The media has shown a lot of pictures of looting in Iraq, especially in the days immediately following the fall of the regime. Scenes of people running off with vases, carpets, sinks, etc., were repeated for several days. In some cases this was carried out by impoverished Iraqis looking for anything they could sell.
Of course, the real looting was taking place in a much more organised and systematic manner. The first things the US military “secured” were the oilfields, underlining why they were really there. But while this high-ranking looting was going on some of the US troops were involved in some of their own entrepreneurial activities.
Yesterday’s British ‘The Independent’ published an article confirming that looting, on the part of US troops and even some journalists, of precious works of art has indeed been taking place in Iraq. The looting has not been limited to artefacts. Apparently a group of US infantrymen helped themselves to 600 million US dollars worth of banknotes. They are now under “investigation” but no arrests have been made.
According to the article, “a number of unconfirmed reports have suggested that US troops have attempted to steal money and other valuables under cover of the security vacuum left by the sudden collapse of Saddam’s regime.”
The most blatant case so far has been that of Benjamin Johnson, a US TV engineer. On entering the US at Dulles International airport in Washington he was caught trying to smuggle in paintings and Iraqi monetary bonds. According to The Independent, he is believed to be “one of several travellers returning to the United States with paintings and even weapons in their luggage.”
How many more Benjamin Johnsons are there who don’t get caught? We can be sure that Benjamin Johnson is just one of the “small fry”. As usual it is the small dealers that get caught. The big ones are busily trafficking precious works of art and ancient archaeological remains to be sold the handful of millionaires and billionaires who can afford them. These works will disappear into the personal hordes of these people and the world will have lost a part of its rightful heritage.
Hopefully one day the workers of the world, in transforming society, and removing these parasites will be able to restore this heritage to its rightful place and return them to the public museums where everyone will be able to enjoy them once more.