When we invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003, there were news reports about the looting of over ten thousand valuable artefacts from the National Museum, and it was rumored that looters even had lists of things to steal, given to them by international antique dealers. Then it was discovered that museum curators hid much of it in bank vaults, so it would not be stolen. Over two years later, what has happened to all this missing art?how much of it been recovered?
Kim Sengupta reports in the Independent that almost 10,000 valuable items looted from the National Museum of Iraq are still missing and no one knows where they are. Not only that, many archaeological sites in this ancient country have been looted as well. Looters are brazenly stripping architectural details from ancient buildings. These artifacts include some of the most precious historical items in the world, since Iraq is the site of Mesopotamia, considered by archeologists to be the cradle of civilization. The National Museum also contained ancient artifacts from Sumeria and Babylon.
International investigators are trying to track these items by investigating art dealers who deal in antiquities, and are suspected of somehow having gotten hold of some of them. The Geneva Convention requires an occupying force to safeguard cultural facilities. When Colin Powell was Secretary of State he said, “The US understands its obligations and will be taking a leading role with respect to antiquities in general but this museum in particular.” Since we have ignored the Geneva Convention with regard to the torture of suspects, it’s unlikely that we will pay much attention to its rules about guarding art and antiquities.
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