Tuesday, February 28, 2006

THE REAL TARGETS: CIVILIZATION, CULTURE AND MEMORY

You have probably heard of Shinar. That's because you're especially well-read and struggled for your intellectual independence in a culture hostile to free-thinking. If you haven't heard of Shinar, that is probably because you are a victim of the US programme of wiping out historical memory. In America only scholars with particular areas of expertise or those with very particular areas of interest know what Shinar is, although it should be a name much more generally known. Long before there was Baghdad there was Shinar, that is Babylon, in the Fertile Crescent - the cradle of civilization. It was there that civilization, as we know it in the Middle East and in the West, began. Despite the fact that many priceless archaeological artifacts were destroyed in the last Gulf War - many still remain. Physical archaeological artifacts provide the basis and sometimes the proof of how the history of Humankind looked. Without these priceless artifacts all historical and linguistic theories remain just that - theories. Every statement made about whom our ancestors were and how they lived must end with "IMHO", if we do not have artifacts that bear out our claims. Artifacts not only serve support theories and lend proof to beliefs; they can make short shrift of the longest-standing, most cherished beliefs as well. The discovery of the 'The Dead Sea Scrolls' is a perfect example of an archaeological discovery which is revolutionizing the way we think about the Second Temple period. The 'The Rosetta Stone' also served as the key that opened many doors of knowledge that were bolted and sealed before its discovery. The examples are many and dear to our hearts. Artifacts are priceless, then - by far dearer than gold, oil, drugs - or any other commodity that nations may go to war over. Those who control what knowledge of archaeology is available to the public control what the public is privy to knowing about where they came from, where they are and where they are going to. Whatever one's status in American society: long-time citizen, new immigrant, descendent of slaves or conquered Natives, one is stripped of their historical framework and linguistic background (unless, of course, they come from an English-speaking country, but even in this case they will be required to adopt the American ‘take’ on English, and thus be forced to adopt American thought patterns). America demands that one forget whom they were, where they came from and blend into the "melting pot". Nowadays, with the advent of means of mass communications, the process of assimilation into the American ‘melting pot’ is usually complete in one generation. Among those who retain their culture most tenaciously the process takes two generations. Paradoxically, those whose racial type is not mainstream in America have a much better chance of retaining their identity than those who ‘look white’ with few cosmetic applications. It is said, and it is true, that if one does not know where s/he is coming from, s/he cannot know where they are going to. This is the goal of those who determine American sociological policy - the creation of a mass of citizens none of whom have clear knowledge either of their own roots, and thus have a very nebulous sense of self, or a sense of the historical context of others. Dignity, honor, sense-of-self and an appreciation of the greatness of others are the most immediate casualties in the war against free thought. Public opinion is quite easily manipulated in a non-culture in which the citizens have no sense of rooted-ness, knowledge of their original languages (or the etymologies thereof) or clear sense of historicity. For example: It is the lack of knowledge of history and etymology of languages that allows the present propaganda concerning who the ‘Palestinian People’ to be believed by well meaning, but ignorant and gullible people. The less we know about history and languages the more our consciousness can be manipulated as we make a hodge-podge of the images that are fed into our brains in words whose etymological roots we have no knowledge of. I urge the readers of this post to read the material contained on the two links provided below carefully. We will see that both those who operate Bush and those who operate Sadaam Hussein are interested in revision of history. On the one hand the Western world would have the wealth of artifacts in Iraq, which could serve as plastic proof of our past destroyed so that historicity is obliterated. On the other hand the powers that be in Iraq would have the artifacts preserved in order to be used to manipulate history and create a false sense of pride and continuity from the glory of Sumer in the present-day citizens of Iraq - thus returning them to being the slaves of a leader who has declared himself a deity. This war is about YOU - who your ancestors were, who you are and who your descendants will be - rootless, mindless, unknowing and manipulated in the West or utterly helpless slaves who work in unquestioning devotion for a leader they believe to be god. There is no "good guy" and "bad guy" in this war. Control of knowledge for the sake of mass enslavement of Humanity is evil - no matter what continent it is attempted on, no matter whether the people doing it wear three-piece tailored suits or jalabias. This writer must be honest and say that the destruction of archaeological artifacts is far worse than the manipulation of their meaning, because so long as they exist there is a chance they may be understood properly. The destruction of the remains of civilization is the attempt to blot out the basis for civilization and rooted-ness - irrevocably. We will be returned to pre-Sumerian levels of civilization if this occurs, regardless of what our level of technological development is. The prospect of being pre-historic even while we are nuclear capable is beyond nightmarish. The booty in this war is control of CIVILIZATION itself. Did anyone seriously entertain the notion that the instigation of war with Iraq on the part of the US, UK and the U.S.'s lesser allies was principally about oil? Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Yisra'el

