Thursday, July 10, 2008

Don't Bomb Persepolis

Consider this post a small bit of personal protest against the resolution recently passed in plenary session by the delegates of the World Archaeological Congress. The text reads:
The 6th World Archaeological Congress expresses its strong opposition to any unilateral and unprovoked, covert or overt military action (including air strikes) against Iran by the US government, or by any other government. Such action will have catastrophic consequences for millions of people and will seriously endanger the cultural heritage of Iran and of the Middle East in general. Any differences with Iran (as with any other country) should be resolved through peaceful and diplomatic means.

The Congress also urges its members, all archaeologists and heritage professionals to resist any attempts by the military and governments to be co-opted in any planned military operation, for example by providing advice and expertise to the military on archaeological and cultural heritage matters. Such advice would provide cultural credibility and respectability to the military action. Archaeologists should continue emphasising instead the detrimental consequences of such actions for the people and the heritage of the area, for the past and the present alike. A universal refusal by archaeologists and others would send the message that such a plan is hugely unpopular amongst cultural professionals as well as the wider public.
The WAC website doesn't yet reflect passage of the resolution so I'm quoting from a widely circulated e-mail.

I sure as heck hope that the United States doesn't go to war with Iran so please interpret the subject line of this post broadly. But the resolution seems to ignore its real world implications. It is a feature of modern warfare that the international community does put informed constraints on the behavior of armed forces. Does the ICRC encourage war by promoting adherence to the Geneva Conventions? I don't think so.

Without questioning the sincerity of the WAC's delegates, it seems irresponsible for archaeologists to put completely aside the professional imperative to protect cultural resources during times of military conflict. I don't need to see museums looted and sites destroyed to know that war is bad. People dying is a sufficient proof of that.

No comments: