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Baghdad Museum: Something I don't understand

Iraq Museum

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#1 Rov Judicata

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 06:05 AM

Fact: Saddam was a despot who raised capital any way he could.
Fact: From a financial perspective, the artifacts in the Baghdad museum are highly valuable.
Fact: It appears that all the artificats in the Baghdad museum were legit, when he could have made counterfits made cheaply and sold the originals.

The question: Why?

I've wrapped my brain around this, and I can't reconcile these facts. If he's willing to steal food from his own people, why isn't he willing to sell these artifacts?

It just doesn't make any sense to me.... what am I missing?

EDIT:
SECONDS after I typed this, I heard about this

170,000 may be a wee bit high....

Edited by Cait, 03 October 2012 - 03:10 PM.

St. Louis must be destroyed!

Me: "I have a job and five credit cards and am looking into signing a two year lease.  THAT MAKES ME OLD."
Josh: "I don't have a job, I have ONE credit card, I'm stuck in a lease and I'm 28! My mom's basement IS ONE BAD DECISION AWAY!"
~~ Josh, winning the argument.

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#2 MuseZack

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 06:37 AM

A couple of things:

One, the list of 29 appears to have been only a tiny amount of what was stolen or destroyed, from multiple locations.  More recent stories are still reporting up to 200,000 items, but honestly, no one knows at this point.  

http://story.news.ya...ce_030505144017

Second, a lot of these items are of known provenance and difficult to sell on the open market.  And Saddam and his cronies did sell antiquities, but it was on a relatively small scale.  As far as people can tell, the looting seems to have been a combination of insiders, opportunists, and most likely expert gangs from the outside who took advantage of the chaos and knew exactly what they were looking for.  Some stuff was expertly stolen, but then you also had vases simply smashed to the floor and the famous Harp of Ur, which would have been worth millions, ripped apart for its gold inlay.  But as one expert pointed out, a lot of this stuff is more of academic than artistic value, so we'll probably be seeing cuneiform tablets being sold as souveniers for 100 bucks.

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#3 Rov Judicata

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 06:40 AM

Quote

A couple of things:

One, the list of 29 appears to have been only a tiny amount of what was stolen or destroyed, from multiple locations.  More recent stories are still reporting up to 200,000 items, but honestly, no one knows at this point.

I don't know at this point. I can only find a list of 29 things that are verified missing. The other things were apparently hidden or put in vaults.

Quote

Second, a lot of these items are of known provenance and difficult to sell on the open market.

Still, there has to be a buyer somewhere, in France or the US or Japan.

Quote

  And Saddam and his cronies did sell antiquities, but it was on a relatively small scale.  As far as people can tell, the looting seems to have been a combination of insiders, opportunists, and most likely expert gangs from the outside who took advantage of the chaos and knew exactly what they were looking for.

We have a contradiction here. If the gangs went through the trouble to steal it, then it logically follows that it can be sold. If they can sell it, that means Saddam could have too.

Quote

  Some stuff was expertly stolen, but then you also had vases simply smashed to the floor and the famous Harp of Ur, which would have been worth millions, ripped apart for its gold inlay.  But as one expert pointed out, a lot of this stuff is more of academic than artistic value, so we'll probably be seeing cuneiform tablets being sold as souveniers for 100 bucks.

Excellent point.
St. Louis must be destroyed!

Me: "I have a job and five credit cards and am looking into signing a two year lease.  THAT MAKES ME OLD."
Josh: "I don't have a job, I have ONE credit card, I'm stuck in a lease and I'm 28! My mom's basement IS ONE BAD DECISION AWAY!"
~~ Josh, winning the argument.

"Congress . . . shall include every idiot, lunatic, insane person, and person non compos mentis[.]" ~1 U.S.C. § 1, selectively quoted for accuracy.

#4 Palisades

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 06:47 AM

One explanation why Saddam kept so many genuine artifacts is that he is/was very interested in Iraq's archaeological legacy(link):

Quote

The museum's comprehensive collection was unprecedented. Saddam's secularism and his long-term interest in Iraq's archaeological legacy—in part self-serving; he inscribed his name next to Nebuchadnezzar's in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon—had enriched the National Museum's collection. (According to a Financial Times piece from 2000, Saddam reportedly made extensive suggestions in the margins of all reports filed by Iraq's archaeological director, Donny George. He also made antiquities smuggling punishable by death.)

