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Earlier this year, Saddam Hussein appealed to his countrymen to defeat the “new Mongols,” his euphemism for the American military poised to attack Iraq. Hussein appears to have been correct in his prognostication concerning the after effects of an American invasion of Iraq. In 1248, the forces of the Mongol chieftain Hulagu Khan invaded Baghdad and laid waste to the city. Sumerian, Babylonian, Mesopotamian, Assyrian, Ninevehan, Islamic Arab, and other historical relics of Iraq’s storied past were destroyed by the invading Mongols. Baghdad’s irrigation system was also destroyed and the effect of that action on the population of the country lasted for more than a century.
Compare the invasion of Hulagu Khan in 1248 and America’s invasion of 2003 and stark similarities quickly emerge. Like the Mongols, the United States has severely disrupted the water supply system of Baghdad. This has drastically affected public health, medical care, and sanitation in a city of over 5 million people. If such a calamity were to occur in a city of similar size from a natural disaster, international aid would quickly arrive. Yet, the United States is barring international relief efforts for Iraq unless it can control humanitarian workers and administer the distribution of assistance.
And like the Mongols, U.S. troops stood by while Iraqi mobs looted and destroyed artifacts at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad. They also reportedly joined looters who pillaged other lucrative targets like office buildings, stores, and private homes. The Bush regime ignored calls from Koichiro Matsura, the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), who appealed to the United States to provide protection for Iraqi museums. His calls, like those from the governments of Jordan, Russia, and Greece, went unheeded by Bush regime war officials.
The looting and wanton destruction of the Baghdad museum not only deserves international condemnation but falls well within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court for a full investigation and the issuance of indictments against perpetrators, both Iraqi and American.
One could feel the pain experienced by the museum’s deputy director when she tearfully told Western journalists that 170,000 priceless artifacts dating back thousands of years to the very cradle of human civilization in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley, the fabled home of the biblical Garden of Eden, were looted or destroyed. She said one tank and one or two American soldiers would have been sufficient to protect the museum from the vandals. But instead, American troops stood idly by while 7000 years of Iraqi history was cleansed. Even irreplaceable archaeological files and computer disks were destroyed. Museum employees blamed U.S. troops for the carnage. The Bush regime seems intent on remaking Iraq in the same sense that it is turning American democracy into a corporate fascist entity.
The fact that looters were permitted to destroy and burn rare Islamic texts at a time when fundamentalist Christian aid workers are poised to arrive in Iraq with water and revisionist Bibles raises the possibility of a future bloody clash of religions. Giving a free rein to fundamentalist Christians missionaries working for the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell with the full support of a future neo-conservative U.S. civil administration led by the pro-Israeli Likud retired U.S. Army General Jay Garner, gives many the awful feeling that George W. Bush’s past references to “crusades” may, in part, be influencing America’s current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and potential future wars in Syria, Iran, Palestine, and Lebanon.
Among the artifacts that may have been carried off by looters are the tablets containing Hammurabi’s Code and the 4600-hundred year old Ram in the Thicket from Ur. The 4300-year old bust of an Akkadian king was destroyed by vandals. What was not destroyed by the Mongols in 1248 was allowed to be destroyed by the Americans in 2003. Gone are the artifacts of ancient Sumeria, Assyria, Babylon, Mesopotamia, Ninevah, and Ur.
Just consider how far the United States has sunk since the end of World War II. America launched the Safehaven Program to recover European art looted by the Nazis. Today, the United States aids and abets the looting of art and treasures thousands of years older than the European art it helped salvage some 60 years ago. In days past, U.S. military and intelligence, including the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, helped recover and restitute historical treasures looted by the likes of Hermann Goering and Alfred Rosenberg. American generals like Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, and George Patton, Jr., personally oversaw the recovery and return of artwork seized by the Nazis.
Compare those truly professional military leaders to Generals Tommy Franks and Vincent Brooks, who blandly shrugged off the looting of Iraqi museums and one starts to understand what Saddam Hussein was getting at when he compared the current U.S. armed forces to the Mongol hordes. To make matters worse, Brooks lied at a Central Command briefing when he stated to the world’s media that, “We remain committed to preserving the rich culture and heritage and the resources of the Iraqi people.” If Brooks were telling the truth, which he was not, contingency plans would have been put into effect to protect Iraqi centers of art and antiquities the minute U.S. troops entered Baghdad.
It is clear that by aiding and abetting the looting of Iraqi art and antiquities the United States military violated Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Article 2 (g) of Optional Protocol I of 1977 to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The International Criminal Court in The Hague should begin proceedings to investigate whether or not to charge U.S. military and government officials with criminally violating international law prohibiting the willful destruction of cultural heritage. The United States and Britain have always shown a disdain for the protection of cultural heritage. They are among the few nations of the world to have refused signing The Hague Convention on the protection of cultural heritage during hostilities. Ironically, that convention was ratified by France, Germany, Canada, Russia, Belgium, Greece, Turkey, Norway, Finland, Belarus, Austria, China, India, Iran, Indonesia, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, Syria, and other countries that refused to be a party to Bush’s “coalition of the willing.” And to make matters worse, The Hague Convention was also ratified by Saddam Hussein’s government, making the so-called “Baghdad Butcher” legally more committed to the protection of cultural heritage than either the Americans or British.
INTERPOL, which already has an arrest warrant out for Ahmed Chalabi, the Pentagon’s favorite to become the future leader of Iraq, should immediately issue White Notices on all stolen Iraqi cultural objects. UNESCO, INTERPOL, and the European Union should jointly combine their activities to identify stolen items that might wind up in American, British, Israeli, or other hands. Arrest warrants should be issued appropriately.
America’s turning the siege of Baghdad into the pillaging of Baghdad should be condemned by every nation and person. The study of human history, indeed, humanity’s very birthright, has suffered a terrible blow from the Bush regime. No amount of monetary compensation from oil revenues will ever compensate the Iraqi people, the Arab nation, and the world for the loss of a crucial record of world civilization. The Bush regime and its modern-day Mongol vandals must be made to account for their crimes against humanity.
WAYNE MADSEN is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and columnist. He wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth.
Madsen can be reached at: WMadsen777@aol.com