Donny George, director of the Iraq National Museum, was asked earlier this year if the Pentagon had apologized to him for failing to guard his museum in April 2003, as Baghdad fell.
George sidestepped the question, telling the National Arts Club in New York that he was “satisfied” with the financial and technical help the United States has given the museum in the last two years.
“I will take that as an apology,” he said coyly.
But George expects no apology, and it’s not because the Americans are making amends for some terrible wrong. He expects no apology because he knows that he, not the Americans, should be apologizing.
He knows that the world’s ungrateful archaeologists, not Iraq’s liberators, should be apologizing.
George knows very well there was no failure by U.S. soldiers and Marines at the Iraq museum. He knows the much-ballyhooed emptying of the museum never happened.
Despite initial reports that 100 percent of the 170,000 inventoried lots of museum artifacts (501,000 pieces) were removed in looting April 10-12, 2003, the fact is that 95.11 percent – 95.11 percent – of those artifacts never left the museum.
George is aware of this, and so are most archaeologists who study the Middle East. They also are aware that another 1.79 percent of the museum pieces were stored safely elsewhere. So a total of 96.9 percent were always in Iraq museum custody.
The archaeologists know that 3.1 percent of the museum artifacts were indeed stolen from the museum. That’s 15,500 stolen pieces. And most of them – 10,300 beads, amulets and tiny imprinting seals – were stolen not by looters, but most probably by one or very few museum workers in an “inside job” using a hidden key to burglarize the museum even before the Americans or the looters showed up. All 10,300 of these stolen items could have been taken away in one large backpack.
(More on that backpack theory later. A backpack explains a lot.)
One percent looted. That leaves just 1.04 percent – 5,200 – of the museum artifacts taken by looters, and, as the well-informed archaeologists have to know by now, those items were looted because Saddam Hussein’s own snipers were shooting from positions inside and on top of the museum, and, when the snipers fled, they left a back door open.
1.04 percent was looted. When have you heard that story?
The relatively minor looting was made possible by Saddam’s own snipers. When have you heard that story?
The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Associated Press, Reuters, the BBC, NPR, National Geographic, the archaeologists, just about everyone got the story wrong. They got the story wrong, over and over again, for six to eight weeks. They got it wrong sensationally, indignantly, loudly, over and over again.
And when they found out their story was wrong, the corrections were barely noticeable. The corrections didn’t make Page 1 or even Page 3. The corrections didn’t come repeatedly, sensationally, indignantly, loudly, for at least six weeks. The wrong wasn’t righted. There were some briefly red faces, but there was no bold apology.
‘It’s gone.’ The news media based much of the story of 100 percent looting (sometimes it was reported as 80 percent looting) on Donny George’s own comment, April 14, 2003:
“It’s gone and it’s lost. If Marines had started [guarding the museum] before, none of this would have happened. It’s too late. It’s no use. It’s no use.”
George’s misleading words, combined with “Our heritage is finished” comments from an Iraqi who claimed to be a museum official but was not, turned into a story of “mobs” looting the museum as uncaring U.S. troops watched. For the falsehoods he bred, George owes U.S. forces an apology, but he has not apologized.
Thanks to George, just as the U.S. armed forces were liberating Iraq from a bloody totalitarian who had killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the world press and Saddam’s defenders were telling the Iraqis that those Americans had just allowed the grand theft of their national heritage.
‘A crime against humanity’ is what French President Jacques Chirac called the museum’s total loss on April 16, 2003, as fighting continued a week after Saddam’s statue was pulled down in Baghdad. George and Chirac might as well have urged the Iraqis to come out and kill every American they saw.
Then the archaeologists piled on.
“In my 48 years as an archaeologist I’ve never felt so angry about the abuse of the past,” Dr. Henry T. Wright, a University of Michigan expert in antiquities, wrote in the July 2003 National Geographic. “What has been lost is not only the heritage of a nation; it is the heritage of the world.”
“By April 12 the entire museum had been looted….,” Columbia University Professor Zinab Bahrani said. “Blame must be placed with the Bush administration for a catastrophic destruction of culture unparalleled in modern history.”
“The loss of Iraq’s cultural heritage will go down in history – like the burning of the Library at Alexandria – and Britain and the U.S. will be to blame,” Edinburgh Professor Trevor Watkins said.
