April 18, 2003

While the loss of life, and potentially disastrous political ramifications,
from the current US action in Iraq are horrifying enough, the wholesale loss
of the collections of Baghdad's National Library and Archive, of the library
of Korans at the Ministry of Religious Endowment and of the cuneiform clay
tablet archive in Baghdad's National Museum (see articles below) are an
intellectual extinction at the scale of the human species that beggars the

As poets, we should resurrect the ghost of Charles Olson and unleash him on
the White House, Pentagon and CIA with a month's supply of benzedrine, Jim
Beam and cigarettes till they beg for mercy on their bloodied knees. And
then send in Ezra Pound and HD with typewriter bombs and lethal incantations
to finish them off.

Let us take some note of this major cultural catastrophe and direct hit to
poets--it's like we just lost our mother, kids. Mnemosyne, mother of the
muses. She who rocked the cradle of our civilization.

More proof that cultural and species extinction go hand in hand, in this
predatory epoch. The murderers have just blown a gap in the cultural record
to rival the great unconformities geologists and evolutionists will forever
scratch their heads over. For this we will be remembered, if there are any
heads to scratch a few hundred years from now.

In the meantime, I lay this huge crime squarely at the feet of the
destroyers-in-my-name who, in a charitable interpretation, knew not what
they wrought--- but who, in a more cynical light, knew exactly what they
were up to. Who blew open the doors to the archives while they barricaded
the Ministry of Oil.

Why waste time killing individuals? If you want to destroy a people, you
wipe out their memory, their history, their imagination. This is genocide,
ethnocide, matricide, a "crime against humanity" on a massive scale, if
those words have any meaning left to wring.

As poets we should, collectively, lodge a FORMAL PROTEST and expression of
outrage, demanding a full investigation and that Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney,
Powell, Rice, Wolfowitz, Perle, Rove and Co. be tried for their matricidal
crimes against humanity.

As poets, can we find words to answer this deep and mortal blow? What bits
of Sumerian wisdom can you offer in this dark moment, friends?

Something more, I hope, than "Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust . . . ?"

As poets, we should resurrect the ghost of Charles Olson and unleash him on
the White House, Pentagon and CIA with a month's supply of benzedrine, Jim
Beam and cigarettes till they beg for mercy on their bloodied knees. And
then send in Ezra Pound and HD with typewriter bombs and lethal incantations
to finish them off.

As poets, ultimately at fault for this destruction, as Robert Kocik has
intelligently and provocatively claimed, should we not be doing our own
collective penance?

Then again, as meek "postmoderns" I suppose we don't need to mourn the loss
of "origins." Should we take any consolation in Derrida's claim that poetry
is, by definition, what "survives the archive"?

SHAME ON US, Destroyers of Civilization!

In ignominy,



Here's some of what we know:

Looters May Have Destroyed Priceless Cuneiform Archive

By Buy Gugliotta, Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, April 18, 2003; Page

Looters at Iraq's National Museum of Antiquities pillaged and, perhaps,
destroyed an archive of more than 100,000 cuneiform clay tablets -- a unique
and priceless trove of ancient Mesopotamian writings that included the
"Sippar Library," the oldest library ever found intact on its original

Experts described the archive as the world's least-studied large collection
of cuneiform -- the oldest known writing on Earth -- a record that covers
every aspect of Mesopotamian life over more than 3,000 years. The texts
resided in numbered boxes each containing as many as 400 3-inch-by-2-inch

The Sippar Library, discovered in 1986 at a well-known neo-Babylonian site
near Baghdad, was one of the archive's crown jewels. Dating from the sixth
century B.C., it comprised only about 800 tablets, but it included hymns,
prayers, lamentations, bits of epics, glossaries, astronomical and
scientific texts, missing pieces of a flood legend that closely parallels
the biblical story of Noah, and the prologue to the Code of Hammurabi, the
ancient Babylonian lawgiver.

"This is the kind of discovery that one waits 100 years to see," said Yale's
Benjamin Foster, curator of the Yale Babylonian Collection. "And now we'll
never have another chance. It's a tragedy of the first order." Foster said
only about two dozen of the Sippar Library tablets have been fully analyzed
and published.

UCLA Assyriologist Robert Englund noted that while some of the Sippar
material was similar, at least in part, to works in earlier finds, "the vast
majority of at least 100,000 texts in the archive are unique, very poorly
documented and barely studied, if at all. I'm more fearful for these

More at



April 15, 2003

The Sacking of Baghdad: Burning the History of Iraq by ROBERT FISK


So yesterday was the burning of books. First came the looters, then the
arsonists. It was the final chapter in the sacking of Baghdad. The National
Library and Archives, a priceless treasure of Ottoman historical documents,
including the old royal archives of Iraq, were turned to ashes in 3,000
degrees of heat. Then the library of Korans at the Ministry of Religious
Endowment was set ablaze.

