From Al Jazeera: Rumsfeld Cracks Jokes, But Iraqis Aren't Laughing

If ever an Oscar was deserved for minimizing catastrophic reports coming out of Iraq with jocular "henny penny" disbelief, then Rumsfeld has a date with Hollywood.

"Television is merely running the same footage of the same man stealing a vase over and over," he joked, adding he didn't think there were that many vases in Iraq. [Need to confirm--did he actually say "There can't be that many vases in Iraq"?] The US may be the strongest nation in the world, but their history is incomparable to that of Iraq a region that has been described as the cradle of civilization.

Flippant remarks cannot replace priceless artefacts that have disappeared from the National Museum in Baghdad, or the books of the University of Mosul one of the oldest and best universities in the whole of the Middle East.

The NY Times report on the gutting of the National Museum is just unbelievable. Why wasn't this immediately secured by "coalition" forces--if for no other reason than to protect a multimillion dollar asset? Is it farfetched to imagine that professional art thieves participated in the "looting"? This really goes beyond Bush and Co being a bunch of art-hating philistines. It was gross negligence.

- tom moody 4-13-2003 9:35 am

Yes, Rumsfeld questioned whether Iraq has more than 20 vases.

Rumsfeld: Let me say one other thing. The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over, and over, and over, and it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it 20 times, and you think, "My goodness, were there that many vases?" (Laughter.) "Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?"

I caught much of that briefing as it happened on CNN. Atrocious.
- mark 4-13-2003 9:51 am

In all fairness to the d***head, he may not have known how badly the Museum had been ransacked at the time he made those remarks. But he should have known some of them thar "vases" cost quite a bit of money, aside from whatever mere historical value they have. They should have secured the building. Let's hope these "jokes" come back to haunt him .
- tom moody 4-13-2003 10:00 am

Another quote from the Al J article you cited. Mr Bush: "I reminded them that war in Iraq is really about peace." Mr. Orwell, paging Mr. George Orwell.
- mark 4-13-2003 10:20 am

Anyone care to wager that some of these artifacts won't be "acquired" shortly by museums in this country?
......Oh yes, we bought these on the open market.

- bruno 4-13-2003 10:44 am

But, but, Fox News said most of the good stuff had been locked away for safekeeping before the war started. If that solid gold Sumerian harp dated to 3300 B.C. wasn't part of the good stuff then...?

If it's true that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, there is soon to be a bunch of supermen and women in this world. Although, increasingly, I feel I may be on the list of those who lose their minds before achieving that status.
- jimlouis 4-13-2003 4:58 pm

From the Washington Post:

In the months leading up to the Iraq war, U.S. scholars repeatedly urged the Defense Department to protect Iraq's priceless archaeological heritage from looters, and warned specifically that the National Museum of Antiquities was the single most important site in the country.

Late in January, a mix of scholars, museum directors, art collectors and antiquities dealers asked for and were granted a meeting at the Pentagon to discuss their misgivings. McGuire Gibson, an Iraq specialist at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, said yesterday that he went back twice more, and he and colleagues peppered Defense Department officials with e-mail reminders in the weeks before the war began.

"I thought I was given assurances that sites and museums would be protected," Gibson said. Instead, even with U.S. forces firmly in control of Baghdad last week, looters breached the museum, trashed its galleries, burned its records, invaded its vaults and smashed or carried off thousands of artifacts dating from the founding of ancient Sumer around 3,500 B.C. to the end of Islam's Abbasid Caliphate in 1258 A.D.

Asked yesterday about the looting of the museum, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld blamed the chaos that ensues "when you go from a dictatorship" to a new order. "We didn't allow it. It happened," Rumsfeld said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "There's a transition period, and no one is in control. There is still fighting in Baghdad. We don't allow bad things to happen. Bad things happen in life, and people do loot."

- tom moody 4-14-2003 8:52 pm

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