The Iraq War & Archaeology
Reviewed Articles Archive Fifty-One: First 1/2 of May 2005





This is the fifty-first archive of the reviewed articles of The Iraq War & Archaeology web site.


Francis Deblauwe, Ph.D.




The articles and other information are listed chronologically, most recent first.
Almost all are accessible for free (or after a free registration) on the internet.  Each time, I try to draw attention to the most relevant tidbits of information, esp. things that were not mentioned before; occasionally, I provide some comment.  The usual warning applies: many links become defective with time.  Inclusion in the list does not in any way mean that I necessarily agree with the opinions expressed in an article.  But for a few exceptions, the occasional photos and figures accompanying reviewed articles are just hotlinked images on other web sites, in other words: do not download them or request permission to publish them from me, for I do not own the copyright to them in any way!  Please do contact the rightful owners if you would like to use them for publication purposes. Finally, for the sake of convenience, all articles and so on are assumed to have been published on US web sites unless indicated otherwise.

  • M. Bailey, "The looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad. This book was compiled in the heat of battle, but it misses the main story," in The Art Newspaper (UK), [May 6, 2005]: "As the editors of The looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad: the lost legacy of Mesopotamia Milbray Polk and Angela Schuster explain, 'on numerous occasions, our discussions with authors regarding content and image selection were shadowed by the haunting squeals of mortar shells in the distance. Days and weeks would often pass without our knowing the fate of our colleagues, much less their promised contributions to this book'. A local contact, Nadia Younes, was killed in the suicide-bomb attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad on 19 August 2003. A year later came news that contributor Micah Garen and his interpreter Amir Doche had been kidnapped ...  The main part of the book comprises a series of short chapters by specialists, dealing with the development of Mesopotamian culture, and illustrated with objects from the Baghdad museum." "... excellent overview of Iraq’s archaeological wealth, enhanced by stunning photographs ...  The disappointment is, however, that, despite the book’s title, there is relatively little about the looting of the museum, a surprising omission. ... The continuing pillaging of archaeological sites is briefly covered in the book, but this too could have been explored in greater depth, considering the threat it poses to Iraq’s heritage. There is an interesting chapter on Babylon by Baghdad-born, American archaeologist Zainab Bahrani, who strongly opposed the US decision to build a helipad on the site. ... Curiously, the biographical details on Dr Bahrani fail to mention the most relevant fact: she was at the time the cultural advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority." [it looks as if Bahrani has been disassociating herself purposefully from her stint as Cultural Advisor in Baghdad ever since she returned, one would presume as an expression of her displeasure at CPA/Coalition policies]; "The book has a helpful bibliography and the text represents an invaluable introduction to ancient Mesopotamia and the Iraq Museum. For the latest developments, it should be supplemented with Francis Deblauwe’s excellent website [thank you!] on the war and archaeology. In April [it] was evicted from the University of Chicago [sic; University of Missouri] website, but is now available on the University of Vienna site ..." [see Deblauwe April 22, 2005][for another review, see Cruickshank May 8, 2005]


Photo: [no other caption than what's included; April 2003]
  • G. Schwartz, "An insider’s account of the evacuation of Babylon. In his first interview since returning to Europe, Dr René Teijgeler, former senior advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, speaks about his experiences in Baghdad," in The Art Newspaper (UK), [May 6, 2005]: "... a Dutch conservator specialising in the preservation and management of non-Western artefacts and documents, served as senior advisor of the United States Embassy to the Iraqi Ministry of Culture from July 2004 to March 2005. With the withdrawal from Iraq of the Dutch on 10 March, Teijgeler left Iraq. His tasks have now been taken over by Robert Kerr, cultural affairs officer of the US embassy." "I studied sociology, anthropology, bookbinding and conservation. Since 1996 I have run a bureau called Paper in Development, for the preservation and management mainly of collections of non-Western artefacts and documents." "... the cultural affairs unit of CIMIC <CIMIC stands for Civil Military Co-operation, a NATO programme for sending militarised civilian experts into the field to perform tasks for which the military is unequipped. ... was shipped out to Baghdad by the Dutch army as a major in the reserves. Two weeks after I arrived my predecessor <Zainab Bahrani> left and I was promoted in quick stages to Senior Advisor." "Most of the Senior Advisors had extra staff, but all I had was a translator. The most important instrument at my disposal was the high status of the position of Senior Advisor. In military terms, this was equivalent to the rank of a general; it gave me access to people in command. ... The first advisors for the Ministry of Culture were the Italian diplomats Pietro Cordone followed by Mario Bondioli Osio. They were succeeded by John Malcolm Russell and Zainab Bahrani. The quick succession of advisors was confusing for the Iraqis. When I assumed office, I was the fourth cultural advisor within a period of four months. ... Why is it that your predecessors received lots of publicity and you did not? I chose to avoid the press and the media. I did this mostly for my personal safety but also because keeping a low profile made it easier for me to negotiate." "The National Library and Archive had been gutted by fire and 70% of the collections were lost. But 42,000 documents, including rich archives from the Ottoman era, had survived in the basement of the Ministry of the Interior, where they were damaged by water. I got a $100,000 grant from the US army for freezer trucks to stabilise them. A team of three Iraqi restorers are going to take a course in paper conservation at the Library of Congress and come back to restore the archive. Before I arrived an Italian NGO had set up an electronic cataloguing project. We worked very well together until the two staff members, the two Simonas [Torretta and Pari], were kidnapped in October 2004. Soon after I went to Europe with the director of the library for three weeks to raise money. Basic repairs got under way at the beginning of 2005, but there is still not enough money for proper reconstruction. I gave high priority to training and improving management. To take full advantage of the training opportunities that were offered to us, I introduced the rule that everyone who went abroad had to speak English. In December 2004 more than 10 restorers-in-training went to the Czech Republic for a two-month course on conservation."