I saw the looters. One of them cursed me when I tried to reclaim a book of
Islamic law from a boy of no more than 10. Amid the ashes of Iraqi history,
I found a file blowing in the wind outside: pages of handwritten letters
between the court of Sharif Hussein of Mecca, who started the Arab revolt
against the Turks for Lawrence of Arabia, and the Ottoman rulers of Baghdad.

And the Americans did nothing. All over the filthy yard they blew, letters
of recommendation to the courts of Arabia, demands for ammunition for
troops, reports on the theft of camels and attacks on pilgrims, all in
delicate hand-written Arabic script. I was holding in my hands the last
Baghdad vestiges of Iraq's written history. But for Iraq, this is Year Zero;
with the destruction of the antiquities in the Museum of Archaeology on
Saturday and the burning of the National Archives and then the Koranic
library, the cultural identity of Iraq is being erased. Why? Who set these
fires? For what insane purpose is this heritage being destroyed?

When I caught sight of the Koranic library burning--flames 100 feet high
were bursting from the windows--I raced to the offices of the occupying
power, the US Marines' Civil Affairs Bureau. An officer shouted to a
colleague that "this guy says some biblical [sic] library is on fire". I
gave the map location, the precise name--in Arabic and English. I said the
smoke could be seen from three miles away and it would take only five
minutes to drive there. Half an hour later, there wasn't an American at the
scene--and the flames were shooting 200 feet into the air.

There was a time when the Arabs said that their books were written in Cairo,
printed in Beirut and read in Baghdad. Now they burn libraries in Baghdad.
In the National Archives were not just the Ottoman records of the Caliphate,
but even the dark years of the country's modern history, handwritten
accounts of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, with personal photographs and
military diaries,and microfiche copies of Arabic newspapers going back to
the early 1900s. But the older files and archives were on the upper floors
of the library where petrol must have been used to set fire so expertly to
the building. The heat was such that the marble flooring had buckled upwards
and the concrete stairs that I climbedhad been cracked.

The papers on the floor were almost too hot to touch, bore no print or
writing, and crumbled into ash the moment I picked them up. Again, standing
in this shroud of blue smoke and embers, I asked the same question: why? So,
as an all-too-painful reflection on what this means, let me quote from the
shreds of paper that I found on the road outside, blowing in the wind,
written by long-dead men who wrote to the Sublime Porte in Istanbul or to
the Court of Sharif of Mecca with expressions of loyalty and who signed
themselves "your slave". There was a request to protect a camel convoy of
tea, rice and sugar, signed by Husni Attiya al-Hijazi (recommending Abdul
Ghani-Naim and Ahmed Kindi as honest merchants), a request for perfume and
advice from Jaber al-Ayashi of the royal court of Sharif Hussein to Baghdad
to warn of robbers in the desert. "This is just to give you our advice for
which you will be highly rewarded," Ayashi says. "If you don't take our
advice, then we have warned you." A touch of Saddam there, I thought. The
date was 1912.

Some of the documents list the cost of bullets, military horses and
artillery for Ottoman armies in Baghdad and Arabia, others record the
opening of the first telephone exchange in the Hejaz--soon to be Saudi
Arabia--while one recounts, from the village of Azrak in modern-day Jordan,
the theft of clothes from a camel train by Ali bin Kassem, who attacked his
interrogators "with a knife and tried to stab them but was restrained and
later bought off". There is a 19th-century letter of recommendation for a
merchant, Yahyia Messoudi, "a man of the highest morals, of good conduct and
who works with the [Ottoman] government." This, in other words, was the
tapestry of Arab history--all that is left of it, which fell into The
Independent's hands as the mass of documents crackled in the immense heat of
the ruins.

King Faisal of the Hejaz, the ruler of Mecca, whose staff are the authors of
many of the letters I saved, was later deposed by the Saudis. His son Faisel
became king of Iraq--Winston Churchill gave him Baghdad after the French
threw him out of Damascus--and his brother Abdullah became the first king of
Jordan, the father of King Hussein and the grandfather of the present-day
Jordanian monarch, King Abdullah II.

For almost a thousand years, Baghdad was the cultural capital of the Arab
world, the most literate population in the Middle East. Genghis Khan's
grandson burnt the city in the 13th century and, so it was said, the Tigris
river ran black with the ink of books. Yesterday, the black ashes of
thousands of ancient documents filled the skies of Iraq.



