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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] Hello all, here are 3 more stories about the looting of Iraq's National Museum: a) Looters Stole 6,000 Artifacts (Washington Post 21/06/03) b) Iraq's museums: what really happened (Guardian 18/06/03)) c) What really happened at the Baghdad museum? (Guardian 19/06/03) Greetings. Dirk Adriaensens www.irak.be Looters Stole 6,000 Artifacts Number Expected to Rise as Officials Take Inventory in Iraq By Guy Gugliotta Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, June 21, 2003; Page A16 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17897-2003Jun20.html U.S. and Iraqi officials have confirmed the theft of at least 6,000 artifacts from Iraq's National Museum of Antiquities during a prolonged looting spree as U.S. forces entered Baghdad two months ago, a leading archaeologist said yesterday. University of Chicago archaeologist McGuire Gibson said the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement told him June 13 that the official count of missing items had reached 6,000 and was climbing as museum and Customs investigators proceeded with an inventory of three looted storerooms. The June 13 total was double the number of stolen items reported by Customs a week earlier, and Gibson suggested the final tally could be "far, far worse." Customs could not immediately obtain an updated report, a spokesman said. The mid-June count was the latest in a confusing chain of seemingly contradictory estimates of losses at the museum, the principal repository of artifacts from thousands of Iraqi archaeological sites documenting human history from the dawn of civilization 7,000 years ago to the pinnacle of medieval Islam. It now appears, however, that although the losses were not nearly as grave as early reports indicated, they go far beyond the 33 items known to have been taken from the museum's display halls. Gibson said looters sacked two ground-floor storerooms and broke into a third in the basement. Two other storerooms appear to have been untouched. Gibson noted that there are "thousands of things that are broken" but not listed as missing. And teams of archaeologists sent by the National Geographic Society found widespread looting of artifacts from sites outside Baghdad. None of these are museum pieces, and most were simply plucked from the ground. "Like any museum, the display collection is an iceberg," Gibson said. "Because this is an archaeological museum, there's a huge amount of stuff that's important to the sites themselves and to researchers, but never goes on display." Looters broke into the downtown Baghdad museum and sacked it for several days in early April as U.S. forces toppled the government of Saddam Hussein and took possession of the Iraqi capital. U.S. soldiers were harshly criticized for standing idle as the looters rampaged through the building. The museum housed 170,000 numbered items and thousands more artifacts that had either not yet been catalogued or had been set aside in a ground-floor "study collection" storeroom for researchers to examine. Reporters and investigators arriving in the first days after the looting saw a virtually empty museum that had been thoroughly trashed. They assumed the worst, Gibson said, an impression that the museum staff did not seek to dispel. In fact, the staff -- anticipating possible looting -- had spirited away a huge portion of the inventory, including almost everything portable in the display collection, and stashed it either in the basement or in off-site bunkers, Gibson said. Staff had also hidden a gold collection in a Central Bank vault during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and never removed it. When U.S. authorities took their first close look at the damage, it appeared the finest artifacts had been "cherry-picked" by thieves with inside knowledge. Some U.S. officials suggested that staff members might have been complicit. "This was unfortunate" but easily explained, Gibson said. Bitterly offended by U.S. forces' failure to protect the museum from the looters, staffers "were not going to give information on where things were," he added. Today, museum staff and U.S. investigators from Customs and the FBI have "a very good relationship," Gibson said. Although the display collection lost only a few heavy, nonremovable artifacts that were either cut in pieces or ripped from their pedestals, the overall toll was much worse. Staff members began to inventory the museum's five storerooms in May. Losses there numbered in the thousands. Both ground-floor storerooms had been looted, Gibson said. One housed the study collection, while the other held shelved artifacts and about 10 steel trunks containing as-yet unnumbered material from recent digs. All the trunks had been opened and emptied, Gibson said. Two basement storerooms appeared to be untouched, including one containing most of the museum's priceless collection of cuneiform tablets, Gibson said. The third had been breached, however, and contained "some of the most important stuff in the museum, including pottery and ivory inlays," he added. © 2003 The Washington Post Company Iraq's museums: what really happened http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,11710,980042,00.html The truth behind the sacking of a cultural heritage is far less colourful than the allegations of corruption and cover-up Eleanor Robson Wednesday June 18, 2003 The Guardian What is the true extent of the losses to the Iraq Museum -170,000 objects or only 33? The arguments have raged these past two weeks