US must help protect world’s cultural heritage in Iraq

“US must help protect world’s cultural heritage in Iraq”

by Jabbar Jaafar via “FoxNews

April 11, 2015: In this image made from video posted on a militant social media account affiliated with the Islamic State group purports to show a militant taking a sledgehammer to an Assyrian relief at the site of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, which dates back to the 13th century B.C., near the militant-held city of Mosul, Iraq. The destruction at Nimrud, follows other attacks on antiquity carried out by the group now holding a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-declared caliphate. The attacks have horrified archaeologists and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who last month called the destruction at Nimrud "a war crime."

Despite having developed advanced technology and having access to a huge reserve of weapons, including jetfighters and drones, the U.S and its allies failed to prevent ISIS terrorists from destroying  and  bulldozing irreplaceable archeological sites in Mosul earlier this year. The sites, Nimrud and Hatra, are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The terrorist group has mocked the American superpower and its allies and succeeding in successfully destroying a part of mankind’s cultural heritage. Statues, artifacts of the ancient  Mesopotamian civilizations have disappeared before their eyes. There was no reaction to that savage act.

If a superpower like the United States fails to prevent the ISIS terrorist group from destroying our cultural heritage sites, sites that are an integral part of the lives of the people of Iraq and the cultural heritage of the entire world, how can it expect to build and promote a strategic relationship with the people of the region where its vital interests lie?

After the catastrophe took place the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, declared that the protection of these archeological sites were not on the military’s list of  priorities.

If a superpower like the United States fails to prevent the ISIS terrorist group from destroying our cultural heritage sites, sites that are an integral part of the lives of the people of Iraq and the cultural heritage of the entire world, how can it expect to build and promote a strategic relationship with the people of the region where its vital interests lie?

This is the second time that top military generals from the United States have disappointed Iraqis in the United States and sapped confidence in their leadership.

The first time happened when coalition forces, led by the United States, entered Baghdad and toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime. Military forces only offered protection for the country’s Ministry of Oil, whereas the country’s other governmental organizations, including its financial institutions and the national library — where thousands of invaluable books and manuscripts were set on fire — where left unprotected. Iraq’s national museum was also left vulnerable to burglary and thousands of irreplaceable artifacts and relics were looted and smuggled outside the country.

All of this happened right before the very eyes of the U.S. military which took over Baghdad.  When military leaders were asked why they allowed this to happen they offered the same excuse, “the protection of the cultural establishments is not on the list of our priorities.”

The carelessness indifference of the U.S. military’s leaders has bolstered speculation and rumors —  dating back as far as 2003 — by Saddam loyalists and fundamentalists that American forces occupied Iraq in order to steal the country’s oil wealth along with its other fortunes and serve to its own interests unilaterally.

These concerns and suspicions convinced a lot of ordinary Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq that the U.S. occupation forces must be resisted by force. And that’s what happened. It also led to more than 4,000 casualties suffered by U.S forces in Iraq.

Unfortunately, the same thing happened again this year — in 2015. It is said that history repeats itself. And it did.  . . . .


Cultural Policy Center, Smithsonian co-host workshop on cultural heritage protection

“Cultural Policy Center, Smithsonian co-host workshop on cultural heritage protection”

by Rebecca A. Clay

Last month, researchers, policymakers and practitioners gathered in Washington, D.C. to explore how to preserve culture in the age of ISIS and other threats. The University of Chicago’s Cultural Policy Center and the Smithsonian Institution convened the group of experts on cultural heritage protection.

Speaking at the workshop, U.S. Army archaeologist Laurie Rush said, for U.S. soldiers, protecting cultural heritage isn’t only focused on official repositories for artifacts, such as a museum. Sometimes their assignments take them to places far from city centers.

To outsiders, the pomegranate orchard in a tiny village in the remotest reaches of Afghanistan’s Helmand Province wouldn’t look like anything special. But the U.S. soldiers approaching the orchard noticed that the walls around it were painted blue, an indication that they surrounded something sacred. It turned out that the courtyard held a shrine containing a dagger once carried by a friend of the prophet Mohammed and was a site of weekly pilgrimage for villagers from the entire region.

“Is this going to be on any list of world heritage sites? No,” said Rush. But, she added, sparing cultural property from destruction goes beyond safety precautions for soldiers. “It offers a form of stability that helps communities in conflict recover in the long run.”

“Cultural heritage has become very contentious in situations of conflict,” said Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian’s under secretary for history, art and culture. “But cultural heritage can also be used to help bring people together.” This was the inspiration for the daylong workshop and public event that sought to identify research needs as well as intersections for interdisciplinary collaboration in this critical cultural policy area.

Protecting cultural heritage during war is an important priority. The United States is a party to the 1954 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. That doesn’t mean a commander can protect cultural property if doing so is not a military priority, said Rush. But, she added, “the better prepared our soldiers are in terms of their ability to identify and respect cultural property, the more likely they are going to come home safe and sound.”

Fulfilling the goals of the 1954 convention requires partnership between the military and academia, said Rush, a board member of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, a nonprofit, non-government organization dedicated to the prevention of destruction and theft of cultural property during conflict.

She urged academics not to share privileged information, noting that comments by scholars about the use of satellite imagery to assess whether or not ISIS was destroying cultural property actually pushed the extremists to destroy what they had previously only pretended to destroy.

“And don’t perpetuate myths, Rush continued. Take the Bamiyan Buddhas, for example. Even among scholars, said Rush, there’s a common misunderstanding that the Buddhas were destroyed because they had human faces. “In actuality they were destroyed to demoralize the Hazara people of the Bamiyan valley,” she said, explaining that the Taliban paid engineers to ensure the empty niches remained standing.


Preview: “Charles James: Beyond Fashion” at the MET

“Charles James: Beyond Fashion” at the MET

By Eugénie Trochu, translated by Charlotte Sutherland-Hawes via

L'exposition  Charles James : Beyond Fashion  du Met Costume Institute 2014

Anglo-American designer Charles James (1906-1978) is one the biggest names in mid 20th century American fashion, a designer who thought of fashion as a mathematical science. From Thursday May 8 to Sunday August 10, 2014, the Costume Institute at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is opening to the doors to the “Charles James: Beyond Fashion” exhibition, which celebrates the work of the visionary designer. With just a few days until it officially opens, brings you a look at some of the iconic images on display in this year’s MET exhibition, which draws huge crowds every year. (more…)

When the Rights of Artists Meet the Rights of Ecologists

“Tone Deaf? Musician claims feds destroyed rare flutes at airport”

by Judson Berger via “Fox News

“Everyone’s a critic. 

A Canadian musician claims that U.S. Customs officials seized and destroyed 11 rare flutes as he passed through New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport last week. The reason? Concerns they were an ecological threat. 

The charge from Boujemaa Razgui, who is based in the U.S., has drawn widespread attention — in the U.S., in Canada, and particularly in the music community.  . . . “

The government disputes the claims, arguing that they merely destroyed random bamboo stalks, but that isn’t really the point. The real questioned the situation begs is when the Artist’s right goes too far.  Personally, I think that if the story proves true, the government officials were out of line.  However, what’s your opinion?  Given how far artist’s rights have been allowed to extend in the past, where should the line be drawn?  Art denigrating religious beliefs has been permitted.  Racist and fairly Vulgar works have been permitted. Is a minor potential threat to ecology more heinous? What’s your opinion?