Amid the daily atrocities of American bombing and resistance protests, Iraq's national library, a three-storey building scorched by looters' torches, is finally being restored. The 'House of Books and Documents' once held ancient works of Arab literature, a vast archive of Ottoman-era grandeur, the papers of the British-sponsored monarchy, and also the obsessively-recorded and often chilling evidence of the past 30 years of Ba'ath party rule. The daylight burning of the library was one of the first costly disasters in the chaos that ensued in the aftermath of us occupation, last year. S Eskander, the library's director, believes the fires were carefully targeted. All the records of the republican era from 1958 until the present, including most of the Ba'ath regime's documents, were destroyed.
In a country where recent history remains bitterly disputed, resurrecting the library has turned into a remarkably sensitive political operation. Says Eskander, "The restoration is a political job; it's about a liberal vision and more so about rebuilding Iraq. We have removed all barriers to left-wing books, Shiite books and Kurdish books.
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