Prolonged deception. Two weeks after Donny George first led the world to believe the entire Iraq museum had been carted away, he flew to London, where he spoke at the British Museum before representatives of the world’s other leading museums. George quickly noticed his audience wanted to be angry with the United States, and then he didn’t bother to tell them at least 90 percent of the museum’s contents were safe and sound. Instead, he said the museum looting was “the crime of the century.”
George’s speech suggested U.S. forces were at fault. For that false impression, George owes another apology.
The archaeologists felt noble in their outrage. George had provided them a rare world stage to speak passionately for their honorable vocation. The trouble is, they had been suckered into believing all the false early reports. And when the archaeologists found out they were wrong, they were too proud – and too clever – to retract their inaccurate accusations.
For more than two years, the loudest of the archaeologists have stuck to their original tone of horror, condemnation and pompous condescension toward the American forces. The archaeologists have decided they’re much better off sticking with the fairy tale, already told millions of times, that the United States allowed “the sack of the Iraq museum.”
The archaeologists have calculated that if they can keep the U.S. government on the defensive, they’ll have leverage for increased U.S. funding of their pet projects. They also know that, the longer they appear angry at the Bush administration, the longer they won’t be revealed for the morons they were to believe the original lie.
The archaeologists should face the truth. U.S. soldiers and Marines weren’t sitting around Baghdad doing nothing April 10-12, 2003. They were completing a dangerous mission to oust a fascist regime from power.
Snipers and an open door. Moreover, when U.S. troops arrived in Baghdad, the Iraq National Museum wasn’t some neutral set of buildings ready for securing. The 11-acre complex had been taken over by 100 to 150 of Saddam’s Republican Guards. The Baathists had set up snipers’ nests inside the museum and on two museum roofs, and they were shooting at the Americans.
U.S. had no duty – moral or legal – to protect the museum in battle. When the snipers started firing bullets and mortars, the Americans had every right to level the museum buildings they were taking fire from. Instead, the U.S. forces took a few shots at the snipers, kept an eye on the museum, but generally bypassed the complex to keep damage to a minimum.
The presence of Saddam’s troops made the museum complex impossible to secure early on, and then, as those fighters ran, they left open a door at a rear museum building. The first looters – and possibly most of the looters – came in through that door. George knows this now. So do most Iraq archaeologists.
The archaeologists know there was little looting of Iraq museum artifacts. They know about the insiders’ burglary. They know about Saddam’s snipers, and the door left open. And they know that, after the “inside job,” the looters eventually took about 5,200 items, most of them tiny beads and amulets. They left about 480,000 artifacts behind.
Mobs looting. How do the facts compare with the news stories?
* BBC News, April 12: “The museum’s deputy director [Nabhal Amin] said looters had taken or destroyed 170,000 items of antiquity dating back thousands of years.”
* The Associated Press, April 12: “The famed Iraq National Museum, home of extraordinary Babylonian, Sumerian and Assyrian collections and rare Islamic texts, sat empty Saturday - except for shattered glass display cases and cracked pottery bowls that littered the floor.”
* The Chicago Tribune, April 13: “‘This is the history of Iraq,’ said Nidal Amin, the museum’s deputy director, moved to near tears of rage. She was furious that the museum wasn’t secured by U.S. forces gathered in a city overrun by mobs stealing at will.”
* The Los Angeles Times, April 13: “‘There were hundreds of looters – women, children, young people, old people,’ Raid Abdul Reda, 35, an archeologist at the museum, said Saturday. ‘These were mobs.’ The mobs descended on the nation’s cultural jewels.”
* The New York Times, April 13: “At the National Museum of Iraq, a huge collection of artifacts from more than 7,000 years of civilization on the Mesopotamian plain is mostly gone, with at least 50,000 pieces carried off by mobs....
“[Archaeologist Raid Abdul Ridhar] Muhammad said that he had found an American Abrams tank in Museum Square, about 300 yards away, and that five Marines had followed him back into the museum and opened fire above the looters' heads. That drove several thousand of the marauders out of the museum complex in minutes, he said, but when the tank crewmen left about 30 minutes later, the looters returned.” [In his book "Thieves of Baghdad," Col. Matthew Bogdanos disputes many aspects of this Times account. He says the archaeologist "Muhammad" might not even exist.]
