Iraq was a terrible shock for many people, and the hand-wringing and worry which followed showed that many, including this author were convinced that some of the oldest and least-studied recordings of history, the Cuneiform Archive, had been lost and possibly destroyed. It also seemed clear that thousands of priceless artworks had been stolen and spirited away, with the administration more than happy to call the looting an "inside job", disregarding the fact that the protection offered these priceless relics by the US military forces was minimal at best, and very late in coming.

The administration, as usual, was painting with a very wide brush - but so were the rest of us.

As it turns out, some of the very same people who were accused of the "inside job" were actually working to protect Iraq's historical treasures. While the actions of the directors are definitely under scrutiny, and it's generally agreed that at least some of the directors were at best, complacent and quite likely directly involved in the looting, the majority of the museum's staff worked silently and diligently during Hussein's reign, and during the chaos which followed, to protect the priceless relics from greed and revisionism. In fact, the history which has been waiting to be discovered for 25 years in the museums, hiding places, and archaeological sites around that country may soon give the world a new perspective upon its earliest civilization - a perspective and knowledge which was previously known only by an elite few. Correctly rewriting history, or at least making it more complete, seems to me to be one of the few things worthy of fighting for in this "liberation".

In the year that has passed since the looting frenzy died down, a great number of dedicated and concerned people from all over the world have collaborated together to help sort out the mess which was made, not only by the looting, but also by stray shells, shock waves, bulldozings, and insurgent-hunts, and space and logistic requirements of the occupying force. While the damage has indeed been great, the cleanup and restoration effort has been a shining example of communication, cooperation, and dedication between and among Iraqis, Americans, Italians, and many, many others.

According to the best estimates, however, more than 15,000 artifacts remain unaccounted for from the Iraqi National Museum, and at least 24,000 have been damaged. That's roughly 8 percent of the 500,000 or so artifacts which were known to be kept there. Of these missing pieces, the greatest number (17%) were taken from the museum's display cases, as expected. The pleasant surprise comes from the storage rooms at the museum, which were initially thought to be utterly desecrated. It turns out that, of the 491,000 items kept in storage, only 3 percent were taken, and 5 percent damaged. Elsewhere, at a secret site - reportedly an unused bomb shelter - a apparantly clandestine effort sponsored by the museum's staff and protectors brought together an additional eight thousand relics which were untouched by looters, and suffered only slightly for their efforts.

The biggest surprise, and surely one of the few bright spots in the entire Iraq story so far, is what happened at Baghdad's Central Bank, where nearly everyone feared that the greatest plundering had occurred. During Saddam's reign, many of the most valuable artifacts were moved to the vaults beneath the bank, although the motivation for placing them there remains unclear - it was either for protection, or an effort at hoarding and eventual theft. Regardless, exactly none of these great treasures, and especially not the Nimrud Treasures were successfully removed by looters, nor by the "gangs" of Latif Nusayyif Jasim (Saddam's culture minister), as widely reported. There were several dead bodies found in the museum after the flood waters were pumped out, and it's speculated that these folks died in an attempt to break in with a rocket-launcher - but the doors held. The flooding, however, was quite bad at the bank, and as much as 3 percent of the items stored there were damaged. All in all though, the greatest fears of archaeologists and other concerned individuals were not realized.

And the good news doesn't end there. As mentioned, during the past year, a large and "eclectic" group of people have worked together to repair, restore, rebuild, and eventually, reopen the National Museum of Iraq. Everyone from archaeologists to administrators, detectives and police, sheiks and clerics, and probably even a few long-haired hippie art lovers are on the case - hunting for the missing artifacts on the ground, in the black market, in Iraqi's homes and hiding places, and even on eBay. Some reports even tell of Muslim clerics urging Iraq's women to shun their men, until they bring back the items which have been taken - and the efforts seem to be working well. The Italians, who are less feared and more trusted than Americans, have retrieved thousands of artifacts from Iraqis - without ever looking at their faces - no questions asked. The rebuilding of the museum is also progressing nicely, although it remains unclear exactly when it will reopen officially.

