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Looting was work of organised traffickers: UNESCO experts
Agence France-Presse (AFP) ^ | 4-17-03 | Huge Schofield

Posted on 04/17/2003 4:13:39 PM PDT by Oldeconomybuyer

PARIS, April 17 (AFP) - Much of the looting of treasures at Iraq's national museum was carried out by organised gangs who traffic in works of ancient art, according to experts at a United Nations conference called on Thursday to examine the war-damage to the country's cultural heritage.

"It looks as if at least part of the theft was a very deliberate, planned action," said McGuire Gibson, of Chicago University's Oriental Institute, who is president of the American Association for Research in Baghdad.

"Probably (it was done) by the same sorts of gangs that have been paying for the destruction of sites in Iraq over the last 12 years and the smuggling out of these objects into the international market," he said.

Looters sacked the National Archaeological Museum in Baghdad last Friday, removing or destroying thousands of artefacts and provoking widespread criticism of the occupying US army for failing to take steps to protect the building.

Among the items lost was a collection of around 80,000 cuneiform tablets that contain examples of the some of the world's earliest writing, Gibson said.

A 5,000 year-old Sumerian alabaster vase -- known as the Warka vase -- also disappeared.

The meeting of 30 international experts at the Paris headquarters of the UN's cultural organisation UNESCO was called to take stock of the damage to Iraq's heritage, recommend ways of safeguarding what remains and act to stop pillaged items reaching the world's art market.

In an address to the meeting, UNESCO director-general Koichiro Matsuura urged US and British forces to set up a "heritage police" to protect Iraq's cultural sites and called on states to adopt legislation to prevent the import of any "cultural, archaeological or bibliographical object having recently left Iraq".

He also announced the creation of a Special Fund for Iraqi Cultural Heritage, to which Italy has already contributed 400,000 dollars (euros).

The meeting ended with agreement to send a fact-finding mission to Iraq as soon as possible to assess the losses.

At a news conference, experts and UNESCO officials admitted their knowledge of the extent of the looting was sketchy. But Gibson said: "Some very important pieces which you would find in any introductory art book have been lost."

In addition to sacking the National Archaeological Museum -- with its unique collection of artefacts dating from the start of civilisation -- looters destroyed the National Archives Centre in Baghdad and burned the National Library burned. A museum in the northern city of Mosul was also looted.

A library of Korans in the religious endowments ministry was set on fire and a collection of 20th century Iraqi figurative art collected by the Gulbenkian museum was destroyed, the UNESCO conference was told.

Eye-witnesses have described some of the looters as being directed by well-dressed men who knew what they wanted to take. Gibson said these organisers had keys to the vaults where they believed the most valued items were kept.

According to Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum in London, some of the most important treasures were relocated in the Iraqi National Bank before the US-British invasion on March 20. And though this too had been looted it was unclear if the artefacts there had been taken.

Traffickers in Iraqi archaeological items have thrived since the 1991 Gulf war thanks to growing international demand and an economic crisis in Iraq which encouraged ordinary people to find innovative new ways to make money, according to experts.

"You could have 300 or 400 people working on just one site," according to Gibson, who said the gang leaders were based abroad and passed orders back to agents in Iraq. These then directed the illegal diggings and smuggled the artefacts out.

Three days after the looting in Baghdad, there were reports that art dealers in Paris and other European cities had already been contacted with offers of stolen items, Gibson said.

Experts said one of the first tasks would be to establish a database of items what had been housed in the National Archaeoligical Museum. It was unclear if the museum's own inventory -- contained in several ledgers -- had survived.

"If you want to destroy the illicit market (in stolen artefacts) there must be a clear database... The level of proof for criminal convictions does presuppose this kind of database," said MacGregor.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; United Kingdom; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: antiquities; godsgravesglyphs; iraqifreedom; keys; looting; museum; museums; trafficking; unesco; vaults
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1 posted on 04/17/2003 4:13:39 PM PDT by Oldeconomybuyer
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To: Oldeconomybuyer
A library of Korans in the religious endowments ministry was set on fire

Why am I not upset about this?

2 posted on 04/17/2003 4:14:55 PM PDT by My2Cents ("Well....there you go again.")
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To: Oldeconomybuyer
This site should of been protected on day #1.
3 posted on 04/17/2003 4:28:01 PM PDT by Orlando
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To: Oldeconomybuyer
Thanks, I have bookmarked this for the nay whiners!
4 posted on 04/17/2003 4:30:00 PM PDT by Grampa Dave (Being a Monthly Donor to Free Republic is the Right Thing to do!)
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To: My2Cents
You should be. Would you be upset if the Gutenburg bible in the LOC were destroyed.

