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article imageReview: Where were the Monuments Men when Iraq was looted and bombed? Special

By Ruth Hull     Feb 16, 2014 in Entertainment
In 1943, an American-led international group known as the Monuments Men worked to protect European artifacts. In 2003, the U.S, Military was officially involved in the theft of thousands of ancient artifacts in Iraq. Where were the Monuments Men in 2003?
In 2003, U.S. Forces watched as ancient artifacts were looted from the National Museum of Iraq. As it turns out, the U.S. soldiers have been reported as being among the major art thieves. Reports stated that "US illegally obtained and kept thousands of Iraq’s cultural treasures."
One of the gravest casualties of the 10-year US-led war in Iraq is the destruction of the country’s cultural heritage, Iraqi archaeologist and architect Ihsan Fathi told RT.
On top of thousands of looted or illegally obtained cultural artifacts during the war, billions of dollars have also been transferred out of “Iraq’s Central banks to US without any paper trail.”
“I’m sure that everything that was stored in the Central and other banks was sent to the US without any documentation and now is kept in archives,” Fathi said. “Huge amounts of documents representing historical importance that cannot be assigned a monetary value were taken by the US.”
And all attempts to reclaim the country’s stolen treasures failed: “The Iraqi government was trying to get them back but the American Administration wanted to strike a deal and return only half of the documents,” he explained.
The Iraqi architect estimated there are about “35,000 small and large items missing from the National Museum of Iraq… The Iraqi museum, for example, was plundered before their very eyes. The plundering lasted for three days without the occupation forces stepping in at all.”
Viewers of the Monuments Men are reminded of the importance of art. We are reminded that art is often what remains when a human being dies.
While showing the importance of art to our history, the movie goes a step further into the question of whether art is more important than human life. The question is asked more than once whether the art was worth the cost of men's lives. In the movie, it is essentially determined that it is. But can inanimate objects really ever be more important than human life in a moral society?
Putting things before living, breathing human beings is often the sentiment behind war, terror and cruelty. In arguing for the importance of things (even art) over people, the movie appears to come dangerously close to promoting a greedy Machievellan sociopathology, similar to that held by some of history's most notorious killers. This is probably not what George Clooney had in mind. However, producers and directors do need to watch out for potentially dangerous messages they put forth in their movies. Developing children often find their way into movie theaters.
The idea of the Monuments Men was a great public relations coup. The international group with about 315 members performed an important service during World War II. Of course, the movie is grossly inaccurate in certain historical details but most of the main characters do have an historical basis. The mission was organized to identify targets not to bomb rather than being a retrieval project - though considerable art work was retrieved and returned. Hitler's Nero Decree did NOT order the art destroyed but this historical alteration made for an effective fictional plot device. If a student is studying for the European History AP or IB exam, the student should treat the movie as largely fiction.
In-movie screenshot from  The Monuments Men.
In-movie screenshot from "The Monuments Men."
The movie is slow in parts. Bill Murray provides considerable comic relief. Bob Balaban and John Goodman give very memorable performances. The acting is excellent. It should not surprise anyone if it is nominated for SAG's Ensemble Cast Award in 2014. George Clooney is still popular as he did not get the kind of animosity Tom Hanks received from the theft of the 2009 Screen Actors Guild's national election. Many longtime actors still see the 2009 election as a fraud that reduced their rights and power and put them under the thumb of greedy producers who engineered the most devastating coup in SAG's history.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Of course, Matt Damon is always a box office draw. He has a long history of starring in very enlightened projects, like The Adjustment Bureau, Elysium, and Goodwill Hunting.
This movie is very patriotic and leaves the audience filling good. It can suspend what you know about recent events to put you into a cloud of belief that America really respects and cares about other nations and people. Just remember to come back to Earth before your sobriety test.
More about Matt Damon, john goodman, Bob balaban, Monuments men, Screen actors guild
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