``It took only 48 hours for the museum to be destroyed, with at least 170,000 artifacts carried away by looters.''--New York Times, April 13
``You'd have to go back centuries, to the Mongol invasion of Baghdad in 1258, to find looting on this scale.'' -- British archaeologist Eleanor Robson, New York Times, April 16
WASHINGTON--Well, not really. Turns out the Iraqi National Museum lost not 170,000 treasures, but 33. Baghdad Bob was more accurate. You'd have to go back centuries, say, to the Mongol invasion of Baghdad in 1258, to find mendacity on this scale.
What happened? The source of the lie, Director General of Research and Study of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities Donny George, now says (Washington Post, June 9) that he originally told the media that ``there were 170,000 pieces in the entire museum collection. Not 170,000 pieces stolen. No, no, no. That would be every single object we have!''
Of course, George saw the story of the stolen 170,000 museum pieces go around the world and said nothing--indeed, two weeks later, he was in London calling the looting ``the crime of the century.'' Why? Because George and the other museum officials who wept on camera were Baath Party appointees, and the media, Western and Arab, desperate to highlight the dark side of the liberation of Iraq, bought their deceptions without an ounce of skepticism.
It played on front pages everywhere and allowed for some deeply satisfying antiwar preening. For example, a couple of nonentities on a panel no one had ever heard of (the President's Cultural Property Advisory Committee) received major media play for their ostentatious resignations over the cultural rape of Baghdad.
Frank Rich best captured the spirit of antiwar vindication when he wrote (New York Times, April 27) that ``the pillaging of the Baghdad museum has become more of a symbol of Baghdad's fall than the toppling of a less exalted artistic asset, the Saddam statue.''
The narcissism, the sheer snobbery of this statement, is staggering. The toppling of Saddam freed 25 million people from 30 years of torture, murder, war, starvation and impoverishment at the hands of a psychopathic family that matched Stalin for cruelty but took far more pleasure in it. For Upper West Side liberalism, this matters less than the destruction of a museum.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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