The Ministry of the Interior was protected by U.S. soldiers, the Baghdad Museum was emptied and the library was burned
Because France and Germany have long been part of the "Axis of evil" the U.S. Army drops bombs on the capitals and expels not only the chancellor and president but also the police and security forces from the cities. Prison inmates, released in an amnesty, together with the inhabitants of the slums of Paris, Berlin and Munich, storm the Louvre, the Pinakothek and the national libraries, steal and destroy everything and set the rest on fire.
Just a tawdry nightmare from a bad science fiction movie? Not really. This is exactly what has happened to the museum and library that contained documents and works of art from the cradle of humanity, the Mesopotamia between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, now known as Iraq.
The Baghdad Museum was famous among archaeologists and art lovers, although in the last 20 years it has hardly been visited by Western visitors. After all, from this area came the works of the first known culture in the world, the museum contained over 170.000 up to 10.000 years old exhibition pieces. Destroying it or allowing it to be destroyed would be legally considered a war crime under the Hague Convention, which the U.S., to be on the safe side, never signed. The scientists’ main concern was that the museum could be hit by a bomb, which would have violated the Geneva Convention even if it was intentional. That didn’t happen, but the result is now the same:
oil sources, as well as oil and interior ministries in Baghdad were immediately occupied and protected against attack and destruction after the American invasion. Also Saddam Hussein’s palace and some of his known places of refuge and also otherwise the US soldiers were not exactly squeamish.
The Baghdad Museum, on the other hand, was not protected, even though it was close to the government district and tanks were constantly passing by. It was more important for the invading troops to overthrow the Saddam statue in a public and photogenic way. Otherwise, most of Saddam Hussein’s monuments remained standing, while without the participation of television crews and photographers a few streets away, everything from the pre-Saddam era was toppled and destroyed much more efficiently:
After the invasion of the Americans on Monday the 7. On Tuesday, April 1, Iraqis from the slums stormed the museum, some with Kalashnikovs, plundering and wheeling everything out in wheelbarrows. CNN even reports that U.S. Marines are said to have supported the plunder. When the museum guards asked a US tank for help, the looting could be stopped. But the tank was withdrawn after half an hour and the looters came back and struck even more aggressively, knowing now that their activity was tolerated by the occupiers.
26 statues of Assyrian kings, 2000 years old, were too rough to be taken away and were beheaded and smashed by the mob. Only on Friday the looters gave up – the museum was empty. US Secretary of Defense and military planner of the Iraq war Donald Rumsfeld commented: "This happens". Or did amid general laughter wondering if there had been so many vases:
The images you are seeing on television, you are seeing over and over and over. It’s the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase and you see it twenty times. And you think, my goodness, were there that many vases? Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?"
Even now no one intervened. As a result, on Sunday the mob also stormed the nearby Islamic library and set fire to everything. In 1258 the Mongols destroyed the library, this time the Iraqis did it themselves. The damage here alone is comparable to the burning of the Library of Alexandria 1500 years ago. Iraq’s oil will be used up and forgotten in 50 years, but the country’s art treasures, which could have brought the country foreign currency from visitors 500 years from now, are already lost. The looting was not limited to the capital Baghdad and the Americans’ intention to relax the ban on antiquities exports will please the looters.
George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld have thus achieved far more than the Taliban in Afghanistan with their statue-blasting. The American invasion will always be remembered by the Muslims, who are already blaming the Americans for not doing anything about the looting and arson, which also destroyed most of Baghdad’s hospitals, for the unnecessary destruction of these art treasures and archives. All equipment, computers and even MRI scanners were cannibalized and taken away. Whether the estimated cost of rebuilding Iraq will be enough is questionable – and in the case of the museum and library, all the millions of dollars won’t help.