and Defamatory Statements about the ACCP
to Protect Iraqi Antiquities
American Council for Cultural Policy is a public charity created
in 2002 dedicated to enhancing knowledge and understanding of issues
and policies affecting the collecting of works of art by museums
and private individuals in the United States and to research, gather
and disseminate information relevant to such issues. The Council
is overseen by a Board of Advisors which includes scholars in the
fields of history and art history; archaeology; museum officials
including: directors, administrators, curators, and trustees; art
collectors; distinguished representatives of not-for-profit and
other public service organizations; and legal specialists in art
and the international art trade.
Council is aware that certain intentionally false and defamatory
statements about the Council have been published on a University
of Chicago internet site. The site, the IraqCrisis list host, is
a project of the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago. The
site identifies itself as a "moderated list for communicating
substantive information." It bears the address of: https://listhost.uchicago.edu/mailman/listinfo/iraqcrisis
false statements at issue specifically involve the circumstances
under which, prior to the commencement of war with Iraq in 2003,
the Council led an initiative by representatives of the US cultural
community to alert the US Departments of State and Defense to the
need to protect Iraqi cultural and archeological sites in the event
on the IraqCrisis list host is an April 24, 2005 entry, attributed
to David Nelson Gimbel, who asserts that:
American Council for Cultural Policy (ACCP) is, as many
subscribers to this list know, commonly regarded as little
more than a lobbying group for the antiquities trade--see
for example, the articles by:
biographical description of the contributors provided in
the link (http://www.culturalpolicycouncil.org/news.htm
) shows that the vast majority of the contributing authors
are either: dealers, collectors, curators of museum collections
with large numbers of unprovenienced artifacts, or their
lawyers. Needless to say, you won't find any Mesopotamian
archaeologists represented in this volume.
are the very same people who at the outbreak of the Iraq
Crisis labeled the Iraqi antiquities laws as "retentionist,"
and who engaged in lobbying the US government to relax
legislation regarding the import and sale of antiquities.
publication of such a volume by a university press (i.e.:
rather than by a more 'commercial' publisher) is unfortunate.
It will only help add an air of legitimacy to ACCP's lobbying
efforts on behalf of wealthy and powerful institutions and
individuals who continue to collect cultural artifacts.
fabrication concerning the Council’s activities is totally devoid
of factual basis. Its continued posting on the University of Chicago’s
internet site is intended to damage, and has damaged, the Council
and its reputation.
to Gimbel’s assertions, the Council has never lobbied the US government
to relax legislation regarding the import and sale of Iraqi antiquities.
Stated below is the full text of a statement on the Council’s website
captioned "ACCP Action," which sets forth the relevant
protection of sites and cultural institutions in Iraq was
the focus of the first initiative undertaken by the American
Council for Cultural Policy. The subject of how to protect
Iraqi sites and monuments in the event of war was discussed
at length during the first Advisory Board meeting of the
Council on October 9, 2002. Investigation revealed that
other members of the arts community, including archaeological
scholars and museum organizations, had made no visible effort
to engage the U.S. government on these issues.
of the Council contacted the Association of Art Museum Directors,
the American Association of Museums, the World Monuments
Fund and other arts organizations to ask them to join us
in raising these issues with appropriate U.S. government
officials. On October 14, the Council wrote to the Secretaries
of State and Defense, urging their attention to the protection
of cultural property in Iraq in the event of conflict. An
Op-Ed article expressing the same concerns and signed by
Ashton Hawkins, President of the Council, and Max Anderson,
President of the Association of Art Museum Directors was
published in the Washington Post on November 29, 2002.
initiative resulted in the invitation to a small delegation
to meet with representatives of the Department of Defense
and the State Department on January 24th, 2003.
These meetings were attended by Max Anderson, University
of Chicago Professor McGuire Gibson, as well as Arthur Houghton
and Ashton Hawkins of the American Council for Cultural
Policy. The purpose of the first meeting with the Department
of Defense was to discuss updating the database created
in 1991 in order to avoid damaging Iraqi archeological sites
and monuments. In a second meeting that day with State Department
officials the delegation, which was joined by Bonnie Burnham,
President of the World Monuments Fund, discussed concerns
about restoring and strengthening the administration of
Iraqi archeological sites and monuments after any war. The
delegation stressed the fine record of the Iraq Antiquities
Department personnel and offered to seek material assistance
that would strengthen the ability of Iraq to protect and
preserve its own cultural sites in the aftermath of any
officials at both the Departments of State and Defense expressed
their appreciation for the views of the delegation and assured
its members that protection of cultural property would be
given high priority in the event of conflict. The applicability
of Iraq’s patrimony laws was not discussed at any point
during the Washington meetings, although some press reports
have suggested otherwise. Ashton Hawkins has stated that
in the Council’s view Iraq’s laws were appropriate and should
remain in effect (Science 2003 January 31; 299: 643).
troubling to the Council is the fact that at least one prominent
scholar at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, McGuire
Gibson (Professor of Mesopotamian Archeology at the Oriental Institute),
and perhaps others, are aware of the falsity of Gimbel’s statements.
