Looting Baghdad’s Past

What happens when you invade one of this planet’s oldest civilizations?

Much of what remains of its past suddenly goes missing.

The list of “Bad Things That Happen When you go to War” is immeasurably long. Since this is a travel site, we won’t discuss the political, economic, and social travesties which occur as the result of war. But we will spare a moment for the cultural plunder.

A recent article at Radio Free Europe discusses the impact that the Iraqi war has had upon the nation’s historical antiquities.

For those of you who ditched your Western Civilization class, Iraq is widely considered the cradle of civilization. Remember Mesopotamia? Yep, that is present day Iraq. Thousands of years of history has passed through this dusty stretch of land and today, the antiquities which remain behind are slowly disappearing into the hands of looters and black marketers.

To give just one example, 14,000 items were stolen from the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad shortly after the war began. These are irreplaceable antiquities which are now spread across the globe in private, illegal collections or merely as mantle pieces and paper weights purchased by unknowing tourists in nearby countries.

The cultural impact of war can never be measured. How can one place a true value on empty museums and a missing past? Sure, there are far worse things going on over there, but cultural plunder is one long-lasting tragedy from which Iraq may never recover.