as accusations of corruption, incompetence and cover-ups have flown around. Most notably, Dan Cruickshank's BBC film Raiders of the Lost Art insinuated that the staff had grossly misled the military and the press over the extent of the losses, been involved with the looting themselves, allowed the museum to be used as a military position, and had perhaps even harboured Saddam Hussein. The truth is less colourful. Two months ago, I compared the demolition of Iraq's cultural heritage with the Mongol sacking of Baghdad in 1258, and the 5th-century destruction of the library of Alexandria. On reflection, that wasn't a bad assessment of the present state of Iraq's cultural infrastructure. Millions of books have been burned, thousands of manuscripts and archaeological artefacts stolen or destroyed, ancient cities ransacked, universities trashed. At the beginning of this year, the staff, led by Dr Dony George and Dr Nawala al-Mutawalli, began to pack up the museum in a well-established routine first devised during the Iran-Iraq war. Defensive bunkers were dug in the grounds. Early in April, Dr John Curtis, head of the Ancient Near East department at the British Museum, described a recent visit to Baghdad during which the museum staff were sandbagging objects too big to be moved, packing away smaller exhibits, and debating "the possibility of using bank vaults and bunkers if the worst came". The worst did come. On April 11 the news arrived that the museum had been looted. We later discovered that there had been a two-day gun battle, at the start of which the remaining museum staff fled for their lives. Fedayeen broke into a storeroom and set up a machine gun at a window. While senior Iraqi officials were begging for help in Baghdad, the US Civil Affairs Brigade in Kuwait was also trying from April 12 to get the museum protected. They already knew that its most valuable holdings were in vaults of the recently bombed Central Bank. The museum was secured on April 16, but it took until April 21 for Civil Affairs to arrive. Captain William Sumner wrote to me that day: "It seems that most of the museum's artefacts had been moved to other locations, but the ones that were looted were 'staged' at an area so that they would be easier to access. It was a very professional action. The spare looting you saw on the news were the excess people who came in to pick over what was left." In other words, there was no cover-up: the military were informed immediately that the evacuation procedures had been effective. Suspicions remained that a single staff member may have assisted the core looters. But, Sumner says: "It might have been one of the grounds people, or anybody. I suspect that we will never know." Within a week the museum was secure enough for George to travel to London. At a press conference he circulated a list of some 25 smashed and stolen objects which the curators had been unable to move from the public galleries before the war. They included the now famous Warka vase, which had been cemented in place. Last week it was returned in pieces. Other losses came from the corridor where objects were waiting to be moved off-site. George was understandably reluctant to reveal the location of the off-site storage to the Civil Affairs Brigade as security was still non-existent. Inventories of the badly vandalised storerooms finally began after the catalogues were pieced together from the debris of the ransacked offices. Dr John Russell, an expert in looted Iraqi antiqui ties, made a room-by-room report for Unesco late in May. He noted that most of the objects that had been returned since the looting "were forgeries and reproductions". Other losses, he reported, included some 2,000 finds from last season's excavations at sites in central Iraq. His summary tallied well with George's. "Some 30 major pieces from exhibition galleries. Unknown thousands of excavated objects from storage. Major works from galleries smashed or damaged." The unknown thousands are beginning to be quantified. Expert assessors in Vienna last week estimated the losses from the museum storerooms at between 6,000 and 10,000. Outside the Iraq Museum, the picture is equally grim. At Baghdad University, classrooms, laboratories and offices have been vandalised, and equipment and furniture stolen or destroyed. Student libraries have been emptied. Nabil al-Tikriti of the Univer sity of Chicago reported in May that the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs lost 600-700 manuscripts in a malicious fire and more than 1,000 were stolen. The House of Wisdom and the Iraqi Academy of Sciences were also looted. The National Library was burned to the ground and most of its 12 million books are assumed to have been incinerated. In the galleries of Mosul Museum, cuneiform tablets were stolen and smashed. The ancient cities of Nineveh, Nimrud, and Hatra lost major sculpture to looting. The situation is far worse in the south. Some 15-20 large archaeological sites, mostly ancient Sumerian cities, were comprehensively pillaged by armed gangs. It will take years of large-scale international assistance and delicate diplomacy to return the Iraq Museum to functionality. The process is deeply charged with the politics of occupation and post-Ba'athist reaction. The Civil Affairs officers are discover ing that senior staff are not necessarily enamoured of the American way, while junior staff are testing their newfound freedom to complain about their bosses. One insider commented: "George might make them work instead of read papers. And that is what all the fuss is about." The British School