``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
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.
Which didn't even happen! What now becomes of Rich's judgment that the destruction of the museum constitutes ``the naked revelation of our worst instincts at the very dawn of our grandiose project to bring democratic values to the Middle East''? Does he admit that this judgment was nothing but a naked revelation of the cheapest instincts of the antiwar left--that, shamed by the jubilation of Iraqis upon their liberation, a liberation the Western left did everything it could to prevent, the left desperately sought to change the subject and taint the victory?
Hardly. The left simply moved on to another change of subject: the ``hyping'' of the weapons of mass destruction.
The inability to find the weapons is indeed troubling, but only because it means that the weapons remain unaccounted for and might be in the wrong hands. The idea that our inability to thus far find the WMDs proves that the threat was phony and hyped is simply false.
If the U.S. intelligence agencies bent their data to damn Saddam, why is it that the French, German and Russian intelligence services all came to the same conclusion? Why is it that every country on the Security Council, including Syria, in the unanimous Resolution 1441, declared that Saddam had failed to account for the tons of chemical and biological agents he had in 1998? If he had destroyed them all by 2002, why did he not just say so, list where and when it happened, and save his regime?
If Saddam had no chemical weapons, why did coalition forces find thousands of gas masks and atropine syringes in Iraqi army bunkers? And does anybody believe that President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld and General Franks ordered U.S. soldiers outside Baghdad to don heavy, bulky, chemical-weapons suits in scorching heat--an encumbrance that increased their risks in conventional combat and could have jeopardized their lives--to maintain a charade?
Everyone thought Saddam had weapons because we knew for sure he had them five years ago and there was no evidence that he disposed of them. The WMD- hyping charge is nothing more than the Iraqi museum story Part II: A way for opponents of the war--deeply embarrassed by the mass graves, torture chambers and grotesque palaces discovered after the war--to change the subject and relieve themselves of the shame of having opposed the liberation of 25 million people.