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.