Monday, November 23, 2009

Iraq: "Now that would be a crime"

Melik Kaylan has written a provocative piece on looting in Iraq ("Babylon revisited", November 20, 2009). Here are his closing remarks:
The archeo-academic community, along with the media, have served us abominably in bringing so little context and balance to a highly sensitive issue. It's time they undertook a long overdue self-examination of their performance.
This has attracted a series of comments from a number of scholars, a Washington lobbyist and others:
  • Larry Rothfield: "It certainly is inconvenient that Col. Bogdanos disagrees with Kaylan, since as a genuine war hero he cannot be tarred as anti-military or anti-American. Shamefully, Kaylan chooses to smear him as self-serving (ignoring that the proceeds of his book, for which he was awarded, I believe, the National Humanities Medal by Pres. Bush, go to charity), and belittle his investigation (he's only a NYC prosecutor when not in the military, after all)."
  • John Robertson: "Kaylan is turning on all of the experts, relying entirely on the report of one very non-expert, and likely biased, source. "
  • Neil Brodie: "From what I can make out, this same Heider Farhan is the sole source of the claim that the National Museum was looted in the 1990s. But there is no verification and no corroboration. Before you award it the status of "fact", as you do, shouldn't you investigate further? Locating the documents that were in the possession of Farhan would be a start. Why weren't they handed over to Bogdanos?
    Finally, I don't understand why journalists expect archeo-academics to know all about looting and illegal trade. Shouldn't they be asking the collectors and dealers?"
Contrast this with Peter Tompa, the legal officer for the Cultural Property Research Institute (CPRI) and lobbyist for trade associations:
There needs to be a full accounting of the archaeological community's collaboration with Saddam Hussein's regime before the war ...
Neil Brodie has responded:
If people are to be called to account, it should be the collectors and their associates who acquired and studied stolen material that had passed through the hands of Saddam's cousin Arshad Yassin, as documented by Sandler. Now that would be a crime.
For Marrero's A Quiet Reality that is mentioned in the discussions see here.

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