* The Washington Post, April 13: “‘Our heritage is finished,’ lamented Nabhal Amin, the museum’s deputy director, as she surveyed a Sumerian tablet that had been cracked in two. ‘Why did they do this? Why? Why?’”
* The (London) Independent, April 14, 2003: “Not a single pot or display case remained intact, according to witnesses, after a 48-hour rampage at the museum – perhaps the world’s greatest repository of Mesopotamian culure. U.S. forces intervened only once, for half an hour, before leaving and allowing the looters to continue.”
* Robert Siegel, April 14, on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered: “As it turned out, American troops were but a few hundred yards away as the country’s heritage was stripped bare.”
* New York Times, April 14: “The National Museum of Iraq … was looted on Thursday and Friday [April 10 and 11] with the loss of almost all of its store of 170,000 artifacts.”
* Beth Nissen, CNN, April 14: “According to the museum’s deputy director, looters took at least 170,000 ancient artifacts worth billions of dollars.”
* Pacifica Network’s “Democracy Now!” April 14, 2003, “Over 170,000 ancient artifacts have been destroyed or stolen from the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad.”
* Daniel Schorr, NPR’s “All Things Considered,” April 16: “Stolen or destroyed were some 170,000 artifacts going back to Nineveh, Babylon and Ur…. When, in the future, America is remembered for the liberation of Iraq, it will also be remembered for how it exerted military mastery over Baghdad and then let the country’s past civilization go down the drain.”
(Note again that 170,000 was the total number of inventory lots in the museum. Early on, reporters interpreted that to mean there was a total of 170,000 artifacts. But within the 170,000 lots, the total number of artifacts was 501,000. One lot often comprises several pieces.)
Who saw ‘mobs’? Reporters and archaeologists wrote stories of “mobs” running in and out of the museum, carrying out big, priceless pieces of history. But neither the reporters nor the archaeologists saw a mob. They weren’t there. Witnesses said they saw up to 300 or 400 looters at the height of the looting. But for most of those two or three days, the “mobs” may have been small groups of no more than a dozen at a time.
It is likely that the U.S. troops within eyeshot of the museum saw little movement around the buildings because, first, they were at war; second, they were keeping down because of the museum snipers; third, the museum complex is a large walled-off area with five major buildings and the first looters entered through a concealed back door; and, fourth, most of the time there weren’t many looters at all.
It’s equally likely that the journalists who reported on “mobs,” “throngs” or “thousands” of looters picked those words by deduction, and certainly not by observation. If all 170,000 lots of artifacts had been removed, the reporters guessed, mobs must have done it.
Reporters were quoted by Andrew Lawler in Columbia Journalism Review of November-December 2003 as having misreported the museum story because they succumbed to the emotion of the moment.
‘Believe the worst.’ “We were disposed to believe the worst,” John Burns, reporter for The New York Times, said. “We were tremendously distraught, and passion got the better of us.”
Burns initially reported 50,000 museum objects missing, but after talking with other reporters at his hotel, he raised that number to “at least 170,000.” He also wrote that a full accounting of the museum losses could take weeks or months.
It didn’t help that Nabhal Amin, “the museum’s deputy director,” told reporters everything was gone. It turned out she didn’t work for the museum, and she didn’t know what she was talking about. She was the museum’s former assistant curator, but every reporter got that wrong.
“A lot of us got swept up,” Bill Glauber of the Chicago Tribune said, according to the CJR. “There was an emotional punch to it all because the looting [in Baghdad] was indiscriminate and indescribable.”
“It was complete chaos,” he said. “There were still looters in the place, and I thought I’d get hit in the head with a metal bar.”
Glauber had reported that “hordes of marauding thieves” made off with “tens of thousands of artifacts,” He told Chicago readers on April 13, “The museum survived bombing during the U.S.-led war against Iraq but couldn’t survive the postwar chaos.”
Two months later, when investigators revealed that, of the museum’s 9,506 display items, 33 were missing, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote that only 33 “treasures” had been lost. But his report referred only to those artifacts from the public galleries. Another 15,000 items from the storerooms were gone.
Krauthammer’s June 13, 2003, column was one of the rare instances of the news media under-reporting the number or percent of stolen museum pieces. (However, he may have been off by only two large backpacks.)
What did the looters take? What do looters always take in times of war? Few sneaked into the Iraq museum in hopes of stealing an ancient statue or an old pot.
