In a memo sent two weeks before the fall of Baghdad, the Pentagon office charged with rebuilding Iraq urged top commanders of U.S. ground forces to protect the Iraqi National Museum and other cultural sites from looters.
"Coalition forces must secure these facilities in order to prevent looting and the resulting irreparable loss of cultural treasures," says the March 26 memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.
The Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), led by retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, sent the five-page memo to senior commanders at the Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC).
The museum was No. 2 on a list of 16 sites that ORHA deemed crucial to protect. Financial institutions topped the list, including the Iraqi Central Bank, which is now a burned-out shell filled with twisted metal beams from the collapse of the roof and all nine floors under it.
Slate has an overview and a slideshow of the priceless artifacts that were lost. So what were our troops doing while the museum was looted?
Gibson and other scholars are working with the State Department to send out word about what types of pieces are missing, with particular attention to screening people leaving Iraq.
Yet Gibson had spoken at length with the same officials in the months before the war started in an effort to forestall precisely the sort of cultural loss that unfolded at the museum. Gibson noted ruefully that the U.S. military assigned men to chip away the disrespectful mural of former President George Bush on the floor of the Al Rashid Hotel, yet failed to save the matchless legacy of the museum.
The NYT also reports on the al-Rashid mural. Rumsfeld should resign. This is unconscionable.
But wait, it gets worse. Via TPM, senior US Officials want us to get out of Iraq as soon as possible. Forget the long commitment to nation building - look at these quotes:
Senior administration official on the post-war plan: "I don't think it has to be expensive, and I don't think it has to be lengthy. Americans do everything fairly quickly."
Senior administration official: "The president's goal is to leave Iraq on the road to prosperity and security and democracy -- or at least give them a fighting chance of it."
Former Sec Def James R. Schlesinger: "This is going to be a very tricky course that we are on. Many people who have the right vision about what should be accomplished do not, as of now, recognize how much of a commitment in time as well as money this is going to require."
Pentagon and White House officials disagree with such warnings. One senior defense official questioned whether 75,000 troops would be needed even in the near future, saying the U.S. military force that deposed Hussein's government was not much larger. Some government functions could be turned over to an interim Iraqi government in a matter of months, the official said. Even the need for a new Iraqi military force could be obviated by moving U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters south toward Baghdad, the official suggested
Marshall rightfully skewers the ludicrous suggestion that we put Kurdish peshmerga in control of civil security. He identifies the basic attitude here as "It's gonna cost a lot more than we thought, it looks really complicated, so let's just give them a good running start, send over a few water purifiers, and then get the hell out."