Aggression Against Identity. Iraq´s Cultural Destruction
By: Lisandro Otero
Soldados de USA en Museo
Havana, (Cubanow).- I’ve just received a book by Fernando Báez, “Iraq’s cultural destruction”, in which innumerable crimes against Iraqi’s culture are described, committed by the American occupants or their tamed henchmen in the chaos opposing Hussein.
Baéz is the author of another book that has been well accepted by the critics: “Universal history of book’s destruction”. In search of information he arrived to Iraq in 2003, after the United States invasion, and he found a desolated picture of the cultural patrimony, not only of Iraq, but of all humanity. In the prologue, Noam Chomsky refers how the invaders from the United States, Great Britain and Spain dedicated part of their forces to protect the valuable information contained in the Oil Ministry, which was their main goal. However, they didn’t proceed likewise with the museums that kept the most precious trails of the occidental civilization birth.
In the National Library Baèz found a war atmosphere, yanki soldiers smoking among dispersed papers. The Library had suffered two burnings and two sackings. The metallic archives were scorched, opened and empty. The interesting thing is that the first group of sackers went there with precise instructions about what they should take away. They knew where the most important manuscripts were, and hastily took them away. Inexplicably a cameraman filmed those acts sluggishly and afterward vanished without a trace.
“A group, reports Báez, arrived in blue buses without official seals and encouraged by the passivity of the military sprinkled the shelves with fuel and lighted a fire… for the fire they used phosphorus, of military source”. The microfilm archives disappeared. The heat was so intense that the marble floor was damaged. Something similar happened in the National Archives and in the Koranic Library. The journalist Robert Fisk confessed in his chronicles that when he saw the disaster he went to the occupant’s Civilian Affairs Office and informed a marine about what was happening. Half an hour later nobody had gone to extinguish the conflagration. They just permitted that such a valuable heritage were destroyed, which was convenient their interests.
In the National Library, First editions of “One thousand and one nights” disappeared, the mathematical treaties of Omar Khayyam, the philosophic treaties of Averroes and Avicena, irrecoverable treasures. Confronted with these acts Donald Rumsfeld said that “people is free to commit misdeeds, and that can’t be prevented”. In the National Archeological Museum 236 manuscripts and porcelains subtracted from the patrimony room disappeared. Among them the first books of humanity vanished: the clay slats of the Sumerians, of 5,300 years of antiquity. Other Babylonian, Assyrian, Caldean and Persian texts were also taken from the glass cabinets that protected them. Among the public wealth that were lost are the Hammurabi Code slats, where the first law registry of the world appears.
The assault to the Science Academy wasn’t less distressing. It all started with the arrival of a platoon of American soldiers and a tank. They didn’t leave in their place a single computer, desk, voltage regulator, printer, everything was taken away. The building was not burned but half of the 60,000 books of its library disappeared. In the Public Library of Basora the destruction was complete. Walls, windows and floors covered with soot and burned. About twenty antique manuscripts were lost there. A generalized fire followed the initial sacking.
At Basora’s University the furniture was stolen before the main attack, more than 80% of the book deposit was incinerated. At Mosul’s Museum the only statues that saved were the ones too heavy that couldn’t be fragmented. There the Assyrian birds carved two thousand years ago were lost.
It’s obvious that the Americans probably induced the sacking to take possession of bibliographic relics and archeological treasures that in a certain period of time will appear at the Washington’s Congress Library or at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, or at any of the universities that could be in complicity with the sacking. What was destroyed helps the occupant, because destroying a people’s memory is a way to disintegrate its identity. Thus, it’s easier to impose another system of values and another culture if the disappearance of the autochthonous one is achieved.
Fernando Baéz’s book is a painful testimony about the savagery committed by Bush’s hawks in their avid zeal to seize the energetic resources of the Middle East.