Mission unaccomplished, an insight into saving Iraq's history

A 3,500-year-old clay tablet that was looted from Iraq in 1991, is finally heading back to the country after being seized by US authorities in 2019. The Gilgamesh Dream Tablet had been acquired by the Hobby Lobby company in 2014 for display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. 

The tablet measures 5 by 6 inches and features inscriptions of a language from ancient Mesopotmia. The text includes a section of the epic of Gilgamesh, a poem which is said to have been originally written 4,000 years ago.  Museums in Iraq were looted, when Saddam Hussain withdrew troops from Kuwait and an uprising took place across Iraq, in the immediate wake of the first Gulf War.

But what lessons were learned, when back in May 2003, US agents working in Iraq said they had recovered thousands of items looted from the national museum in Baghdad, following the fall of Saddam Hussain. They reported that about 40,000 manuscripts and 700 other artefacts had been retrieved after being stolen from the museum, which housed one of the Middle East's most comprehensive archaeological collections. 

Agents from ICE - part of America's Homeland Security Department - were deployed in the region before the 2003 war began, and some were embedded with combat troops to conduct investigative operations. Some agents even began sleeping in the museum to help prevent further looting. 

Then US Attorney General John Ashcroft said there was evidence that organised criminals were behind the looting of select, high value items, possibly stolen to order for international clients. He vowed those who had stolen priceless Iraqi artefacts would be tracked down by the US and Interpol.

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