The Destruction of the National Library of Baghdad: What Happened and Why?

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The Destruction of the National Library of Baghdad:
What happened and Why?

Libraries are fundamental elements for constructing civil societies. Their existence is vital for our interpretation of history from the beginning of time and it is only by the words and possessions of our ancestors that we will learn about our collective past. Previously documented knowledge allows constant reevaluation of societies. Knowledge of this sort must be continuously replenished or else its loss would lead to the suffering of civilizations and the obstruction of newly developing civil societies. Iraq, often known as the cradle of civilization, is a society of rich literary and cultural heritage that is represented by numerous museums and libraries throughout its nation, one of which is called the National Library of Baghdad. Scholar Andrew Lawler, author of Ten Millennia Of Culture Pilfered Amid Baghdad Chaos, says the destruction of the National Library of Baghdad in April 2003 was “the most severe single blow to cultural heritage in modern history” (402). The incessant political oppression of Saddam Hussein devastated a nation of cultural importance and caused the first massive cultural annihilation of the twenty-first century because it instigated the obliteration of a very significant Iraqi monument, the National Library. The National Library of Baghdad was a large three-story building that not only contained recent publications but also literary artifacts, which had lived through centuries of turmoil. Noted author Rebecca Knuth says that the National Library “housed one million books and millions of documents—everything from Islamic texts that had survived the Mongol sacking of Baghdad in the thirteenth century to modern Iraqi newspapers and periodicals” (193). The library’s third floor stored microfilm archives while the second floor stored the Iraqi National Archive that included millions of tomes and documents from the Ottoman period. The library as a whole played...
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