(A sign of our blinkered times that this item should go under the heading
"argument" rather than news.)


From Reuters:

U.S. Culture Advisers Resign Over Iraq Museum Looting Fri Apr 18, 2:24 By
Niala Boodhoo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two cultural advisers to the Bush administration have
resigned in protest over the failure of U.S. forces to prevent the wholesale
looting of priceless treasures from Baghdad's antiquities museum.

Martin Sullivan, who chaired the President's Advisory Committee on Cultural
Property for eight years, and panel member Gary Vikan said they resigned
because the U.S. military had had advance warning of the danger to Iraq's
historical treasures.

"We certainly know the value of oil but we certainly don't know the value of
historical artifacts," Vikan, director of the Walters Art Gallery in
Baltimore, told Reuters on Thursday.

At the start of the U.S.-led campaign against Iraq, military forces quickly
secured valuable oil fields.

Baghdad's museums, galleries and libraries are empty shells, destroyed in a
wave of looting that erupted as U.S.-led forces ended Saddam Hussein's rule
last week, although antiquities experts have said they were given assurances
months ago from U.S. military planners that Iraq's historic artifacts and
sites would be protected by occupying forces.

"It didn't have to happen," Sullivan told Reuters. "In a pre-emptive war
that's the kind of thing you should have planned for." Sullivan sent his
letter of resignation earlier this week.

The Iraqi National Museum held rare artifacts documenting the development of
mankind in ancient Mesopotamia, one of the world's earliest civilizations.
Among the museum collection were more than 80,000 cuneiform tablets, some of
which had yet to be translated.

Professional art thieves may have been behind some of the looting, said
leading archeologists gathered in Paris on Thursday to seek ways to rescue
Iraq's cultural heritage.

Among the priceless treasures missing are the 5,000-year-old Vase of Uruk
and the Harp of Ur. The bronze Statue of Basitki from the Akkadian kingdom
is also gone, somehow hauled out of the museum despite its huge weight.

The White House repeated on Thursday that the looting was unfortunate but
the U.S. military had worked hard to preserve the infrastructure of Iraq.

"It is unfortunate that there was looting and damage done to the museum and
we have offered rewards, as Secretary Rumsfeld has said, for individuals who
may have taken items from the museum to bring those back," White House
spokeswoman Claire Buchan said in Crawford, Texas, where President Bush is
spending a long Easter break.

FBI Director Robert Mueller added that the bureau was sending agents to Iraq
to assist with criminal investigations and had issued Interpol alerts to all
member nations regarding the potential sale of stolen artifacts.

"We recognize the importance of these treasures to the Iraqi people and as
well to the world as a whole," Mueller said. "And we are firmly committed to
doing whatever we can in order to secure the return of these treasures to
the people of Iraq."

The president appoints the 11-member advisory committee, which works through
the State Department to advise the executive office on the 1970 UNESCO
Convention on international protection of cultural objects.


And the following came by way of George Quasha, before news of the library
burnings had even hit:

"USA Encouraged Ransacking"

This is a translation of an article from April 11 from Dagens Nyheter,
Swedenís largest newspaper, based in Stockholm. The article was written by
Ole Rothenborg and translated by Joe Valasek. Khaled Bayomi, has taught and
researched on Middle Eastern conflicts for ten years at the University of
Lund where he is also working on his doctorate. He has given his permission
for this interview to be widely disseminated.

Khaled Bayomi looks surprised when the American officer on TV complains that
they donít have the resources to stop the plundering in Baghdad. "I happened
to be right there just as the American troops encouraged people to begin the

Khaled Bayomi traveled from Europe to Baghdad to be a human shield and
arrived on the same day that the war began. About this he can tell many
stories but the most interesting is certainly his eyewitness account of the
wave of plundering.

"I had gone to see some friends who live near a dilapidated area just past
Haifa Avenue on the west bank of the Tigris. It was the 8th of April and the
fighting was so intense that I was unable to return to the other side of the
river. In the afternoon it became perfectly quiet and four American tanks
took places on the edge of the slum area. The soldiers shot two Sudanese
guards who stood at their posts outside a local administration building on
the other side of Haifa Avenue. Then they blasted apart the doors to the
building and from the tanks came eager calls in Arabic encouraging people to
come close to them. "

"The entire morning, everyone who had tried to cross the road had been shot.
But in the strange silence after all the shooting, people gradually became
curious. After 45 minutes, the first Baghdad citizens dared to come out.
Arab interpreters in the tanks told the people to go and take what they
wanted in the building."

