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An employee of the Iraqi National Museum holds an iron rod at the Museum in Baghdad to protect the museum's excavated Mesopotamian antiquities and holdings from looters
U.S. Forces Provoke Civil War In Baghdad: Fisk
"By failing to end this violence, by stoking ethnic hatred through their inactivity the Americans are now provoking a civil war in Baghdad," Fisk wrote
LONDON, April 13 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) - As the U.S. forces claimed full control over Baghdad, famous British writer Robert Fisk wandered the Iraqi city as it is "at war with itself, at the mercy of thieves and gunmen," saying that something truly terrible has taken place in the city's most important museum.
They lie across the floor in tens of thousands of pieces, the priceless antiquities of Iraq's history. The looters had gone from shelf to shelf, systematically pulling down the statues and pots and amphorae of the Assyrians and the Babylonians, the Sumerians, the Medes, the Persians and the Greeks and hurling them on to the concrete, the Independent columnist wrote on Sunday, April 13.
"Our feet crunched on the wreckage of 5,000-year-old marble plinths and stone statuary and pots that had endured every siege of Baghdad, every invasion of Iraq throughout history only to be destroyed when America came to "liberate" the city".
"The Iraqis did it. They did it to their own history, physically destroying the evidence of their own nation's thousands of years of civilization".
Fisk said that not since the Taliban embarked on their orgy of destruction against the Buddhas of Bamiyan and the statues in the museum of Kabul and perhaps not since the Second World War or earlier have so many archaeological treasures been wantonly and systematically smashed to pieces.
"This is what our own people did to their history," the man in the grey gown said as we flicked our torches across the piles of once perfect Sumerian pots and Greek statues, now headless, armless, in the storeroom of Iraq's National Archaeological Museum, he wrote.
Fisk slammed the U.S. forces' recruiting Saddam Hussein's former policemen to restore law and order to Baghdad.
"The last army to do anything like this was Mountbatten's force in South-east Asia, which employed the defeated Japanese army to control the streets of Saigon with their bayonets fixed after the recapture of Indo-China in 1945."
A queue of respectably dressed Baghdad ex-cops formed a queue outside the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad after they heard a radio broadcast calling for them to resume their "duties" on the streets.
'Liberation' Turned Into Occupation
In the late afternoon, at least eight former and very portly senior police officers, all wearing green uniforms the same color as the uniforms of the Iraqi Baath party turned up to offer their services to the Americans, accompanied by a U.S. Marine. But there was no sign that any of them would be sent down to the Museum of Antiquity.
But 'liberation' has already turned into occupation, Fisk contended.
"Faced by a crowd of angry Iraqis in Firdos Square demanding a new Iraqi government 'for our protection and security and peace', U.S. Marines, who should have been providing that protection, stood shoulder to shoulder facing them, guns at the ready."
The reality, he said, which the Americans and, of course, Rumsfeld fail to understand is that under Saddam Hussein, the poor and deprived were always the Shia Muslims, the middle classes always the Sunnis, just as Saddam himself was a Sunni. So it is the Sunnis who are now suffering plunder at the hands of the Shia.
The famous columnist accused the U.S.-led forces of igniting a civil war in the Iraqi capital.
"The gun-fighting that broke out yesterday between property owners and looters was, in effect, a conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims. By failing to end this violence, by stoking ethnic hatred through their inactivity the Americans are now provoking a civil war in Baghdad."
"Too little, too late. Yesterday, a group of chemical engineers and water purification workers turned up at the U.S. Marine headquarters, pleading for protection so they could return to their jobs. Electrical supply workers came along, too. But Baghdad is already a city at war with itself, at the mercy of gunmen and thieves."
There is no electricity in Baghdad as there is no water and no law and no order and so "we stumbled in the darkness of the museum basement, tripping over toppled statues and stumbling into broken winged bulls. When I shone my torch over one far shelf, I drew in my breath. Every pot and jar "3,500 BC" it said on one shelf corner had been bashed to pieces."
"Why? How could they do this? Why, when the city was already burning, when anarchy had been let loose and less than three months after U.S. archaeologists and Pentagon officials met to discuss the country's treasures and put the Baghdad Archaeological Museum on a military data-base," Fisk wondered.
"Did the Americans allow the mobs to destroy the priceless heritage of ancient Mesopotamia? And all this happened while U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was sneering at the press for claiming that anarchy had broken out in Baghdad."
Fisk said it would take decades to sort through what they have left, the broken stone torsos, the tomb treasures, the bits of jewelry glinting amid the piles of smashed pots.
"The mobs who came here Shia Muslims, for the most part, from the hovels of Saddam City probably had no idea of the value of the pots or statues. Their destruction appears to have been the result of ignorance as much as fury. In the vast museum library, only a few books mostly mid-19th-century archaeological works appeared to have been stolen or destroyed. Looters set little value in books."
Even as the Americans encircled Baghdad, Saddam Hussein's soldiers "showed almost the same contempt for its treasures as the looters. Their slit trenches and empty artillery positions are still clearly visible in the museum lawns, one of them dug beside a huge stone statue of a winged bull."
Half an hour later, I contacted the civil affairs unit of the U.S. Marines in Saadun Street and gave them the exact location of the museum and the condition of its contents, Fisk said.
A captain told Fisk that "we're probably going to get down there". Bit too late. Iraq's history had already been trashed by the looters whom the Americans unleashed on the city during their "liberation", he said.
'You are American!" a woman shouted at the British writer in English Saturday morning, wrongly assuming he was from the United States.
"Go back to your country. Get out of here. You are not wanted here. We hated Saddam and now we are hating Bush because he is destroying our city."
It was a mercy she could not visit the Museum of Antiquity to see for herself that the very heritage of her country as well as her city has been destroyed, Fisk said.