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A Country Torn Apart (Hot Topic)

Iraq War Tragedies

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#21 jon3831

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 03:01 AM

A point that I heard on the radio the other day...

Most of the "good stuff" is probably in the British Museum in London, thanks to the occupation of post-Ottoman Iraq after World War I.

However, this doesn't mean that the loss of these antiquities isn't a tragedy, but let's try to put it into some perspective here....

The military is not a police force. They do not have the training or skills to perform civil police duties. Their job is to kill people and break things. (Not a particularly apt analogy, but there you have it)

Secondly, given a choice, the oil fields are more important. As a student of history and a frustrated anthropologist it pains me to say it, but that's the truth. Try explaining to the Iraqi people when this settles down why they have to continue to live in poverty 'cause we let their source of income get destroyed while we were preserving some clay tablets.
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#22 Rov Judicata

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 03:02 AM

Let me clarify:

I'm skeptical Saddam would leave something so valuable laying around. If you were in his shoes, and were desperate for cash over the years (what with sanctions and all), wouldn't you have sold them YEARS ago?

According to an article I read in Archeology magazine a few months back (about this very issue, whether the museum would be safe), many experts are convinced a lot of the materials in there are a fake.

I also don't think it's fair to ask our military to guard every single objective inside of Iraq; it just can't be done.

Also, I'm pretty sure I read that the coalition forces are offering cash rewards for returned artifacts, regardless of their value. We are trying.

And what jon said. It's not that I don't care about the artifacts; it's that there are other, more important, military objectives. IMO.
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#23 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 06:37 AM

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Lil: WHY didn't they think of it? Because it was so unforeseeable? Bull to that I say.

The US military is good at what they do but they are not omnipotent.  They cannot and should not be expected to be able to see every possible situation that might arise.  Then speaking as another History and Anthropology person; we had far more important objectives to take care of then securing museums.  They had many more important things including the overriding objective of neutralizing the people that are shooting at Coalition troops.  

Furthermore how are US forces supposed to have stopped large scale looting by civilians in a still combat environment?  Shall they just institute martial law and start shooting down anyone who attempts to loot?  Then this thread would just be about the nasty US troops shooting down poor innocent Iraqis who just wanted to steal some dusty replicas.  You are putting troops who are armed to the teeth into a situation where they have to play the police while expecting attack at any moment from combatants.  Toss in some potential suicide bombers who could pose as looters in an attempt to get close to US troops who are attempting to detain looters and the situation is hairier yet.  That is a recipe for disaster and civilian casualties.  

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Lil: It's like I said above, screw the artifacts, the things important to the IRAQI culture, protect the oil.

The oil is the lifeblood of Iraq and the object that will pay for rebuilding Iraq.  The funds from the sale of that oil will pay for rebuilding Iraq and ensuring the people of Iraq are taken care of.  I think you’ll find most Iraqis would care more about having food, medicine, electricity, and a roof to live under than the artifacts in that museum.  We have a chance to recover the artifacts as they crop back up on the world stage.  The artifacts are recoverable lives that might have been lost by a misguided attempt to divert resources to protect them are not.

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Lil: I know you disagree but to me this is just one more piece of evidence that this was never about the Iraqi people and always about the oil.

Lil a question; Do you think Bush and Co are now currently facing off against Syria so we can attack them too and make off with Syria’s “vast oil reserves”? I really have been waiting for someone to explain the Syria situation by using the we are after their oil excuse.  

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Rov: And what jon said. It's not that I don't care about the artifacts; it's that there are other, more important, military objectives. IMO.

How about tossing in more important humanitarian objectives.
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#24 Rov Judicata

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 06:43 AM

^

That as well.

And I pretty much agree with your entire post....
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#25 the 'Hawk

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 07:01 AM

I gotta concur with Rov and Aegis here.

When you're overthrowing a regime based on terror, preserving artifacts from previous regimes based on terror in the region really aren't on the priority list, except for the "things not to collaterally damage" list.