They went in looking for things of obvious practical value – cash, computers and office furniture. Measured in size, the furniture represented the bulk of what the looters took April 10-12, 2003.
They probably also took some of the thousands of beads and amulets that disappeared. But most of these items probably were taken around April 9, not in random looting, but in the carefully executed basement burglary.
This burglary had to be the work of museum staff. The thieves knew exactly where the storeroom key was hidden, knew enough to ignore copies of artifacts, and knew enough to take authentic items of value to outside collectors.
These small items included 4,795 thimble-size cylinder seals, engraved stone tools that, as far back as 3500 B.C., were rolled onto drying clay tablets to imprint the owner’s mark or to leave an elaborate design.
Fingerprints and keys. Investigators lifted fingerprints from the burglary scene, next to where a burglar dropped the storeroom keys on the floor. The prints were compared to the fingerprints of those museum workers who came back after Saddam was ousted. But some staff did not return to work, and still haven’t.
Donny George now says he doesn’t know who burglarized the basement storeroom and he says he’s waiting for the American investigators to tell him who did it. Well, why doesn’t he just tell us who didn’t return to work?
Late last month, George told a UNESCO meeting in Paris that the stolen artifacts were being resold to support the Iraqi insurgency. How does he know this? Is he saying he knows who took the museum pieces?
How big is 10,000? U.S. Marine Col. Matthew Bogdanos, who investigated the Iraq museum thefts, says more than 10,000 items were taken in that “inside job.” But how could just a few people take so many museum items? It’s unbelievable. Unbelievable, unless you ask how big 10,000 items is.
Strangely, only one news reporter has ever asked. And Bogdanos answered the question at a Sept. 10, 2003, news briefing. Only one news organization, The Washington Post, reported this, at the bottom of a Page 8 story published five days later:
The cabinets were intact, but the thieves emptied 103 plastic boxes containing beads, pieces of jewelry, cylinder seals and glass bottles worth a fortune – and, unlike the world-famous artifacts from upstairs, almost impossible to trace.
“It would all fit in a large backpack,” Bogdanos said.
Because The Washington Post’s Guy Gugliotta included this observation at the end of his story, it looked relatively insignificant. Many readers might have dismissed it. Others might have wondered: Did Bogdanos really say that? All 10,000 of the "inside job" items would fit into one backpack?
‘Could fit in a large packpack.’ Let’s go to the transcript of that Sept. 10, 2003, news briefing:
Q: Just to clarify, when you say “items” and “pieces,” you said that it could be one bead, one piece of a pot, one – I mean, so these thousands of items could be just little things?
Bogdanos: Let me give you – that’s a great point. Yes. When I say items and pieces, I use them interchangeably. All of the items and pieces taken from the basement storage room downstairs could fit in a large backpack – all 10,000. Does that give you a sense?
Ten thousand items in one backpack. That doesn’t mean all 10,000 items left the museum in one backpack. They could have been removed in two or three smaller backpacks. Or even a few more.
No ‘mobs’ to see? But the “single backpack theory” gives us a whole new feel for the scale – the small scale – of the looting. There may have been no “mobs,” in the sense of hundreds of looters simultaneously descending on the museum (as U.S. troops allegedly stood by idly).
If 10,300 items could have been taken in one large backpack in the museum burglary, then “mobs” would not have been required to take the 5,200 items removed in the April 10-12 looting. Most of those items could have fit into one smaller backpack.
Certainly some big artifacts were removed, too. The exhibition pieces were fairly large, and about 40 of them were taken. A few of those pieces were huge.
The biggest stolen item was the Akkadian Bassetki. This 330-pound copper statue of a seated man had to be lugged down the museum’s main staircase, gouging the steps and floor on the way out. The Akkadian Bassetki was found Nov. 3, 2003, submerged in a cesspool. It was returned to the museum.
Possibly the most famous stolen item was the Lady of Warka, an alabaster sculpture of a woman’s face. This piece, much smaller and lighter than the Bassetki, was found Sept. 16, 2003, buried in a farmer’s field. It also was returned.
Fewer than 30 of the items stolen from the museum’s public galleries remain missing. Of the total 15,500 items stolen April 9-12, 2003, about 8,500 still are unaccounted for. (And yes, most of those 8,500 could fit into one large backpack.)
