IRAQ AND EMPIRE….I like to make fun of John Derbyshire, but even I admit that he can sometimes be interesting even if I disagree with him. But what can we possibly make of this long article in National Review Online today in which he analyzes the looting of the Iraqi National Museum? He says that not only should we not worry about it, but in fact it was probably a good thing:
In what sense do these ancient artifacts belong to Iraq?s heritage?….The ethnic and linguistic connections between, on the one hand, modern Iraqis, and on the other, the people of Babylon, Nimrod, Nineveh, and Ur, are tenuous, to say the least of it. In the case of the Sumerians, they are probably nonexistent.
….To describe the contents of the Iraqi National Museum as being ?Iraq?s ancient heritage? is, therefore, to stretch a point. In fact, since everything we know of as civilization began in Mesopotamia back in that dim past four or five thousand years ago, it would be just as correct to refer to these treasures as comprising humanity?s ancient heritage. They belong to us all.
….Besides, there is the point I started out with. Whether you think these treasures belong to Iraqis or to all mankind, they are treasures nonetheless. They should therefore be stored and displayed in the safest place we can think of. Where would that be?
Where indeed? I think you can guess.
This article is so breathtaking I hardly know what to say. After all, those artifacts managed to survive for 5,000 years while residing in Baghdad, right up to the moment when we invaded the city and then ? apparently deliberately ? stepped aside even though we had been warned repeatedly about the likelihood of highly organized looting efforts encouraged by foreign collectors.
But at least Derbyshire is consistent: his argument that just because artifacts come from a particular geographic area doesn’t mean they actually belong to the current occupants of that area is very similar to his argument for why Iraqi oil actually belongs to the West. I wonder what Derbyshire would think if someone had tried to apply this logic to Stonehenge during World War II while carting it off to Atlantic City for permanent display?
War partisans, including those at National Review, have worked feverishly to disclaim any interest in an American empire. Why then do they let Derbyshire spew imperialistic drivel like this that gives the game away?