But first on the "things not to collaterally damage" list, and the "things to help out" list alike, are Iraqi civilians.

Yeah, it's just awful that this puppy's looted and whatnot, but y'know what? Anything that can't eat or be sold is useless to the average Iraqi right now, I would think. They don't have eBay in Iraq yet.

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#26 Norville

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 08:03 AM

Well, you know my opinion on the matter. I shouldn't bother to say it again. However...

While I understand that the best way to stop these looters, shooting them, would've been unacceptable, it doesn't change the fact that international archaeologists had requested for months that museums (and libraries) be guarded in case of war. It doesn't change the fact that our forces secured the oil fields, but didn't bother to protect the museums/libraries (or hospitals, which got looted in the middle of a mass casualty situation!). So, it *was* about oil, perhaps?

(Okay, I accept the point that the military very efficiently sought not to destroy anything of great archaeological significance. They worked to learn exactly where schools and hospitals were, so as to work to avoid hitting them. Fine, but then they couldn't guard some of these places?)

It doesn't change the fact that Rumsfeld was odd enough to pass off this major damage as "untidiness". I mean, I know this administration tends to be anti-intellectual (because intellectuals are all Eeevil Liberals, and thinking/questioning is bad and causes Rumsfeld to whine), but wouldn't it matter *slightly* if an equivalent to this chaos in the US destroyed, say, the Constitution and other historical documents/buildings? Or would it be dismissed as "untidy", and would no one care because history is dead and of no interest?

Another gem from Rumsfeld was "We didn't *allow* it. It just *happened*." As a newspaper columnist in the area wrote: "If I throw my child a birthday party and stuff two dozen 5-year-old boys full of M&Ms, Oreos and frosting, they soon will be whacking each other with the pinata stick and running into traffic. The children's parents would not likely be satisfied when I shrug, 'I didn't *allow* it. It just *happened*.' "

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People are more important than artifacts.

I can't really argue that. However, I can certainly argue that, while the Saddam Hussein regime was certainly Stalinesque, if we're warring against terrorists (and regimes who abuse and torture their people), then we need to go after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, on and on... and could China *please* lose that "most favored nation" status? (They may not be sending terrorists out, but they're still repressive as hell.)

Oh, and if you've read my ranting this far :wideeyed: -- if you can find it, read this book: _The Demonic Comedy: Some Detours in the Baghdad of Saddam Hussein_ by Paul William Roberts. Sadly, it's out of print, so find a library copy if you can -- it's one of the most *lunatic* books I've ever read. Having just finished _Jarhead_ by Anthony Swofford, which is one of the bleakest books I've read (despite some lovely bits of truly twisted military humor), it's good to read something that has me LMAO to the point where I'd best not read it in public. What Roberts recounts in his travels is skewed about 90 degrees from what we in the US tend to consider reality -- even when it's scary, it's a gem.
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#27 G1223

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 08:20 AM

Lover of Purple, on Apr 16 2003, 11:13 PM, said:

Come on everyone, let's think here. How can Iraq rebuild without an income? Protecting the Oil Ministry shows that the USA plans on the Iraqi people using their oil to get up and running. If The US wanted the oil we'd let them destroy the place and claim we have to control it because their is no government office to handle it. I wish people would stop trying to find evil in the US actions.

And what should the troops do, start shooting looters? Like that would go along way to helping the rebuilding.

I hate that they are looting mueums, that's about as low as one can get. And we don't know how mush vanished with the amazing disappearing authorities.
But LOP the message here is Bush is Evil and is lying 24/7 and Saddam was a saint in arab robes.