Probably this stems from your view of the world being complete. History doesn't matter, no other opinions are valid and you haven't had an original thought since you were born.
5 posted on 04/17/2003 4:32:57 PM PDT by cmattair
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To: Orlando
"This site should of been protected on day #1."

And how many other sites? If we protected every place that someone considers valuable, there would have been no troops left to do what they went in there to do: liberate Iraq.

Let's be honest: we did not do the looting. It's not our responsibility--that belongs to whoever did it, most likely the Iraqis. They have just looted themselves.

6 posted on 04/17/2003 4:39:23 PM PDT by MizSterious ("The truth takes only seconds to tell."--Jack Straw)
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To: Oldeconomybuyer; aristeides
For more on this fascinating subject take a look at this link posted by aristeides on this morning's thread on the same topic

http://www.casi.org.uk/discuss/2001/msg00691.html.
7 posted on 04/17/2003 4:42:16 PM PDT by PoisedWoman (Fed up with the CORRUPT liberal media)
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To: PoisedWoman
Your link isn't working. Too bad--Aristeides often finds good stuff.
8 posted on 04/17/2003 4:44:42 PM PDT by MizSterious ("The truth takes only seconds to tell."--Jack Straw)
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To: Orlando; PhilDragoo
Here is a reply from Phil Dragoo on another thread that explains our problems with defending/securing this museum.

Hopefully Phil will elaborate on this for us.

To: TroutStalker; Grampa Dave; PhiKapMom

Lt. Col. Schwartz, whose functions also include feeding the lions in the abandoned Baghdad Zoo next door, said he couldn't move into the museum compound and protect it from looters last week because his soldiers were taking fire from the building -- and were determined not to respond. There is an Iraqi army trench in the museum's front lawn, and Lt. Col. Schwartz said his troops found many Iraqi army uniforms inside. "If there is any dirty trick in the book," he said, "they sure used it."

NYT and the alphabetnet continue to try to foist the Big Lie of looting--when it's more the Mogadishu template: U.S. removes tyrant starving citizens, so tyrant hides behind citizens to shoot at U.S.

For NYT and the alphabetnet America, Bush and the troops are ALWAYS wrong, their question at press conferences and in their "news" is ALWAYS "Why hasn't Bush quit beating his wife!"

Kudos to WSJ and Fox for the balanced report.

The Leftist propaganda machine is in effect criticizing the dead firemen and police in the WTC for failing to rescue "millions of irreplaceable files".

It's a war of liberation and we and the Iraqis are victorious.

The Left is losing--and it turns their red faces purple.


28 posted on 04/17/2003 12:16 PM PDT by PhilDragoo (Hitlery: das Butch von Buchenvald)
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9 posted on 04/17/2003 4:44:45 PM PDT by Grampa Dave (Being a Monthly Donor to Free Republic is the Right Thing to do!)
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To: Orlando
"This site should of been protected on day #1."

Frankly, if I were part of an army invading the USA and the country was still full of snipers and suicide bombers, I wouldn't be thinking much about protecting the Smithsonian Institute. I'd be covering my ass and looking for the remaining military targets.
10 posted on 04/17/2003 4:46:11 PM PDT by Steve_Seattle
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To: MizSterious
They have just looted themselves.

Which always made me wonder exactly what posesses people to do it - Much like the Cincinnati riots, all they did was hurt themselves..... doesn't make sense to me a'tall
11 posted on 04/17/2003 4:47:48 PM PDT by CAPPSMADNESS (/ posting mode..... resuming stealth lurking mode....)
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To: Orlando
This site should of been protected on day #1.

Why? Do you have some emotional attachment to replicas?

12 posted on 04/17/2003 4:48:44 PM PDT by TomB
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To: MizSterious
I don;'t know why that link doesn't work. It comes up on my aol.

Trying again:

http://www.casi.org.uk/discuss/2001/msg00691.html

13 posted on 04/17/2003 4:49:21 PM PDT by PoisedWoman (Fed up with the CORRUPT liberal media)
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To: My2Cents
>>Why am I not upset about this? <<

Upon reading the article, I felt a sense of relief and had to ask myself why I would feel this way - perhaps because Islam's fundamentalist adherents take the violent mythology expressed in these texts so literally and mean to do us harm because if it.

risa
14 posted on 04/17/2003 4:49:36 PM PDT by Risa
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To: My2Cents
Wouldn't it be a nice discovery if it is proven that there are different versions of the Koran out there - thus demonstrating that is is not a divine revelation? Such a discovery would weaken the rigid conservative elements within the Islamic world.

