For anyone who wonders about the importance of the arts and historical places to a culture, head to Warsaw, Poland. Warsaw, after WWII looked a bit like Swiss cheese. An massive effort on the part of the country was made to rebuild or restore some of the important buildings’ as a way to signal that Polish resolve and strength had survived. When I visited there, restoration was still taking place in the historic district.
In Iraq, there is a similar effort going on as shown by the reopening of the National Museum in Bagdad that fell to looting and damage during the American invasion. When an invasion happens, an unprotected museum doesn’t fare well. “Hey, look folks, there’s a whole lot of antiquities and great art for the taking! Yeeehaw!”
Basically, that’s what happened. Priceless artifacts by the thousands were taken on out of there like no body’s business. Some were recovered at the border. Maybe a few folks came to their senses with theft remorse and returned them. At any rate, there is enough in the museum to have it reopen which it recently did, although some say it’s too soon for the items, some dating back 3,000 years, to be seen by the public.
The Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki disagreed with those who said no, are you nuts? He believes that the museum’s reopening, if only for those with special permission to see it–and only on special days is a symbol that “‘We have stopped this black wind, and we have resumed the process of reconstruction.’”
I’m wondering if he has ever been to Warsaw? He could probably relate. The New York Times article gives impressions of those who worked at the museum. They’re with their prime minister. (al-Maliki’s quote is from the article.)