Sarcasm aside

Basically we have been helping the Iraqi police we have sent a number of policemen who have volenteered to help out. Rememebr troops do not make good policemen. MP sure but it's lack of numbers and the fact we are still dealing with  terrorists or soldiers out of uniform and that requires the MP in their role as a security force. Or are folks wanting to hear about  division HQ have a bomb set off in it  killing a couple of hundred.
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#28 Anakam

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 08:25 AM

Norville, on Apr 17 2003, 05:47 AM, said:

I mean, I know this administration tends to be anti-intellectual (because intellectuals are all Eeevil Liberals, and thinking/questioning is bad and causes Rumsfeld to whine)
:eek:  :wideeyed:

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:D

I need whatever amusement I can get, though! :D  {{{{Norville}}}}}
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#29 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 09:05 AM

Quote

Norville:
While I understand that the best way to stop these looters, shooting them, would've been unacceptable, it doesn't change the fact that international archaeologists had requested for months that museums (and libraries) be guarded in case of war.

The simple fact is that there was no practical way to guard the museum buildings without unacceptable risks to both the troops and civilians.  It was just not cost effective to risk that much in the way of human life to protect a museum even one with historical artifacts.  

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Norville: It doesn't change the fact that our forces secured the oil fields, but didn't bother to protect the museums/libraries (or hospitals, which got looted in the middle of a mass casualty situation!). So, it *was* about oil, perhaps?

Break out a map and check where the oilfields are located.  You’re dealing with a simple case of geography and the reality of the tactical environment. The oilfields were located in non-urban environments where small numbers of Special Forces could neutralize the defending forces and then hold them until the heavy forces could come charging through the desert to secure them.  They also tended to be located in areas that are closer to the borders where the heavy forces could indeed quickly reach and secure them.  

Now in contrast hospitals/museums/libraries are located within an urban environment with large amounts of civilians being located in the area.  If we had dropped Special Forces into those locations early in the war or until heavy forces secured those cities were brought in and secured the city they would have caused more grief than solved.  Anyone who has seen or read Black Hawk Down knows what happens when a light infantry force is surrounded in a hostile city.  They get shot to pieces and shoot the surrounding city/civilians to pieces.    

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Norville: but wouldn't it matter *slightly* if an equivalent to this chaos in the US destroyed, say, the Constitution and other historical documents/buildings? Or would it be dismissed as "untidy", and would no one care because history is dead and of no interest?

Try the War of 1812…  The British burned Washington DC and the critical government buildings.  They were fixed/rebuilt and life went on for the nation as a whole once the war was over.

Edited by CJ AEGIS, 17 April 2003 - 09:06 AM.

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#30 tennyson

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 09:15 AM

Norville, the military is not allowed to protect those sites anyway due to the Geneva Convention that has been brought up. Protecting them means fortifying the place and that violates the Geneva Convention, that along with the other reasons mentioned is more than enough reason not to guard them.
Also, I will try to say this in the nicest manner possible, anyone who thinks that only self-professed liberals think needs to seriously reelevaluate certain base assumptions of thier current thought processes. The current administration is not antiintellectual no matter how bad Bush did on his SATs. We have Powell, Rice and a host of advisors who've done thier time in many a university and the real world and are capable of making informed choices and giving good advice on matters of concern. Bush himself is not the sharpest tool in the shed but he knows that and has tried to draw people to him that can compensate for this. As for Rumsfled, there is a difference between asking a pertinent question and asking a question that either cannot be answered or only incompletely answered or even has already been answered to the best of the man's ability.I've seen more reporters do the second cluster of things in the last few weeks than I have the first thing. He isn't a particularly nice man and I don't like some of his policy choices as head but I don't doubt the man can think and deal with new situations in a manner that he sees as the best choice.
Also, the kind of cultural continuity you are assuming between the Sumerian/Akaddian/Babylonian works and the present day isn't the same as the US and its Constitution. The modern Iraqi has about as much to do with ancient Sumer as I do with the moundbuilders.(I have some Cherokee in me but that's about it for Native American.)I live in the same area but I don't have the same culture, religion, language or look. These items were valuable for the world for thier age and insight into dead civilizations but the specific analogy doesn't hold. This situation is bad, and more of history has been lost but it is not the worst of all possible worlds. Most of the relics and tablets still exist or can be reconstructed. The reentrance of this knowledge to the world stage has been delayed not ended.
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#31 Uncle Sid

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 09:58 AM

To me, there is little more heartbreaking about this war than the fact that the National Museum in Baghdad was looted, by its own people, no less.  I'm speaking as someone who spent my entire childhood looking forward to being a college professor in history and even spent my time screwing up my GPA in college just so I could take Arabic so I had a better understanding of what I was studying.  The stuff I looked at in magazines with wide eyes as a young child was likely in that Museum.  

