Garner Clear of Museum Rap

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Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance head Jay Garner on March 26 sent a five-page memo to "senior commanders" at the Coalition Forces Land Component Command with instructions to guard 16 key sites. The Iraqi National Museum was number 2; the oil ministry was number 16.

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  1. Hmmm. Someone miscalculated something. Most likely the commanders on the ground never believed that, either a)the museum would be looted; or b)that there would be anything in the museum worth protecting with American lives.

    Since the looting looks more and more like an inside job (at last reports anyways), I’m guessing the point is moot. Even on the “black market”, something’s not worth anything unless you know that everyone else knows about it. It’d be kinda hard to get a fair price for an artifact that you don’t want anyone to know you have it.

  2. TuningSpork:

    The underground trade in stolen, etc. art is enormous, and fairly well hidden.

  3. Andrew,
    Could you be so kind as to reveal the derivation
    of the claim you make that there were only:

    “1-in-100,000 Baghdad residents injured by Coalition bombing (and Iraqi fire).”

    And, are you including killed residents as well?

  4. The museum had guards and Baghdad was (is) awash with Kalashnikovs. It doesn’t sound like the directors were trying very hard to defend it…unlike ordinary shop-keepers.

  5. Numbers for civilian casualties are interesting?but I suspect will prove so disappointingly low the anti-war types, who might have cared the most, won’t pursue it.
    An LA Times editor got vexed about the issue a decade after Gulf War I, and an exhaustive cross-reference came up with 1,026 civilians killed and some 44,000 miltary killed. I don’t recall what the wounded figures were.
    3,500 dead is the figure I frequently see for civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and I take it those are the dead. Seems like a lot, so I’m not sure.
    Some points:
    1.) The first Gulf War lasted a lot longer, 80% of munitions used were unguided, the care of the injured fell nearly entirely on the Saddam regime, and a single incident accounts for over three hundred casualties.
    2.) Al-Jazeera pointed a camera at anyone with a bloody bandage?but an ER in Los Angeles gets pretty busy on a Saturday night.
    3.) There was a bonus for claiming to be a bomb victim. Sad to say, but the boy-with-no-hands says “Bush is a murderer” and (predictably) he is getting world-class care in Kuwait.
    4.) Judging by POW shots, even regular Army conscripts were frequently out-of-uniform. Many C-and-C targets in Baghdad would have employed civilians. What is the criteria for “civilian casualty”?
    5.) There were wide-spread reports of “manufactured” victims after the first Gulf War: if it was anybody but Saddam?
    It would have been a simple matter for Baghdad Bob to get fresh “bomb victims”-live or dead, and including the “premium” children-from the nearest interrogation center. Some hospitals WERE interrogation centers.

    6.) No doubt some were victims of Iraqi fire. The two spectacular incidents in Baghdad may fall in that category, and answers may be found. But lots of other cases simply won’t be pursued.
    1-in-100,000? A figure of speech, of course. (We don’t know how many people were in Baghdad!) Although for all I know 50 to 80 survivors may come in on the money.
    It seems surreal to discuss this?this was obviously the most immaculate war in human history, entirely in a class by itself.

  6. It’s obvious the US military does not think that the Iraqis’ cultural heritage is a priority. The “treasure” of which they spoke is oil, which has the most strategic significance in the minds of military planners. Why else would you commit special forces and conduct a “blitzkrieg” ground assault to protect the oil fields and pen an advance contract with Halliburton in case they were set aflame?

    Oil, as has always been the case in the great game of the region, is the spoils and the people there the pawns. Their “hearts & minds” as it were although given lipservice (rather than liberation) I believe are incidental to strategic control–one way or another–to protect American interests and launch attacks on those who work against them.

    The interesting question I think is if these priorities will actually mutate and morph into one that permanently foregrounds institutionalized freedom, democracy and, lets face it, development in American foreign policy–as opposed to merely maintaining it at home (or at least the semblance thereof). Only thang is, just remember to keep in mind that playas gon’ play.

  7. Well…Saddam had a history of torching oil-fields, and in fact had them wired to blow. As it turns out, he had done a bit of antiquities-looting himself (decorating the palaces), but this would have been a harder threat to perceive, inasmuch as the museum, I’m told, has been closed for years.
    The advance concerns of scholars mostly concerned bombing, and in fact we avoided the museum and similar sites, even when some (like Babylon ruins) were used as communications facilities, and thus a peril to our troops.
    Oil. Well the Iraqi people will thrive, or live impoverished, depending on their oil. Frankly, it IS more important than the antiquities.

  8. Note- there was no oil in the Oil Ministry. They were protecting PAPERS about oil, rather than, say, the second oldest writings known to man (thanks to the recent discovery of chinese glyphs on tortoise shells). In light of that fact, what are you talking about?

    And Andrew- quite frankly, “Oh yeah? Well SADDAM did…” isn’t an argument at all. It certainly doesn’t mitigate our responsibilities, whatever they may be.

  9. Well…what ARE the responsibilties of troops under fire?
    Human life, I should think (how many looting victims were there?)
    Like most people, I was more disturbed by hospital looting, although I suspect not one in a thousand of Baghdad’s 5-8 million inhabitants had access to those facilities: most were probably reserved for Baath Party favorites, until the war began and they became Al-Jazeera television studios, reserved for the 1-in-100,000 Baghdad residents injured by Coalition bombing (and Iraqi fire).

  10. What is your theory about the Oil Ministry anyway? What would be the base, unworthy, squalid and mercenary reason for securing the papers there?
    I assume the Coalition believed it to have intellegence significance (and perhaps to contain more than oil-industry documents…which could well be true).
    The blitz-krieg, the special-ops at the oil-fields,and the Halliburton contract, I don’t guess had much to do with the oil ministry building.

  11. How was this the most “immaculate” war ever? Are you claiming that it was “free from error,” or “pure?” In my mind this appears to be a strange adjective to use when describing a war.

  12. Untainted by human sinfullness,e.g. Immaculate Conception.

  13. Andrew,

    I would think that the fragging event undermines your claim.

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