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From: TomDispatch <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Sun, Aug 24, 2008 at 8:17 PM
Subject: [TD] Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, Outlaw Administration
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Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, Outlaw Administration

[*Note for TomDispatch readers:* *This is the first of a "best of
TomDispatch" series I'll be posting in the week leading up to Labor Day,
each with a new introduction by the author. Few in the United States give
much thought any longer to the looting of Iraq's cultural heritage, which
continues to this day, under American occupation. And yet it has been a
cataclysmic event in its own right. As I wrote long ago of the initial
moments of destruction after American troops entered Baghdad in April 2003:
"Words disappeared instantly. They simply blinked off the screen of Iraqi
history, many of them forever. First, there was the looting of the National
Museum. That took care of some of the earliest words on clay, including,
possibly, cuneiform tablets with missing parts of the epic of Gilgamesh.
Soon after, the great libraries and archives of the capital went up in
flames and books, letters, government documents, ancient Korans, religious
manuscripts, stretching back centuries -- all those things not pressed into
clay, or etched on stone, or engraved on metal, just words on that most
precious and perishable of all commonplaces, paper -- vanished forever. What
we're talking about, of course, is the flesh of history. And it was no less
a victim of the American invasion -- of the Bush administration's lack of
attention to, its lack of any sense of the value of what Iraq held (other
than oil) -- than the Iraqi people. All of this has been, in that grim
phrase created by the Pentagon, 'collateral damage.'" *

Back in July 2005 at this site, Chalmers Johnson wrote a summary piece on
that cataclysm of destruction of history, of the past, and -- here's the
saddest story - it is no less readable, relevant, or powerful today than it
was more than three years ago. This piece, by the way -- along with many
other TomDispatch pieces that have stood the test of time -- has just been
republished in a little alternate history of these last years, The World
According to TomDispatch, America in the New Age of
2008), which I hope you'll consider ordering. Johnson, author of the
now-classic *Blowback Trilogy*, has written a new introduction to his 2005
piece, looking back on the destruction we enabled -- or wrought. Tom]

The Past Destroyed: Five Years Later

On April 11, 12, 13, and 14, 2003, the United States Army and United States
Marine Corps disgraced themselves and the country they represent in Baghdad,
Iraq's capital city. Having invaded Iraq and accepted the status of a
military occupying power, they sat in their
Humvees, watching as unarmed civilians looted the Iraqi National
and burned down the Iraqi National Library and Archives as well as the
Library of Korans of the Ministry of Religious Endowments. Their behavior
was in violation of their orders, international law, and the civilized
values of the United States. Far from apologizing for these atrocities or
attempting to make amends, the United States government has in the past five
years added insult to injury.

Donald Rumsfeld, then secretary of defense and the official responsible for
the actions of the troops, repeatedly attempted to
had occurred with inane public statements like "democracy is messy"
"stuff happens."

On December 2, 2004, President Bush
Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, to
General Tommy Franks, the overall military commander in Iraq at that time,
for his meritorious service to the country. (He gave the same award to L.
Paul Bremer III, the highest ranking civilian official in Iraq, and to
George Tenet, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, which had
provided false information about Saddam Hussein and Iraq to Congress and the

In the five years since the initial looting and pillaging of the Iraqi
capital, thieves have
least 32,000 items from some 12,000 archaeological sites across Iraq
no interference
the occupying power. No funds have been appropriated by the American
Iraqi governments to protect the most valuable and vulnerable historical
sites on Earth, even though experience has shown that just a daily
helicopter overflight usually scares off looters. In 2006, the World
Monuments Fund took the unprecedented
putting the entire country of Iraq on its list of the most endangered
sites. All of this occurred on George W. Bush's watch and impugned any moral
authority he might have claimed.

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