Monday 29 July 2013

USA Hands Back Illegal 'War-trophy'

Among the items that "found itself" in the USA after the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a sword stolen by somebody (unnamed) from Saddam Hussein'soffice and smuggled into the United States by U.S. military personnel (ICE Press release: 'ICE returns Saddam Hussein ceremonial sword to Republic of Iraq' 29th July 2013). Ten years later the sword was returned to the Republic of Iraq. The object had been sold  in October 2011, presumably by the bloke that took it, to the Amoskeag Auction Company (AAC) in Manchester, N.H., it was advertised in their Jan. 7, 2012, auction catalogue as having been:
removed from Hussein's personal office in the Iraqi military command complex in Baghdad by the U.S. Army 126th Military History Detachment after the regime fell in 2003. The catalog also said that the consignor was attached to the unit as a combat historian, that the sword was not claimed by the U.S. government and that the consignor was granted permission to keep the sword as a souvenir. In January 2012, HSI special agents in Manchester learned that it was being auctioned and initiated an investigation [and] coordinated with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) regarding the validity of the sword’s importation into the United States and the regulations surrounding the importation of war trophies from Iraq. It was determined that this ornate ceremonial sword cannot be considered a modern battlefield weapon and is therefore not eligible to be exported as a war trophy. Additionally, the import of this historic sword was prohibited by DOD’s Office of Foreign Assets Control pursuant to an executive order which prohibits trade or transfer of Iraqi cultural property.
The sword was seized by HSI special agents seized as a possible Iraqi cultural artifact. It had by this time already been sold (for $15,000) by AAC but the buyer had not paid and the object was still with the auctioneer. On April 30, 2012, the sword was administratively forfeited. Fourteen months later the handover ceremony was staged, a private ceremony held at Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily’s residence in Washington.
“Cultural property -- such as the sword being returned today to the people of Iraq -- represents part of a country’s history that should have never been stolen or auctioned,” said HSI Associate Director James Dinkins. “We will continue conducting these types of investigations to ensure that current and future generations aren’t robbed of their nation’s history.”
Note the sense of entitlement embodied in the statement: "the sword was not claimed by the U.S. government and that the consignor was granted permission to keep the sword as a souvenir". Why should the US Government have any claim on any personal property in the invaded country? The very idea. Also WHO (name, rank, authority) "gave permission" to steal it? One of the commanding officers of the U.S. Army 126th Military History Detachment (the what?) maybe? What else did he give his men "permission" to half-inch? Has there been an official enquiry?

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