The libraries are burning... [was: Looters Sack Baghdad Antiquities
Adam L. Beberg
beberg at mithral.com
Tue Apr 15 22:13:59 PDT 2003
OK, so the US is preaty much just letting people destroy the country at this
point. More rebuilding contracts later for Haliburton yay.
I'm sure Disney would be more then willing to provide them with a shiney new
cultural history for a suitable fee.
Thank god we didn't just go assasinate Saddam and take over the government,
this way is so much more profitable!
- Adam L. Beberg - beberg at mithral.com
Looters Ransack Iraq's National Library
1 hour, 50 minutes ago
By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Looters and arsonists ransacked and gutted Iraq (news - web
sites)'s National Library, leaving a smoldering shell Tuesday of precious
books turned to ash and a nation's intellectual legacy gone up in smoke.
They also looted and burned Iraq's principal Islamic library nearby, home to
priceless old Qurans; last week, thieves swept through the National Museum
and stole or smashed treasures that chronicled this region's role as the
"cradle of civilization."
"Our national heritage is lost," an angry high school teacher, Haithem Aziz,
said as he stood outside the National Library's blackened hulk. "The modern
Mongols, the new Mongols did that. The Americans did that. Their agents did
that," he said as an explosion boomed in the distance as the war winds down.
The Mongols, led by Genghis Khan's grandson Hulegu, sacked Baghdad in the
13th century. Today, the rumors on the lips of almost all Baghdadis is that
the looting that has torn this city apart is led by U.S.-inspired Kuwaitis
or other non-Iraqis bent on stripping the city of everything of value.
But outside the gutted Islamic library on the grounds of the Religious
Affairs Ministry, the lone looter scampering away was undeniably Iraqi, a
grizzled man named Mohamed Salman.
"It was left there, so why leave it?" he asked a reporter as he clung to a
thick, red-covered book, a catalog of the library's religious collection.
The scene inside was total devastation. In much of the library, not a
recognizable book or manuscript could be seen among the dark ash.
The destruction has drawn condemnation worldwide, with many criticizing
U.S.-led coalition forces for failing to prevent or stop the looting,
sometimes carried out by whole Iraqi families.
On Tuesday, U.S. officials acknowledged they were surprised by the rampage
and said troops were too occupied by combat to intervene when they first
"I don't think anyone anticipated that the riches of Iraq would be looted by
the people of Iraq," U.S. Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said at a U.S. Central
Command briefing in Qatar.
The United Nation's cultural agency and the British Museum announced Tuesday
they will send in teams to help restore ransacked museums and artifacts.
Koichiro Matsuura, director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization, called on customs officials, police, art dealers and
neighboring countries to block the trading of stolen antiquities.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) joined UNESCO (news -
web sites) in calling on Iraq's neighbors, international police, customs
authorities and art experts to prevent the trade in stolen Iraqi objects.
Annan "deplores the catastrophic losses to Iraq's cultural heritage that
have occurred," a statement from his spokesman said Tuesday.
"He urges the Iraqi people to do what they can to restore that invaluable
heritage by returning any looted items, and calls on the coalition
authorities to act immediately to prevent further losses by protecting
Iraq's archaeological and religious sites, museums and other cultural
institutions," the statement said.
Among the National Museum's treasures were the tablets with Hammurabi's Code
one of mankind's earliest codes of law. It could not be immediately
determined whether the tablets were at the museum when war broke out.
Thieves smashed or pried open row upon row of glass cases at the museum and
pilfered or destroyed their contents. Missing were the four millennia-old
copper head of an Akkadian king, golden bowls and colossal statues, ancient
manuscripts and bejeweled lyres.
The looting and burning the museum in the northern city of Mosul also was
pillaged has dealt a terrible blow to a society that prides itself on its
universities, literature and educated elite.
"I can't express the sorrow I feel. This is not real liberation," said an
artist in a wing of the National Library that had been looted but not
The thin, bearded, 41-year-old man, who would not give his name, was going
through old bound newspapers and tearing out pages whose artistic drawings
appealed to him. "I came yesterday to see the chaos, and when I saw it, I
decided to take what I could," he said.
The three-story, tan brick National Library building, dating to 1977, housed
all books published in Iraq, including copies of all doctoral theses. It
preserved rare old books on Baghdad and the region, historically important
books on Arabic linguistics, and antique manuscripts in Arabic that teacher
Aziz said were gradually being transformed into printed versions.
"They had manuscripts from the Ottoman and Abbasid periods," Aziz said,
referring to dynasties dating back a millennium. "All of them were precious,
famous. I feel such grief."
No library officials could be located to detail the loss. Haroun Mohammed,
an Iraqi writer based in London, told The Associated Press some old
manuscripts had been transferred from the library to a Manuscript House
across the Tigris River.
Except for wooden card catalog drawers and a carved-wood service counter
which somehow escaped the flames, nothing was left in the National Library's
main wing but its charred walls and ceilings, and mounds of ash. The floor
on the ground level was still warm from the flames. Long rolls of microfilm
littered the courtyard.
"This was the best library in Iraq," said music student Raad Muzahim, 27,
standing among piles of paper in the periodical room. "I remember coming as
a student. They were hospitable, letting students do their research, write
Armored vehicles were positioned on the nearby street, manned by U.S.
Marines. They did nothing to stop Tuesday's continuing trickle of looters.
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