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Netherlands to Return Artifacts to Iraq

Posted on Jul 9, 2009
USAF / Staff Sgt. Samuel Bendet

As the birthplace of civilization, Iraq is littered with priceless cultural artifacts, tens of thousands of which have been looted and sold around the world. Here, two archeologists handle objects recovered from a U.S. military base in Iraq.

Dutch art dealers have surrendered 69 artifacts that were stolen from Iraq following the U.S. invasion. The ancient objects will remain in the Netherlands until they can be returned to Iraq. In addition to losing 15,000 treasures stolen from Iraq’s national museum, the country has had to contend with rampant looting since the 2003 invasion.


Tens of thousands of items are believed to have been looted from Iraq in the chaos which followed invasion.

Despite international efforts to track items down, fewer than half of the artefacts have so far been retrieved.

Ronald Plasterk, the Dutch minister for education, culture and science, said the world should “cherish and honour” Iraq’s history as the cradle of civilisation.

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By hippie4ever, July 13, 2009 at 4:10 pm Link to this comment

Most early Christian churches were constructed over pagan sites; this was common, as was adoption of of holidays with seasonal connotations. Christmas for Winter Solstice; Easter for Vernal Equinox. What’s unusual is the Christian defensiveness regarding its adoption of pagan sites/rituals. Other religions just let other beliefs in; the Romans never cared so long as you worshipped their gods too. They were reasonable people unlike Americans, and that explains how they managed to control an Empire for a thousand years, while the U.S. is crumbling while I type. But I digress.

The Dutch are amazing people and they “walk the walk.” Generally the Dutch sheltered Jews during the Holocaust, and practiced a nonviolent resistance against the Third Reich.

Holland is also an interesting rebuttal to the belief that being a capitalist country means blight, pollution, poverty, homelessness, healthlessness, disease. Wealth can be redistributed; all Americans in the room repeat that mantra as often as possible.

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By Xntrk, July 12, 2009 at 12:02 pm Link to this comment

Folktruther, I think they just changed the symbols when they re-took an area, as when Spain pushed the Moors out in 1492, or when the Moslems regained control of Jerusalem from the Christian Crusaders. It seems when an empire takes over new territory, the barbaric urge to totally destroy the existing population wins out.

Maybe that explains some of the stories in the Old Testament too…

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By Folktruther, July 12, 2009 at 6:53 am Link to this comment

Thank you, Xntrk, for putting the US destruction of Iraqi art treasures in historical perspective.  The War on Terrorism initited a retrograde barbarism of the US, including torture, lawless imprisonment, power secrecy and the like. This barbarism is merely one aspect of that War.

My understanding was when one religion conquered the country of another, it merely CONVERTED the churches, mosques, temples, etc to the other, putting a cross on top, etc.  But the idea here, I guess, was to destroy five thousand year Iraq’s history to more easily subjugate the people.

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By Xntrk, July 12, 2009 at 12:24 am Link to this comment

I think my mind is on vacation. I had to roll your comments around in my brain files for awhile. But then I realized the Eduardo Galeano trilogy about the history of the Americas provides the best comparison and perhaps an inkling of an explanation.

The Spaniards totally destroyed the culture and artifacts of the native Americans. Right down to the dust, where ever possible. It is common to see Cathedrals built on the platform of Mayan temples.

In our own time, Pol Pot destroyed the ancient statues in Burma in a fit of vandalism.

All three of these erasures are a result of more than an empirical change. What they have in common is the religious significance of what was destroyed. The Nazis looted Europe, but both The Axis and the Allies avoided destroying religious sites. Think about it, we were enemies, but culturally the same. That was not true in Iraq, The Americas, or Burma. Nor is it true between the Palestinians and Israelis. First cousins, but an anathema to each other [I have some cousins like that when I think about it smile] Certainly much Judeo-Christian-Muslim history is being destroyed in that ancient land.

I guess the rational for Iraq is that we Christians were not going to protect and defend a bunch of Muslim history…

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By Folktruther, July 10, 2009 at 1:50 pm Link to this comment

Xntrk, I was shocked by the initial US apprach to the looting of the Iraqi national museum, which US guards were not emplaced to guard it.  Later, the US military ENCOURAGED the looting of Iraqi’s national heritage, presumably to chasten the national spirit to help subdue the Iraqi population.  I don’t know to what extent this barbarism is characteristic of imperialist invasions.  I assumed that invaders merely looted; in this case the Americans appeared to want to destroy.

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By Xntrk, July 10, 2009 at 12:01 am Link to this comment

One of the biggest tragedies of the Iraq War, after the huge loss of life, is the theft and destruction of the historical sites and art. The National Library contained manuscripts predating both Judaism and Christianity, it was looted as out soldiers stood guard. We are so ignorant, that our troops vandalized mosaic artworks dating back to Babylon for souvenirs.

Except for a handfull of historians and artists, there was no outcry against the destruction. The outcome of the oil grab was considered more newsworthy. I wonder if we were to invade
Egypt and destroy the Pyramids, if the world would notice? I rather doubt it, especially if Bruno Cohen had a new outrageous flick released at the same time, or if Paul McCartney died and the paparazzi went crazy as they did for Princess Di and Michael Jackson. Those are two noteworthy examples of our modern culture; people we can be proud of and will be remembered for ages to come… Just imagine the glorious works we will leave behind.

The Nazis looted the art of Europe and Russia. Now we have continued the trend in the Mid East and Asia. But, all is well. Sixty-nine stolen art works are being returned to their rightful home in Iraq, assuming it ever becomes stable enough to accept them.

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