of Archaeology in Iraq and the British Museum now have staff working in the Iraq Museum, while other organisations worldwide are fundraising. George, Mutawalli and his colleagues have achieved the extraordinary in preserving as much as they have. We now need to help them salvage as much as possible from the wreckage and re-establish the country's cultural infrastructure so that Iraqis can plan their future knowing their past is secure. · Eleanor Robson is a council member of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq and a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford firstname.lastname@example.org What really happened at the Baghdad museum? http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,980368,00.html Yesterday an eminent archaeologist claimed in the Guardian that Baghdad museum staff had not exaggerated the extent of losses during the war, or been involved in the looting afterwards. Here the man who first raised doubts about the museum's story responds Dan Cruickshank Thursday June 19, 2003 The Guardian When the director of research at the Baghdad museum, Donny George, first issued his emotive plea to the world about the thousands of items missing or stolen, he didn't seem to realise that, along with emotion, it would also generate a determination to investigate. I went to find out what happened, and discovered compelling evidence not only that the initial figure attributed to the museum - 170,000 items lost or destroyed - was a huge exaggeration, but also that some of the looting may have been an inside job. It also seemed to me that treasures may have been plundered by senior Baathists long before the war. In addition, we found a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and other arms in a storeroom. This seemed to prove that the museum had indeed been a prepared military position, just as the Americans had claimed, not a cultural site that had, by chance, become embroiled in the battle for Baghdad. But now the waters are being muddied, and old reports and information are being recycled, creating confusion. The article in yesterday's Guardian by Eleanor Robson, a fellow of All Souls college and an archaeologist specialising in Iraq, seems to me to be a case in point. Nobody is disputing that many things have gone missing, but the questions are, who took them, and when? Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, the New York lawyer coordinating the US search for missing antiquities, said in a recent report in collaboration with George that there were 33 major pieces still missing. Then the sacred Warka Vase reappeared, so now there are 32. Along with the many smaller items, it's very possible that the 6,000 to 10,000 figure that Robson cites may be accurate. But as the five museum storerooms have been examined more thoroughly in recent weeks, they have turned out not to have been ransacked. Only three were entered by thieves and only key items, their locations known only to a few people, had been removed. Furthermore, many of the 33 major pieces supposedly taken from the galleries are extremely valuable, and very small - prime candidates for being put into storage pre-war. So why hadn't they? That led me to conclude that, quite possibly, they had disappeared some time ago. The news this week that the museum staff were staging a revolt against the senior personnel didn't surprise me, either: it was clear to me that they were unhappy, and I was even shown a whip that had apparently been used on them by members of the museum security department. They talked about the upper echelons of the museum hierarchy - people such as George - being Baathists who had to report on them. The whole culture of terror that you would associate with a totalitarian regime was in place. That fear may explain the whereabouts of other missing items: I went to the place where 4,000 manuscripts were being stored and the people there said they did not want to return them - they did not trust the Baathists at the museum. As well as adding to the confusion over the looting, Robson repeats as fact the claim that the bunkers in the museum grounds were purely defensive, but that's one of the things that is under dispute. The Americans claim there were 150 Iraqi soldiers there, and that the bunkers were fighting positions - and they cited evidence for this. Pretending that this question is settled is a very significant sleight of hand. Robson also says the arms found in the museum storeroom were there because Fedayeen had broken into it. But they hadn't - the door was open and the lock intact when US soldiers arrived. Who unlocked it and when remains a mystery. That said, I'm quite prepared to believe that the museum heads are victims, not villains - that they are being terrorised by high-ranking former Baathists who are threatening to kill them if they say what really happened. But, for now, great caution must be exercised before the museum is handed back to them: there are so many inconsistencies, and they are tainted by being members of a foul regime, even if they weren't themselves foul members of it. Emotionally, it may be impossible for them to reconcile what has actually happened with anything that it would be acceptable to say now. Part of the museum is due to reopen on July 3, and I am very alarmed about that. Are these artefacts safe? Really? What we need now is to discover the truth. We need to know what really happened. An attempt to patch over the cracks - to smooth things over for George and his chums - is exactly what we don't need here. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk