July 16, 2008

More lies from our "intellectual elites"

Remember all theose sob-stories about how America is responsible for the destruction of Iraq's treasures? They've mostly turned out to be dirty lies. Now another one bites the dust....

So Much for the 'Looted Sites' By MELIK KAYLAN, Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2008; Page D9
A recent mission to Iraq headed by top archaeologists from the U.S. and U.K. who specialize in Mesopotamia found that, contrary to received wisdom, southern Iraq's most important historic sites -- eight of them -- had neither been seriously damaged nor looted after the American invasion. This, according to a report by staff writer Martin Bailey in the July issue of the Art Newspaper. The article has caused confusion, not to say consternation, among archaeologists and has been largely ignored by the mainstream press. Not surprising perhaps, since reports by experts blaming the U.S. for the postinvasion destruction of Iraq's heritage have been regular fixtures of the news.

Up to now, it had seemed a clear-cut case. It stood to reason that a chaotic land rich with artifacts would be easy to loot and plunder. Ergo, the accusations against the U.S., the de facto governing authority, had been taken on faith. No one had bothered to challenge the reports, the evidence or the logic, not least because many ancient sites were in hostile terrain and couldn't be double-checked. By implication, the U.S. had been blamed for that too: After all, the presiding authority is effectively responsible for allowing no-go areas to exist where such things can occur.

Yet, paradoxically, there always was thought to be enough evidence to adduce blame. "We believe that every major site in Southern Iraq is in serious danger," Donny George, the former head of the Baghdad Museum, was quoted as saying in the New York Times in 2003. A recent book by Lawrence Rothfield of the University of Chicago's Cultural Policy Institute carried the estimate that, every year, roughly 10% of Iraq's heritage was being destroyed.

One of the foremost specialists who went on the trip, Elizabeth Stone from Stony Brook University, actually quantified the damage with the help of satellite images -- just before going. Alarmingly, and prematurely it seems, she concluded that nearly 10 miles of land had been looted and hundreds of thousands of objects had been taken. Confident statistics of this kind have been regularly tossed around, yet one wonders how such calculations can be made, not least by viewing the remains of illicit digs from satellite pictures. When looters attacked the Baghdad Museum in 2003, the news media put the number of destroyed and looted objects at 170,000 -- a figure equal to the entire collection. It emerged later that most of the important pieces had been successfully hidden away. Others were soon found. The number of missing objects that is cited has since fluctuated between 3,000 and 15,000, with the figure never taking into account the systematic semiofficial looting and frequent substituting with fakes that occurred in Saddam's time.

Considering the political impact of such data, one would expect the experts to approach the subject with scientific circumspection, using numbers sparingly and conservatively. Too often they seem to have done the reverse. So now, as a matter of course, their method, their probity in sifting the evidence -- do they have a political agenda? -- has come into question...

OF COURSE they have a political agenda. They are America-hating Bush-hating lefty liars. Like a lot of academics, they are dishonorable scoundrels who will bend the evidence to fit the political agenda.

Posted by John Weidner at July 16, 2008 5:35 PM
Weblog by John Weidner