Monday, April 14, 2003

Gathering the Scraps

The library at Alexandria. Angkor Wat. And now the Baghdad Museum. Now there is an attempt to search out the smashed and violated treasures — the ones we could have saved so easily, the ones we didn't bother to protect. Can the Code of Hammurabi fuel an SUV? Then don't waste manpower on it. That's the American way!

I don't know why I should expect anything better, anything different. But this loss hurts deep inside. And it points up an ugly truth: it's a lot easier to think of Iraqis as unwashed terrorists (even though they didn't crash an airplane into the World Trade Center) than as the cultured and thoughtful heirs of ancient Sumer. Rewrite history. Make them into barbarians. After all, we are.

EDIT: I know this is unfair, and that I'm doing exactly the same thing here as I'm complaining of — lumping people together and dismissing them as barbarians. I'm aware it was the Iraqis who looted the museum. I still think that if you destroy the rule of law in a country, you have the responsibility to maintain order and protect the innocent — which includes cultural treasures. They too are responsible, but responsibility isn't a zero-sum game. We're responsible. So are they. And yes, I do think the current American government is barbaric.

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