Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Fighting for Iraq's Culture

Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, author of Thieves of Baghdad, had an op-ed piece in yesterday's New York Times1 repeating his call for Europe to do more to crack down on the trade in antiquities looted from Iraq since the beginning of the U.S. invasion. He also advances a new challenge to European archaeologists to have their nations recruit guards for the archaeological sites which they have excavated.

I do not expect much to come of Bogdanos' proposal, and I doubt that he expects or wants much from the Europeans himself. As Bogdanos notes, providing security for archaeological sites would be viewed by the Iraqis, Iraqi expatriates, and the rest of the world as a statement in support of the war. We should however acknowledge the assistance of both Poland and the Czech Republic in providing professional archaeologists and experts in cultural property.

Bogdano calls for a humanitarian effort to protect a cultural heritage rich with common ancestry that predates the splits among Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite. This is a noble proposal but one which I am certain he himself recognizes will fall on deaf ears given that it comes from a colonel in the U.S. Marine reserves. We can only hope that cultural treasures like the "Lion attacking a Nubian" shown above will be well cared for by whatever museum or private collector manages to obtain them through the illegal antiquities trade.

1Bogdanos, Matthew, 2007, "Fighting for Iraq's Culture," New York Times, March 6.

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