I’ve seen not nearly enough coverage of this important story in the American press: Donny George, the head of Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritiage and the director of the Baghdad Museum, has resigned his post and fled the country for somewhere safer — like Syria. [via, who has reaction to the news] The NYT/International Herald Tribune’s Edward Wong says that George felt “under treat from fundamentalists with ties to the Shiite-led government.” The Washington Post’s Ellen Knickmeyer says that George tried to safeguard what was left before he departed.
It’s too bad that we’re not hearing more about this. A lot of the problems in Iraq: personal safety, sectarian threats and violence, the cultural threads that united a land all come together in this story.
(Meanwhile, all Zahi Hawass and Philip Anschutz have to do is blow the dust off of a mummy and the American media eats it up. Ah but we laugh last and hardest, Zahi: We love “The Official International Dr. Zahi Hawass Fan Club” you’ve created for yourself!)
Obviously every step of the American engagement in Iraq has been a total debacle. But the manner in which the United States has allowed the cultural history of a region to be decimated and looted is a special horror. When the US went to war in Iraq, the plan was for first-wave invading troops to quickly guard cultural sites. Those troops were supposed to enter Iraq from Turkey. When the Turkish government refused to allow U.S. forces to enter Iraq from the north, the Pentagon never established a backup plan.
Today, years later, it’s still a mess.