Putting it mildly, it f-ing sucks.  

Nevertheless, as other people pointed out, these artifacts are the past of Iraq, and the coalition forces are here to secure its future.  Whether we like it or not, that future is oil.  Artifacts don't feed or clothe people and they can't heal the sick and the wounded.  Our job is not in the Iraqi National Museum, it is in front of the Oil Ministry in Baghdad and in the northern and southern oil fields.  

As others have also pointed out, the looters of that museum were all Iraqis, whether it was the regime or the people of the city.  If anyone should have pride for their past, it is these people.  Could we have stopped the looters at the Museum and that library?  Perhaps, but what is the point of killing and wounding people who have no respect for their own past.  Can we force them to take pride in those things?  I'm not talking about a few organized armed robbers who execute a plot to seize and sell a valuable artefact, I'm talking about a mob of people who were able to rob and loot a museum and actually destroyed artifacts.  I mean, who could have predicted that anyone would do such a thing?  

Yes, I am of the opinion that the coalition could have perhaps arranged a better plan for the administration of occupied territory, but I can certainly see why they were surprised.  Has anyone seen a government, entrenched for 30 years under a powerful dictator, collapse so quickly and totally?  And even then, until the city was secured, there is no way they could have brought back civil authorities to the city.  So what then?  Open fire on civilians?  I can just see the headlines now:

US ATTEMPTS TO SECURE IRAQI CULTURAL TREASURES FOR ITSELF!
MARTYRS DIE ATTEMPTING TO TAKE BACK HERITAGE FROM INVADING FORCES

If you believe that this wouldn't be on every Arabic state-run TV station and newspaper by the next morning, just go read Al-Jazeera's website, and consider that they are actually trying to maintain the *pretense* that they are objective.  Even stuff in Egyptian media, which is a US ally, is this vicious and patently slanted.  Heck, I'd imagine that even some of the more extreme anti-war protesters in the US and Europe would believe that drivel.

This is one of the costs of war, sadly.  However, in this war, the bombs were not the destroyers of history, it was the looters themelves.  I don't blame the Coalition for this, I blame the people who did this.  I would not have traded a million cuniform tablets for allowing Saddam Hussein to remain in power in Iraq.  I know that you do not rob the future to pay the past.
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#32 Drew

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 03:34 PM

Quote

and could China *please* lose that "most favored nation" status?

Setting aside my opinions of China for now, you do realize that there's no such thing as "most favored nation status" anymore, right? The term only ever meant "normal trade status" and they changed the label to that sometime in the mid-to-late 90s.
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#33 Kosh

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 04:34 PM

Drew, on Apr 17 2003, 07:18 AM, said:

Quote

and could China *please* lose that "most favored nation" status?

Setting aside my opinions of China for now, you do realize that there's no such thing as "most favored nation status" anymore, right? The term only ever meant "normal trade status" and they changed the label to that sometime in the mid-to-late 90s.
The press still uses it some.
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#34 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 06:19 PM

Kosh, on Apr 17 2003, 01:18 PM, said:

The press still uses it some.
They also think the Dutch and Spainish have battleships...
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#35 Rhea

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 07:43 PM

Una Salus Lillius, on Apr 16 2003, 01:54 PM, said:

After all.  Peace is untidy.

{{{{{{{{{{{{{{Shaun}}}}}}}}}}  The devastation is truly heartbreaking. :(

Lil
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Yeah, right. The loss of priceless artifacts just "untidy."

