Commune with a 5,500-year-old ceramic rams head or an even older stone fertility figure in the Metropolitan Museums Ancient Near Eastern Art galleries, and youll get a sense of what was lost when U.S. troops were ordered to stand down while mobs looted the Baghdad Museum in 2003. Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the destruction with Stuff happens, but Oxford archaeologist Eleanor Robson compared it to the Mongol sacking of Baghdad in 1258, and the fifth-century destruction of the library of Alexandria. Who knows? Maybe pieces of the Mesopotamian plunder will turn up here one day, complete with mysteriously burnished provenancesbut in the meantime, come January 20, surrounded by artifacts from the cradle of civilization, you can bid farewell to the administration that made American synonymous with barbarian.

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