Encountering in 2002, while the US administration was already preparing for war against Iraq, the Iraqi artist Maurice Haddad, one could not be more impressed, by the difference between public utterances of the powerful politicians of this world, and the quiet and private talk of this Iraqi citizen. His narration was peaceful; it was a reflection of his life as a man from the countryside and an artist who had worked in Baghdad and France. I was aware of the sombre remembrance of his childhood home, his father's house, now perhaps wrecked by war, where  years ago German and English, French and perhaps American archeologists had felt at home. As a boy, Haddad Maurice saw the shards, the remnants they held in their hand, and he developed an awareness, a link with the past: the history of Mesopotamia, Ur, Sumer, you name it. 
Later on, his eyesight damaged, his inner vision returned even more, it seems, to the earthen, and sometimes glowing colors, of his homeland, the dust, the saturated greens, the amulets of the women, the swamps poisoned by the relicts of warfare.
His art, at its best, captures the past, its traces, the dream and remembrance - but also the remembrance of childhood days, of encounters with a present more painful and filled now, more often than not, with weird contradictions. The long history of Iraq, of his Basra province, his village comes to life; it reverberates in these work:  peaceful at times, but by no means always.

Maybe it is a weak, helpless sign of protest, against the senseless cruelty of war, against the invaders sent in to chase a dictator and take control of the natural wealth of Iraq, that today we want to say: there is another Iraqi reality. It is not about power, it is not about selfish neo-imperialism opposing selfish one-man control of a country. It is about humanity sensing its sources.  About Iraq's distant past. But also its every-day presence, as felt in the days that went by not long along. Here, in the swamp lands of Basra, in the network of channels and fields, of pathways and roads and houses and villages, the traces of the first bloody Gulf War mingle now with those of the Second and Third. But as the presence pervades the past and the past imbues the presence with its spirit and echos and surfacing remants, we still regard the not always easy, and yet rather peaceful life in the countryside. The life  that Haddad Maurice remembers when he thinks of the source of his work.

Having turned to Haddad Maurice, it seemed to make sense to focus on art from Iraq and the  Middle East in a wider, more encompassing sense. What we found, in terms of recent reflections on this topic, is of the sort that lets us encourage our readers, if they are experts or lovers of art, or in other ways take to this subject, to contribute more.  Here, in the West, the ignorance of what's going on in a corner of the world so close to Europe, is quite unbelievable. A fruitful discussion, an attempt to improve our dialogue, to stimulate  inter-cultural contacts and needed exchange in matters of cultural value, cannot take place unless we all open our eyes, doing away with the prejudice that the West is ahead, and the rest of the world, including the Middle East, is a marginal zone: the culturally backward periphery where people still  have to make more than an effort to catch up with "us."
Such eurocentrism has long been questioned by some, as we know. But in the political practice and everyday arrogance of the West, it is not dead.

Shock and awe is what the Washington warlord,  G. Double"U" Bush, promised Iraq. The barbarism of war meant decapitated children, little girls bleeding to death from the segments of cluster bumbs rammed into their abdomen, it meant women and men peacefully asleep who wouldn't wake up any more. It meant stretches of earth poisoned by depleted uranium used in American ammunition. If art is a peaceful endeavour, an act of cultured women and men, war is barbarism. No wonder then that the US Army did nothing to stop the looting of Iraq's historical heritage and of its art.  The rampage that wrecked the National Museum was the most notorious act, and it did not escape the media. Mr. Rumsfeld's commentary will be remembered for long. Meanwhile Iraqi historical artefacts and works of art appear on the international market, quietly confirming the essence of "globalization."