In a recent article (subscription required) which originally appeared in the LA Times, the reporter even goes so far as to call the looting of the National Museum an "inadvertent blessing" - since the result of the restoration and rebuilding will finally give access to the massive history lesson which can be learned there. The museum has been closed to all but a very limited group of Saddam's preference during the past 20 years, severely limiting the study and debate over the relics stored there. Indeed, some experts are convinced that just a few years of research into the relics of Iraq could force a rewrite of many widely-accepted Archeology texts - even rewrite history. In that vein, a group of Italian archaeologists began a project this month to assess the condition of the Cuneiform archives, mentioned previously, with the intent of eventually making them available on the internet with both pictures and translated text - potentially yielding more than a few new insights.

During the initial period of looting and fighting in Iraq the US House of Representatives put forth a resolution which called upon the military to be mindful of sacred sites and treasures there, and on March 4th of this year the Senate passed a law (S.671) which closed a loophole which inadvertently allowed stolen Iraqi treasures to enter the US. Another measure, no longer under consideration, was called the "Iraq Cultural Heritage Protection Act," (H.R. 2009), while it was apparently considered too stringent, this follow-up bill, S.671, also called the "Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2004." has now been passed by both houses, and awaits appointment of conferees for final passage. According to those in the know, this bill needs your support, to get it through the final bureaucracy in a timely manner. Clearly, lawmakers in the US and around the world are working to make it very difficult to possess Iraqi artifacts, whether they be looted from the Museum, or from any of the archaeological sites around the country - but more needs to be done to fight these thieves of history. Especially on the ground in Iraq, a much more vigilant watch must be kept upon these sites, many of which have seen extensive theft and desecration just since "Mission Accomplished".

Laws and resolutions are certainly a positive sign, but real differences will also be made by financial support and actual research. To that end, millions of dollars have been appropriated from public and private sources in the US and around the world, with the intent of rebuilding, restoring, excavating/documenting, and protecting Iraq's treasures. Earlier this month, for example, the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded $559,000 to various projects dedicated to "Recovering Iraq's Past".

Clearly, what was only a year ago thought to be history lost may eventually come to be known and understood far better than we had hoped. It's also clear that a good percentage of the native language documentation concerning the modern history of Iraq has indeed been lost forever, documents which covered the period of constitutional democracy in the land. And while there's no doubt that many, many valuable bits of history will never be found and made available to the public, I submit that what has been done, and what is on the way to being accomplished (given a successful transition) with Iraq's historical treasures could give some additional meaning, and indeed, glory to all of those who've given their lives and limbs in the conflict, whatever their nationality may be.

Resources worth investigating:

  • Iraq War & Archaeology - likely the best site available for information and news surrounding the ongoing efforts to protect and restore Iraq's treasure. Created and updated by the dedicated efforts of one Francis Deblauwe, Ph.D. Includes a long list of external links, as well.
  • Iraqcrisis a mailing list moderated diligently by Charles Jones of the University of Chicago, which also sponsors the list. This list provides a steady and up-to-date stream of information and news regarding Iraq's treasures. Subscribe and follow along.
  • The Secret of Nimrud - a fascinating and vivid collection of recently available photographs illustrating the recovery and unpacking of what is widely considered to be the most valuable treasures in Iraq which were not taken, the Nimrud artifacts. An extraordinary documentary record of Americans and Iraqis working together for good. (Link goes to the Iraq Museum International website - click the Secret of Nimrud link to see the slideshow)


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Most Worthy Cause for Iraq (besides the people)
o The history and archeological treasure 46%
o The land 0%
o The oil 21%
o The strategic advantage 3%
o Something else 9%
o DNE 18%

Votes: 32
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o including this author
o had been lost
o inside job
o under scrutiny
o best estimates
o greatest plundering
o Nimrud Treasures
o worked together
o recent article
o resolution
o needs your support
o awarded
o good percentage
o Iraq War & Archaeology
o Iraqcrisis
o The Secret of Nimrud
o Also by imrdkl

Display: Sort:
A Worthy Cause: Iraq's Archeological Treasures | 64 comments (51 topical, 13 editorial, 2 hidden)
-1, too short, needs more detail. (none / 2) (#10)
by Russell Dovey on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 01:17:04 PM EST

Wonderful article. Imagine my delight when I come back to the Net after a week's hiatus and discover this well-written piece of good news about the cultural treasures of Iraq.