April 13, 2003

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BAGHDAD, June 20, 2005 (AFP) - Archaeological sites in southern Iraq have been systematically looted for over two years, but experts say the dig will have to go much deeper to find out where thousands of lost artifacts have ended up. "The complete lack of knowledge is devastating," says archaeologist Elizabeth Stone, who spent years excavating the Old Babylonian city of Mashkan Shapir. "One article said that a billion Iraqi dinars worth of artifacts had been smuggled to Syria, but that's absurd. We just don't know what's gone," she says. The mystery has emerged as new site protection forces finally begin to make a dent in thefts from the cradle of civilisation, rampant since the US-led invasion of March 2003, but experts say it may be years before the riddle is solved. Meanwhile, artifacts are surprisingly absent from the ever-hungry illegal market. "Artifacts aren't turning up yet," says Seth Richardson of Chicago's Oriental Institute. "The market's too hot. People don't want to trade them, for good reasons and bad." "We'll probably have to wait four or five years for this stuff to turn up. And it could be anywhere -- London, New York, Geneva, Tokyo." What is known is the shocking breadth of looting, with satellite images showing ancient sites turned into chessboards of square-shaped holes. "There's been more dirt moved after the (2003) war by looters than there ever was by archaeologists and looters combined before the war," says Stone. On the ground, archaeologist Abdal Amir Hamdani, in charge of antiquities for Dhi Qar province, home to some of Iraq's most famous archaeological sites, says his focus has shifted from looters to smugglers. "I'm not an archaeologist. I'm a policeman," he says. Hamdani uses what he calls a "hunting dog" -- a former looter turned paid informant -- who follows up on rumours and goes out with a digital camera and global positioning system (GPS) equipment to locate and mark smugglers' houses. Italian carabinieri forces disguised as Bedouin then go with Hamdani to carry out often fruitful raids. "This is the war within the war, the forgotten war," he says of his dangerous job. Last October, eight Iraqi customs officers were found dead and their recently seized cargo of antiquities disappeared on the road to Baghdad. Al-Fajir, 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Hamdani's base in Nassiriyah, is rife with smugglers and dealers, he says, and 60 suspect homes in the small town of 10,000 have already been identified. Hamdani shows photos of seized artifacts: Parthian glasswork, Sumerian statues and erotic images on temple tablets, hundreds of coins, gold jewellery and bowls inscribed in ancient Aramaic, some clumsily glued together, damaged forever. "I don't know how much they're worth to a dealer," says Hamdani. "To me, they're priceless." He laments what he says are lax sentences of two or three years handed down to smugglers. "It's not enough. They should be getting 10 years or more. I would like to kill them, but then what happens to human rights in this country?" Stone says that families in the area have been selling artifacts for generations, but the lawlessness of recent years combined with increased demand from the West, Japan and Israel has made them more daring. "You can see the purposefulness of it. People are very well-organised. They come with food and water and guns. That's different from what Iraq has always had, farmers and villagers coming to take something to sell at the local souk." "The assumption is that they won't have to hold onto it for 100 years. But some families have been doing it for generations and might think their grandchildren will sell it. There must be warehouses bursting with the stuff," she says. "It will start coming onto the market when people decide authorities can't be bothered to prosecute anymore." While the director of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, Donny George, says that an object sold by a farmer in Baghdad for 50 dollars can fetch "200,000 to 300,000 dollars in New York," the financial loss pales in comparison to the cultural one. "The frightening thing is objects going to private collectors, where they are hidden, just for investment, like hoarding gold," says George. He says ill-informed buyers in the West, such as the man who paid 80,000 dollars for a non-descript cylinder seal, are also inflating prices and inspiring more thieves. "They've been taking out at least 3,000 tablets a week, by the truckload. That's got to be 400-500 dissertations," says Richardson, adding that some looters die when the tunnels they use collapse, becoming artifacts themselves. Iraq currently has 12,000 registered archaeological sites, but once the whole country has been surveyed, that number will jump to 100,000, says George. Hamdani says there are 800 sites around Nassiriyah alone, with 200 site protection forces to patrol them in just seven vehicles. As a result, no amount of policing is going to suffice and the museum is placing its hopes in changing people's mindsets. "Ninety percent of schoolbooks used to be dedicated to Saddam and the Baath party. If we can dedicate five percent of books to antiquities, children can learn a lot -- and they can teach their parents." Meanwhile, generous foreign aid is well-intended, but not always useful. In the corner of George's office is a box of 40 satellite phones donated for site protection forces by UNESCO. "We've had them for three months, but they didn't give us SIM cards," says George. "Now we have extra funding so we can buy the cards and use them." I told you so.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel
DoreenDotan@gmail.com


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