But besides that, all of history is worth preserving whether or not one has distaste for certain elements of a culture.

I certainly hope that it's true that professional smugglers got this stuff out, particularly any untranslated tablets. As long as the stuff is still intact, even if it takes 100 years or more, it can be recovered.

15 posted on 04/17/2003 4:50:56 PM PDT by ValenB4
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To: PoisedWoman
Worked like a charm--thanks!
16 posted on 04/17/2003 4:52:15 PM PDT by MizSterious ("The truth takes only seconds to tell."--Jack Straw)
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To: My2Cents

" They have stolen the four stones...we are doomed!

17 posted on 04/17/2003 4:53:07 PM PDT by jetson
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To: Orlando
Deep understanding of cultural history from someone who doesn't know the difference between a preposition and a verb. Amazing.

Any High Contracting Party in occupation of the whole or part of the territory of another High Contracting Party shall as far as possible support the competent national authorities of the occupied country in safeguarding and preserving its cultural property.

The above is the much ballyhooed Geneva Convention requirement. It leaves plenty of room for military necessity. We clearly met the requirements. If you had read any of the stories on the subject, you would have known that the looting took place over a two day period last week and that during most of this period the enemy were occupying the site and shooting at US soldiers. See stories describing uniforms found in the museum and trenches in the front yard.

How many American lives should have been sacrificed (or risked) to meet your simple-minded admonition?

18 posted on 04/17/2003 4:54:41 PM PDT by FirstFlaBn
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To: Grampa Dave
Lt. Col. Schwartz, whose functions also include feeding the lions in the abandoned Baghdad Zoo next door, said he couldn't move into the museum compound and protect it from looters

Don't they teach creative problem solving to officers any more? He could have solved both problems by letting the lions into the museum.

19 posted on 04/17/2003 4:56:34 PM PDT by algol
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To: algol
Great Solution. Then the enviral whackos, Peta Freaks, ELF and Alfs would gone ballastic on us if one lion got hurt or died from food poisoning from eating a Fedayeen Soddomite.

Every Bambi and cat lover in the world would have been wanting this poor soldier shot for hurting a critter.
20 posted on 04/17/2003 5:00:04 PM PDT by Grampa Dave (Being a Monthly Donor to Free Republic is the Right Thing to do!)
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To: TomB
"This site should of been protected on day #1.

Why? Do you have some emotional attachment to replicas?"

The perfect cover for items that were looted by Saddam & Co. years ago. A British curator who visited the museum recently, 1-2 years ago, said there were many fakes on display. But so much the better if you can blame the Americans for not preventing the "recent looting".
21 posted on 04/17/2003 5:04:49 PM PDT by Let's Roll (And those that cried Appease! Appease! are hanged by those they tried to please!")
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To: Let's Roll
The perfect cover for items that were looted by Saddam & Co. years ago. A British curator who visited the museum recently, 1-2 years ago, said there were many fakes on display. But so much the better if you can blame the Americans for not preventing the "recent looting".

Exactly. And it wasn't just Saddam and his cronies. It is becoming apparent that the staff of the museum was probably padding their own bank accounts over the years by selectively selling off items and replacing them with replicas. The fact that the written records and even computer hard drives were destroyed by the "looters" bears that out.

22 posted on 04/17/2003 5:10:57 PM PDT by TomB
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To: Orlando
This site should of been protected on day #1.

I heard on FNC that the museum keepers supposedly had a 48-hour emergency evacuation plan wherein they would remove the antiquities to a safe location. They should have put that plan in action in the weeks before the troops got to Baghdad. (During the sandstorm would've been optimum.) Methinks the curators may have themselves been involved in orchestrated "looting." I hope items are found eventually (and some will be) and the new "owners" are charged with theft.

23 posted on 04/17/2003 5:16:17 PM PDT by arasina ("Thank you Mister Bush!" [direct quote from liberated Iraqi man])
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To: Oldeconomybuyer
Better to have 25 million people remain enslaved under the tyrant's boot than to lose some historical artifacts? This is left-wing grasping for negatives in an laughable attempt to cloud an overwhelming victory against tyranny. I'd say releasing tortured prisoners might be a slightly higher priority. How would any of these idiots like it if they were tortured prisoners treated as a lower priority than an artifact?

We bombed the hell out of Germany to end the Nazi regime and destroyed historical items and buildings. Did anyone choose preservation of artifacts as being more important than getting rid of the Third Reich?

