Irak Weblog kunstnieuws van redactie kunstbus
De toekomst van Babylon
|Go To Iraq and Get
Now Felicity Arbuthnot
Who is counting the vote in Iraq?
By William Thomas
|Recipe For Terror: Assassinated Reuters Camaraman Uncovered Evidence of Mass US Casualties in Iraq Felicity Arbuthnot
|It appears the war is back on the 10th of November 2003
|2400 "verarmd" uranium projectielen opgeblazen in Tikrit + commentary
Destruction of Iraq's National Library and Archives
Babylon. The Tigris
How many children, in how many classrooms, over how many centuries, have hang-glided through the past, transported on the wings of these words? And now the bombs are falling, incinerating and humiliating that ancient civilisation
On the steel torsos of their missiles, adolescent American
scrawl colourful messages in childish handwriting: For Saddam, from the
Fat Boy Posse. A building goes down. A marketplace. A home. A girl who
loves a boy. A child who only ever wanted to play with his older
To be fair to the correspondent, even though he was "embedded" he did sort of weakly suggest that so far there was no real evidence that linked the Iraqi government to the September 11 attacks. Private AJ stuck his teenage tongue out all the way down to the end of his chin. "Yeah, well that stuff's way over my head," he said.
According to a New York Times/CBS News survey, 42 per cent of the American public believes that Saddam Hussein is directly responsible for the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. And an ABC news poll says that 55 per cent of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein directly supports al-Qaida. What percentage of America's armed forces believe these fabrications is anybody's guess.
It is unlikely that British and American troops fighting in Iraq are aware that their governments supported Saddam Hussein both politically and financially through his worst excesses.
But why should poor AJ and his fellow soldiers be burdened with these details? It does not matter any more, does it? Hundreds of thousands of men, tanks, ships, choppers, bombs, ammunition, gas masks, high-protein food, whole aircrafts ferrying toilet paper, insect repellent, vitamins and bottled mineral water, are on the move. The phenomenal logistics of Operation Iraqi Freedom make it a universe unto itself. It doesn't need to justify its existence any more. It exists. It is.
President George W Bush, commander in chief of the US army, navy, airforce and marines has issued clear instructions: "Iraq. Will. Be. Liberated." (Perhaps he means that even if Iraqi people's bodies are killed, their souls will be liberated.) American and British citizens owe it to the supreme commander to forsake thought and rally behind their troops. Their countries are at war. And what a war it is.
After using the "good offices" of UN diplomacy (economic sanctions and weapons inspections) to ensure that Iraq was brought to its knees, its people starved, half a million of its children killed, its infrastructure severely damaged, after making sure that most of its weapons have been destroyed, in an act of cowardice that must surely be unrivalled in history, the "Allies"/"Coalition of the Willing"(better known as the Coalition of the Bullied and Bought) - sent in an invading army!
Operation Iraqi Freedom? I don't think so. It's more like Operation Let's Run a Race, but First Let Me Break Your Knees.
So far the Iraqi army, with its hungry, ill-equipped soldiers, its old guns and ageing tanks, has somehow managed to temporarily confound and occasionally even outmanoeuvre the "Allies". Faced with the richest, best-equipped, most powerful armed forces the world has ever seen, Iraq has shown spectacular courage and has even managed to put up what actually amounts to a defence. A defence which the Bush/Blair Pair have immediately denounced as deceitful and cowardly. (But then deceit is an old tradition with us natives. When we are invaded/ colonised/occupied and stripped of all dignity, we turn to guile and opportunism.)
Even allowing for the fact that Iraq and the "Allies" are at war, the extent to which the "Allies" and their media cohorts are prepared to go is astounding to the point of being counterproductive to their own objectives.
When Saddam Hussein appeared on national TV to address the Iraqi people after the failure of the most elaborate assassination attempt in history - "Operation Decapitation" - we had Geoff Hoon, the British defence secretary, deriding him for not having the courage to stand up and be killed, calling him a coward who hides in trenches. We then had a flurry of Coalition speculation - Was it really Saddam, was it his double? Or was it Osama with a shave? Was it pre-recorded? Was it a speech? Was it black magic? Will it turn into a pumpkin if we really, really want it to?
After dropping not hundreds, but thousands of bombs on Baghdad, when a marketplace was mistakenly blown up and civilians killed - a US army spokesman implied that the Iraqis were blowing themselves up! "They're using very old stock. Their missiles go up and come down."
If so, may we ask how this squares with the accusation that the Iraqi regime is a paid-up member of the Axis of Evil and a threat to world peace?
When the Arab TV station al-Jazeera shows civilian casualties it's denounced as "emotive" Arab propaganda aimed at orchestrating hostility towards the "Allies", as though Iraqis are dying only in order to make the "Allies" look bad. Even French television has come in for some stick for similar reasons. But the awed, breathless footage of aircraft carriers, stealth bombers and cruise missiles arcing across the desert sky on American and British TV is described as the "terrible beauty" of war.
When invading American soldiers (from the army "that's only here to help") are taken prisoner and shown on Iraqi TV, George Bush says it violates the Geneva convention and "exposes the evil at the heart of the regime". But it is entirely acceptable for US television stations to show the hundreds of prisoners being held by the US government in Guantanamo Bay, kneeling on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs, blinded with opaque goggles and with earphones clamped on their ears, to ensure complete visual and aural deprivation. When questioned about the treatment of these prisoners, US Government officials don't deny that they're being being ill-treated. They deny that they're "prisoners of war"! They call them "unlawful combatants", implying that their ill-treatment is legitimate! (So what's the party line on the massacre of prisoners in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan? Forgive and forget? And what of the prisoner tortured to death by the special forces at the Bagram airforce base? Doctors have formally called it homicide.)
