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Taliban in robe versus Iranian Heritage

By Bahram Bahrami


In June 2006, U.S. District Court Judge Blanche M. Manning ruled to seize Persian antiquities on loan to the University of Chicago's and Chogha Mish collection at the Oriental Institute, as well as the Herzfeld collections kept in the Field museum in Chicago, on behalf of victims of a 1997 Jerusalem terror bombing.


Although myself and all my compatriots have great sympathy with any victim of terrorism, taking nation's priceless heritage hostage, to ones greed, is not an answer. There are lots of historical precedent to these action(s) albeit in other guises. During the Nazi reign of terror in Europe, the brute force, people like Hans Posse and organizations Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) and Ahnenerbe, were used to strip the countries or individuals of their national treasures or anything of cultural values. However, these actions have never been disguised as the form of compensating the victims.


Nevertheless, there is another point to this baseless legal action(s), which it is as much about disdain for Iranians and anything represent our culture as it is about the money. Mr. David Strachman, lawyer to the plaintiffs, make this point clear in his interview with National Public Radio on July 17, 2006 "Whether they fetch 100 dollars or 100 thousand dollars or 100 million, whatever funds are raised should be used to compensate the victims". He even suggested that we could bid for our own properties! What a gall!


United State of America have always stripped defeated nations of their cultural properties as a sign of humiliation and defeat. During the Philippine-American war (1899-1920) after being ordered by President Theodore Roosevelt to pacify Samar region and avenge the death of American troops, General Jacob Hurd 'Jake' Smith ordered his subordinates "I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn, the better you will please me". The U.S. Army 11th Infantry Regiment duly carried out the order and took the Balangiga Catholic Church's bells as a trophy, where they are currently displayed in Fort Russell, Wyoming. Interestingly, these compulsive trophy-taking is not just exclusive to US, General Moshe Dayan also had a habit of looting and plundering conquered areas to amass large collection of antiques. Uzi Dahari, deputy director of the Israel Antiquities Authority described him "Moshe Dayan didn't deal in archaeology. He dealt in antiquities plundering". Even in 1968 at Azur near Tel Aviv, "he was badly injured by landslide while robbing a burial cave and hospitalized for three weeks" as told by Raz Kletter, from Israel Antiquities Authority. Now these grave robbers use the US court to put their hands on our heritage, perhaps they would like to sell them to another museum as Mrs. Rachel Dayan sold General Dayan's collection to the Israel Museum.


US law makers and courts have a long history of myopic view of law when it comes to their own interest, where interests inevitably trump values. To promote this view of law and order they are not only shy away from any internationally recognized body such as The International Court of Justice they are also trying to impose their will and diktat to other countries through internal and unilateral extraterritorial laws such as The Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) and Helms-Burton Act against Cuba.


Since 1979 Iranian national assets hijacked by US government have become the hole in the wall for any political and spurious legal actions undertaken in US against Iran. These past experience have shown that when in the US court the choice is between Iranians right and a favorable outcome, these Taliban in robe always choose the outcome every time, a "result oriented justice".


It would be interesting to know how much under the Alien Tort Statute they would compensate the relatives and victims of Abu Ghraib, the families of 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was raped and murdered by US marine, sorry there is no one to sue the US government as the family was also murdered. Additionally, Paul Bremer the US viceroy already signed  a proclamation 'Order 17' that bestowed to the US soldiers and the mercenaries immunity from prosecution. And you might ask how about the Afghanis lives? It's worth just $200 for each individual killed and $75 for each wounded person. How about the Iranian life? For ordinary Iranian killed, knowingly and intentionally, by USS Vincent, US government paid each adult victim $300,000 and $150,000 for children.


Nonetheless my sympathies go out to the suicide victim's families but not as much as foregoing our national heritages even if a biased US court ordered it. I understand that in US even the ball of twine is considered a national heritage. However, we haven't got ours from Wal-Mart leftover.