Gibson attended the meetings in Washington through the efforts of
the Council and can verify what was said at the meetings by representatives
of the Council.
Memorandum of Conversation prepared immediately after the meetings,
and sent at that time to the Departments of State and Defense, which
had no objection, as well as to Gibson, who orally verified its
content. At the time, Gibson unsuccessfully insisted that the Memorandum
of Conversation be destroyed and the fact of its existence suppressed
for fear that it would compromise his standing with Iraq’s Ba’athist
troubling are Gimbel’s reliance on the articles by Gowland and Bahrani
as purported confirmation of the Council’s putative "lobbying"
Gowland article, captioned "Collecting Loot" was published
in The Guardian, May 21, 2003. Gowland relies in part on an article
in The Spectator, April 19, 2003, by Rod Liddle, captioned "Day
of the Jackals." Both articles essentially propose that the
Council orchestrated the looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad.
is prominently quoted by Liddle as stating, among other things,
that "You have to understand that some of the members of [the
Council] are among the biggest collectors and dealers of illegal
artifacts in the world….." (2)
Council was advised, on a preliminary basis, by UK counsel that
the articles in both The Spectator and The Guardian lacked factual
basis, were defamatory and that the Council could assert meritorious
civil claims against the publishers for damages and obtain retraction
and correction under applicable UK press complaint procedures.
Bahrani article, captioned "Looting and Conquest, The Nation,
May 14, 2003, is also maliciously false and inaccurate. First, she
ignores the Council’s role in arranging the January 24, 2003 meetings
and writes as though these meetings were obtained and attended by
the archaeological community alone, which is false.
enough attention has been paid to the fact that for several
months before the start of the Iraq war, scholars of the
ancient history of Iraq repeatedly spoke to various arms
of the US government about this risk. Individual archeologists
as well as representatives of the Archaeological Institute
of America met with members of the State Department, the
Defense Department and the Pentagon. We provided comprehensive
lists of archeological sites and museums throughout Iraq,
including their map coordinates. We put up a website providing
this same information. All of us said the top priority was
the immediate placement of security guards at all museums
and archeological sites.
then repeats the accusation that the Council orchestrated the looting
for the benefit of the illicit trade in antiquities generally and
New York collectors in particular, and invents fictitious meetings
by the Council with the White House and the Pentagon "right
before the war and right after the looting". The Council never
met any White House personnel before or after the war or anyone
in the Pentagon other than at the meetings on January 24, 2003.
who stands to benefit from this plunder? The illicit trade
in antiquities, which funnels works from countries such
as Egypt, Greece and Italy to collectors based in New York,
London and Geneva. Collector William Pearlstein, of the
American Council for Cultural Policy (ACCP), an organization
that met with the White House and the Pentagon right before
the war and right after the looting, is appealing for the
cultural theft to continue by other means...."
the least, Bahrani’s reputation as a scholar is undermined by the
reckless inaccuracy of her statements. (3)
University of Chicago and the IraqCrisis list host have acted irresponsibly
by publishing these libelous statements about the Council without
any investigation or inquiry into their basis, or the reliability
of the source of the allegations. If Charles Jones, the moderator
of the site and a faculty member of the Oriental Institute, had
made any inquiry into the basis of the statements concerning the
Council, he would have recognized that the statements at issue were
false. McGuire Gibson, who attended the January 24 meetings and
is a principal resource for Prof. Jones, knows them to be so.
light of the above, the Council hereby makes an open request to
the University of Chicago to immediately remove, or caused to be
removed, from the IraqCrisis site, and all other internet sites
owned, maintained, operated and/or controlled by the University
of Chicago, any and all inaccurate and/or unreliable statements
of and concerning the Council, and delete and deactivate any and
all related links, hyperlinks and references thereto.
understand from counsel that the University’s preference is to resolve
these matters in a manner consistent with the purpose of the IraqCrisis
list host; i.e., to call attention to the crisis of Mesopotamian
archeology by publishing the facts surrounding the war and its aftermath.
The factual corrections stated in this memorandum and the request
made hereby are clearly consistent with the purpose of the IraqCrisis
memorandum is not intended to be a complete recitation of all relevant
facts and/or law, and is written without waiver of any rights in
law or equity that the Council may have, all of which are expressly
COUNCIL FOR CULTURAL POLICY
York, New York
The complicity of American archeologists, including McGuire Gibson
and John Malcolm Russell, with Saddaam’s regime is persuasively
documented in Museum Madness in Baghdad by Alexander H. Joffe,
The Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2004, Volume IX, Number 2, http://www.meforum.org/article/609.