When the "Allies" bombed the Iraqi television station (also, incidentally, a contravention of the Geneva convention), there was vulgar jubilation in the American media. In fact Fox TV had been lobbying for the attack for a while. It was seen as a righteous blow against Arab propaganda. But mainstream American and British TV continue to advertise themselves as "balanced" when their propaganda has achieved hallucinatory levels.
Why should propaganda be the exclusive preserve of the western media? Just because they do it better? Western journalists "embedded" with troops are given the status of heroes reporting from the frontlines of war. Non-"embedded" journalists (such as the BBC's Rageh Omaar, reporting from besieged and bombed Baghdad, witnessing, and clearly affected by the sight of bodies of burned children and wounded people) are undermined even before they begin their reportage: "We have to tell you that he is being monitored by the Iraqi authorities."
Increasingly, on British and American TV, Iraqi soldiers are being referred to as "militia" (ie: rabble). One BBC correspondent portentously referred to them as "quasi-terrorists". Iraqi defence is "resistance" or worse still, "pockets of resistance", Iraqi military strategy is deceit. (The US government bugging the phone lines of UN security council delegates, reported by the Observer, is hard-headed pragmatism.) Clearly for the "Allies", the only morally acceptable strategy the Iraqi army can pursue is to march out into the desert and be bombed by B-52s or be mowed down by machine-gun fire. Anything short of that is cheating.
And now we have the siege of Basra. About a million and a half people, 40 per cent of them children. Without clean water, and with very little food. We're still waiting for the legendary Shia "uprising", for the happy hordes to stream out of the city and rain roses and hosannahs on the "liberating" army. Where are the hordes? Don't they know that television productions work to tight schedules? (It may well be that if Saddam's regime falls there will be dancing on the streets of Basra. But then, if the Bush regime were to fall, there would be dancing on the streets the world over.)
After days of enforcing hunger and thirst on the citizens of Basra, the "Allies" have brought in a few trucks of food and water and positioned them tantalisingly on the outskirts of the city. Desperate people flock to the trucks and fight each other for food. (The water we hear, is being sold. To revitalise the dying economy, you understand.) On top of the trucks, desperate photographers fought each other to get pictures of desperate people fighting each other for food. Those pictures will go out through photo agencies to newspapers and glossy magazines that pay extremely well. Their message: The messiahs are at hand, distributing fishes and loaves.
As of July last year the delivery of $5.4bn worth of supplies to Iraq was blocked by the Bush/Blair Pair. It didn't really make the news. But now under the loving caress of live TV, 450 tonnes of humanitarian aid - a minuscule fraction of what's actually needed (call it a script prop) - arrived on a British ship, the "Sir Galahad". Its arrival in the port of Umm Qasr merited a whole day of live TV broadcasts. Barf bag, anyone?
Nick Guttmann, head of emergencies for Christian Aid, writing for the Independent on Sunday said that it would take 32 Sir Galahad's a day to match the amount of food Iraq was receiving before the bombing began.
We oughtn't to be surprised though. It's old tactics. They've been at it for years. Consider this moderate proposal by John McNaughton from the Pentagon Papers, published during the Vietnam war: "Strikes at population targets (per se) are likely not only to create a counterproductive wave of revulsion abroad and at home, but greatly to increase the risk of enlarging the war with China or the Soviet Union. Destruction of locks and dams, however - if handled right - might ... offer promise. It should be studied. Such destruction does not kill or drown people. By shallow-flooding the rice, it leads after time to widespread starvation (more than a million?) unless food is provided - which we could offer to do 'at the conference table'."
Times haven't changed very much. The technique has evolved into a doctrine. It's called "Winning Hearts and Minds".
So, here's the moral maths as it stands: 200,000 Iraqis estimated to have been killed in the first Gulf war. Hundreds of thousands dead because of the economic sanctions. (At least that lot has been saved from Saddam Hussein.) More being killed every day. Tens of thousands of US soldiers who fought the 1991 war officially declared "disabled" by a disease called the Gulf war syndrome, believed in part to be caused by exposure to depleted uranium. It hasn't stopped the "Allies" from continuing to use depleted uranium.
And now this talk of bringing the UN back into the picture. But that old UN girl - it turns out that she just ain't what she was cracked up to be. She's been demoted (although she retains her high salary). Now she's the world's janitor. She's the Philippino cleaning lady, the Indian jamadarni, the postal bride from Thailand, the Mexican household help, the Jamaican au pair. She's employed to clean other peoples' shit. She's used and abused at will.
Despite Blair's earnest submissions, and all his fawning, Bush has made it clear that the UN will play no independent part in the administration of postwar Iraq. The US will decide who gets those juicy "reconstruction" contracts. But Bush has appealed to the international community not to "politicise" the issue of humanitarian aid. On the March 28, after Bush called for the immediate resumption of the UN's oil for food programme, the UN security council voted unanimously for the resolution. This means that everybody agrees that Iraqi money (from the sale of Iraqi oil) should be used to feed Iraqi people who are starving because of US led sanctions and the illegal US-led war.
Contracts for the "reconstruction" of Iraq we're told, in discussions on the business news, could jump-start the world economy. It's funny how the interests of American corporations are so often, so successfully and so deliberately confused with the interests of the world economy. While the American people will end up paying for the war, oil companies, weapons manufacturers, arms dealers, and corporations involved in "reconstruction" work will make direct gains from the war. Many of them are old friends and former employers of the Bush/ Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice cabal. Bush has already asked Congress for $75bn. Contracts for "re-construction" are already being negotiated. The news doesn't hit the stands because much of the US corporate media is owned and managed by the same interests.
Operation Iraqi Freedom, Tony Blair assures us is about returning Iraqi oil to the Iraqi people. That is, returning Iraqi oil to the Iraqi people via corporate multinationals. Like Shell, like Chevron, like Halliburton. Or are we missing the plot here? Perhaps Halliburton is actually an Iraqi company? Perhaps US vice-president Dick Cheney (who is a former director of Halliburton) is a closet Iraqi?
As the rift between Europe and America deepens, there are signs that the world could be entering a new era of economic boycotts. CNN reported that Americans are emptying French wine into gutters, chanting, "We don't want your stinking wine." We've heard about the re-baptism of French fries. Freedom fries they're called now. There's news trickling in about Americans boycotting German goods. The thing is that if the fallout of the war takes this turn, it is the US who will suffer the most. Its homeland may be defended by border patrols and nuclear weapons, but its economy is strung out across the globe. Its economic outposts are exposed and vulnerable to attack in every direction. Already the internet is buzzing with elaborate lists of American and British government products and companies that should be boycotted. Apart from the usual targets, Coke, Pepsi and McDonald's - government agencies such as USAID, the British department for international development, British and American banks, Arthur Anderson, Merrill Lynch, American Express, corporations such as Bechtel, General Electric, and companies such as Reebok, Nike and Gap - could find themselves under siege. These lists are being honed and re fined by activists across the world. They could become a practical guide that directs and channels the amorphous, but growing fury in the world. Suddenly, the "inevitability" of the project of corporate globalisation is beginning to seem more than a little evitable.
It's become clear that the war against terror is not really about terror, and the war on Iraq not only about oil. It's about a superpower's self-destructive impulse towards supremacy, stranglehold, global hegemony. The argument is being made that the people of Argentina and Iraq have both been decimated by the same process. Only the weapons used against them differ: In one case it's an IMF chequebook. In the other, cruise missiles.
Finally, there's the matter of Saddam's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. (Oops, nearly forgot about those!)
In the fog of war - one thing's for sure - if Saddam 's regime indeed has weapons of mass destruction, it is showing an astonishing degree of responsibility and restraint in the teeth of extreme provocation. Under similar circumstances, (say if Iraqi troops were bombing New York and laying siege to Washington DC) could we expect the same of the Bush regime? Would it keep its thousands of nuclear warheads in their wrapping paper? What about its chemical and biological weapons? Its stocks of anthrax, smallpox and nerve gas? Would it?
Excuse me while I laugh.
In the fog of war we're forced to speculate: Either Saddam is an extremely responsible tyrant. Or - he simply does not possess weapons of mass destruction. Either way, regardless of what happens next, Iraq comes out of the argument smelling sweeter than the US government.
So here's Iraq - rogue state, grave threat to world peace, paid-up member of the Axis of Evil. Here's Iraq, invaded, bombed, besieged, bullied, its sovereignty shat upon, its children killed by cancers, its people blown up on the streets. And here's all of us watching. CNN-BBC, BBC-CNN late into the night. Here's all of us, enduring the horror of the war, enduring the horror of the propaganda and enduring the slaughter of language as we know and understand it. Freedom now means mass murder (or, in the US, fried potatoes). When someone says "humanitarian aid" we automatically go looking for induced starvation. "Embedded" I have to admit, is a great find. It's what it sounds like. And what about "arsenal of tactics?" Nice!
In most parts of the world, the invasion of Iraq is being seen as a racist war. The real danger of a racist war unleashed by racist regimes is that it engenders racism in everybody - perpetrators, victims, spectators. It sets the parameters for the debate, it lays out a grid for a particular way of thinking. There is a tidal wave of hatred for the US rising from the ancient heart of the world. In Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, Australia. I encounter it every day. Sometimes it comes from the most unlikely sources. Bankers, businessmen, yuppie students, and they bring to it all the crassness of their conservative, illiberal politics. That absurd inability to separate governments from people: America is a nation of morons, a nation of murderers, they say, (with the same carelessness with which they say, "All Muslims are terrorists"). Even in the grotesque universe of racist insult, the British make their entry as add-ons. Arse-lickers, they're called.
Suddenly, I, who have been vilified for being "anti-American" and "anti-west", find myself in the extraordinary position of defending the people of America. And Britain.
Those who descend so easily into the pit of racist abuse would do well to remember the hundreds of thousands of American and British citizens who protested against their country's stockpile of nuclear weapons. And the thousands of American war resisters who forced their government to withdraw from Vietnam. They should know that the most scholarly, scathing, hilarious critiques of the US government and the "American way of life" comes from American citizens. And that the funniest, most bitter condemnation of their prime minister comes from the British media. Finally they should remember that right now, hundreds of thousands of British and American citizens are on the streets protesting the war. The Coalition of the Bullied and Bought consists of governments, not people. More than one third of America's citizens have survived the relentless propaganda they've been subjected to, and many thousands are actively fighting their own government. In the ultra-patriotic climate that prevails in the US, that's as brave as any Iraqi fighting for his or her homeland.
While the "Allies" wait in the desert for an uprising of Shia Muslims on the streets of Basra, the real uprising is taking place in hundreds of cities across the world. It has been the most spectacular display of public morality ever seen.
Most courageous of all, are the hundreds of thousands of American people on the streets of America's great cities - Washington, New York, Chicago, San Francisco. The fact is that the only institution in the world today that is more powerful than the American government, is American civil society. American citizens have a huge responsibility riding on their shoulders. How can we not salute and support those who not only acknowledge but act upon that responsibility? They are our allies, our friends.
