“She came into Baghdad after months in one of the world’s most forbidding deserts, a stoic, diminutive 45-year-old English woman with her small band of men. She had been through lawless lands, held at gunpoint by robbers, taken prisoner in a city that no Westerner had seen for 20 years.
It was a hundred years ago, a few months before the outbreak of World War I. Baghdad was under a regime loyal to the Ottoman Turks. The Turkish authorities in Constantinople had reluctantly given the persistent woman permission to embark on her desert odyssey, believing her to be an archaeologist and Arab scholar, as well as being a species of lunatic English explorer that they had seen before.
She was, in fact, a spy and her British masters had told her that if she got into trouble they would disclaim responsibility for her. Less than 10 years later Gertrude Bell would be back in Baghdad, having rigged an election, installed a king loyal to the British, re-organized the government, and fixed the borders on the map of a new Iraq. As much as anyone can be, Gertrude Bell could be said to have devised the country that nobody can make work as a country for very long—no more so than now.”
“If we’re willing to spend $750 billion (so far) to make democracy in Iraq possible, we should be willing to spend one-twenty-fifth of that to make democracy in America work.”
NG: Saddam Hussein’s chrome-plated Kalashnikov AK-47 is one of 540 stolen Iraqi artifacts recently returned to the country. More than 30,000 looted Iraqi antiquities and artworks have been confiscated inside and outside the country since 2003, according to the New York Times, but the total number is anyone’s guess. "We’ll never be able to determine how many pieces have been stolen, because many of the pieces were taken clandestinely from archaeological sites." - archaeologist Brian Rose