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Under the Eyes of U.S. Forces and This Happened?

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The sack of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad and looting of its unique and most precious relics of the Mesopotamian civilization, probably by organized groups, which went on for forty-eight hours under the eyes of U.S. forces on April 11 and April 12, must be considered a gross dereliction of duty on their part. It was followed, on April 13, by the looting and then torching of the National Library and Archives, which was located opposite the intact building of the Defense Ministry and contained invaluable manuscripts. Our troops, who have been proudly guarding the Oil Ministry, where no window is broken, deliberately condoned these horrendous events. According to the Hague Convention this failure to protect Iraq's irreplaceable cultural heritage constitutes a war crime, as does inaction by an occupying force while witnessing the looting of hospitals. This wanton destruction of the cultural heritage of humanity is for more extensive than the Taliban's savage demolition of the Buddha statues in Bamiyan, and the U.S. must bear the heavy responsibility for it.

In fact, the sack of the Iraq Museum under American occupation is unprecedented in recent history. The Nazis did remove museum collections, but they packed them carefully and kept inventories, which made their return after the war possible. The Iraqis were much berated for taking the collection of the Kuwait Museum during the first Gulf War, but they did so in accordance with the Hague Convention. They were responsible for the collection as invaders--so the packed it professionally, took an inventory, and informed UNESCO at the time that they had taken the collection to Baghdad for safekeeping. The one parallel, sadly, is the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258, when the library was destroyed and its invaluable manuscripts thrown into the Tigris.

There had been at least two meetings between American archaeologists and the State Department, and a number of communications between them and the Department of Defense and Central Command, about the possibility of such looting between the time Saddam's forces cut and ran and the arrival of the U.S. forces. No one thought such an act of violence against humanity would occur after the occupation of Baghdad and under the eyes of our troops.