A Museum Massacre?

Looters have apparently smashed and stolen many artifacts in the National Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad.

As employees returned today to survey the damage at one of the world’s greatest repositories of artifacts, they encountered devastation that defied their worst expectations. The floor was covered with shards of broken pottery. An extensive card catalog of every item the museum owns, some of which date back 5,000 years, was destroyed. A cavernous storeroom housing thousands of unclassified pieces was ransacked so badly that an archaeologist predicted it would be impossible to repair many of the items.

After reading this story, I’m convinced the destruction of the museum’s wares is a devastating loss that is too significant to be casually dismissed as a regrettable consequence of war. No — it must be assessed and reflected on by itself, broken out from the greater conflict like so many human interest stories. And one can only hope that, as order is restored, residents will be enticed to give or sell the items back.

A friend wrote that the loss was “truly traumatic,” while others concurred that they were “grieving.” Then he said this: “Notice I’m not saying it’s America’s fault, but we can’t get away from the fact that our invasion of the country is what prompted the loss of the artifacts.”

I was speechless. Well, almost.

Excuse me? If that’s not blaming America, then I don’t know what is. Why even make that observation?

There is a need, I think, for priority and perspective. Here is a scenario:

Your extended family has been taken hostage by thugs. Some of them are raped. Others are tortured. Some are executed outright. After a protracted standoff, police storm your home and free your family from their captors.

But rather than happily greet your family and thank the police, you enter the house and begin obsessing over the fact that they made a mess of your house and trampled priceless family heirlooms. You turn to the police and, with nary a word of gratitude, say “I’m not blaming you, but your action was the cause of this.”

This is the behavior of those who have been roused from their silence not by the images of jubilant Iraqis celebrating their liberation, and not in sorrow over the many thousands lost to a regime whose time has happily ended. No — they have only now found their voices, because, of course, we wouldn’t have lost these priceless treasures if America had just stayed away.

I say this not to deride the focus on the loss of artifacts. Rather, I only attempt to compare the “traumatized” grieving of these individuals to their despicable silence on virtually everything else.

It makes you wonder: what has happened to the Left, when the grieving of irreplacable inanimate artifacts takes precedence over the loss of irreplaceble human life?

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One Response to A Museum Massacre?

  1. Adam Morris says:


    As one of those quoted in the post, I have to say I’ve had one of those experiences where you read what you said in print and wish you hadn’t written it in the first place.

    I’m not taking back what I said, but wish it was at least contextualized with a link to the page where it’s archived. At least then it might make some sense.

    Providing a link to the original source, if available, is good blogger practice.

    I had compared what had happened in the museum to other historical events in order to do what you said we should do, get perspective. There are two that I can think of. One is the burning down of the Great Library of Alexandria, the other is the expansion of Europeans to the west.

    The first example is self-explanatory, but the second may not be. I think this destruction of the museum’s artifacts is similiar to the destruction of artifacts that occured during the European occupation of the Americas, in that a history of an entire civilization was lost in mayhem, even on purpose.

    Just as “Europeans” and “white men” or whatever can’t dillude themselves into thinking that they had nothing to with the destruction, neither can we Americans.

    That’s not blaming anybody.

    As for greiving the deaths of individuals, I do so on a daily basis, through the groans and sounds I make as I read the news everyday. That I didn’t post it on my website or shoot off an email doesn’t mean I didn’t greive.

    Besides, I’m not about to get into a non-starter argument over which we should be grieving more, individuals or priceless artifacts.

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