Via John Quiggin comes the news that British soldiers were actually encouraging looters:
The British view is that the sight of local youths dismantling the offices and barracks of a regime they used to fear shows they have confidence that Saddam Hussain’s henchmen will not be returning to these towns in southern Iraq.
One senior British officer said: “We believe this sends a powerful message that the old guard is truly finished.”
Armoured units from the Desert Rats stood by and watched earlier this week as scores of excited Iraqis picked clean every floor and every room of the Baath Party headquarters building in Basra after it had been raided by British troops.
Villas owned by the elite, army compounds, air bases and naval ports and even some of the regime’s former torture chambers and jails have been ransacked in the past week.
The results of which are now on view in Baghdad:
Iraqi mobs looted priceless antiquities from Baghdad’s premier cultural history museum on Friday –turning archaeologists’ worst nightmares into stark reality.
A dozen looters roamed undisturbed among broken and overturned statues that littered the ground floor of the sprawling National Museum of Iraq, according to Agence France-Presse. Two men were seen hauling away an ancient door frame. Empty wooden crates were scattered across the floor.
The museum housed more than 100,000 artifacts spanning 8,000 years, including irreplaceable sculptures, inscribed tablets and carved reliefs from a half-dozen cultures, including the Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian empires. Upstairs, portions of the museum seemed to have been spared from Friday’s assault, and there was hope that the museum’s 30 senior archaeologists had moved the most important collections to safety before the war.
In the comments to the post Quiggin wrote about this, several people excused the British actions. Because they had only called for the looting of Baath party headquarters and similar remnants of Saddam’s regime, they were supposedly blameless for the more widespread looting that actually occurred. This is wrong in several ways.
Looting, even “symbolic” looting, just is not a good idea. It’s clear what the UK and US tried to do by allowing the toppling of Saddam’s statues, the plundering of Ba’ath offices and army barracks:
recreating what happened in Eastern Europe in 1989 –but Iraq 2003 is nothing like East Germany 1989.
In East Germany, people freed themselves, a spontaneous revolt from below, there wasn’t the chaos of
invasion and the civil authorities were still present and able to keep order. In contrast, Iraq as a functioning state doesn’t exist anymore, there is nobody but the occupying forces to keep order and since they didn’t, things got more out of hand then they bargained for.
But apart from that, even allowing “symbolic” looting was stupid. Plundering the ill gotten gains of the
Ba’ath party faithful doesn’t help the country as a whole; it just means a redistribution of wealth
towards a new group of bastards with guns. What any responsible “liberators” would’ve done is make
sure that Ba’ath party resources would be available to actually help the country, e.g. to help pay for its rebuilding.
Instead, for the sake of symbolism hospitals, universities and musea have been stripped bare of anything valuable, while American and British soldiers looked on. Hey, at least the oil wells have been secured!