I thought they had been lost forever to plundering when Baghdad fell, and it's good to know that I was wrong.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan

Reenactment of the ulterior motive (2.92 / 42) (#12)
by K5 ASCII reenactment players on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 02:19:32 PM EST

         ()()    Achmed, I do not remember
         (oo)    this sphinx being quite
     ____/=U=    so rodent-like or cheery.
    /      |     |
   |( )__|||     |  Hush!  al-Haliburton
     \\\ \\\\    \    hears everything!
   ===========    o  o

Yay you're back (n/t) (none / 1) (#13)
by JChen on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 02:36:53 PM EST

Let us do as we say.
[ Parent ]
Re: Bush Administration (none / 1) (#17)
by duffbeer703 on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 03:18:23 PM EST

So the Bush administration was at fault for not protecting the mueseum and for claiming that it was an inside job... but it actually was likely an inside job and the place wasn't stripped clean after all.

If you're going to blame Bush, try to stay consistent.

Make no mistake (none / 2) (#18)
by imrdkl on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 03:35:02 PM EST

I'm being nice here.

[ Parent ]
there was still a lot of damage (none / 1) (#20)
by ShadowNode on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 05:04:10 PM EST

Which could have largely been avoided if the "coalition" had bothered to protect the museum.

[ Parent ]
It's not the Coalition's duty... (none / 1) (#29)
by Pyrion on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 09:45:38 PM EST

...to protect Iraq's "national treasures" from its own people.

What you're doing is shifting the blame away from the Iraqi looters themselves onto the Coalition soldiers. Who's more responsible for the looting? The Coalition, or the looters themselves?

Shifting the blame onto the Coalition is just as inane an argument as blaming gun manufacturers for deaths resulting from fatal gunshot wounds perpetrated by criminals. If there's anyone you should be holding accountable, it's the Iraqi people themselves for being a bunch of greedy fucks not concerned about their own national identity.
"There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

but (none / 1) (#40)
by modmans2ndcoming on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 02:07:19 AM EST

the iraqi people are mindless brown skinned heathens that need our help to wipe their asses. how can they be responsible for acts like this!!!

that is basically what modern liberals are saying.

the classic victorian era "we need to bring civilization to those people to protect them from themselves" just updates for the times.

[ Parent ]

liberals and the poor dark people (none / 1) (#45)
by duffbeer703 on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 10:08:53 AM EST

Liberals have always operated under the assumption that whomever they decide to direct government "help" to are some ignorant brown folk so beaten down by the white man that they are helpless to do anything for themselves.

Look at the Black community in America. Even through the darkest days of slavery, a strong church and family centered social system was a prominent feature in most African-American communities.

The advent of standardized, sterile housing projects and "public assistance" programs scattered tight community groups, smashed parochial school systems, and made the young single mother, utterly dependant on the government and Democratic Party the rule rather than the exception.

But middle class suburbanities feel warm and fuzzy when they "help" "those people", and they vote.

[ Parent ]

there was a war on (none / 3) (#33)
by duffbeer703 on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 10:21:18 PM EST

Crack troops who have been awake for days aren't really suited to protect a mueseum against looters.

Using soldiers and marines fresh out of combat to guard buildings or quell civil unrest is asking for a massacre. World War 2 and Vietnam has plenty of examples of that.

If the media had allowed you to pay attention to what was actually happening during the war, you would have noticed that the army took NO action against any looters until about a week after Baghdad had been taken.

They waited that long until 2nd echelon troops who hadn't seen much combat arrived in the city to assume the police/guard role.

Of course, the media didn't show too much of that. They were too busy harping on the fact that a tank was accidentally driven off a riverbank and that "fierce resistance" had shot down a helicopter somewhere.

[ Parent ]

Good point /nt (none / 0) (#60)
by ShadowNode on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 09:18:42 PM EST

[ Parent ]
It seems to me... (2.50 / 4) (#21)
by mcgrew on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 05:45:45 PM EST

If Bush hadn't lied about WMDs those priceless treasures would still be safe, wouldn't they?

It also seems that since Bush unilaterally decided to invade a foreign country (one that was NOT, at the time, involved with alquada and posed no real threat to us whatever) it would be his responsibility to ensure that artworks and archaeological treasures would be safeguarded.

It's not like the museums were hidden, after all.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

No, it's not. (none / 0) (#28)
by Pyrion on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 09:40:35 PM EST

If the Iraqis are so worried about their "priceless treasures", you'd think they'd work harder to, oh I dunno, protect them?

