Monday, April 28, 2003
In this funny Alice through the Looking Glass world we live in not all news stories appear in the daily papers or on the slick marketing/sales vehicles more commonly known as cable news channels.
Other items of interest have only certain aspects of their story presented to the public and some stories receive a special kind of treatment wherein misstatements and hyperbole are used in the “developing” story.
A classic example of the disappearing story would be the one involving Marine Colonel Joe Dowdy and his removal from the Command of Marine Combat 1 shortly after the battle of alKut. The Colonel has not appeared in newsprint since he was helicoptered off the battlefield toward the end of the first week of war. No news story, no family feature, nada, zip. The Colonel is getting the same tube “face time” as the unphotographed fresh American troops now arriving in Iraq.
The ongoing story of the looting at the Iraq National Museum is an example of a story where only certain aspects are presented to the public while other key elements are left to drift, hopefully to some I imagine, into oblivion.
An Associated Press interview with CentCom Commander General Tommy Franks filed today at 2:03pm EST and printed on the NYT web site is a case in point for the “certain aspects” story:
…The commander of U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf region, said in the past three days Iraqis had begun informing coalition forces of the whereabouts of the artifacts…Franks said ordinary Iraqis had told coalition forces that they wanted the items in coalition hands, not with Baath party members who were responsible for managing the museums and are accused of spiriting the antiquities away…he said he thought U.S. forces reacted well in containing it, and that the situation was improving daily…Franks didn't elaborate on which items had been recovered. He said some of the items had been taken out of the museums before the war started by Baath party museum officials either for their personal use or for selling on the black market…He said he doesn't expect to find an organized network of thieves as some art experts have suggested. ``We're apt to find where an individual person decided he or she could take some of the antiquities and save them for a rainy day,''
Detail, Iruk vase
The general wants us to focus on the fact that some Iraqi are returning items taken by Baath party members and his own personal expectation that organized professional looting did not take place.
Long before the Iraq II war took place it was widely reported that Saddam and Baath party hotshots had removed items from the Iraq museum for their private homes. It is curious that in the coverage of military, US media and Free Iraqi caught looting or importing looted material from Saddam’s palaces and the homes of upper class Iraqi only the pop kitsch bad painting/Danielle Steel novel loot is reported as being recovered.
At no point in today’s interview does the General mention the “professional foreign-made glasscutters” reported as littering the post-theft Museum’s floors or why a United States tank initially broke down the Museum’s gates. I have read that some small scale high value item looting had started prior to the US tank’s arrival but that the rapid in earnest looting started after the tank stripped away the Museum’s last defense.
The General also briefly goes out of his way to contradict published speculation by some the world’s leading art experts that some of the looting was “highly organized and professional” by offering this classic of homespun Bushian disinformation, “We're apt to find where an individual person decided he or she could take some of the antiquities and save them for a rainy day.''
Previously on this page I have posted a variety of information that would, at least, indicate some organized and professional looting of the Iraq National Museum with some possible American and Chalabi partisan involvement. What is clear from the General’s published remarks is that US forces are not examining the actions of “professionals” in the looting of the Iraq National Museum.
A story involving misstatement, hyperbole and this bosomy Barbara Bush staffer swirled briefly and vanished with the dissolution of a book deal. Sure to be a burning Bush if it ever makes the light of day, witnesses might be prone to kneel.
Art: The Guttenberg Project
Photo: John Everett, The Houston Chronicle