And the sad thing is, that as one curator said, they can't even DO anything with the stuff that they looted.

Our attitude thus far seems to be: "let 'em loot. Not our problem."
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#36 Rhea

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 07:48 PM

Javert Rovinski, on Apr 16 2003, 04:20 PM, said:

First: People are more important than artifacts. Should we shoot looters to protect a fake urn?

Second: Most of the stuff was most likely already looted by Saddam et al long before coalition troops arrived.

Third: We're not allowed to take military positions inside of libraries or museums, as I understand the Geneve Convention. That would make any defense problematic

Fourth: That oil ministry is vital to Iraq's future. Without that source of income, their quality of life will drop immensely.

Fifth: I'm heartened that the only anti-war argument left is the looting. What happened to the thousands of deaths the siege of Baghdad was supposed to cause? What happened to the draft that this war was supposed to require? What happened to the thousands of suicide bombers? What happened to the fierce resistant of the elite republican guard? What happened to the Arab world joining the fight? What happened to Israel being pulled in?

None of it materialized... and now, we're reduced to complaining about the looting of what are most likely replicas?
First of all, we're not talking about fake urns. We're talking about REAL priceless artifacts. There is no evidence that I've seen so far that would infer that the Iraqis looted the museum before the war started, and every reason to suppose that just like they have everywhere else, ordinary Iraqis have run riot and looted a lot of stuff for which they have no use.

Iraq had treasures beyond price in that museum, things that dated back to the dawn of mankind.

And they didn't have to enter the museum. All they had to do was stand guard at the entrances to prevent looting.

We frelled up, period.
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#37 Rov Judicata

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 08:02 PM

Quote

First of all, we're not talking about fake urns. We're talking about REAL priceless artifacts. There is no evidence that I've seen so far that would infer that the Iraqis looted the museum before the war started, and every reason to suppose that just like they have everywhere else, ordinary Iraqis have run riot and looted a lot of stuff for which they have no use.

We don't know either way. I do find it hard to believe that Saddam Hussein-- infamous for raising capital any way he could-- would leave such valuable objects sitting in a museum.

Quote

Iraq had treasures beyond price in that museum, things that dated back to the dawn of mankind.

It did, yes. Every one lost is an individual tragedy. But it's impossible to know how much was *really* lost.

And question:

Much of the media was pretty harsh on the campaign before the war. They predicted doom and gloom scenarios... but I don't recall reading anybody worried about the museum. In the many threads here, I don't recall anybody else bringing it up either. I honestly think we didn't see this one coming.

Quote

And they didn't have to enter the museum. All they had to do was stand guard at the entrances to prevent looting.

It's difficult to defend an objective without entering it, especially from civilians (because, obviously, you can't shoot them just for looting).

Try to imagine defending a museum with these restrictions:

-- If somebody runs in and makes it inside, you can't run in after him.
-- You can't shoot any of the looters, obviously. You'd have to run them down on foot.
-- You need at least twice as many soldiers as looters to do this effectively, because of the previous restrictions. This is while real fighting is still going on in the city, and an attack could come from any direction
-- Your heavy hardware-- bradleys, abrams, etc.-- is useless, because you can't very well fire on civilians
-- The military, as I understand it, has many entrances, not all of them above-ground. You'd need at least twenty men at each entrance, or it's useless.
-- All of this will be played in the Arab media as American opression. And when an Iraqi looter gets killed-- as he would inevitably would-- it would be our fault too.

I just don't think it's a fair criticism. To do it effectively, we'd have to fire at civilians and/or violate the Geneve Convention.

And I'm sure CJ or Jon can provide a more comprehensive military analysis than I can....
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#38 AnneZo

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 08:06 PM

Javert Rovinski, on Apr 16 2003, 11:20 PM, said:

Quote

First: People are more important than artifacts. Should we shoot looters to protect a fake urn?

Who said the urn was fake?  And more than "pots" were destroyed.  Paper was burned, okay?  Priceless documents detailing the history of the region and the relationships of the people with each other and the West.  This is important stuff.