No, here's an idea, maybe if they gave a shit, they wouldn't have looted the museums in the first place?

The fact of the matter is, Iraqis looted their own museums and somehow it's all Bush's fault.
"There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

War (none / 0) (#34)
by duffbeer703 on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 10:24:02 PM EST

Looting is the nature of war.

Most all of the signifigant missing pieces will be recovered someday. You cannot exactly sell famous Babylonian artifacts on the open market.

Those artifacts existed when my ancestors were sharpening rocks or herding sheep in Ireland or France. They'll exist long after we are gone.

[ Parent ]

Human nature (none / 0) (#51)
by adimovk5 on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 08:34:34 PM EST

Looting is the nature of war.

Looting is not the nature of war. Looting results when people believe they have a right to take what is not theirs and an opportunity to do so exists.

Most all of the signifigant missing pieces will be recovered someday. You cannot exactly sell famous Babylonian artifacts on the open market.

There is no need for an open market. It will not be used. Most of the pieces will not be recovered. Most of them will find their way into the private collections of the wealthy.

Those artifacts existed when my ancestors were sharpening rocks or herding sheep in Ireland or France. They'll exist long after we are gone.

Artifacts are destroyed each year. They are destroyed by thieves. They are destroyed in illegal transport by black market go-betweens. They are destroyed by ignorant owners. They will not last long outside the museums.

[ Parent ]

Go talk to someone who has seen war. (none / 0) (#61)
by duffbeer703 on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 10:44:50 PM EST

You obviously have no clue.

[ Parent ]
Bush (none / 0) (#30)
by kurioszyn on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 09:55:45 PM EST

You seem to imply that Iraqis are bunch mindless idiots bend of senseless destruction and therefore the blame for the looting can only be put on the "adults" - in this case leaders of a western nation.

"unilaterally decided to invade"

Well, our coalition was not all that different from the one that assisted us on the D-Day back in 1945 so I guess Bush is in a pretty good company as far as history of unilateral actions.

Anyway, I am only kidding  - I know this arguing is pointless since it is quite obvious you would have no problem finding harsh words for Bush regardless of his actions.

[ Parent ]

Quite (none / 0) (#35)
by Brandybuck on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 11:29:20 PM EST

I know this arguing is pointless since it is quite obvious you would have no problem finding harsh words for Bush regardless of his actions.

Quite so. A story about Bush helping an old lady across the street would trigger scores of indignant and outrageous posts by K5ers. How dare he! The vile scum...

[ Parent ]

RE: It seems to me... (none / 1) (#32)
by duffbeer703 on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 10:15:52 PM EST

That you don't really know what you're talking about.

Saddam would have eventually been deposed, and his henchmen would have likely looted items of value anyway.

Since no scholars not connected to Saddam have been in that mueseum for a quarter-century, there's a good chance that many of the looted items were pilfered years ago.

Out of curiosity, when you get the shits, do you use "He lied about the WMDs" as the reason?

[ Parent ]

he did not lie (none / 0) (#39)
by modmans2ndcoming on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 01:58:26 AM EST

where do you think all those chemicals came from that were captured in Jordan along with 20 al-quadea terrorists who were about to kill 80,000 people?

you want to know where they came from? Syria. 15 of the men were Syrian nationals.

and you know what else. david Kay himself said he was suspicious of the heavy truck activity in the weeks leading up to the war.

but I guess you are gonna take bashire Asod's word over anyone else's huh.

[ Parent ]

Guess that's why he was elected (none / 0) (#31)
by thankyougustad on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 09:57:40 PM EST

Considering you gotta get up pretty earlier in the morning to catch Bush with his pants down.

No no thanks no
Je n'aime que le bourbon
no no thanks no
c'est une affaire de goût.

[ Parent ]
He was elected??? (none / 0) (#63)
by ghosty on Mon May 03, 2004 at 09:32:57 PM EST

Wow. That boggles the mind.

[ Parent ]
They were WMDs (none / 1) (#22)
by mcgrew on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 05:46:55 PM EST

As in Woody Guthrie's guitar, which had inscribed on it "this machine kills facists"

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie

+1FP! (none / 1) (#24)
by RandomLiegh on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 05:52:15 PM EST

Condoleeza Rice and the Raiders of the Lost republican covenent! w00t!

