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Friday, April 18, 2003

Looting, part III


According to the Washington Post,
Well-organized professional thieves stole most of the priceless artifacts looted from Baghdad's National Museum of Antiquities last week, and they may have had inside help from low-level museum employees, the head of UNESCO said today.

Thousands of objects were lost at the museum, both to the sophisticated burglars and to mob looting...

Of course the mob will jump on the bandwagon if they're in a looting mood. But I still maintain that the whole burden of guilt should not be put on the US, where many put it.

Some additional points, in response to sentiments I've heard in dining halls and online: the "Iraqi people" obviously are not unanimously mourning the museum, as quite a few were involved in the museum looting. Yes, many are terribly disappointed, but the fact remains that it was looted by Iraqis (or bored mercenary soldiers worried that they won't get paid by Iraq anymore), not by Americans. Additionally, the coalition can be held at best only indirectly responsible for any mob actions; you have to have a willing mob to do anything. It's even rather patronizing (and neo-colonialist?) to think otherwise -- those morally immature Iraqis, those benighted natives, they can't help themselves and they're victims of their own animal drives to loot and pillage; we have a (divine?) duty to tell them that they should value and preserve the things we want them to value and preserve...

What we do have is a duty to take the place of the law-enforcement structure that was scattered as a secondary effect of our attack. Take over from the police, act as police until Iraqi police can be set up (as is happening), and seek to stop (or, failing that, solve) crimes. Prevent crimes by the same group who was committing them before, with probably some changes (add some disaffected Ba'athists; subtract some people who were just mad at the government). And encourage the people to police themselves, deciding among themselves (within limits, of course -- for the limits, go on some variety of international consensus on human rights, or go libertarian, or some such) what to call right and wrong.

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