Email of the Day

A reader writes:

Some further evidence to suggest that Frank Rich is exaggerating the extent of looting damage at the National Museum in Baghdad is to be had if you can get hold of a copy of a BBC Radio 4 documentary aired on 6th September this year, by Dr Neil Brodie, of Cambridge University. Alas, the documentary is no longer downloadable on their website. But it took the listener carefully through the events, and concluded that only a relatively small number of major pieces had been destroyed or lost. By far the majority - more than ten thousand, I believe - were coins.

These, the programme demonstrated persuasively, were stored in a place which no-one but a senior museum insider could have known about, let alone found in the dark in the middle of an invasion. It convinced me, at any rate, first that very few actual works of art were taken or destroyed, and that the great bulk of the objects of value that are missing were taken by someone who had access anyway - in other words that the failure of coalition forces to secure the area was largely irrelevant to the worst of the looting.

This confirms the Atlantic article. If soeone finds the transcript, I'll post it. Rich owes me an apology on two counts: misrrepesenting my initial response to the horrifying looting ("damn-near indefensible"), and then misrepresenting the facts about it. But he writes opinion at the NYT. So fat chance we'll get a correction.