The Library

The moment I knew we were screwed:

It is nearly the four year anniversary since the Iraqi National Museum and the Iraqi National Library and Archives were looted and seriously damaged by vandalism. I’ve been researching the story of what has happened to both institutions for a diary I intend to post next week. I came across something today, though, that cannot wait. I found the on-line journal of the Director General of the Iraq National Library and Archive (INLA), Saad Eskander, and it is a remarkable, heart rending and incredibly enlightening to read.

We lost Iraq almost immediately after the fall of Baghdad, and everything since then has been a half-assed attempt to put a Band-Aid on the bullet hole.

Atrios calls it the incompetence dodge with regard to the war, but for me it’s not so much, “I would be for blowing shit up if we could do it efficiently” as it is “If you are going to go to hell, try to take as few people with you as possible.” The one is rationalizing your own support for the war, the other is just a thin wisp of hope you won’t be as fucked as the sick feeling in your stomach tells you you will. Once the war started I moved from having thought it was a shitty idea to thinking it was a shitty idea but also hoping it wouldn’t deteriorate into the kind of nightmare it is today. And that hope disappeared when the looting started, because that’s when we lost it.

That’s when we basically said to the Iraqis, we have no intention of doing anything we said we were going to do. That’s when we basically said, eh, get what you can, settle the scores you want to settle, you’re on your own.

And you can play catch-up all you want now, and say, we can fix it if we have enough troops money will love clapping kittens unicorns candy giveaways. You can say, NOW we get it, NOW we want to stop the violence, NOW we want you to be happy, NOW we’re ready to do whatever it takes. Doesn’t really matter. First impressions count. And our first impressions were bombs. Our second impressions were images of people standing around while people carried off a civilization’s history.

We let the books burn. That’s when it was over.


12 thoughts on “The Library

  1. For me it was when we left the ammunition dumps to be looted.
    Funny how often an IED looks like an artillery shell with a timer.

  2. When the museums and libraries were looted, yes. We allowed the cultural heart of Mesopotamia to be destroyed. The place where writing originated! It’s our culture too, ultimately, part of the origins of modern language and law. Letting those go was like slitting our own throats. We are the barbarians, suicidal barbarians. This is such a gargantuan crime, few can grasp its depth and scope.
    We’ve salted our spiritual well. I honestly don’t see how the nation survives, but then maybe it’s just time for it to go.

  3. “We lost Iraq almost immediately after the fall of Baghdad, and everything since then has been a half-assed attempt to put a Band-Aid on the bullet hole.”
    THEY FOMENTED CIVIL WAR. The policy is GENOCIDE, and has been, from the start.
    • The CIA (or other U.S. agcy) burned the Koran-Torah Repository to the ground.
    • I heard that CENTCOM drove heavy machinery (including Kuwaiti tanks) over every archaeological site they could find.
    • The only offices they protected were the oil ministries. Peter Galbraith records in The End of Iraq (highly recommended) that he found the personnel files for the Republican Guard in THEIR office, open to all comers, and being looted. His suggestion that the paperwork be collected went unheeded.
    • By failing to guard Al-Qaqaa, even after warnings by the IAEA and within the Pentagon, 380 metric tons of high-explosives that were previously under UN seal were distributed to hostiles. This materiel has fueled the insurgency directly (an act of treason, arming our enemies). Thousands of persons have been killed as a direct result, most by indiscriminate violence.
    • I heard that 2,500 Iraqi doctors were killed last year.
    • Pogroms on Al-Fallujah and Al-Tafar(?) and elsewhere.
    • The great number of stories of families blown away at checkpoints shows that the devastation on formerly employed, probably professional, moderates in Iraqi society has been near total.
    This is GENOCIDE, the wholesale destruction of human life and human culture. The history and culture of Iraq, as such, will never recover. And that was and is Bushco’s purpose — to create a standing wave of revenge killing against the United States and its citizens.
    It’s a BLOWBACK policy, and genocide, and aggressive war by every means imaginable (including perhaps soon, nuclear weapons).
    It is NOT A MISTAKE!!! or a tactical failure, goddamn it.

  4. “We’ve salted our spiritual well. I honestly don’t see how the nation survives, but then maybe it’s just time for it to go.” — John H. Farr
    What do you mean ‘we’?NOT IN OUR NAME, John.
    This crime was done by a criminal class that is NOT a legal government of the United States.
    Plenty of countries have had coups.
    Your prediction of the demise of America is premature. We are here, I believe, to be the ones picking up of pieces from just such disasters. And as for ‘nation,’ –and even Iraq– we will be lucky if there are ANY nations or any people in 100 years.

  5. In the year 2000 a near majority voted for an obviously unqualified amoral man to be our president. When that wasn’t sufficient to put him into office, the Supreme Court of the USA made the decision to unconstitutionally intervene in a presidential election and select the winner themselves. Or, as they put it, if they hadn’t intervened, by preventing a complete count of the votes, little George would have been irreparably damaged (by losing). So, November-December 2000 was when our country began the rapid descent into Hell. Unfortunately, the majority of those of us who vote are too damn stupid to have corrected that misdeed in the 2004 election.

  6. Same thing for me. I was leaving a park trip with my kids and NPR cut to the live Rumsfeld press conference where he famously that he saw the same guy with the same vase running through the streets of Baghdad and that it was the media making a big deal out of nothing. The day before I heard an American professor obviously on the verge of tears when thinking about the artifacts that were lost. The night before on TV I saw people literally running with HORSES they had just stolen, and electrical wiring from buildings because there was nothing else to take.
    Like you I knew. We were fucked.

  7. The hospitals were looted, too. They didn’t even guard the hospitals . . .

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