Not bad. In the vast scheme of things, that’s not bad for the Iraq museum. A totalitarian dictatorship is gone. A democracy is begun, shaky as it is. And despite pro-fascist snipers taking over the museum and opening a door to looters in the battle for Baghdad, 95.11 percent of the museum’s pieces stayed in the museum, 96.9 percent remained in the museum and off-site vaults, and a total of 98.33 percent are now accounted for.
But don’t tell the archaeologists their little piece of the war worked out well. Don’t tell them ending repression is more important than 8,500 beads, amulets and cylinder seals. Their story is that the U.S. troops were supposed to secure the museum first, capture Baghdad later. Their story is that U.S. forces could have reduced the looting.
They don’t want to hear that the U.S. troop presence in the neighborhood probably did reduce the looting. They don’t want to hear that the U.S. troops couldn’t do more without making things worse, for the troops and for the museum.
Guilt and grants. The archaeologists want to keep the pressure on the American government. It’s the funding game. No U.S. guilt, no U.S. grants.
The pressure isn’t hard to apply. The archaeologists have the sympathy of a large portion of the American public, who remember the initial news of total looting and U.S. troops ignoring the "mobs."
In February 2004, when Col. Bogdanos spoke to a group of art history specialists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he was asked to explain why U.S. forces didn’t sit a tank in front of the museum during the battle.
The Christian Science Monitor reported the exchange that followed:
“A parked tank is a sitting duck!” he barks. “If you’re gonna park a tank in front of the museum you’d better write the letters to those boys’ families now.”
“What a stupid excuse,” mutters an older audience member. When she stands to speak she praises his diplomatic and recovery efforts, but, “as a child who grew up in that museum, who has dusted the cabinets in that museum,” begs him not to make excuses for U.S. inaction.
Bogdanos tries to interrupt, but she’s close to tears – “Please don’t dirty your good work by spreading this lie” – and the crowd seems to be with her.
Unfortunately, the tearful woman was on the side of the lies.
Bypass the museum. U.S. forces were fighting a deadly battle. Bullets and bombs were flying. The relatively little looting that occurred was on April 10-12, 2003, and Saddam’s snipers were in and on top of the museum buildings from April 8 until April 11. U.S. troops were prudent to avoid the museum complex until April 16, when the battle subsided.
Then the Americans did park their tanks in front of Baghdad’s museums. And on July 3, 2003, the Iraq National Museum was reopened to diplomats and the news media, to show how most of the antiquities, recently feared lost forever, had been recovered or miraculously accounted for.
“The wound that I had in my heart can start healing,” Donny George told the press at the gathering. “It is important for people to know that this museum is coming back.”
Death of an American. That evening, an American soldier was shot to death as he watched over a museum in Baghdad. He was guarding either the Iraq Folklore Museum or the Iraq National Museum (the reports vary).
That American soldier was Private First Class Edward J. “Jim” Herrgott, a 20-year-old from Shakopee, Minnesota. At about 8:30 p.m. Baghdad time, a sniper shot Herrgott in the neck while he sat at the gunner’s hatch of a Bradley fighting vehicle.
“He wanted to do his part,” his uncle Kenneth Kewatt said on the Fourth of July, the day Jim Herrgott’s parents and two sisters were told how and where he had been killed.
“This is a day we are supposed to be celebrating our freedom,” his sister Beth said in Minnesota. “But now for me, it will always be the day I learned my brother died.”
Jim Herrgott wasn’t in Baghdad only to protect a museum. He was there to protect the lives and liberty of Iraqis, and eventually to protect the lives and liberty of Americans.
Dishonor of archaeologists. When Private Herrgott’s death was announced, the world’s newspapers reported he had died guarding the Iraq National Museum. And yet the world’s archaeologists practically ignored the news. They offered barely a peep of sorrow.
The archaeologists owe Private Herrgott’s family their gratitude and their condolences. They also own Private Herrgott an apology. They owe him an apology not for his death, but for dishonoring his life and the lives of every liberator of Iraq.
Just when U.S. troops were risking everything to topple Saddam’s fascist regime, too many archaeologists took the false reports of an emptied Iraq museum, tossed in inflammatory sentiments of their own, and fed the Iraqi people the lie that American GIs were a bunch of crude and selfish invaders.