At the end of it all, it remains to be said that dictators like Saddam Hussein, and all the other despots in the Middle East, in the central Asian republics, in Africa and Latin America, many of them installed, supported and financed by the US government, are a menace to their own people. Other than strengthening the hand of civil society (instead of weakening it as has been done in the case of Iraq), there is no easy, pristine way of dealing with them. (It's odd how those who dismiss the peace movement as utopian, don't hesitate to proffer the most absurdly dreamy reasons for going to war: to stamp out terrorism, install democracy, eliminate fascism, and most entertainingly, to "rid the world of evil-doers".)
Regardless of what the propaganda machine tells us, these tin-pot dictators are not the greatest threat to the world. The real and pressing danger, the greatest threat of all is the locomotive force that drives the political and economic engine of the US government, currently piloted by George Bush. Bush-bashing is fun, because he makes such an easy, sumptuous target. It's true that he is a dangerous, almost suicidal pilot, but the machine he handles is far more dangerous than the man himself.
Despite the pall of gloom that hangs over us today, I'd like to file a cautious plea for hope: in times of war, one wants one's weakest enemy at the helm of his forces. And President George W Bush is certainly that. Any other even averagely intelligent US president would have probably done the very same things, but would have managed to smoke-up the glass and confuse the opposition. Perhaps even carry the UN with him. Bush's tactless imprudence and his brazen belief that he can run the world with his riot squad, has done the opposite. He has achieved what writers, activists and scholars have striven to achieve for decades. He has exposed the ducts. He has placed on full public view the working parts, the nuts and bolts of the apocalyptic apparatus of the American empire.
Now that the blueprint (The Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire) has been put into mass circulation, it could be disabled quicker than the pundits predicted.
Bring on the spanners.
To Iraq and Get Them Back Now -
An Open Letter by Felicity Arbuthnot
Published on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 by
Dear Bring Them Home Now Members,
I write in anguish not
You were, as you have
They are people of the
culture on the planet.
What about the thousands
I end with a memory of
Due to the dangers of
fears of being shot
The group had printed
in Arabic with a
He read it very slowly
then re-read it.
Recipe For Terror: Assassinated Reuters Camaraman Uncovered Evidence of Mass US Casualties in Iraq
If Tony Blair is making a list of topics to discuss with
"It is just not worth characterizing by numbers", said
At the recent World Uranium Weapons Conference in Hamburg,
With the death toll of US soldiers having exceeded, in just
"Mazen told me by phone few days before his death that he
"He also told me that he found U.S. troops covered in
"All international and local news agencies sent cables of
Truth is becoming increasingly difficult for journalists to
Iraq is now a vast Guantanamo Bay, with the disappeared
The Geneva Convention also has emotive words regarding
'Will this be another Viet Nam?' has been a frequent
The full horror and lack of accountability is outside the
"For telling you this, I await the knock at the door, any
It appears the War is Back-on Jagmedic wrote:
Warplanes and armoured vehicles pounded suspected Iraqi
in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit yesterday as
“We are involved in an insurgency, and that’s pretty close to
Armitage said, as the US army continued Operation Ivy Cyclone, a new
But in a new attack by Iraqi insurgents in the volatile town
west of Baghdad, another two US soldiers were killed and one was
The latest American casualties came only a day after six
killed in the shooting down of a Black Hawk helicopter, prompting
The air raids carried out yesterday as part of Operation Ivy
were the first since Washington declared major combat over in Iraq
“This operation is a concentrated, uncompromising effort to
detain or eliminate any person … that seeks to harm coalition
Subject: [DU-WATCH] DU cook-off
Date: Sun, 16 Nov 2003 15:20:55 -0000
From: "Amarie" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Since Iraq did/does not have uranium KEP's, the rounds
Now why would this be? Damaged or otherwise rejected rounds
If anyone believes they are Iraqi round, please make sure you
I don't think this is a XO/UXO action at all Its a 4 ID
This piece reekes of spin, again telling of blatant ignorance within the US
military. Similar PR was attempted in Kosovo. Yet former Kosovo Liberation
Army (now Kosovo Protections Corps, under war criminal General Agim Ceku) is
still armed to the teeth despite many voluntary "disarmament" initiatives
and "searches" by the US forces.
Last spring in Kosovo I was hosted by ethnic Albanians who
went to secret
Do the US military believe they can overcome hostilities of
1. How do we know it was Iraqi munitions? Was the collection
2. In all recent wars, the US disposed of munitions nearing
3. Regardless of the source of the uranium munitions, this
4. Why would Iraqi forces be in possession of depleted uranium
5. Why would anybody on this list still want to rely on
Blackened, destroyed tanks and armoured
hit by and
Depleted uranium is a .... radioactive
as such, should be
The U.K. Atomic Energy Authority spokesman
the time he was
Basra¹s cancers and birth defects,
experts to the
Llew Smith MP (L. Blaenau Gwent) has tabled
Professor Malcolm Hooper, Emeritus
Professor at the
A spokesman foir the Ministry of Defence
Robert Fisk comments cynically: "It makes
Maybe Iraqi housewives who
The Campaign Against Depleted Uranium,
Mill, 22a Beswick Street,
Behalve mensenlevens, zal de oorlog in Irak ook veel archeologische vindplaatsen verwoesten. In het voormalige Mesopotamië zijn officieel zo’n tienduizend opgravingslocaties, maar volgens de Amerikaanse archeoloog McGuire Gibson is er op honderdduizenden plaatsen in het Irakese zand iets te vinden. Militairen die zich veilig ingraven in een heuveltje? Grote kans dat ze dan een graf of nederzetting vernietigen.
