Generous Orthodoxy  

Sunday, December 10, 2006

When the Iraq Museum was looted

I try not to say "I told you so" very often, but when the great Baghdad museum of Mesopotamian antiquities (which I studied in college and seminary and all during my life) was looted within the first few days of the American invasion, I sent emails to various friends in the biblical field, to share grief and to suggest that this was a sign of impending disaster.

In the just-out January 2007 issue of Vanity Fair, we have an article wittily entitled "Neo Culpa" by respected journalist David Rose. Rose has this to say (Ken Adelman is one of the card-carrying neo-cons, a Pentagon insider, and a former member of the Defense Policy Board):

If the administration loaded the dice against success with its pre-war decisions, Kenneth Adelman says, it made an even greater blunder when Saddam's regime fell. "The looting was the decisive moment," Adelman says. "The moment this administration was lost was when Donald Rumsfeld took to the podium and said, 'Stuff happens. This is what free people do.' It's not what free people do at all: it's what barbarians do. Rumsfeld said something about free people being free to make mistakes. But the Iraqis were making 'mistakes' by ruining their country while the U.S. Army stood there watching!" Once Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks failed to order their forces to intervene—something Adelman says they could have done—several terrible consequences became inevitable. Among them, he tells me over lunch at a downtown-D.C. restaurant, was the destruction of Iraq's infrastructure, the loss of documents that might have shed light on Saddam's weapons capabilities, and the theft from Iraq's huge munitions stores of tons of explosives "that they're still using to kill our kids." The looting, he adds, "totally discredited the idea of democracy, since this 'democracy' came in tandem with chaos." Worst of all, "it demolished the sense of the invincibility of American military power. That sense of invincibility is enormously valuable when you're trying to control a country. It means, 'You f--- with this guy, you get your head blown off.' All that was destroyed when the looting began and was not stopped."