I personally like to see the US Government defending itself, and its 'cultural heritage' including the aforementioned ball of twine, in the International Court of Justice or the national courts of Indonesia, Philippine, Iraq, Somalia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Argentina and many more countries who suffered under US terrorism, US-trained and funded murderers and torturers!


However, what these ignoramus do not understand is, these priceless objects are not only our national heritage they are also 'common heritage of humankind' and not the US 'justice' system properties to dole out. But do they? Interestingly Mr. Strachman have this to say "They [Iranians] were saying this is a Zionist conspiracy". No, it is not just about that, it is also a matter of greed and a proxy war. The war waged this time against our heritage as a part of coordinated effort, and this litigation is only a segment in par with the doctrine of total war. In this view of war doctrine, Iranian nation does not pay a very high and visible price for its independence and the US wants to 'change this equation'. In other words, they would deliberately target any facet of our lives, culture and sovereignty for rejecting their hegemony.


I have to admit that my mixed feelings of surprise and indignation are not against the plaintiffs because some are justifiably grieving and looking for someone to blame (if they were looking for moral victory a dollar might have been sufficient!). My anger is also not towards their shyster lawyer(s) as it is the easiest way for them to get the fat commission and I challenge them to show what was their highest account before suing Hamas and present frivolous litigation. I am not even mad with those snidely Parsi speaking gargoyles sitting perch on their masters satellites barking their words, rubbing their hands in the glee hoping that their dreams might become our nightmare. I am not even angry with multitude of Iranian 'freedom celebrities' who day in day out lapping up awards and lambasting dire state of our country. I do not even care about Western intellectuals as I never believe in their moral and intellectual leadership because their intellectual and moral courage always fail the Iranian litmus test.    


I am mad with those enlightened decent hard working and patriotic Iranians who are keeping quiet and hoping for a miracle. I am angry with Iranian government that its abilities always fall short of its rhetoric. I am angry with those governmental functionary and incompetent city authorities that make decisions which are detrimental to our cultural heritage such as building multistory car park near Naqsh-e Jahan Square and the Sivand Dam. Above all I am angry with myself for not speaking out. Since 2003 when US kangaroo court awarded victims family $450 million in damages against Iran, we Iranians have been silently watching this dark comedy with air of dissociation. Meanwhile we Iranians successfully have shown our unified disdain for gerrymandering by our neighbors and their Western friends over the name of Persian Gulf! Why it seems that we have lost our collective voices when it comes to our other heritage? Although we have had small online petition and the National Iranian American Council has tried to intervene to stop the legal hijacking of our priceless heritage, the rest of Iranian diaspora seemed quietly resigned to negative outcome or hoping that this strange frivolous litigation would be blown away. Even our esteemed Iranian lawyer who filed an Amicus Currie (Friend of the court) brief, opposing the seizure of the artifacts seemed resigned to this negative outcome.  Surprisingly in an interview he did not take "no issue with the judge's ruling" he further stated "ruling may force Iran to negotiate" and "They [Iranian] are going to have to face reality". It would be unfair to criticize him, at least he has volunteered his time for this case, however, this ruling is a triumph of law over justice and the phrase of "The law is an ass" come into mind.


Would you negotiate with an insane man shouting 'your money or your heritage get it'? These objects are not mere ancient Iranian clay tablets, fragments or a bust, these are records of our historical identity. If you deal with them now, what would stop the rest of carpetbaggers and their shyster lawyers taking another part of our heritage hostage?  Now being passive is a very dangerous and costly, this lawsuit and many more like it are a malignant disease. Ignoring it won't make it go away; it tends to make it worse.


Related Story:


U.S. downing of Flight 655 was state-sponsored terrorism: analyst - The U.S. Navy's guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes, shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf on July 3, 1988, killing all 290 passengers and crew members, including 66 children.

... Payvand News - 07/03/08 ... --

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