Thought of the week: There is no thought this week.
The oil is the ONLY reason. (1.00 / 7) (#36)
by egeland on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 12:00:33 AM EST





Some interesting quotes

yes, it certainly is. (none / 1) (#38)
by modmans2ndcoming on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 01:53:30 AM EST

the French and Russians ONLY wanted to not invade Iraq because of their corrupt involvement in fleecing the Iraqi people out of medicine, food, and money.

[ Parent ]
Embargo by a USA led UN? (none / 0) (#64)
by egeland on Sun May 23, 2004 at 08:33:16 PM EST

If there was no embargo on... hmm.. could it be... oil, then there would be no need for any humanitarian aid.
Pre-Gulf War 1, Iraq was a very modern country.
The US embargo caused it to drop back to third world status.
And, gee, did the US invade to free the Kuwaiti people from a nasty invader, or was it because the Kuwaiti oil supply (with the USA being a MAJOR buyer) was threatened (Saddam wanted to switch to Euro as the currency used to pay for oil, which would severely damage the fragile US economy).

Some interesting quotes
[ Parent ]
bla bla bla (1.00 / 6) (#37)
by modmans2ndcoming on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 01:50:16 AM EST

US is bad, US wants oil at the expense of priceless treasures.

tell you what,

tell the french government and the Russian government to apologize for stealing the iraqi people's money, food and medicine through the corrupt Oil for food program and we can call it even.

bla bla yourself (2.50 / 4) (#46)
by Grumpie on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 11:26:29 AM EST

It is not a contest of who has done more harm, please get off your moral high horse, and lets focus on a "bright" future for all.

If US wants to help forward freedom, thats fine with me, I'm even willing to help, but then US should have been honest about reasons to invade Iraq and US should stop being "biased" towards Israel(I mean racist, but...that tends to provoke strong reactions)

Theheran can't have nuclear power and Israel can???
Ever considered that the fact that Israel has nuclear arms scares their neighbours??so they want them too, so they can defend themselfes against Israeli aggression (maybe Israeli "holymen" found a "new" passage in some "holy book" so they can claim some more land....)

Oh...and maybe start counting Iraqi casualties to show US honours life, not just (white)american/Israeli lives.

My problem is not with US, but with Bush, I felt personaly insulted by his lying, and by backing US policy my own premier also insulted me.

Your/our (Imperial) armies don't belong there.

Stealing is stealing, even when there is a law which allows it, it is plain stealing.
[ Parent ]
did he lie? (none / 1) (#50)
by modmans2ndcoming on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 04:26:01 PM EST

who said his claims were false?

if you read what david kay's report says, it says that there were no weapons in Iraq now. he expressed concern over the high level of truck activity in the weeks leading up to the war on the road to syria, and he said that if the weapons went to syria, which is a possibility, we would not be able to know.

add that to the fact that Jordan just stopped a terror plot that was going to use a TON of chemicals and 90% of the terrorists were Syrians, who by the way were the ones who brought the chemicals into jordan.

Kay also said that it is a good thing we did depose Saddam because there was lots of evidence of active development programs to create chemical biological and nuclear weapons.

so rather than accepting the Ted Kennedy spin on the issue, perhaps you should READ the kay report.

[ Parent ]

the problem is this generation of archaeologists (2.66 / 6) (#41)
by rmg on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 02:51:37 AM EST

back in the reagan years, our archaeologists were daring,  courageous, and good looking.

now look at these new guys:




i think the bottom line is that the caliber of men out there protecting our world's treasures from nazis and communists simply isn't what it used to be. look at all the facial hair and victorian gothic dress. these are real counter-culture nutjobs. these people simply can't deal with the occupational hazards associated with archaeology.

clearly, there needs to be an earnest attempt to get young people with a good head on their shoulders into the field. i would recommend recruitment from 4h, rotc, and boy scouts. that will ensure that future generations of archaeologists will know how to handle today's terrorist adversaries. spare the whip, spoil the squip.


dave dean

If you're going to be like that... (none / 0) (#42)
by Zerotime on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 04:48:46 AM EST

...then it should be either Hoover or FDR's ruling years you're talking about.

"I live by the river
With my mother, in a house
She washes, I cook
And we never go out."