    "Then, in September 2003 the Multinational Division South Central (MND-CS), under Polish command, established its regional base [at Babylon]. What happened next is incomprehensible. Halliburton-KBR, ... got permission—from whom, no one is saying—to set up a regional logistic centre in Babylon. They levelled large tracts with earth-moving equipment to create flat storage areas for heavy items like trailers, containers and chemical toilets. When the dust cleared, there were 2,500 troops stationed at Babylon. The Polish militarised archaeologists managed to prevent some destruction, but a lot of damage was done. ... How did you get Camp Babylon evacuated? I worked out a plan from which everyone would benefit. The Iraqis were going to get the site back under their control; they received $200,000 and lots of equipment; 350 jobs were created for paid guards, who received uniforms, arms and other equipment. The benefit for the Americans was considerable. It might not seem that way, but they worry a lot about international law. Even though the US is not a signatory to The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Event of Armed Conflict, the Army claims to behave in the spirit of the convention. Halliburton-KBR was easy to please. They made money out of demolishing the old camp and building the new one. The move cost about $300 million. The Poles were another story. In the beginning they were dead set against the move. It took a direct command from Warsaw to get them to clear out. Even with basic agreement between all parties, things were not happening quickly enough. I encouraged the Minister of Culture to write a letter to the then US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, requesting a speedier evacuation. With the help of General Charles Davidson, head of Civil Military Affairs, who was genuinely concerned about Iraqi culture and history, I reached George Casey, US Commanding General of the Multi-National Force in Iraq. General Davidson and I drafted a response to the Minister of Culture assuring him that all coalition troops would be out of Babylon by January 2005. Once the Americans gave their word, they followed through. The logistical problems were vast. 882 trucks rode on and off day and night for months, moving everything to Diwanya, about 100 kilometres away. To dissolve oil spills, we brought in oil-eating bacteria. Everyone involved had to be made aware of the danger of causing new damage. It happened. Babylon is now empty and under Iraqi control. Conferring about the evacuation on site one day, I found myself staring at the huge concrete security blocks that the coalition forces put at the end of the famous Paradise Road. The heavy trucks that put them there destroyed many of the 2,500 year-old baked tiles paving the road. I asked the Iraqis how they were going to remove these eyesores; they did not know. Taking advantage of the moment, I got the Poles to lift the blocks out with Chinook helicopters."

    "All development work is addictive, but Iraq was something else. On the one hand I felt like a potentate, with powers that I never had before. And on the other hand... My colleague Jim Mollen, Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Education, with whom I shared an office in Baghdad, was killed last November four days before he was going to go home. The day she was kidnapped, I was scheduled to meet with Simona Torretta. A convoy to al-Hatra that I almost joined was attacked by terrorists. I left with the feeling that I had done good work. ... I arranged for an archaeologist to be attached to the Project Contract Office, so all building plans could be monitored. I assisted Iraq in re-enlisting the major international cultural organisations. The US has asked me to return to Baghdad in September as a civilian advisor to set up and support national programmes for archives and libraries." "With my experience in this line of work and with my new military contacts, I am planning to found an NGO for cultural development work in countries in conflict, filling the gap between military presence and the arrival of civilian specialists. I am working on this with the CIMIC officer who recruited me, Joris Kila. You were known to oppose the war in Iraq. Did your conscience bother you working for the Americans in Iraq? I was not in favour of the American invasion of Iraq. But when I got there, I decided that recriminations would do no one any good. I accepted reality as I encountered it and set out to effect whatever improvements I could. To get anything done in a war zone you have to cooperate with the military, whether you like it or not. ... Without the coalition forces I could have done nothing for Iraq’s cultural heritage. Moreover, I soon realised that whatever damage the coalition troops have done, the effects of Saddam’s rule were far worse. ... I avoided the question of blame altogether and concentrated on what to do next. This was also the spirit in which I dealt with the Iraqis and the Poles, who were not talking to each other when I arrived. I agreed with them in advance that we were not going to assign blame, only to seek common solutions to common problems. It worked for me, and I made it work for them."




Photos: [no other captions than what's included]


This site is edited by Belgian archaeologist Francis Deblauwe, Ph.D., living in Streamwood, Illinois (USA), who is affiliated with Archaeos, Inc., and a research associate of the University of Vienna (Austria).