IMAGE:  August 2003
LINK:  Also in every issue
Editor's Notes  
LINK:  Features
Moment of Decision  
Chicago's Ivy League  
The Weeds of Change  
The CMS Syndrome  



LINK:  Class Notes
Alumni News  
Alumni Works  

LINK:  Campus News
Chicago Journal  
University News e-bulletin  

LINK:  Research
U of C Research Organizations  
GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
Volume 95, Issue 6

GRAPHIC:  Also in every issueLetters

Affirmative action reminds me of a cheap magic act...

A reason for concern?
In response to the two letters under the heading “A rush to panic?” (e-letter sidebar) in the June/03 issue: No formal poll was ever taken of the faculty and staff of the Oriental Institute on the Iraq war, but my impression, formed during scores of conversations in the halls and e-mail exchanges on the eve of the war, is that my colleagues were overwhelmingly opposed to it. A few colleagues here thought the war was necessary, or were ambivalent about it, but they were, I am confident, decidedly a minority.

The letter by Richard Ptak, which tries to suggest that no serious looting really took place, has bought into a concerted campaign (begun by Donald Rumsfeld) to minimize the damage to Iraq’s cultural heritage caused by the war. It is true that the first reports circulated by the news media, which claimed that all artifacts of the Iraq Museum had been looted, were exaggerated—at that early date, no one, here or there, knew that the Museum staff had had the foresight to hide many artifacts in bunkers or other secure locations before the war began. We should all be most grateful that they did! But now that preliminary assessments have been made, it is clear that not all artifacts were secured, and tens of thousands of cylinder seals and other objects from the Iraq Museum were, in fact, looted and remain missing, and others destroyed or damaged.

Also stolen or destroyed were large numbers of manuscripts, documents, and books from the National Archives, Manuscripts Library, and other libraries in Baghdad, which remained unprotected by the American forces for many days after the occupation of Baghdad. And, as of July 9, the looting of archaeological sites, particularly in the south, was still going on, apparently because the American occupation forces did not have the troops to secure all sites, or the money and organization to pay Iraqi guards. Among the sites affected is Nippur, where the Oriental Institute has conducted excavations for many

In sum, while many of Iraq’s precious artifacts remain, the war has caused serious losses to Iraq’s cultural heritage and has significantly compromised our ability to reconstruct the history of this cradle of human civilization. This fact should not be exaggerated, but it should not be whitewashed, either.

Fred M. Donner

Donner is a professor in the University’s Department of Near Eastern History.—Ed.

The University of Chicago Magazine welcomes letters on its contents or on topics related to the University. Letters must be signed and may be edited for space and clarity. We ask readers to keep correspondence to 300 words or less. Write:

Editor, University of Chicago Magazine,
5801 S. Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637




Search WWW Search

Contact Advertising About the Magazine Alumni UChicago Views Archives
uchicago 2003 The University of Chicago Magazine 5801 South Ellis Ave., Chicago, IL 60637
phone: 773/702-2163 fax: 773/702-0495