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#5 Bossy

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 06:48 AM

Saddam Hussein was trying to rebuild the Babylonian Empire. He had numerous projects in the works, such as rebuilding Babylon itself. Many of those artifacts were part of the history of that Empire, and all would lend an air of ancient culture.

That's all I can think of anyway.
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#6 Palisades

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 06:50 AM

^ Would this be a "Borg"?
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#7 Delvo

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 06:57 AM

From the pictures I've seen of museum rooms full of perfectly intact but empty shelf units, and other evidence that the access to the artifacts was gained by museum staff rather than random hooligans, it certainly looks like most of the stuff was just put in safekeeping before the allies reached the city.

As for Hussein not selling off the stuff, tyrants like him keeping up superficial and symbolic appearances of national unity, pride, background, and prosperity is nothing new. Lenin and Stalin were constantly playing classic Russian music and doing "photo ops" in front of majestic spires and spikey walls and other such monuments. Hitler held lavish nationalist-themed parades and festivals, and put on  a proud show of Germany's greatness for the world to see during the 1936 Olympics. In the chaotic times leading up to and right after the fall of the Roman Empire, shows of "Roman" pride were still going strong, and the Christian church managed to "find" zillions of Biblical relics in the Holy Land after suddenly deciding that that was somehow really important to their identity and power. In none of these places and times could the people and economy be said to have been doing well. Even the Pharaohs' biographies in their tombs recorded prosperity and victory to show how great Egypt had been under them, but said nothing about poverty or famine or plague or defeat when those happened.

It would be perfectly consistent for Hussein to think that keeping these symbols of the Iraqi nationality around was important for his public image, and thus the stability of his reign, at home and on the outside.

#8 Bossy

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 07:01 AM

QuantumFlux, on May 5 2003, 11:40 PM, said:

^ Would this be a "Borg"?
Yes, I think that it would be. ;)

#9 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 07:22 AM

Bossy, on May 6 2003, 04:38 AM, said:

Saddam Hussein was trying to rebuild the Babylonian Empire. He had numerous projects in the works, such as rebuilding Babylon itself. Many of those artifacts were part of the history of that Empire, and all would lend an air of ancient culture.
He who controls the past holds the keys to a door than can open untold power.  Look at the Nazi attempts to justify their aggressive expansion by twisting archaeology in an attempt to show that their Germanic ancestors once dominated Europe.
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#10 Bossy

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 07:24 AM

^Good point.

#11 Rov Judicata

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 06:24 PM

Thanks.

I guess it was for his own power... it seems a contradiction, but I suppose it's workable.

It's still odd, IMO, but it makes a bit more sense...
St. Louis must be destroyed!

Me: "I have a job and five credit cards and am looking into signing a two year lease.  THAT MAKES ME OLD."
Josh: "I don't have a job, I have ONE credit card, I'm stuck in a lease and I'm 28! My mom's basement IS ONE BAD DECISION AWAY!"
~~ Josh, winning the argument.

"Congress . . . shall include every idiot, lunatic, insane person, and person non compos mentis[.]" ~1 U.S.C. § 1, selectively quoted for accuracy.

#12 Shalamar

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 06:48 PM

Rov, it plays into his ego.

He can point to those items and say see they are in My museum, not yours...

simple and childish, but it is the driving force behind alot of the archeological theft that is so wide spread

Those illegal collectors are even worse.  They don't want to display their ill goten goods..they lock them up in highly secure vaults and go there alone to drool over "their" treasures
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#13 Rov Judicata

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 06:49 PM

Excellent point Shal. Put that way, it does make quite a bit more sense.
St. Louis must be destroyed!

Me: "I have a job and five credit cards and am looking into signing a two year lease.  THAT MAKES ME OLD."
Josh: "I don't have a job, I have ONE credit card, I'm stuck in a lease and I'm 28! My mom's basement IS ONE BAD DECISION AWAY!"
~~ Josh, winning the argument.

"Congress . . . shall include every idiot, lunatic, insane person, and person non compos mentis[.]" ~1 U.S.C. § 1, selectively quoted for accuracy.