Gibson and Russell each knowingly violated the pre-war State Dept.
ban on travel to Iraq. Despite this, the State Dept. appointed Russell
as Special Coordinator for Iraqi Cultural Heritage in the Cultural
Heritage Center of the U.S. Department of State in August 2005.
Gibson’s assertions are simply wrong, not to mention defamatory.
Gibson is fundamentally opposed to the legal acquisition of unprovenienced
objects. As an orientalist, he seems unable to blame those directly
responsible for destroying Iraq’s cultural heritage--Iraqi looters
and others who then sold objects onward to wealthy collectors in
Gulf states that permit the import of looted antiquities–choosing
instead as his target the Council, whose views he reflexively sees
as being opposed to his own.
Bahrani is said to have accepted substantial fees from at least
one prominent antiquities dealer for whom she catalogued unprovenienced
Near Eastern artifacts for exhibition. If this is true, her participation
in the antiquities trade is in stark conflict with her anti-market
statements. We invite Professor Bahrani to clarify the apparent
inconsistency between her words and her actions
Location: Department of Defense (OSD/SOLIC)
Department of State (NEA)
Participants: (See below, first and second paragraphs)
Subject: Protection of Iraq’s Cultural Sites
On Friday, January
24, 2002, members of four concerned institutions met with officials
of the US Government to discuss ways to protect Iraq’s sites of
cultural and historical importance in the event of conflict. The
meetings were convened at the Department of Defense by Dr. Joseph
Collins, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Operations and Low
Intensity Conflict, where they included Caryn Hollis, and Maj. Christopher
Herndon. Ryan Crocker, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near
East Affairs, chaired the session at the Department of State; he
was joined C. Miller Crouch, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Educational
and Cultural Affairs,. Jessica Davies (NEA/PD) and Jonathan Carpenter
Department meetings included Ashton Hawkins, president of the American
Council for Cultural Policy; Maxwell Anderson, president of the
Association of Art Museum Directors; McGuire Gibson, president of
the American Association for Research in Baghdad, and Arthur Houghton.
Bonnie Burnham, president of the World Monuments Fund joined the
session at the State Department.
At DOD, Dr.
Collins noted that the question of how to avoid damage to Iraq’s
cultural and religious sites was of considerable importance to the
Department of Defense. Some 150 non-religious cultural sites were
now in DOD’s database, although he knew this number only scratched
the surface. Prof. Gibson responded that there were perhaps some
500,000 to a million archaeological sites in Iraq. Indeed, the entire
country was an archaeological site and at any point in the countryside
one might be able to see as many as a dozen sites or more from where
one stood. (In southern Iraq, he later noted, there were no natural
hills, and every hill could be assumed to be an archaeological site.)
Prof. Gibson thought the 150 number came from a 1991 list that he
and Robert Adams, then Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution,
had passed to the Defense Department. He noted that the University
of Michigan now has a website on which some 2000 sites had been
accurately located, although the satellite imagery available to
scholars had only 18-meter resolution, which was insufficient to
the task of specific localization. He understood that Michigan had
been contacted by someone in the US Army, but did not know who.
He mentioned also that the new president of the Archaeological Institute
of America (AIA) had written to the Defense Department – he thought
to Undersecretary Luti – about their interest in the matter.
said that his office (OSD/SOLIC) had been tasked with the coordination
of information on cultural sites in the Defense Department. He said
that matters related to cultural property protection in Iraq would
routinely come to him, but that he had heard of no letter from the
AIA or anyone else on the subject.
concluded by mentioning his concern that damage to cultural sites
during a possible conflict was likely to be less than what could
occur in the aftermath. On one hand, occupying forces might carry
away material from archaeological sites, but at least as important
was the looting and destruction that could be caused by Iraqis themselves
in a situation of political chaos. He noted that in the uprisings
that followed the Gulf War, 9 of Iraq’s 13 museums were either looted
or destroyed. The Baghdad Museum, which he understood was now the
collecting point for material from Mosul and perhaps other provincial
Museums, was likely to be protected only by a small staff, and was
to the possible looting or damage to sites by coalition forces of
occupation, Dr. Collins said he would undertake to have an order
issued that he hoped would ensure this did not occur. He noted that
orders of a similar nature prohibiting the consumption of alcohol
by US forces in certain countries had been effective, and he believed
orders preventing looting would also.
On the conclusion
of the meeting, Prof. Gibson agreed to remain in touch, as necessary,
with Dr. Collins’ staff.
The State Department
meeting focused on how to strengthen Iraq’s future ability to protect
and preserve its cultural heritage, and means to coordinate both
public and private sector support for Iraq’s efforts in this area.
It was explained that the request for the meeting was generated
by the participants’ understanding that no mechanism in the US government
was now charged with the issue of how best to protect and preserve
Iraq’s cultural sites in the event of hostilities and the aftermath.
