Monday, June 23, 2003

McGUIRE GIBSON, in an interview with Archaeology Magazine, has the following exchange with the interviewer:

In your meeting with Department of Defense officials on January 24, what did you tell them about protecting Iraq's heritage and what did they say to you?
We pointed out the importance of Mesopotamia. It's not just a desert. Iraq is not just a desert. It's the place where civilization began, it's the longest surviving continuous tradition of civilization in the world, it's earlier than Egypt, it's earlier than any place else. And that it is the foundation of all ideas of civilization, for Western civilization as well as Eastern. And that we trace our own cultural roots back to Mesopotamia.
We also talked about the great number of sites in Iraq, that every hill in southern Iraq is artificial, there are no natural hills, these are ancient sites, 99 percent would be ancient sites. That there's very great danger in war that sites would be disturbed and destroyed, especially if armies dig-in on the high points, which these would be. And I told them we could supply them with the exact coordinates of several thousand sites. I was able to deliver, I think it was the next day, a list of 4,000 sites. We later sent another 1,000. I know they put those into their computers, into their mapping systems. And I know they made an effort not to destroy sites. They had a special list of 150 sites on a "do not target" list that included all the famous sites one would think of and a lot of others. I came away from that meeting and subsequent email messages with various people in the military that they were aware of ancient sites, they were aware of the importance of the museum. In fact, I made the point the museum was the single most important archaeological location in the country, and they said we are aware of it and it would be heavily safeguarded and it won't be targeted. My understanding was they were going to take it and safeguard it.

Obviously that didn't happen. Where did things break down?
I think it had to do with the fact that they just had too few troops on the ground, and the commander of the troops in Baghdad has said that. They just didn't have the people to do it.


My bold-font emphasis.

(Via Archaeologica News)

UPDATE: Scroll down to the bottom of yesterday's "About That Hague Convention" post for some comments on a specific accusation of American war crimes against the Baghdad Museum.

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