[ Parent ]
This is good news (none / 2) (#43)
by Cackmobile on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 05:54:26 AM EST

Maybe in 10 years when i do my mid east tour I can goto the Baghdad museum and check it out. Hopefully be then the whole Israel/Palestine thing will be sorted, but I'm not holding my breath

Balancing Act. (none / 2) (#47)
by lmcelhiney on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 01:11:54 PM EST

  1. Assume the decision is made to attack Iraq.
  2. Produce a military plan which does the following (in order of priority):
  a) accomplish the military goals

  b) minimize loss to non-combatant life

  c) provide security for military and non-combatants

  d) minimize loss to non-combatant property

  e) re-establish infrastructure

  f) re-establish government structure

  g) perform orderly handover

  h) perform orderly withdrawal


I am probably missing a lot, but these seem to me to be the priority actions.  Notice that the "non-combatant property" is fourth in priority.  (Check with your local law enforcement for local policies.)

Of course, it would be wonderful to be able to have planned for the protection of these priceless antiquities from the beginning, but how can this be accomplished?  

a) Send in volunteer archivists and curators to maintain the archives and musea. (violates B & C)

b) Establish security perimeter around archives and musea.  (increases the manpower necessary to do A, B, & C, etc.)

c) Create a "no fight" zone around these areas so that they are not threatened. (violates A at a minimum)

...and so on.

Review your world history.  Start with the Libraries of Alexandria.

Then, review the European wars since the 1500s.  (Include the Firebombing of Dresden.)


Antiquities are priceless because they are original ephemera, i.e. primary sources.  They can never be replaced. They should be protected to preclude loss or damage by war, etc.  But, unfortunately, they rarely make it to the top of the priority list.

But, let's keep trying.

Thats a nice presentation (none / 1) (#48)
by imrdkl on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 03:43:30 PM EST

But the bottom line is that the administration was told more than once before this thing began that they needed 2-3 times as many men to pull it off. The arrogance and ridiculous "shock and awe" theories promoted by Rumsfeld and accepted by Bush has led to much more than the loss of archeological treasure. With as many men as Powell, or any number of other generals had recommended, there simply wouldn't be the mess that we have now, nor the losses we've incurred (and I don't mean just treasure).

[ Parent ]
...as I recall... (none / 1) (#49)
by lmcelhiney on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 04:11:11 PM EST

...from my years of wargaming, I believe that fighting an offensive war against an entrenched "native" force requires OVERWHELMING force.  Something like 10:1 and that must include, in this case, disgruntled, disenfranchized local personnel as well as "foreign fighters" (since it was chosen not to seal the borders...).

None of the above was brought into play.  However, if the majority of Iraq's people rose up against the US military, we'd stand no chance, so it seems as if both sides are playing politics to me.

[ Parent ]

predictions (none / 1) (#52)
by adimovk5 on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 09:13:13 PM EST

Battle planners always ask for more time and more men than they need. It's comforting to have extra padding for "what if" scenarios. It also allows for CYA (cover your ass). If the asked for number is not given, failures can be attributed to not following the plan.

It is all too easy to sit in an armchair after the war and question the execution of the war. You don't have to move those men into the field. You don't have to supply them with the leadership they need. You don't have to provide them with weapons and other supplies.

Fielding the units the coaliton fielded strained the war machine. Doubling and tripling the soldiers there would not have doubled and tripled the fighting power of the troops. They defeated Saddam Hussein and his forces in 43 days with a loss of only 172 soldiers. What more do you want? link

If they had had the power to field and equip more men, if they had saved the museum, you would still be unhappy. You oppose the war. You would find some thing that had been overlooked and you would cry about that.

War is hell.

[ Parent ]

Gulf War I (none / 1) (#54)
by teece on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 11:08:28 PM EST

We invaded and took on a stronger Iraqi army, but with a much more modest aim: evict Iraq from the geographically small area of Kuwait, and control that area.

For that task, we used 700,000 troops.

For today's task, eliminate Iraq government, and any armed resistance that goes with it, and hold and occupy Iraq, upgrade infrastructure of Iraq, provide security for all of Iraq, create new government of Iraq, training their army, all of which will take place over an indefinite time frame.

For this task, we use 150,000 troops.

There is not a shadow of a doubt about it: we invaded with far too little troops.  More troops might not have saved the museum, but a lack of troops is jeopardizing our mission there.

