2004 | 3-4 | 155-178
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The article was inspired by a publication which appeared in the British daily “The Guardian”, containing fragments of a report by Dr. John Curtis, a British Museum expert, dealing with the unsatisfactory condition of certain historical monuments in Babylon. Dr. Curtis placed the blame for the existing state of things on the American and Polish soldiers stationing at the Camp Alpha base, located in the Babylon archaeological site by Marine units after the fall of the Hussein regime. This sensational press information produced a worldwide “storm” in the mass media. The authors of the presented article refer to the charges formulated by the British researcher and describe the presence of Polish soldiers in the Babylon military base within the context of the protection of the world famous cultural heritage. They propose multiple arguments demonstrating the superficiality of some of the assessments in the report of the British expert, and cite facts indicating the document's falsehoods. Finally, they confront the more than ten-pages long and sparsely documented text by the British author with the ascertainments presented in an all-sidedly documented report about the current state of the Babylon archaeological site (a text of more than 530 pages long and 1 140 photographs), prepared in wartime conditions by Polish archaeologists-specialists concerned with the protection of cultural heritage. An additionally noteworthy fact is that the British author was familiar with the Polish document and even used it, but did not refer to its contents. The initially outlined problem comprises a point of departure for explaining the motives of Poland’s access to a mission of salvaging threatened Iraqi cultural property. The authors point out that the Republic of Poland and Iraq are signatories of international conventions on the protection of cultural property, a fact which urged the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs to file at the UNESCO forum a declaration about rendering assistance to Iraq. The article focuses on the protection of Iraqi cultural heritage, realised as part of a stabilisation mission conducted by Polish archaeologists acting within the structure of the Polish Military Contingent (PKW). Examples of contacts between the Polish Ministry of Culture and representatives of Iraqi cultural institutions and provisional authorities as well as scholarships and training financed for the Iraqis, bring the two side closer and lead to a revival of mutual cultural relations. By presenting the specificity of the central-southern stabilization zone, which remains under Polish supervision, the authors depict the enormous devastation of the archaeological sites and museum, committed by well organised and armed groups of robbers. This damage – the outcome of crime-inducing phenomena caused by the war – was not prevented either by the coalition armies or the insufficiently organised and equipped Iraqi Antiquities Service. Conspiciuous examples include the museums in Baghdad and Babylon, whose invaluable collections were looted. The presented results of an archaeological reconnaissance carried out in several provinces of the stabilisation zone by Polish archaeologists-specialists testify that damage to archaeological sites and ancient ruins was also incurred by the local population, whose members gather and use archaeological substance as valuable building materials. The authors also discuss the findings of on-the-spot inspections, which upon several occasions took place at the Babylon archeological site (the location of the Alpha military base), and were conducted both by Polish archaeologists and an independent team of international experts, including Americans, Poles and Iraqis. Their ascertainments showed that alongside military factors connected with stationing the troops, an essential impact on the state of the preservation of the Babylon monuments was exerted by plunder and natural conditions, such as precipitation and a periodically high state of subterranean water. The publication mentions various undertakings and procedures carried out by the command of the multinational division, intent on protecting the historical monuments and minimalising the losses, i. a. archaeological monitoring. Much attention is devoted to the transference of the Alpha base to the Iraqis. The article cites a special plan of a stage-by-stage handing over of Babylon, devised by Polish military commanders and archaeologists to ensure the safety of the ancient town’s monuments after the departure of the multinational subdivision. The authors stress that the Polish Military Contingent, acting as part of the Multinational Division Centre-South, is the only one among of the national contingents whose structure from the very beginning included archaeologists-specialists dealing with the protection of cultural heritage. A tangible result of their work is the realisation – in coordination with the Iraqi Antiquities and Heritage Services – of 23 projects dealing with repairing, reconstructing, and renovating Iraqi historical monuments as well as outfitting the Iraqi services for the protection of historical monuments, including a newly created archaeological police, at a total cost of 700 000 dollars from a fund at the disposal of the commander of the Multinational Division CS. In the closing part of the article its authors portray the unique educational and preventive solutions applied by the Polish Military Contingent for the purpose of eliminating among its soldiers all temptations and opportunities for taking out of Iraq any sort of historical monuments, evidence of the local cultural heritage. The publication ends with an attempted balance sheet of the accomplishments of the Polish mission in the light of media facts.
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  • płk, absolwent Wyższej Szkoły Oficerskiej Wojsk Łączności, Wydziału Dziennikarstwa i Nauk Politycznych i Wydziału Prawa (1996 r.) UW oraz Podyplomowego Studium Menedżerów Kultury przy Szkole Głównej Handlowej, kieruje obecnie Biurem Spraw Obronnych Ministerstwa Kultury. Jest specjalistą w dziedzinie prawnej ochrony zabytków na wypadek sytuacji kryzysowych i konfliktu zbrojnego; współorganizatorem wielu międzynarodowych konferencji, sympozjów i warsztatów dotyczących prawnej ochrony zabytków w sytuacji szczególnych zagrożeń; autorem artykułów i opracowań. Od maja 2003 r. koordynuje w Ministerstwie Kultury zadania związane z ochroną zabytków Iraku w ramach udziału Wojska Polskiego w siłach koalicyjnych.
  • mgr, dziennikarz, publicysta oraz redaktor gazet i czasopism wojskowych, jest obecnie głównym specjalistą w Biurze Spraw Obronnych Ministerstwa Kultury. Zajmuje się problematyką ochrony zabytków na wypadek konfliktu zbrojnego i sytuacji kryzysowych. Z racji zainteresowań zawodowych, podejmuje w publicystyce problemy dotyczące działań polskich archeologów specjalistów ds. ochrony zabytków na rzecz ochrony dziedzictwa kulturowego Iraku w ramach misji stabilizacyjnej Wielonarodowej Dywizji Centrum Południe, w której składzie znajduje się Polski Kontyngent Wojskowy.
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