Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tariq Aziz Goes on Trial for Executions of Merchants

The BBC reports that Tariq Aziz, Saddam's former Deputy PM, will go on trial for the executions of merchants accused of profiteering during a period of international sanctions against Iraq. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7372356.stm

Why is this relevant to cultural property issues? Well, the urbane Aziz served as point man in Saddam's strategy to break international sanctions against his regime. This included successful efforts to recruit support against the sanctions from members of the Western archaeological community, most notably by sponsoring a conference on the "Birth of Writing" in 2001. I can locate little about this conference other than this Chicago Tribune article that can be found on National Geographic's web site: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/03/0326_writing.html

In any event, the exact nature and extent of Western archaeologists' relationship with Saddam's regime has yet to be fully disclosed to the public. Yet, many archaeologists most closely associated with Iraq have attacked the motives and actions of the U.S. Government, the U.S. Military, American collectors, dealers and museums in the strongest terms.

My feeling is that their continuing expressions of moral outrage must be judged in context. Learning how their relationship with Saddam's regime may have colored the narrative presented to the public and press is important to assessing many claims such the suggestion that the theft of many of the most important artifacts from the Iraq Museum was organized at the behest of Western collectors. Hopefully, a journalist or academic will look into this issue further, perhaps in time for the sixth anniversary of the looting of the Iraq Museum.

1 comment:

Wayne G. Sayles said...

Clearly what is good for the Goose is not good for the Gander in the minds of some -- or maybe the more appropriate saying is that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Some in the archaeological community are quick to link collecting to terrorism, on the most spurious of evidence, but what about their own actions? Indeed, what were archaeologists doing in Iraq during the period of sanctions? Maybe those who broke the internationally imposed sanctions ought to be considered complicit in the crimes of the Baathist leaders at that time.