The Real Museum Looters
ALL
The Anti-Intellectuality of Donald Trump: Why Ayn Rand Would Have Despised a President Trump
by Onkar Ghate | November 06, 2017
The Immigration Debate
by The Editors | April 17, 2017
Why Our Campuses Are Boiling over in Left-Wing Rage Instead of Discourse
by Steve Simpson | March 13, 2017
At Free-Speech Event, UCLA Tried to Ban My Book
by Elan Journo | February 11, 2017
One Small Step for Dictatorship: The Significance of Donald Trump’s Election
by Onkar Ghate | November 17, 2016
Ayn Rand at the Ford Hall Forum
by The Editors | June 18, 2015
Independence Day: What July 4 Really Means
by Tom Bowden | June 26, 2014
An Introduction to Objectivism
by Leonard Peikoff | 1995
Capitalism without Guilt
by Yaron Brook | January 21, 2013
How The Welfare State Stole Christmas
by Yaron Brook | December 23, 2012
A Liberal Ayn Rand?
by Onkar Ghate | November 02, 2012
Time to Read Ayn Rand?
by Keith Lockitch | October 19, 2012
Ayn Rand’s Appeal
by Onkar Ghate | August 21, 2012
Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: A Paean to American Liberty
by Don Watkins | August 17, 2012
Happy Birthday, Ayn Rand — Why Are You Still So Misunderstood?
by Don Watkins | February 02, 2012
How Did Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged Predict an America Spinning Out of Control?
by Onkar Ghate | October 31, 2011
Atlas Shrugged: With America on the Brink, Should You “Go Galt” and Strike?
by Onkar Ghate | April 29, 2011
The Radicalness of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged
by Onkar Ghate | April 25, 2011
The Tea Party Will Fail — Unless it Fully Embraces Individualism as a Moral Ideal
by Tom Bowden | January 21, 2011
Let’s Take Back Columbus Day
by Tom Bowden | October 08, 2010
Atlas Shrugged’s Timeless Moral: Profit-Making Is Virtue, Not Vice
by Yaron Brook | July 20, 2010
Why is Ayn Rand Still Relevant: Atlas Shrugged and Today’s World
by Yaron Brook | August 10, 2009
Is Rand Relevant?
by Yaron Brook | March 14, 2009
After Ten Years, States Still Resist Assisted Suicide
by Tom Bowden | November 02, 2007
The Influence of Atlas Shrugged
by Yaron Brook | October 09, 2007
The Real Museum Looters
by Keith Lockitch | June 03, 2003
Ayn Rand's Ideas — An Introduction
by Onkar Ghate | June 02, 2003
Shame on Casey Martin
by Tom Bowden | January 31, 2001
The Joy of Football
by Tom Bowden | January 26, 2001
Whose Children Are They?
by Tom Bowden | January 05, 2000
Why Christmas Should Be More Commercial
by Leonard Peikoff | December 25, 1996
Cultural Update
by Ayn Rand | April 16, 1978
The Moral Factor
by Ayn Rand | April 11, 1976
Metaphysics in Marble
by Mary Ann Sures | February and March 1969
Of Living Death
by Ayn Rand | December 08, 1968
Our Cultural Value-Deprivation
by Ayn Rand | April 10, 1966
The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus
by Ayn Rand | April 18, 1965
Is Atlas Shrugging?
by Ayn Rand | April 19, 1964
Racism
by Ayn Rand | September 1963
Through Your Most Grievous Fault
by Ayn Rand | August 19, 1962
The “New Intellectual”
by Ayn Rand | May 15, 1961

MORE FROM THE BLOG:

Culture And Society in Voice for Reason
Culture & SocietyMore

The Real Museum Looters

by Keith Lockitch | June 03, 2003

Initial reports of the looting of the Iraqi National Museum sparked a frenzy of outrage. Denied their desert quagmire, their civilian massacres, their oil-fire eco-disaster, and their inflamed “Arab street,” leftists all but leaped at the opportunity to denounce our armed forces–with some even urging that our soldiers be prosecuted for war crimes for their alleged failure to prevent the looting.

It turns out, though, that our troops were not standing “idly by” but were being fired at from the museum complex. And the number of missing artifacts–initially assumed to be in the thousands–is now thought to be closer to a few dozen. Most significant, however, is the evidence that the looting was an inside job, orchestrated by museum staffers. The most valuable artifacts were taken from locked vaults by thieves who had both the keys and the knowledge of which pieces were most important.

If this is true, then there is a striking–and deeply ironic–similarity between the looting of the Iraqi National Museum and the equally brazen vandalism of American museum holdings–committed eagerly by their curators in full compliance with federal law.

Since the early 1990s, American museums have been under federal mandate to repatriate Native American remains and artifacts to their closest descendents. Collections of enormous scientific value have been decimated and the re-burial of many of these items has eradicated any possibility of further study.

One re-interred collection, for example, from Harvard’s Peabody Museum, consisted of nearly 2,000 skeletal remains from the Pecos tribe, which flourished in New Mexico between 1300 and A.D. 1600. Large enough to be statistically significant, the collection was studied extensively by anthropologists and medical researchers. It yielded invaluable information on conditions ranging from osteoporosis to head injuries and dental cavities. But in 1999 this scientific gold mine was destroyed when Harvard willingly returned the bones to New Mexico for reburial.

Or consider Kennewick Man, a 9000-year-old skeleton found in Washington State in 1996. One of the oldest individuals to have been found in North America, it generated great excitement among anthropologists eager to study the remains. Local Indian tribes, however, declared Kennewick Man an “ancestor” and claimed his spirit cannot “rest peacefully” until he is re-interred. Scientific access has been forbidden while the case is tied up court. Meanwhile, the bones were stored improperly and exposed to damage from moisture and possible contamination with modern DNA. Even worse, the native groups were secretly permitted ceremonial access to the bones. They performed rituals involving the burning of sage and cedar, further tainting the remains with impurities and possibly distorting future scientific study.

How is it possible that artifacts of such enormous scientific value could be routinely destroyed by the very people entrusted with their protection–and with an air of moral righteousness? The answer is the influence of the doctrine of “multiculturalism,” which claims to value all cultures equally and demands our deference for all beliefs and practices, no matter how backward or destructive.

But it is impossible to uphold the values of all cultures at once if those values contradict one another. You can’t both study the bones and rebury them, too. To bury the bones and prevent their study is to reject science in favor of superstition. It is to abandon the rational study of the past–and the pursuit of knowledge and progress–to stagnant beliefs and primitive rituals. This reveals the true essence of multiculturalism: not the veneration of “diversity” but the denigration of Western Civilization, the culture of science and reason.

This explains the left’s hysterical outrage against the loss of a few dozen artifacts in Iraq, from some of the same people who abet the destruction of artifacts at home. It was just another excuse to denounce the West.

Ancient artifacts–whether Mesopotamian or North American–are not valuable as the crude leftovers of the past. They are valuable as objects of rational study, to help us understand mankind’s origins and provide guidance for his future. The Code of Hammurabi, for example, is not valuable merely as cuneiform scratchings on ancient clay tablets. Its value derives from its role in the formation of the concept of law, which reached its culmination in the U.S. Constitution. But the multiculturalists want to tear down this living legacy of Western Civilization, for the sake of the dead superstitions left over from man’s primitive beginnings.

This is an assault on Western ideas and values that makes the Iraqi museum looting seem innocent by comparison.

About The Author

Keith Lockitch

Vice President of Content and Senior Fellow, Ayn Rand Institute