Hang Black Banners from the World’s Libraries and Museums

Deeply embedded in an article entitled “Iraqi elite pledge free nation,” the San Francisco Chronicle (April 16) allotted two brief paragraphs to the burning of Baghdad’s National Library and Koranic library. The article quotes Abdel Karim Answar Obeid, whom it identifies as “an administrator at the religious ministry, where thousands of Korans–many hand-written and some thousands of years old–were lost,” as saying that books which survived the 1252 sacking of Baghdad did not make it through the early days of the U.S. occupation of 2003: “If you talk to any intellectual Muslims in the world,” says Obeid “they are cyring right now over this.”

More than Muslims, of course, are crying at the scale and significance of destruction permitted within the past week by soldiers who, according to reporter Robert Fisk, stood aside while the libraries burned. But the editorial board of the Chronicle apparently considered the ruin of those undefended libraries just days following the looting of the National Museum too unimportant to merit an article or photograph of its own, and I suspect that the same is true elsewhere. If this could happen in Baghdad, then the pillaging of Mesopotamia’s archaeological sites is probably proceeding as I write–just as international archaeologists warned prior to the outbreak of war.

Like the social, economic, and long-term environmental costs of this war, the cultural loss is buried by prevailing triumphalism in U.S. mass media, as well as by Donald Rumsfeld’s assurance that the near total trashing of Iraq’s cultural resources was an unfortunate accident and a regrettable “untidiness.” And like the recent oil spill off the Spanish coast, I expect that even what has been reported will fade quickly from public consciousness as we in the U.S. move on to the next new thing. For those of us who use scholarly reseources, the loss is forever.

I would like to call on museums, archives, and libraries everywhere to hang black banners or bunting of mourning for a month from their buildings to remind the public of what has been forever and needlessly destroyed and to express the grief that we feel not only for those weeping Muslims but for our species. This is the very least that we can do to commemorate this exceptionally dark week in our common humanity.

Dr. GRAY BRECHIN is a Research Associate in the Department of Geography at U.C. Berkeley. He is the author of the acclaimed social and environmental history of San Francisco: Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin.



More articles by:
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes