February 16, 2005
Inter Press Service

Iraq Invasion 'Biggest Cultural Disaster Since 1258'

by Humberto Marquez

CARACAS - One million books, 10 million documents, and 14,000 archaeological artifacts have been lost in the U.S.-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq - the biggest cultural disaster since the descendants of Genghis Khan destroyed Baghdad in 1258, Venezuelan writer Fernando Baez told IPS.

"U.S. and Polish soldiers are still stealing treasures today and selling them across the borders with Jordan and Kuwait, where art merchants pay up to $57,000 for a Sumerian tablet," said Baez, who was interviewed during a brief visit to Caracas.

The expert on the destruction of libraries has helped document the devastation of cultural and religious objects in Iraq, where the ancient Mesopotamian kingdoms of Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon emerged, giving it a reputation as the birthplace of civilisation.

His inventory of the destruction and his denunciations that the coalition forces are violating the Hague Convention of 1954 on the protection of cultural heritage in times of war have earned him the enmity of Washington.

Baez said he was refused a visa to enter the United States to take part in conferences.

In addition, he has been barred from returning to Iraq "to carry out further investigations," he added. "But it's too late, because we already have documents, footage and photos that in time will serve as evidence of the atrocities committed," said Baez, the author of The Cultural Destruction of Iraq and A Universal History of the Destruction of Books, which were published in Spanish. . . .


Ole Rothenborg, "U.S. Troops Encouraged Ransacking," Dagens Nyheter, April 11, 2003

Robert Fisk, "A New Colonial Oppression," Independent, April 17, 2003

Jeffrey St. Clair, "The Looting of Iraqi Agriculture," CounterPunch, July 4, 2003

Rory McCarthy and Maev Kennedy, "Babylon wrecked by war: US-led forces leave a trail of destruction and contamination in architectural site of world importance," Guardian, January 15, 2005

Gary Leupp, "The Bombing of the Malwiya Minaret," CounterPunch , April 4, 2005

Louise Jury, "At least 8,000 treasures looted from Iraq museum still untraced," Independent, May 24, 2005

[The World Monuments Fund has just placed the country on its list of the Earth's 100 most endangered sites. . . . This is the first time that the Fund has ever put a whole nation on its list . . . .

President Bush's supporters have talked endlessly about his global war on terrorism as a "clash of civilizations." But the civilization we are in the process of destroying in Iraq is part of our own heritage. It is also part of the world's patrimony.--Chalmers Johnson, "The Smash of Civilizations,", July 7, 2005]

[As the Suddeutsche Zeitung reported in May 2003, US troops broke the locks of museums, ministries and universities and told looters: "Go in Ali Baba, it's all yours!"--Richard Drayton, "Shock, awe and Hobbes have backfired on America's neocons," Guardian, December 28, 2005]

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