"The word spread quickly and the building was ransacked. I was standing only
300 yards from there when the guards were murdered. Afterwards the tank
crushed the entrance to the Justice Department, which was in a neighboring
building, and the plundering continued there".

"I stood in a large crowd and watched this together with them. They did not
partake in the plundering but dared not to interfere. Many had tears of
shame in their eyes. The next morning the plundering spread to the Modern
Museum, which lies a quarter mile farther north. There were also two crowds
there, one that plundered and one with watched with disgust."

"Are you saying that it was US troops who initiated the plundering?í

"Absolutely. The lack of jubilant scenes meant that the American troops
needed pictures of Iraqis who in different ways demonstrated hatred for
Saddamís regime."

"The people pulled down a large statue of Saddam?"

"Did they? It was an American tank that did that, right beside the hotel
where all the journalists stay. Until lunchtime on April 9, I did not see
one destroyed Saddam portrait. If people had wanted to pull down statues
they could have taken down some of the small ones without any help from
American tanks. If it had been a political upheaval, the people would have
pulled down statues first and then plundered."

"Isnít it good that Saddam is gone?"

"Heís not gone. He has broken his army down into very small groups. Thatís
why there hasnít been a large battle. About the official state, you could
say that Saddam dissolved that already in 1992 and heís built a parallel
tribal structure that is totally decisive in Iraq. When the US began the
war, Saddam abandoned the state completely and now depends on the tribal
structure. That was why he abandoned the large cities without a fight."

"Now the US is compelled to do everything themselves because thereís no
political body within the country which will challenge the existing
structure. The two who came in from outside the country were annihilated at
once. (The reference here is to General Nazar al-Khazraji, who returned from
Denmark and the Shiite Muslim leader, Abdul Majid al-Khoei.) They were cut
to pieces with swords and knives by a furious crowd in Najaf because they
were thought to be American puppets. According to the Danish newspaper BT,
al-Khazraji was brought from Denmark to Iraq by the CIA."

"Now we have an occupying power in place in Iraq that has not said how long
it intends to remain, has not given any plan for civilian rule and no date
for general elections. Enormous chaos is now to be expected."


Posted by Jonathan Skinner at April 18, 2003 11:42 AM | TrackBack

Today, with a friend, I went up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

I carried a sign. It said (with the stuff in parantheses in sub- or superscript):


Country built on plunder.

"Free" Markets destroy history.
                    (people and their arts)

Slavery's legacy unspoken and unpaid.

512 Nations Obliterated.

Who Stole Iraq's past?

Whose is next?

Enjoy the "Egyptian Wing"


I got a lot of responses, many of deep despair, some of anger, some flip, some threatened.

Posted by: Alfred Schein on April 19, 2003 07:59 PM

Earlier I mentioned that variables can live in two different places. We're going to examine these two places one at a time, and we're going to start on the more familiar ground, which is called the Stack. Understanding the stack helps us understand the way programs run, and also helps us understand scope a little better.

Posted by: Roland on January 18, 2004 11:31 PM

Note the new asterisks whenever we reference favoriteNumber, except for that new line right before the return.

Posted by: Alan on January 18, 2004 11:31 PM

But variables get one benefit people do not

Posted by: Mable on January 18, 2004 11:32 PM

Note first that favoriteNumbers type changed. Instead of our familiar int, we're now using int*. The asterisk here is an operator, which is often called the "star operator". You will remember that we also use an asterisk as a sign for multiplication. The positioning of the asterisk changes its meaning. This operator effectively means "this is a pointer". Here it says that favoriteNumber will be not an int but a pointer to an int. And instead of simply going on to say what we're putting in that int, we have to take an extra step and create the space, which is what does. This function takes an argument that specifies how much space you need and then returns a pointer to that space. We've passed it the result of another function, , which we pass int, a type. In reality, is a macro, but for now we don't have to care: all we need to know is that it tells us the size of whatever we gave it, in this case an int. So when is done, it gives us an address in the heap where we can put an integer. It is important to remember that the data is stored in the heap, while the address of that data is stored in a pointer on the stack.

Posted by: Ellen on January 18, 2004 11:32 PM

This is another function provided for dealing with the heap. After you've created some space in the Heap, it's yours until you let go of it. When your program is done using it, you have to explicitly tell the computer that you don't need it anymore or the computer will save it for your future use (or until your program quits, when it knows you won't be needing the memory anymore). The call to simply tells the computer that you had this space, but you're done and the memory can be freed for use by something else later on.

Posted by: Jerome on January 18, 2004 11:33 PM