De toekomst van Babylon
Irakese archeologie bedreigd
vrijdag 21 maart 2003
Een kruisraket op de piramide van Gizeh, of op de sfinx – dat zou de wereld verschrikkelijk vinden. “Maar mensen begrijpen niet dat de monumenten van Irak veel belangrijker zijn voor het werelderfgoed dan die van Egypte. Heel Irak is één grote archeologische vindplaats, waar zesduizend jaar geleden de vroegste beschavingen werden gesticht.” McGuire Gibson is als de dood voor de gevolgen van de oorlog in het gebied van de Tigris en de Eufraat. De archeoloog van de Universiteit van Chicago schrijft in het (Amerikaanse) vakblad Science te vrezen voor de resten van legendarische steden als Babylon, Niniveh en Ur. Die resten kent hij zelf al sinds 1964, toen hij voor de eerste keer in Irak werkte.
“Afgezet tegen menselijk lijden lijken materiële zaken van minder belang, maar de bakermat van de westerse beschaving wordt ook bedreigd,” stelt Gibson. De Soemeriërs, Assyriërs en Babyloniërs stichtten niet alleen de eerste steden, maar maakten met de uitvinding van het schrift ook een einde aan het prehistorie. Ze verrichtten als het ware pionierswerk dat duidelijk maakte hoe grote groepen mensen samen kunnen leven. Via opgeschreven wetten bijvoorbeeld, en vastgelegde rechten en plichten.
Dat ‘voorbeeld’ voor de maatschappij van nu dreigt voorgoed verloren te gaan, vreest Gibson. Tot de eerste Golfoorlog van 1991 was het archeologisch onderzoek in Irak volgens hem goed georganiseerd. Vlak na de stichting van Irak, begin jaren twintig van de vorige eeuw, kwam er al een ‘Departement van Antiquiteiten’ die zich met de historische resten in het zand ging bezighouden. In binnen- en buitenland werden mensen opgeleid, er kwamen musea met duizenden personeelsleden, en de opgravingsplaatsen werden door honderden bewakers beschermd. Dat was afdoende, want indertijd werd er amper illegaal opgegraven of gesmokkeld.
De Golfoorlog en het economische embargo tegen Irak dat volgde, heeft dat gunstige archeologisch klimaat verwoest. De bombardementen op steden van twaalf jaar geleden beschadigde musea, die – als ze niet waren verbrand – ook geplunderd werden. Een paar duizend voorwerpen zijn sindsdien spoorloos. Wat de gevolgen van de strijd in de woestijn zijn geweest, is onduidelijk, omdat het embargo onderzoek verhinderde. Wat wel duidelijk is, is dat de smokkel van antieke kunst een hoge vlucht genomen heeft. Het Departement van Antiquiteiten is volgens Gibson zo goed als ontmanteld, net als de bewaking van de vindplaatsen.
De smokkel van illegaal opgegraven voorwerpen werd haast een industrie, schrijft Gibson. Begonnen uit nood vanwege honger, bleek het buitenland erg veel interesse in de spullen te hebben. Vooral kleitabletten met inscripties in spijkerschrift zijn populair, maar ook beelden, sierraden en cilindervormige zegels. Af en toe wordt een vrachtwagen vol smokkelwaar aan de grens onderschept, maar de kunstwereld is gespannen, aldus Gibson. “Het aanbod van objecten is zo groot dat een verzamelaar in New York opmerkte dat ‘dit het gouden tijdperk voor verzamelen is’.”
Officieel is pas zo’n vijftien procent van het oppervlak van Irak op archeologische resten onderzocht. Daar zijn nu pakweg tienduizend vindplaatsen, en volgens Gibson is het ‘redelijk’ om aan te nemen dat er in de rest van het land nog ‘honderdduizenden’ andere interessante plaatsen zijn. “Legers zoeken hoge grond om zich in in te graven, maar in Zuid-Irak is bijna elke heuvel een archeologische vindplaats.” Dat heeft hij samen met enkele collega’s eind januari ook verteld aan de Amerikaanse overheid. De archeologen overhandigden daarbij een lijst van de locaties van vierduizend bekende vindplaatsen. Ambtenaren antwoordden dat er al zo’n lijst binnen het ministerie circuleert, en dat de vindplaatsen ‘bekend worden gemaakt aan de mensen die de precieze beschietingsdoelen vaststellen,’ rapporteerde de Chicago Tribune.
McGuire Gibson: Fate of Iraqi Archaeology.
In: Science, vol. 299, p. 1848 (21 maart 2003)
|The Destruction of Iraq's
National Library and Archives
>>> The following are news reports concerning the destruction and looting of irreplaceable books and other documents in Iraq's National Library and Archives, along with the library of the Ministry of Religious Endowment, which took place 14 April 2003.
Please send me other articles on this cultural atrocity, as well as any information on exactly what material was in these two libraries. I'd like to create a catalog of what has been lost.
Library Books, Letters and Priceless Documents Are Set Ablaze in Final Chapter of the Sacking of Baghdad
Independent (London), 15 April 2003
So yesterday was the burning of books. First came the looters, then the arsonists. It was the final chapter in the sacking of Baghdad. The National Library and Archives a priceless treasure of Ottoman historical documents, including the old royal archives of Iraq were turned to ashes in 3,000 degrees of heat. Then the library of Korans at the Ministry of Religious Endowment was set ablaze.
I saw the looters. One of them cursed me when I tried to reclaim a book of Islamic law from a boy of no more than 10. Amid the ashes of Iraqi history, I found a file blowing in the wind outside: pages of handwritten letters between the court of Sharif Hussein of Mecca, who started the Arab revolt against the Turks for Lawrence of Arabia, and the Ottoman rulers of Baghdad.