24 posted on 04/17/2003 5:25:13 PM PDT by NoControllingLegalAuthority
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To: arasina
I agree with you--this smacks of an inside job, and any real treasures should have been safely stored knowing that war was coming to Baghdad.
25 posted on 04/17/2003 5:50:54 PM PDT by exit82
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To: Grampa Dave
Iraqis Say Museum Looting Wasn't as Bad as Feared
The Wall Street Journal | Thursday, April 17, 2003 | YAROSLAV TROFIMOV

But, thanks to Iraqi preparations before the war, it seems the worst has been avoided. Donny George, the director-general of restoration at the Iraqi Antiquities Department, Wednesday said his staff had preserved the museum's most important treasures, including the kings' graves of Ur and the Assyrian bulls. These objects were hidden in vaults that haven't been violated by looters.

"Most of the things were removed. We knew a war was coming, so it was our duty to protect everything," Mr. George said. "We thought there would be some sort of bombing at the museum. We never thought it could be looted."

The Wall Street Journal article concludes with the paragraph containing the U.S. colonel's account that his force was taking fire from the museum and thus could not protect it from looters. It is quite ignored by the NYT and the alphabetnetwork that U.S. forces did not return fire on the museum although they would have been within their international rights to have done so.

The Leftist propaganda eunuchs are not interested in the truth, but only in their continuing caterwauling that thanks to the cowboy who would be president the sky is falling in irreplaceable chunks.

O the humanity.

26 posted on 04/17/2003 6:12:06 PM PDT by PhilDragoo (Hitlery: das Butch von Buchenvald)
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To: Grampa Dave
Above is a French article indicting the French:

