Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Monday, April 14, 2003
A great many interesting links this morning that should stoke your outrage or broaden your knowledge base.
First, a highly interesting observation made yesterday by Josh Marshall and posted on his Talking Points Memo:
This evening CNN has been running live coverage of a firefight in which several snipers or paramilitaries were firing on US Marines near the Palestine Hotel. The CNN reporter on the scene is Rula Amin.
Just after 6:00 PM on the East Coast, Amin was having a back and forth with Wolf Blitzer about those foreign volunteers in the country to fight the US. During that conversation she said that the Saudi volunteers were a bigger deal or there in greater numbers than the Syrians. I don't have down the precise language she used. But the basic point was clear: there are more Saudis there fighting us than Syrians. (Wolf, buddy, why no follow-up?!?!)

Then an old friend from her days as a panelist on the bygone Agronsky & Company program, Elizabeth Drew reviews the new books Bush’s Brain and Boy Genius for the New York Review of Books. I have always valued Elizabeth’s skilled reporter’s eye and remarkable political insight. That she seems out of fashion with the current media punditry, to me, adds to her credibility. Ms. Drew finds the most juice in the James Moore and Wayne Slater book Boy Genius:
Rove protests to outsiders that he's not involved in foreign policy, knowing that this would appear unseemly for a political consultant. But he does in fact take part in foreign policy decisions—as usual, from the perspective of what's in the President's electoral interests. This is probably the most tightly concealed aspect of his many activities…Moore and Slater argue that Rove has been deeply involved in Bush's policy toward Iraq and it seems altogether likely that he has; but here they are on weaker ground than in other parts of the book because much of their case is based on surmise, and they also neglect the strong influence of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz. Still, some aspects of Bush's handling of the matter have a Roveian ring. When Colin Powell was preparing his presentation to the UN Security Council on February 6, he resisted citing the alleged links between Iraq and al-Qaeda; he was forced to do so at the White House's insistence. This was the weakest part of his presentation. It has not been established that Rove was involved in the decisions about Powell's speech; but it is a safe bet that he took the view that going to war with Iraq would have more public support if people thought that it was involved with the September 11 attack and that if officials said it often enough, the public would believe it.

Sadly, an extremely depressing article in this morning’s Washington Post headlined Pentagon Was Told of Risk to Museums:
In the months leading up to the Iraq war, U.S. scholars repeatedly urged the Defense Department to protect Iraq's priceless archaeological heritage from looters, and warned specifically that the National Museum of Antiquities was the single most important site in the country. Late in January, a mix of scholars, museum directors, art collectors and antiquities dealers asked for and were granted a meeting at the Pentagon to discuss their misgivings. McGuire Gibson, an Iraq specialist at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, said yesterday that he went back twice more, and he and colleagues peppered Defense Department officials with e-mail reminders in the weeks before the war began. "I thought I was given assurances that sites and museums would be protected," Gibson said.
Among the treasures:

The 5,000-year-old alabaster Uruk Vase, which shows a procession entering a temple -- the earliest known depiction of a ritual.
…The "White Lady", the stone face of a woman that looks as if it was carved during the Greek Classic period but is 5,500 years old, one of the earliest known examples of representational sculpture.
The bust of an Akkadian king, dated 2300 B.C., is the earliest copper casting ever found.
…A spectacular cache of gold artifacts from the burial tombs of Assyrian queens in Nimrud.
…A cultural heritage that extends for thousands of years and encompasses the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Parthians, Sassanids and Muslims, to name only the best-known civilizations.

Ridiculous domestic political arguments over responsibility for this tragedy are surely cueing up on the talk agenda and, like so many, will have no meaning. Neither the excuses of neglect or omission matter in the long run for the precious historic objects are gone or destroyed. Thousands of years of careful guardianship by generations of our common forebearers erased in a few frenzied moments or spirited away to the vaults of a few twisted wealthy elitists.
What does blame matter? I am sick with the artistic and cultural loss and embarrassed that America could even be remotely connected to it.

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