每日跟讀#737: Be All That You Can Be: Protect Artworks
It’s no secret that the war-ravaged nations where U.S. soldiers have been enmeshed in conflict for nearly two decades are home to many of civilization’s oldest and most prized antiquities and cultural treasures.
But in the heat of battle in Afghanistan or Iraq, how are troops to know whether they are taking their positions behind mounds of insignificant rubble or inside the precious remains of a 3,000-year-old temple complex?
The Pentagon’s answer is to take a page from one of World War II’s most storied military units, the teams of art experts known as the Monuments Men who recovered millions of European treasures looted by the Nazis.
The Army is forming a new group with a similar mandate to be composed of commissioned officers of the Army Reserve who are museum directors or curators, archivists, conservators and archaeologists in addition to new recruits with those qualifications. They will be based at the Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“In conflict, the destruction of monuments and the looting of art are not only about the loss of material things, but also about the erasure of history, knowledge, and a people’s identity,” Richard Kurin, an anthropologist and Distinguished Scholar at the Smithsonian, said. “The cooperation between the Smithsonian and the U.S. Army aims to prevent this legal and moral crime of war.”
Scott DeJesse, a Texas painter and lecturer at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and an Army Reserve colonel who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the new group’s mission is not to hunt down missing works of art in castles and salt mines, as the World War II force did. Instead it is to provide a scholarly liaison for military commanders and the local authorities to help secure the cultural heritage of the regions involved and rebuild civil society in war and disaster zones.
The new group will also aim to inform the U.S. military and allied forces of sites to avoid in airstrikes and ground fighting, and places where it should try to forestall looting. Those prevention and detection efforts conform to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property, which the United States joined in 2009.
The initiative comes at an urgent time for a region where human settlement dates back as far as 10,000 years and includes the remnants of Mesopotamian, Sumerian, Persian, Assyrian and Babylonian cultures. Afghanistan has been pillaged and desecrated by the Taliban for two decades; the Islamic State has wrought destruction and looted artifacts in Iraq, Syria and Libya; and rebel factions have sacked museums and mosques in Yemen.
Source article: https://paper.udn.com/udnpaper/POH0067/347108/web/