Mona Charen

The Weekly Standard magazine (which, if you do not already subscribe is must reading) contains two articles in the latest issue that are critical to our understanding of what has happened in Iraq.

I was delighted in particular to see Jonathan Foreman's piece titled "Bad Reporting in Baghdad" because the narrative most American journalists have brought us in the month since Saddam's fall has been almost comically mournful, considering the circumstances.

Everyone, of course, reported the toppling of Saddam's statue in one of Baghdad's main squares. But those images were quickly supplanted by others.

First, there was the looting story. "Why hadn't the American forces anticipated the looting?" went the indictment of a thousand news stories. A few voices were raised to point out that the looting was actually quite localized to the property and residences of members of the regime. But by then the press had an even juicier story -- the national museum of Iraq, home to antiquities unrivaled in any other nation on earth -- was pillaged while American forces were busy guarding the Ministry of Oil and the oil fields. According to The New York Times, 170,000 artifacts were missing, and the networks ran moving footage of a female curator sobbing among the smashed display cases.

It turns out that the museum story was almost entirely fraudulent. Professionals, not the street rabble, took most of the stolen items. And in any case, the numbers were, ahem, exaggerated. The New York Times now reports that, in all, some 25 valuable antiquities are still missing. As Col. Matthew F. Bogdanos, a Marine reservist investigating the looting, dryly commented to Times, "Twenty-five pieces is not 170,000."

Foreman clarifies that the other half of the story -- that Marines guarded the Ministry of Oil on the day the museum was pillaged -- is a complete fabrication. U.S. forces did guard the oil fields, but not because Americans are so crass as to value oil more than art, but because Saddam had a history of setting oil fields on fire in Kuwait, creating an environmental disaster and a potential economic catastrophe. In point of fact, the regime did attempt to set some of Iraq's oil fields aflame, but the fires were quickly extinguished by the highly competent U.S. armed forces.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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