And the Americans did nothing. All over the filthy yard they blew, letters of recommendation to the courts of Arabia, demands for ammunition for troops, reports on the theft of camels and attacks on pilgrims, all in delicate hand-written Arabic script. I was holding in my hands the last Baghdad vestiges of Iraq's written history. But for Iraq, this is Year Zero; with the destruction of the antiquities in the Museum of Archaeology on Saturday and the burning of the National Archives and then the Koranic library, the cultural identity of Iraq is being erased. Why? Who set these fires? For what insane purpose is this heritage being destroyed?
When I caught sight of the Koranic library burning flames 100 feet high were bursting from the windows I raced to the offices of the occupying power, the US Marines' Civil Affairs Bureau. An officer shouted to a colleague that "this guy says some biblical [sic] library is on fire". I gave the map location, the precise name in Arabic and English. I said the smoke could be seen from three miles away and it would take only five minutes to drive there. Half an hour later, there wasn't an American at the scene and the flames were shooting 200 feet into the air.
There was a time when the Arabs said that their books were written in Cairo, printed in Beirut and read in Baghdad. Now they burn libraries in Baghdad. In the National Archives were not just the Ottoman records of the Caliphate, but even the dark years of the country's modern history, handwritten accounts of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, with personal photographs and military diaries,and microfiche copies of Arabic newspapers going back to the early 1900s.
But the older files and archives were on the upper floors of the library where petrol must have been used to set fire so expertly to the building. The heat was such that the marble flooring had buckled upwards and the concrete stairs that I climbedhad been cracked.
The papers on the floor were almost too hot to touch, bore no print or writing, and crumbled into ash the moment I picked them up. Again, standing in this shroud of blue smoke and embers, I asked the same question: why?
So, as an all-too-painful reflection on what this means, let me quote from the shreds of paper that I found on the road outside, blowing in the wind, written by long-dead men who wrote to the Sublime Porte in Istanbul or to the Court of Sharif of Mecca with expressions of loyalty and who signed themselves "your slave". There was a request to protect a camel convoy of tea, rice and sugar, signed by Husni Attiya al-Hijazi (recommending Abdul Ghani-Naim and Ahmed Kindi as honest merchants), a request for perfume and advice from Jaber al-Ayashi of the royal court of Sharif Hussein to Baghdad to warn of robbers in the desert. "This is just to give you our advice for which you will be highly rewarded," Ayashi says. "If you don't take our advice, then we have warned you." A touch of Saddam there, I thought. The date was 1912.
Some of the documents list the cost of bullets, military horses and artillery for Ottoman armies in Baghdad and Arabia, others record the opening of the first telephone exchange in the Hejaz soon to be Saudi Arabia while one recounts, from the village of Azrak in modern-day Jordan, the theft of clothes from a camel train by Ali bin Kassem, who attacked his interrogators "with a knife and tried to stab them but was restrained and later bought off". There is a 19th-century letter of recommendation for a merchant, Yahyia Messoudi, "a man of the highest morals, of good conduct and who works with the [Ottoman] government." This, in other words, was the tapestry of Arab history all that is left of it, which fell into The Independent's hands as the mass of documents crackled in the immense heat of the ruins.
King Faisal of the Hejaz, the ruler of Mecca, whose staff are the authors of many of the letters I saved, was later deposed by the Saudis. His son Faisel became king of Iraq Winston Churchill gave him Baghdad after the French threw him out of Damascus and his brother Abdullah became the first king of Jordan, the father of King Hussein and the grandfather of the present-day Jordanian monarch, King Abdullah II.
For almost a thousand years, Baghdad was the cultural capital of the Arab world, the most literate population in the Middle East. Genghis Khan's grandson burnt the city in the 13th century and, so it was said, the Tigris river ran black with the ink of books. Yesterday, the black ashes of thousands of ancient documents filled the skies of Iraq. Why?
Looters Ransack Iraq's National Library
Charles J. Hanley
Associated Press, Tuesday, April 15, 2003 · Last updated 12:30 p.m. PT
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Looters and arsonists ransacked and gutted Iraq'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. 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.
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.
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 burned.
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 their papers.
Armored vehicles were positioned on the nearby street, manned by U.S. Marines. They did nothing to stop Tuesday's continuing trickle of looters.
Ancient Archive Lost in Baghdad Library Blaze
Oliver Burkeman in Washington
The Guardian , Tuesday April 15, 2003
As flames engulfed Baghdad's National Library yesterday, destroying manuscripts many centuries old, the Pentagon admitted that it had been caught unprepared by the widespread looting of antiquities, despite months of warnings from American archaeologists.
But defence department officials denied accusations by British archaeologists that the US government was succumbing to pressure from private collectors in America to allow plundered Iraqi treasures to be traded on the open market.
Almost nothing remains of the library's archive of tens of thousands of manuscripts, books, and Iraqi newspapers, according to reports from the scene.
It joins a list that already includes the capital's National Museum, one of the world's most important troves of artefacts from the ancient Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian civilisations.
Calling the looting of historical artefacts "a catastrophe for the cultural heritage of Iraq", Mounir Bouchenaki, the deputy director-general of the UN cultural body Unesco, announced an emergency summit of archaeologists in Paris on Thursday.
In Washington Colin Powell, the secretary of state, said the US "will be working with a number of individuals and organisations to not only secure the facility, but to recover that which has been taken, and also to participate in restoring that which has been broken _ the United States understands its obligations and will be taking a leading role with respect to antiquities in general, but [the museum] in particular".
A Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no plans had been made to protect antiquities from looters, as opposed to ensuring that historical sites were not caught up in the fighting itself.
