Press Release: Rothfield, The Rape of Mesopotamia

March 31, 2009
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As President Obama begins the process of bringing America’s six-year occupation of Iraq to an end, it’s important that the public and the military alike learn from the mistakes that dogged the war from the start. Of all those errors, perhaps the most preventable—and irreparable—was the failure to protect Iraq’s unparalleled cultural heritage from the wholesale looting and destruction that followed the invasion and continues to this day.
With The Rape of Mesopotamia, Lawrence Rothfield offers a detailed, judicious account of the failures of planning, understanding, and initiative that led to the looting of the Iraq Museum and the incalculable loss to human culture that followed. Drawing on extensive interviews with soldiers, bureaucrats, war planners, archaeologists, and collectors, Rothfield reveals the breathtaking incompetence and inadequate planning—originating at the highest levels of the U.S. government—that left the troops on the ground unprepared for and unable to stop the looting they saw occurring all around them. At the same time, Rothfield shows, preservation advocates worldwide were insufficiently vocal about the risks the invasion posed to Iraq’s heritage, while the collectors who inhabit the shadowy worldwide market for illicit antiquities ensured the demand that the looters fulfilled.
Ultimately, Rothfield brings his story right to the present, arguing vehemently that the lessons of Iraq have largely been ignored—and that the same mistakes are liable to be repeated in future conflicts.
Read the press release.

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