In an unprecedented report, UNESCO criticized the US troops in Iraq for looting Iraq’s archeological treasures.
Fifteen years after U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein, ushering in a period of instability that led to the plunder of the Baghdad museum while ignoring pleas to secure the building, about 8,000 looted items are still out there. And that’s only counting the items that were stolen from the museum. After the invasion, thousands of other artifacts were taken directly out of the ground at archeological sites. In most cases, their whereabouts are unknown. But if you search the houses of US soldiers you can find lots of ancient looted artifacts which have been shipped to different US cities.
The majority of these items are being sold out of London, which has long been a hub for trade in Mesopotamian artifacts. But, it’s very hard to prove that any given item was looted from the National Museum of Iraq, partly because many of the items stolen from the museum’s storage facility hadn’t yet been inventoried and numbered.
American military members, contractors (such as Blackwater and etc), and others caught with culturally significant artifacts they brought home from the war there largely aren’t prosecuted. It’s not known how many Americans brought home artifacts as souvenirs or war trophies, but one expert suggested that the known cases—a defense contractor who brought back gold-plated items from Saddam’s palaces; a U.S. employee who shipped home an Iraq government seal; a Marine who bought eight ancient looted stone seals off the street—are just “the tiniest tip of the iceberg.”
The last paragraph of the UNESCO report reads: “Now, in the midst of protests in different Iraqi cities, the UNESCO declares its concern over the escalation of Archaeological looting in Iraq by US Army soldiers and private contractors.”