-- Hello_World.c, 17 Errors, 31 Warnings...
[ Parent ]

postwar (none / 1) (#55)
by adimovk5 on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 11:42:15 PM EST

The first war lasted something like 100 hours with 700,000 troops. The planners of the second war probably felt like that was overkill when facing a demoralized underfunded army. The second war took 21 days to take the capital and another 22 days for mop up operations. By modern standards that was very fast and 150,000 was more than enough for the war.

Where the administration was foolish is in its handling of postwar operations. It probably expected the UN to step in and handle the peacekeeping. It also probably expected the Iraqis to cooperate like sheep and hail the conquering heros. Obviously they were very wrong. I can only make sense of the postwar actions if I assume those two things.

[ Parent ]

pass the pipe, yo (none / 0) (#62)
by Wah on Mon May 03, 2004 at 01:49:17 AM EST

The second war took 21 days to take the capital and another 22 days for mop up operations.

"Took".  "Mop Up".  


Have you opened up a newspaper for the last six months, or just stop paying attention when the mission was accomplished a year ago?

Where the administration was foolish is in its handling of postwar operations.

So that's 43 days of good planning and 320+ (and counting) of horrible planning.  That pretty much equates to a crap overall plan ("War Plan") in my book, but hey, it's not a like a comment on a web board will convince you.

It probably expected the UN to step in and handle the peacekeeping.

Yea, most people plan on using 'irrelevant' international bodies after they ignore those bodies reservations about an illegal invasion.
'The Matrix' is a better interpretation of quantum mechanics than Copenhagen.
[ Parent ]

actual data (none / 2) (#53)
by adimovk5 on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 09:35:27 PM EST

Great article.

Your best estimates link contains a disclaimer:

My best guess of the
Losses & Damage
at the National Museum

(very approximate numbers based on all available info, my evaluation of the quality of same info, and lots of extrapolation and common sense; also taking into account that the comparison with the inventory is not yet finished; updated whenever new info changes the picture)

Are there any actual listings of the lost and damaged articles or is everything estimates and guesses? The numbers I have seen very widely and appear to be driven mostly by whether one is a supporter of the administraion and it's war or against the administration and anti-war.

Do any of the guesses at losses take into account theft by Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath Party prior to the war? Is it possible that he secretly sold artifacts to private collectors?

Thanks (none / 1) (#56)
by imrdkl on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 08:57:34 AM EST

Unfortunately, there just isn't much research going on right now in the field - at the numerous sites mentioned as already having been plundered by Dr. Deblauwe. AFAIK, the only complete accounting that has been done is at the Museum itself. It's clear though, that the limited resources dedicated to the ongoing protection of these sites, many of which have never been excavated, is destroying history before we even know it. The lost relics at the museum had been seen and to some extent documented, but what's being lost out in the field will likely never be seen outside of somebody's (very) private collection.

There's a link at the bottom of Deblauwe web which discusses this - the Italians who have been assigned as guardians of the most important sites are reporting that the diggers come at night, and just at the edge of their patrol areas. Insidious.

[ Parent ]

site guards (none / 1) (#57)
by adimovk5 on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 09:39:24 AM EST

How about an international rescue force funded by the world's museums and wealthy patrons? The people who are most concerned could fund the Italian government to beef up their forces. The Italians would be given responsibility only for protecting cultural objects. No more peacekeeping duties unless it's related to cultural areas.

They would wear distinctive uniforms and act more as police. Their activities would be in direct relation to the amount of donations the world provides.

It doesn't have to be Italians. Insert any name above in their place.

[ Parent ]

At this point in time (none / 1) (#58)
by imrdkl on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 11:45:15 AM EST

Any type of force, whether it be called "rescue" or not, would need to be armed. I just hope the Italians stick it out for the sake of protecting history, if nothing else.

[ Parent ]
security guards (none / 1) (#59)
by adimovk5 on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 05:11:03 PM EST

Wells Fargo and other types of security guards are also well armed. I don't think they would have a problem as long as they were well trained and in very distinctive uniforms. The word would soon get out that the site guards were not part of the coalition and were in fact acting on behalf of the Iraqi people.

Attacks on them would be very unpopular.

[ Parent ]

A Worthy Cause: Iraq's Archeological Treasures | 64 comments (51 topical, 13 editorial, 2 hidden)
Display: Sort:


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest © 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!