Send a Message to Congress
by Peter Tompa
Ahramonline, the Egyptian Military Dictatorship's mouthpiece, has reported that US and Egyptian authorities are poised to sign yet another MOU which will purportedly clamp down on the trade in Egyptian artifacts. See http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/9/40/24873/Heritage/Ancient-Egypt/New-strategy-to-prevent-illegal-trade-in-Egyptian-.aspx
Of course, such MOU's are only supposed to be decided after a formal request from a State Party to the State Department. CPAC is then supposed to make recommendations to the President's designee at the Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, who in turn is only supposed to agree to import restrictions if specific statutory criteria are met.
Here, all this appears to be a formality. Some months ago former Egyptian antiquities chief Zahi Hawass reported that American archaeologists had secured the State Department's agreement to enter into import restrictions. Then, the State Department gave ICOM a sole source contract to develop a "red list" of Egyptian antiquities at risk, which can also serve as a ready made "designated list" for import restrictions.
If the reports emanating out of Egypt are true, it's just more evidence that the whole CPAC process is but a bad joke.
Whether or not the reports emanating out of Egypt are true in every detail, the very fact that such a report could be made by an official of the stature of Zahi Hawass does prove these disturbing truths:
1) The State Department's Cultural Heritage Center has become a political resource for US archaeologists to pursue their goals in managing professional relations with foreign nations;
2) Foreign nations (here Egypt) manipulate US archaeologists by conditioning permission to excavate upon obtaining US agreement to embargo importation of antiquities;
3) Details of MOUs are worked out in advance of the formal submission of requests from foreign nations desiring these agreements, in behind-the-scenes negotiations between the nations involved, US archaeologists and the State Department's Cultural Heritage Center;
4) The CPAC process - including public hearings, recommendations to the President's delegated designee at the Department of State, and verification that specific statutory criteria are met - is a dishonest and dishonorable sham. No facts are actually being found. No verification of specific statutory criteria is actually being carried out. The CPAC process produces recommendations predetermined by arrangements secretly made before the process even begins. It has evolved into a "show trial" whose purpose is to deceive Congress and the American people into believing that the Cultural Heritage Center bureaucracy is managing US compliance with the 1970 UNESCO Convention in a manner that safeguards the public interest.
The legislative intent of Congress in enacting the 1983 CCPIA has been thwarted, and longstanding legitimate rights of US citizens interested in collecting ancient artifacts have been ignored - as have been the responsibilities of the Cultural Heritage Center to administer the Cultural Property Advisory Committee so as to ensure fair representation of the interests of all US citizens and an unbiased balance of interests.
During hearings prior to US accession to the UNESCO Convention, antiquities experts expressed concern that it would create a "blank check" to embargo importation of almost all antiquities, that the State Department would use its delegated powers for the benefit of foreign countries and would seek to destroy the US antiquities market, and that the requirement to reach certain findings through consultation with a panel of experts before imposing import restrictions would in practice be ritualistic and pro forma. These concerns have become realities. The Cultural Heritage Center bureaucracy, pursuing its ideology-driven agenda to promote interests of US archaeologists in collusion with foreign governments, is ignoring both the legislative intent of Congress and the legitimate interests and rights of many thousands of US citizens.
Every collector of ancient coins - or other artifacts whose importation could be embargoed - should make his or her disgust with this maladministration of the 1983 CCPIA known in the public record. The period for comment prior to the CPAC hearing on the Bulgarian MOU request is an excellent opportunity to do so. These comments enter the permanent public record, where they are visible to our elected officials, Senators, Representatives and members of their legislative staffs. To submit comments electronically, go here:
Please submit comments just once, before the cutoff of 5:00 PM EST Nov. 2, 2011.
When the period for comment prior to the CPAC hearing on the forthcoming Egyptian MOU request arrives, again make your disgust with this dishonest charade known in the public record. Do this every time a MOU request is considered, until Congress finally realizes that the American people know that they are being lied to, and that their legitimate interests and rights are being trampled upon by the Cultural Heritage Center bureaucracy.