#14 Rhea

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 07:17 PM

It makes sense to me he would hang onto the artifacts, given his obsession with Babylon (sort of like someone fancying himself a modern-day Napoleon collecting Napoleonic memorabilia, given sufficient time and money). I agree that possession of the artifacts would feed his ego.
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#15 Christopher

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 07:50 PM

Javert Rovinski, on May 6 2003, 11:14 AM, said:

I guess it was for his own power... it seems a contradiction, but I suppose it's workable.
I don't see a contradiction.  You talked about his desire to accumulate capital -- well, Iraq's history gave him invaluable political capital.  His entire power base was built on secular nationalism.  Every governing institution needs an ideological base to justify it, and since he rejected Islam as an ideological base, he needed something potent and secular to replace it, and the ancient history of the cradle of civilization is a very, very potent source of symbolism.  Imagine the power that comes from claiming to be the direct heir and continuation of the oldest civilization on Earth, the one from which all others (allegedly) sprang.

This has been the trend in the Mideast for generations -- to counter the traditional Islamic basis of power with secular-nationalist ones.  Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi did the same sort of thing in Iran, asserting his secular authority by grounding it in ancient Persian and Zoroastrian culture, creating the myth of a continuous Iranian culture stretching back to prehistory and ignoring the more recent Islamic past.  This aggressive secularism, in fact, was a large part of what got the fundamentalists so up in arms and drove them to rebel.  The modern rise of fundamentalism is a counterreaction to the secular nationalism, the pendulum swinging back the other way again.
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#16 Rov Judicata

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Posted 06 May 2003 - 07:53 PM

Chris- That's a very well-thought out post.

I'm understanding it more now.

Thank you all. :).
St. Louis must be destroyed!

Me: "I have a job and five credit cards and am looking into signing a two year lease.  THAT MAKES ME OLD."
Josh: "I don't have a job, I have ONE credit card, I'm stuck in a lease and I'm 28! My mom's basement IS ONE BAD DECISION AWAY!"
~~ Josh, winning the argument.

"Congress . . . shall include every idiot, lunatic, insane person, and person non compos mentis[.]" ~1 U.S.C. § 1, selectively quoted for accuracy.

#17 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 07 May 2003 - 12:58 AM

Mark Bowden a few months back wrote an interesting and enlightening article on Saddam that really does shed some light on the subject.  Mark Bowden is better known as the writer of Black Hawk Down.    

Tales of the Tyrant by Mark Bowden
"History has proven too often and too recently that the nation which relaxes its defenses invites attack."
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"Their sailors say they should have flight pay and sub pay both -- they're in the air half the time, under the water the other half""
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#18 Bossy

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Posted 07 May 2003 - 03:16 AM

Thanks for the link CJ. Very interesting read so far. I think this particular quote says alot about why Saddam didn't sell off those artifacts.

Quote

Iraq is a land of antiquity. It is called the Land of Two Rivers (the Tigris and the Euphrates); the land of Sumerian kings, Mesopotamia, and Babylon; one of the cradles of civilization. Walking the streets of Baghdad gives one a sense of continuity with things long past, of unity with the great sweep of history. Renovating and maintaining the old palaces is an ongoing project in the city. By decree, one of every ten bricks laid in the renovation of an ancient palace is now stamped either with the name Saddam Hussein or with an eight-pointed star (a point for each letter of his name spelled in Arabic).

Edited to add that this one is probably even more telling.

Quote

If Saddam has a religion, it is a belief in the superiority of Arab history and culture, a tradition that he is convinced will rise up again and rattle the world. His imperial view of the grandeur that was Arabia is romantic, replete with fanciful visions of great palaces and wise and powerful sultans and caliphs. His notion of history has nothing to do with progress, with the advance of knowledge, with the evolution of individual rights and liberties, with any of the things that matter most to Western civilization. It has to do simply with power. To Saddam, the present global domination by the West, particularly the United States, is just a phase. America is infidel and inferior. It lacks the rich ancient heritage of Iraq and other Arab states. Its place at the summit of the world powers is just a historical quirk, an aberration, a consequence of its having acquired technological advantages. It cannot endure.

Edited by Bossy, 07 May 2003 - 03:32 AM.




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