DHAHIR, Iraq — The looting of Iraq’s ancient ruins is thriving again. This time it is not a result of the “stuff happens” chaos that followed the American invasion in 2003, but rather the bureaucratic indifference of Iraq’s newly sovereign government. Thousands of archaeological sites — containing some of the oldest treasures of civilization — have been left unprotected, allowing what officials of Iraq’s antiquities board say is a resumption of brazenly illegal excavations, especially here in southern Iraq.
The extent and lasting impact of the looting in sites like Dubrum may never be known, since they have never been properly excavated to begin with. Mr. Zubaidi, the inspector in Dhi Qar, compared the current crisis to the looting of the National Museum in Baghdad, a convulsive ransacking that shocked the world into action. The museum’s fate continues to attract far more attention from the government and international donors.
“Most of the pieces that were stolen from the National Museum will come back,” Mr. Zubaidi said. “Each piece was marked and recorded.” Nearly half the 15,000 pieces looted from the museum have been returned. “The pieces that were stolen here will never be returned,” he said. “They are lost forever.”
So, what was stolen? You don't know? Man, we don't even know what they made off with! Fuck! I'll bet it was some really good shit. Probably had like a Stargate time portal, maybe some early blueprints of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, some Jesus-shit or something.
While I am enticed to write something well-thought-out and funny — maybe regurgitate the prettiest points from Mr. Nietzsche's essay On the uses & disadvantages of history for life and finish with a clever quip about the Sumerians inability to make a plate that can properly support a typical American meal — I don't have enough go-get-em' in my step at the moment, so I'll give you the half-assed version instead (I probably couldn't have done the "good" version):
The idea of "priceless artifacts" is total nonsense. There are things that aren't for sale, of course. But I can't come up with anything that is literally without determinable value —if there is a buyer, we'll find a price.
So these unidentified Bedouin hoodlums are presumably selling some old stuff they found buried underground. What, exactly, am I supposed to be upset about? It seems about time some enterprising individuals trust-busted the big-wigs from Big Museum anyway.
Perhaps (and yes, this is designed crazy-talk) we should be applauding the Iraqi government's "bureaucratic indifference" on this one —and hopefully many more to come. Sure, that 5,000 man strong Antiquities Police Force sounded pretty fucking awesome, and if any police force in post jammed-up-by-America Iraq was going to be fully staffed first, those guys should have been it. But, that withstanding, maybe it's okay if those crazy Iraqis put this one on the ole' back burner for a little while, you know, focus on non-antiquity — for now.
I would also say, I find the idea of black markets dealing in "stolen" historical "treasures" to be altogether alluring. I enjoy imagining shadowy transactions —mistrust, satchels full of money, exotic cigarettes, ungainly bodyguards —far more than looking at a piece of stupid jewelry that some doofus Babylonian bought for his daughter on her sweet sixteen a million years ago, or whatever. It would be one thing if we all got to share the national treasures, pass it around like the Stanley Cup, but all that shit is behind glass, I'd rather watch tee vee.