But the official rejected charges in a letter from nine British archaeologists, published in the Guardian yesterday, that private collectors were "persuading the Pentagon to relax legislation that protects Iraq's heritage by prevention of sales abroad".
The American Council for Cultural Policy, a New York-based coalition of about 60 collectors, dealers and others, had received "no special treatment," the official insisted, despite reports that members of the group met with Bush administration representatives in January to argue that a post-Saddam Iraq should have relaxed antiquities laws.
Last night the group denied that it was lobbying for plundered Iraqi treasures to be traded. "The ACCP will seek _ to find ways to shut off the import of objects that may have been taken from Iraq, and to close the domestic market in such material," Ashton Hawkins, the organisation's president, said.
John Henry Merryman, a law professor at Stanford University and a member of the ACCP, said allowing a private trade in the artefacts would better protect them until they could be returned to Iraq at a later date.
Prized Iraqi Annals 'Lost in Blaze'
BBC News , 14 April 2003
Almost all of the contents of Iraq's national library and archives are reported to have been destroyed by fire, meaning the loss of priceless records of the country's history.
The library, in central Baghdad, housed several rare volumes, including entire royal court records and files from the period when Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire.
It is unclear who started the fires - though widespread looting has taken place in the Iraqi capital, with the city's museum also ransacked and many rare artefacts damaged, destroyed or stolen.
The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has pledged to recover and repair the antiquities looted from the city museum, amid criticism from heritage bodies that the damage should have been prevented.
A Western journalist - Robert Fisk of the Independent - reporting from the site of the library told the BBC that the whole building had been gutted, with handwritten documents from as far back as the 16th century - when Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire - strewn on the ground.
A nearby Islamic library has also gone in up in flames, he said, destroying valuable literature including one of the oldest surviving copies of the Koran.
US-Iraqi joint patrols have now begun around the city in a bid to curb the violence.
Several Shia religious leaders have appealed to the local population to return looted items, and say that some items had been returned and stashed in mosques for safekeeping.
"We will return them when we will have a democratic government," Shia cleric Sayyad Ali al-Shawki told the Associated Press news agency.
Mr Powell called the ravaged Baghdad museum "one of the great museums in the world" and said the US would take a leading role in restoring it.
Leading experts on Iraqi heritage will gather for an emergency meeting on Thursday to count the cost of the looting of the country's cultural sites.
'Recover and restore'
Mr Powell said the US would secure the museum and would work with organisations such as the European Union and the cultural arm of the United Nations, Unesco, in restoring it.
The US would "recover that which has been taken and also participate in restoring that which has been broken", he said.
But the loss and destruction already suffered has been described as "a disaster" by Unesco.
The national museum was home to artefacts that dated back 10,000 years, from one of the world's earliest civilisations.
The development of writing, abstract counting, the wheel and agriculture were all charted in its exhibitions.
The collections from the Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian periods were particularly prized.
'History of mankind'
Despite Mr Powell's assurances, there are fears that many objects may have been be lost forever.
After the 1991 Gulf War, 4,000 pieces disappeared when regional museums were looted.
Donny George, archaeologist at the museum, said: "It was the leading collection of a... continuous history of mankind.
"And it's gone, and it's lost. If marines had started before, none of this would have happened.
"It's too late, it's no use, it's no use."
Articles copyright 2003 by their respective publishers.
<>Preface Who's Counting The Vote In Iraq
Total Article 3650 words including references and illustrations. Complete article $2.99 or sign up to Convergence Weekly.
Who’s counting the vote in Iraq? With so much riding on an election that could see the winning coalition ordering the occupiers to abandon their nine permanent bases and leave Iraq, and despite widespread vote-rigging during the last three US federal elections, the “watchdog” corporate press has yet to get its muzzles far enough out of its feed bowls to question another Bush-sponsered election—this time being tallied in the US-controlled Green Zone.
WHO’S COUNTING THE VOTE IN IRAQ?
by William Thomas | Sunday, Feb. 6, 2005
“Whether in peacetime Florida or wartime Iraq, it’s not too difficult to steal an election.” -Norman Solomon [YubaNet.com]
In acts of courage that inspired the world, they came in their millions to place the first free ballots in Iraq since a US-backed tyrant seized power 25 years ago. “We are defeating the terrorists as we are coming here,” said a voter named Saad, proudly displaying an ink-stained finger as proof of his vote.
Iraq’s electoral commission reported as many as eight million people, or just over half of Iraq’s 14 million registered voters, defied threatened attacks and terrorist reprisals to cast their votes for control over their own destiny. In the southern city of Basra, the mainly Shia turnout was almost 90% as Arabs cast their votes for what one called, “freedom, peace and food.”
But in many Sunni cities, only a third of the polling stations opened. Voting was almost nonexistent in the largely Sunni provinces of Al Anbar, Salahuddin, Nineveh and Diyalain.
Not everyone was happy. Sheltering in Iraq’s capitol, some 200,000 Sunni refugees from the wrecked “City of Mosques” nursed their anger over losing so many loved ones, homes and neighborhoods in Fallujah—not to mention political dominance that became absolute through the Ba’ath party and Saddam.
Nevertheless, election workers cheered as the first trucks loaded with ballots rolled into Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, 24 hours after the initial hand-count at 5,200 precincts. With US mercenaries looking on, some 200 election workers tapped laptop keyboards, entering the hopes of Shi’ite and Kurdish Iraq distilled into thousands of bags of ballots.
The one thing most Iraqis agreed on is that their country will not achieve tahrir—independence—until the United States military departs. As Fisk found out, “the word so many voted for” was not the “democracy” bandied by the Bush media for American consumption, but the real thing: “freedom to speak, freedom to vote, freedom from the Americans.”