The protection of Iraq’s sites during a possible conflict and period
of occupation had been discussed at DOD, but it was hoped that the
State Department could suggest a way to approach the longer-term
preservation and institutional development matter. The participants
included Dr. Gibson, who had specific knowledge of the situation
on the ground with regard to the Iraq’s cultural sites, but also
included interested institutions that could play a helpful role
in any post-Saddam environment. There were likely other institutions,
as well as private individuals, who would want to help.
emphasized that no decision had been made by the US government about
how to proceed, so the discussion would have to be considered hypothetical,
but he added that the question of how to address issues related
to Iraq’s cultural sites had been a matter of concern to the State
Department also. In the Spring of last year the State Department
had established a set of 16 working groups to consider various aspects
related to the future of Iraq, but subjects related to Iraq’s material
culture were not included. He said that he thought another group
could be established that would deal with this matter specifically.
explained that the US government was sensitive to the concerns of
Iraqis that the US not be, or appear to be, a neo-colonialist power
in a post-Saddam Iraq, and he cautioned that a new group not include
only Americans or seem to function without reference to what Iraqis
themselves wanted. He said that a first order of business should
be to identify Iraqis – presumably expatriates – who might be able
to work on the subject alongside US participants. He asked if members
of the group could suggest names. (Prof. Gibson said he would try
to identify individuals who might be part of the new working group,
and would get back on the matter.) Further discussion was given
to the possible participation or inclusion of international or non-US
elements, possibly including the British and others.
It was discussed
and agreed that the outside participants would be in further touch
with DAS Crocker in the coming days with suggestions on how a working
group on the protection and preservation of Iraq's cultural sites
might be organized, its scope, and its composition. Tom Warrick,
who was away but who was principal point of contact for the working
groups in the Near East Bureau, was to be informed of the substance
of the meeting convened by DAS Crocker. Arthur Houghton was asked
to be principal point of contact in Washington for the institutions
represented at the meeting.
The protection of sites and cultural
institutions in Iraq was the focus of the first initiative undertaken
by the American Council for Cultural Policy. The subject of how
to protect Iraqi sites and monuments in the event of war was discussed
at length during the first Advisory Board meeting of the Council
on October 9, 2002. Investigation revealed that other members of
the arts community, including archaeological scholars and museum
organizations, had made no visible effort to engage the U.S. government
on these issues.
Members of the Council contacted the
Association of Art Museum Directors, the American Association of
Museums, the World Monuments Fund and other arts organizations to
ask them to join us in raising these issues with appropriate U.S.
government officials. On October 14, the Council wrote to the Secretaries
of State and Defense, urging their attention to the protection of
cultural property in Iraq in the event of conflict. An Op-Ed
article expressing the same concerns and signed by Ashton Hawkins,
President of the Council, and Max Anderson, President of the Association
of Art Museum Directors was published in the Washington Post on
November 29, 2002.
The initiative resulted in the invitation
to a small delegation to meet with representatives of the Department
of Defense and the State Department on January 24th,
2003. These meetings were attended by Max Anderson, University of
Chicago Professor McGuire Gibson, as well as Arthur Houghton and
Ashton Hawkins of the American Council for Cultural Policy. The
purpose of the first meeting with the Department of Defense was
to discuss updating the database created in 1991 in order to avoid
damaging Iraqi archeological sites and monuments. In a second meeting
that day with State Department officials the delegation, which was
joined by Bonnie Burnham, President of the World Monuments Fund,
discussed concerns about restoring and strengthening the administration
of Iraqi archeological sites and monuments after any war. The delegation
stressed the fine record of the Iraq Antiquities Department personnel
and offered to seek material assistance that would strengthen the
ability of Iraq to protect and preserve its own cultural sites in
the aftermath of any conflict.
U.S. officials at both the Departments
of State and Defense expressed their appreciation for the views
of the delegation and assured its members that protection of cultural
property would be given high priority in the event of conflict.
The applicability of Iraq’s patrimony laws was not discussed at
any point during the Washington meetings, although some press reports
have suggested otherwise. Ashton Hawkins has stated that in the
Council’s view Iraq’s laws were appropriate and should remain in
effect (Science 2003 January 31; 299: 643).
After the fall of Baghdad to coalition
forces in April, the National Museum and the Mosul Museum were attacked
by Iraqi looters, and numerous other cultural institutions were
damaged as well. The Council is firmly a part of the important international
effort to help Iraq reclaim as many of the looted objects as possible,
prevent further looting and take all steps necessary to restore
the damage done and to protect monuments and sites in the future.
The Council remains deeply proud of its initiative with regard to
Iraq – the first such to have been undertaken by any US organization
-- and of its continuing efforts to ensure the protection of Iraq’s