In April 2003, the United States invaded Baghdad and failed to provide security to the Iraq Museum that housed some of art history’s greatest treasures. There was no surprise that this cultural looting would happen.
The US government had been threatening to invade Iraq since September 11, 2001. Art historians, curators, and other arts professionals had asked the US government to protect the repository of the Cradle of Civilization. The US government had responded positively that the Iraq Museum would be protected, but did absolutely nothing to follow through on this promise.
Following the invasion of Iraq, over 50,000 works of art and antiquities were stolen from the Iraq Museum, some dating back as far as 5,000 years. What’s more, the entire museum card catalog was destroyed, so that there is no record of all of the art and artifacts that were lost. We will never know what we lost as a world community over those chaotic first days of the new Baghdad.
And now…the crime of the looting of the Museum of Iraq is being investigated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. Does anyone else see the irony here? If you check out their site, there is only a bare minimum of description as to the artwork that was taken. Of the 50,000 historical items taken, they only have an image of one piece. There is not even a link to other sites that have made an attempt to put together images of missing artworks, such as the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
Want more irony? If you look at the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted People, you can see several pictures of the wanted suspects with age-altered photos as well.
You could make the argument that the 10 Most Wanted people are more important to picture because they could also be out there committing other crimes. Stolen works of art are not criminals, BUT webspace is cheap and I think if the FBI is supposed to be a part of the investigation (Interpol is involved also), they should go all out and include photos of the stolen artwork, or at least links to other places that show pictures. By neglecting to beef up this part of their site, the FBI sends the message that art crimes are not really a priority.