Opposed to these notions is a group of powerful religious fundamentalists who want to see their government guided by and forcibly exporting their murderous interpretation of the “word of God”. Since taking over the White House, these religious fanatics have killed more than a hundred thousand family members in homes and neighborhoods not much different than your own. Mostly children have died in places like Kabul, Sadr City, Ramadi, Najaf and Fallujah.
While Iraqis wondered what was next in store for them, and Sunni princes nervously fingered their jewels, adulation for Iraq’s historic vote poured in from around a world that must have forgotten that Sumeria invented civilization. “People are waking up,” King Abdullah told CNN. Arab “leaders understand that they have to push reform forward, and I don’t think there is any looking back.”
The Bush administration has long
argued that successful elections in Iraq will inspire similar
democratic reforms in a region ruled by authoritarian governments in no
hurry to give up power and perks. In statements that eerily echo
similar boasts made during a previous conflict, the White House gloated
over the high turnout and “light casualties” from the single biggest
day of attacks since US forces invaded Iraq nearly two years ago.
“United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam’s presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting,” reported the New York Times. “According to reports from Saigon, 83%t of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong. A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson’s policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam.”
Burning rubber in reverse, the Bush administration assured Americans that the election was not such a big deal after all, since Iraq’s uniformed security services cannot yet offer security unassisted by American-style saturation firepower. Desertion rates up to 40% among non-Kurdish police and army units hamper that crucial handover, along with enough intelligence leaks to sink a ship of state.
With so much riding on an election that could see the winning coalition ordering the occupiers to abandon their nine permanent bases and leave Iraq, and despite widespread vote-rigging during the last three US federal elections, the “watchdog” corporate press has yet to get its muzzles far enough out of its feed bowls to question another Bush-sponsored election—this time being tallied in the US-controlled Green Zone.
Speaking for the Association of Muslim Scholars, Muhammad al-Kubaysi wondered how valid the much vaunted elections can be when “the voter goes to the polling stations not knowing who he is voting for in the first place.”
Endorsement of the United Iraqi Alliance by the Grand Ayatollah Sistani ensured that most Shia, who comprise most of Iraq’s population, would vote for the slate headed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. Favored by the Grand Ayatollah, Hakim heads the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Started by Iraqis in exile in Iran, the religious SCIR is viewed with suspicion by the Sunnis, secularists and Washington.
Al-Hakim’s chief opponent is the “Iraqi List” coalition headed by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Seen as a Washington-picked puppet by many Iraqis—and as a “collaborator” by others seeking political or more lethal revenge—Iraq’s interim Prime Minister and former CIA asset is largely blamed for the sharp increase in violence and further decline in water, electricity and sanitation services since his US-backed installation last June 30.
Once formed, the National Assembly is expected to draft a permanent constitution by next August. Grand Ayatollah Sistani and other leading Shia clerics will wield as much influence over this constitutional process as they did during the elections.
But before a constitution can be crafted, a newly elected assembly swirling with tribal intrigues must choose a president and two vice presidents from among the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish constituencies. This president’s council will pick a prime minister, who in turn will select the Cabinet ministers.
As part of this underhanded consortium, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the International Republican Institute were paid more than $80 million through the US Agency for International Development to “assist” electoral activities in Iraq.
Directed by USAID, the NDI and IRI’s official mandates in Iraq include “furthering America’s foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets” in the developing corporate world.
“Influential, decidedly anti-democratic US-financed agencies, [had] their hands all over Iraq’s transitional process—from the formation of political parties to monitoring the January 30 voting at the polls across most of the nation,” the New Standard reports.
A report on the National Endowment for Democracy prepared by the CATO Institute reveals that this network’s “mischief overseas” is seeing US taxpayers fund groups like the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the International Republican Institute “to harass the duly elected governments of friendly countries, interfere in foreign elections, and foster the corruption of democratic movements.”
Offering another perspective on these shadowy political fixers, Representative Ron Paul says the activities of NDI, IRI and the National Endowment for Democracy in Iraq “would be rightly illegal in the United States.”
According to Mother Jones, “IRI has also been tied to the 2002 armed coup that briefly removed populist President Hugo Chavez from power in Venezuela.”
The indefatigable International Republican Institute also backed the parties behind last January’s violent uprising and US military-escorted expulsion of democratically elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The White House paid the NED $65 million to subvert the real democracy in the Ukraine. What did another $80 million buy in Iraq?
But with candidates listed at the head of the United Iraqi Alliance slate expected to head Iraq’s new interim National Assembly, Washington may have to let Allawi go. The Grand Ayotollah’s personal pick—Sayid Ali al-Hakim—will certainly win. If he doesn’t, all eyes will turn to a junta that is no stranger to vote rigging.
SCIRI head Sayid Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is next in line for power. An unidentified woman—possibly Salama al-Khafaji—will be the third member chosen for Iraq’s new National Assembly, thanks to election laws that most other “democratic” countries would do well to emulate. Current interim vice president, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, is fourth, while Chalabi is 10th in line to steer post-Saddam Iraq. Congratulations over the country’s first “democratic elections” in decades could be as premature as they proved to be in that other far away place where so many so needlessly died.
Somebody has to tell the boys
who hijacked the bus that controlling the world is not an option.
People don’t like it. They will resist, and they will not be your
friends. As the Boston Globe observed, the only way “in which the grand
claims made by Washington for the weekend voting will be true” is if
the elections “empower an Iraqi government that moves quickly to
repudiate Washington. The only meaning ‘freedom’ can have in Iraq right
now is freedom from the US occupation.”