Two weeks ago the news coverage on the looting of the Baghdad Museum was hysterical, as reports claimed that the museum had been stripped of more or less its entire collection of 170,000 artifacts. Museum officials have now given American authorities a list of objects that are definitely known to be missing. As the New York Times puts it, in the understated style it favors when not attacking conservatives, “the losses seem to be less severe than originally thought.”
In fact, museum authorities have now listed 29 items as missing, of which four have already been recovered. Leaving 25 pieces known to be stolen, which, as the American officer working with the museum says, is “not the same as 170,000.”
More missing pieces may yet be identified, and the stolen objects are of great value. But it is clear that the initial news reports of the museum being stripped to its walls by looters were incorrect. It appears, rather, that a gang of art thieves–possibly with the connivance of Iraqi authorities, and perhaps during the time the museum was closed to the public prior to the beginning of the war–made off with a few of the museum’s most valuable objects. Which is certainly unfortunate, but a far cry from what has been reported.
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