Quote

Second: Most of the stuff was most likely already looted by Saddam et al long before coalition troops arrived.

Considering the amount of "stuff" that's already hitting the auction houses in France, I'd say a lot of the "cream" probably left the country before the war, yes.

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Third: We're not allowed to take military positions inside of libraries or museums, as I understand the Geneve Convention. That would make any defense problematic

No one here advocated putting a tank inside a museum or library.  But a tank or two on the street outside would have helped quite a lot.  People run rampant when law breaks down.  That's just a fact of life.  And a mob doesn't have a lot of intelligence. That's another fact of life.

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Fourth: That oil ministry is vital to Iraq's future. Without that source of income, their quality of life will drop immensely.

Yes, because it's got so far to fall, doesn't it?  These people oppose the West partly because they don't want their history and their way of life corrupted by what they consider degenerate Western ways and morals.  When the mob-madness passes, subsequent generations are going to mourn the destruction of their history.  

When you go into a country and destroy their rule of law, whatever kind of rule it is, you have an obligation to replace it with something, even transitionally.  We failed in that obligation because this Administration's lust for war on Iraq just couldn't wait.

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Fifth: I'm heartened that the only anti-war argument left is the looting. What happened to the thousands of deaths the siege of Baghdad was supposed to cause? What happened to the draft that this war was supposed to require? What happened to the thousands of suicide bombers? What happened to the fierce resistant of the elite republican guard? What happened to the Arab world joining the fight? What happened to Israel being pulled in?

Looting is hardly the "only" anti-war argument left.  We have the same arguments we did in the beginning. It's an unjust and unlawful war based on the Administration's public reasons for waging it.  The anti-war crowd said there were unlikely to be WMD or biological or chemical weapons, and none have been found.  

I only heard "draft" from one politician who was mostly ignored by both sides of the argument since a draft was clearly unneeded.  

Suicide bombers have appeared.  From where you got your projected "thousands", I don't know.  In any case, that, like a projected attack on Israel, were, when I heard them, arguments from the Administration for hitting Iraq fast before they had a chance to prepare.  These were never, in anything I've read, arguments from the side of the anti-war crowd.  Like the "increased terrorist threat to America", these were things said by the Administration.  (And reports are that the Republican Guard was "bought off" before we took Baghdad. They were certainly giving coalition troops a lot of trouble before then.)

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None of it materialized... and now, we're reduced to complaining about the looting of what are most likely replicas?

Again I ask you to cite your sources for believing the lost artifacts and documents were fakes. I've seen that claim nowhere else.

#39 AnneZo

AnneZo
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Posted 17 April 2003 - 08:11 PM

jon3831, on Apr 16 2003, 11:45 PM, said:

Try explaining to the Iraqi people when this settles down why they have to continue to live in poverty 'cause we let their source of income get destroyed while we were preserving some clay tablets.
The entire world is a poorer place for the loss of those clay tablets.

And can we please stop acting as though protecting the building that housedthe Ministry of Oil was the same thing as protecting oil?  

The oilfields are the source of potential wealth for the Iraqi people.  The building isn't.

Unlike museums and libraries, which hold historical and cultural records, Ministry buildings hold surveys, assay reports, and copies of business correspondence.  That is what the soldiers were protecting, not any oil, okay?

#40 Drew

Drew

    Josef K.

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Posted 17 April 2003 - 08:12 PM

Rhea, on Apr 17 2003, 11:32 AM, said:

There is no evidence that I've seen so far that would infer that the Iraqis looted the museum before the war started, and every reason to suppose that just like they have everywhere else, ordinary Iraqis have run riot and looted a lot of stuff for which they have no use.
I can give you two: 1) glass cases were not smashed, but rather cut into with sophisticated equipment; 2) catalogs of items kept in the museum collection were destroyed. Neither of these suggest the work of ordinary Iraqi citizens out for a fine afternoon's riot.
"Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested."



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