U.S. Government Declines to Disclose How It Obtained 10,000 Illegally Exported Iraqi Artifacts

Posted on August 7, 2013


Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 1.15.42 PMThe 2003 US invasion of Iraq was a disaster for the country in terms of preserving their archaeological heritage. Looters stole 15,000 artifacts from the Baghdad museum in the chaos, of which only 25% have been recovered. Authorities have recovered 130,000 artifacts stolen from other places in Iraq, but tens of thousands of pieces are still missing.

Ten thousand of those stolen artifacts surfaced in the US following the 2003 invasion. Iraqi and US government officials have now reached a deal for those artifacts to be returned to Iraq by August 2014, an announcement made by Iraq’s senior ministry advisor Baha al-Mayahi. The catch? The artifacts must all be registered in an electronic archive at Cornell before their return.

The other catch? Nobody’s going to talk about how the artifacts got here.

Really? Is that good enough? Is Iraq’s consent to non-disclosure by the U.S. government enough? Or does the public have any interest in knowing why 10,000 stolen artifacts have resurfaced here?