Eye-witnesses have described some of the looters as being directed by well-dressed men who knew what they wanted to take. Gibson said these organisers had keys to the vaults where they believed the most valued items were kept.

~~~

Three days after the looting in Baghdad, there were reports that art dealers in Paris and other European cities had already been contacted with offers of stolen items, Gibson said.

27 posted on 04/17/2003 6:20:17 PM PDT by PhilDragoo (Hitlery: das Butch von Buchenvald)
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To: PhilDragoo
What if Soddomite and his thugs had pre arranged deals with the French Fencers of historical treasures. That if it looked like their regime would fall, the cherry picked items would be stolen by friends of both.

Then the treasures were sent to France, bought and the proceeds went to numbered accounts for the Soddomite thugs?
28 posted on 04/17/2003 6:25:02 PM PDT by Grampa Dave (Being a Monthly Donor to Free Republic is the Right Thing to do!)
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To: Grampa Dave
That was a joke, Grampa.
29 posted on 04/17/2003 6:42:58 PM PDT by algol
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To: TomB
I thought I'd heard that even the records had been destroyed or taken. No way that casual looters of opportunity would have done that and been able to open the vaults without inside help etc. There may be a few lucky break recoveries but other than that ...

And I'm certainly tired of hearing how it's our fault.

30 posted on 04/17/2003 7:04:44 PM PDT by Let's Roll (And those that cried Appease! Appease! are hanged by those they tried to please!")
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To: Grampa Dave; PhilDragoo
Kudos to WSJ and Fox for the balanced report.

O'Reilly has been all over the military for not doing their duty and protecting the museum. He claims it was "apathy."

31 posted on 04/18/2003 2:58:16 AM PDT by hotpotato
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To: FirstFlaBn
How many American lives should have been sacrificed (or risked) to meet your simple-minded admonition?

I would certainly say no more than the number of Iraqi-lives that the Iraqis were willing to sacrifice. Seems there were none. I think we will be learning a lot more about this as the days go by. The story was changing after the FBI announced it will investigate. Seems it wasn't quite as bad as they (museum folks) thought.

32 posted on 04/18/2003 3:05:41 AM PDT by hotpotato
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To: algol
I knew that it was a joke (I hoped so). I could just see all of the Peta freaks freeking out if we used lions to clear out the museum grounds. However it might have been a good deal.
33 posted on 04/18/2003 5:21:34 AM PDT by Grampa Dave (Being a Monthly Donor to Free Republic is the Right Thing to do!)
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To: hotpotato
O' Reilly needs to bitch slapped re some of his comments about our military. His military experience was probably that of being a cub scout in NYC.
34 posted on 04/18/2003 6:54:05 AM PDT by Grampa Dave (Being a Monthly Donor to Free Republic is the Right Thing to do!)
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To: Grampa Dave
You know what's funny (as in strange, not ha ha)is that one of the guys whose resignation from some culture org was trumpeted all over yesterday, Sullivan?, used to work for or with UNESCO. Gee, wouldn't you think that Sullivan would have been pretty clued into what his former colleagues are thinking?

And while we're on the subject, and since Sullivan was such a big proponent of repatriation, shouldn't any Iraqi artifacts that have sold or given out over the past thirty years be returned to Iraq? They weren't loaned, sold, or given away with the approval of the Iraqi people.

35 posted on 04/18/2003 6:58:54 AM PDT by mewzilla
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To: Grampa Dave
Re: O'Reilly. Bill obviously couldn't be bothered to catch Hume's report on the subject done a couple of hours earlier. Bill, you really should pay more attention to what your colleagues are reporting.
36 posted on 04/18/2003 7:00:23 AM PDT by mewzilla
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To: mewzilla
Thanks!

It is obvious that Clymer Sullivan is just another left wing lunatic time bomb left over from the Clintoons.

They are scheduled to go off whenever GW does something that is good.

I was not aware of his connection to UNESCO. As you know it takes the UN and UNESCO to pillage a country and every village.
37 posted on 04/18/2003 7:01:45 AM PDT by Grampa Dave (Being a Monthly Donor to Free Republic is the Right Thing to do!)
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To: Grampa Dave
And think about this...Do you really think any of those guys who reigned didn't already have some place to go? Maybe another museum? If so, I'd really like to see Sullivan explain his views on repatriation if that museum has acquired anything from Iraq over the last thirty years.
38 posted on 04/18/2003 7:05:20 AM PDT by mewzilla
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To: mewzilla
I would like to see you interview him on Fox TV.
39 posted on 04/18/2003 7:09:39 AM PDT by Grampa Dave (Being a Monthly Donor to Free Republic is the Right Thing to do!)
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To: Grampa Dave
LOL! Maybe they'll make my day and make me an offer! :)
40 posted on 04/18/2003 7:10:44 AM PDT by mewzilla
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To: mewzilla
Remember how he tried to blame our troops for massive wrong doing when the Palestine Hotel got blasted?

This is why I can't take a steady diet of watch him. I know a fellow who grew up with O'Reilly, and he warned me from day one that O'Reilly is not a conservative. That O'Reilly takes a lot of shots at America that are not substantiated.
41 posted on 04/18/2003 7:30:36 AM PDT by Grampa Dave (Being a Monthly Donor to Free Republic is the Right Thing to do!)
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To: jetson
Funny. But that was a horrible movie. :-)
42 posted on 04/18/2003 8:26:56 AM PDT by My2Cents ("Well....there you go again.")
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To: cmattair
you haven't had an original thought since you were born.

And I suppose you haven't had a thought that wasn't judgmental.

43 posted on 04/18/2003 8:28:52 AM PDT by My2Cents ("Well....there you go again.")
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To: Oldeconomybuyer
Has this info been mentioned on NBC/CBS/ABC? They were so anxious to put the info out there that America was somehow complicit in the desctruction! I wonder if they'll be as forthcoming now that folks know more about the real situation.
44 posted on 04/18/2003 8:33:39 AM PDT by SuziQ
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To: Oldeconomybuyer
Expert Thieves Took Artifacts, UNESCO Says .
45 posted on 04/18/2003 8:40:01 AM PDT by aristeides
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To: ValenB4
I'm a student of history, which makes it all the more odd that I really don't give a rip about Korans that are destroyed. I guess I'm "intolerant," but I have little tolerance for a false religion that uses the sword as its principal evangelistic tool.
46 posted on 04/18/2003 8:50:16 AM PDT by My2Cents ("Well....there you go again.")
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To: My2Cents
Yeah, you're a lousy student of history. Judging by the cult of personality that is your homepage, under different circumstantances directing your intolerance and exclusivity of truth in another direction, you may well have been a useful follower of Mohammad.
47 posted on 04/18/2003 11:11:27 AM PDT by ValenB4
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To: ValenB4
You don't know me, so your opinion matters not to me.
48 posted on 04/18/2003 4:08:07 PM PDT by My2Cents ("Well....there you go again.")
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To: Orlando
"This site should of been protected on day #1."

At the cost of how many irreplaceable American Marines??

49 posted on 04/18/2003 4:11:07 PM PDT by F16Fighter (Democrats -- The Party of Stalin and Chiraq)
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To: Grampa Dave; mewzilla; hotpotato
Re O'Reilly:

In the 2000 campaign, I received the email accusing Hitlery of defending Black Panther murderers when at Yale.

[This has been the subject of David Horowitz, R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. and others.]

I forwarded same to a long list, including O'Reilly.

How surprised was I to receive his lengthy and detailed--albeit unconvincing--refutation of the charge and his defense of Hitlery.

As that has been to date the only communique I have received from O'Reilly I mark him down as a snake.

50 posted on 04/18/2003 8:42:08 PM PDT by PhilDragoo (Hitlery: das Butch von Buchenvald)
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