And worse, when the archaeologists learned their mistake, only a few were honest enough to admit it. The experts on Iraqi antiquities clung to the story that the Americans had blown it at the museum, and that the Americans blew it because the Americans are bad.
Sowing ill will. The archaeologists could have sown goodwill among the Iraqis by letting them know the Americans had done a fairly good job at the museum after all. They sowed ill will instead. They could have told the Iraqis the Americans had managed to end Saddam’s dictatorship and save 97 percent of the museum’s contents at the same time. They gave bad information instead.
Certain archaeologists were too arrogant to admit there probably weren’t other reasonably safe measures the U.S. forces could have taken to further reduce thefts at the museum. Some archaeologists developed the “fault America” theme as a fundraising opportunity.
No U.S. guilt. No U.S. grants.
Two weeks ago, Donny George repeated his claim that U.S. financial aid to his museum represents an “apology” from the Americans. He told Agence France-Presse he intends to use the line that “they did not protect the museum” as a guilt trip to demand more American cash.
“I was so angry with the Americans at the beginning because they did not protect the museum, but I’m a positive man and I look to the future. What happened happened and we can’t just sit and cry.”
But George said that all is not quite forgiven.
“I will ask for help for another 10 or 20 years,” he said.
George knows better than to say “they did not protect the museum.” But he’ll keep saying it. He’ll want U.S. grants for decades.
By the way, the Agence France-Presse news story about George also points out that about 15,000 artifacts were stolen from the Iraq museum.
As is usual in news stories on this subject, the story does not explain that the 15,000 items amounted to only 3 percent of the museum’s contents, that most of the thievery happened in an “inside job,” that snipers and a battle allowed the looting of the other items, and that, since the battle, U.S. troops have given the museum’s contents perfect protection.
George probably didn’t give AFP these other facts. It is not in his self-interest to give the story a sense of perspective and proportion.
He probably told AFP only that 15,000 artifacts were gone. He didn’t tell AFP that 99 percent of these missing artifacts probably could fit into two large backpacks (one for the storeroom burglary, one for the looting).
Apologies due. For his self-serving deception, George owes the U.S. troops another apology. For once, tell the whole story. Tell the truth. And say you’re sorry.
And how about an apology from those other archaeologists who now regularly dash in and out of Iraq to stage whining press conferences about the looting of Iraq’s many remote archaeological sites?
This has to be the height of boorishness. The professors complain that American tanks are crunching the ground that might hold priceless antiquities. They complain that common Iraqis are digging up historical sites while battles are waged nearby. They complain they can’t conduct their own digs while insurgents threaten them with kidnappings and attacks.
Earth to archaeologists: There’s a war on, and it’s not a war to save archaeology. On the American side, it’s a war to liberate the oppressed and to save civilization itself. Yes, civilization includes a respect for the past, but today’s campaign has to keep its focus on a better future.
Like Captain Bligh with his breadfruit on the Bounty, archaeologists fret over ancient bricks, beads and amulets. Occasionally, the archaeologists should open their eyes to the real flesh-and-blood struggle around them.
They should consider, too, that the grandest looting of Iraqi antiquities was conducted in the 19th and 20th centuries, not by Iraqi “mobs,” “throngs” or “hordes,” but by archaeologists.
In that golden era, archaeologists from England, France and Germany removed Mesopotamian statues, monuments, tablets and other treasures by the ton. The British Museum and the Louvre amassed roomsful of the stuff. The entire Ishtar Gate at Babylon was stolen brick by brick and reassembled in Berlin.
Sometimes, these earlier archaeologists chopped Iraqi works of art into pieces to fit onto rafts going down the Tigris River. At least once, a heavy archaeological load sunk in the river, losing irreplaceable artifacts forever. After the foreign academics were done, it’s a wonder Iraq had anything left for a museum of its own.
The wronged liberators. When U.S. troops invaded Baghdad in April 2003, they came to steal nothing. They came to take power from an especially irresponsible dictatorship and give it to the Iraqi people.
As Americans died chasing Saddam out of town, the Iraq National Museum lost several dozen large items and the equivalent of two large backpacks of tiny artifacts. Ninety-seven percent of the museum’s items – 485,500 pieces – were preserved, 95 percent undamaged.
For archaeology, the result couldn’t have been much better. The archaeologists responded to their good fortune with dishonesty and selfish ingratitude. For that, they owe U.S. troops 485,500 apologies.