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Rumsfeld Dismisses Criticism about Iraqi Museum Looting - 2003-04-15

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the United States is concerned about looting at Iraqi museums. Mr. Rumsfeld dismisses charges the U.S. war plan failed to provide adequate protection for the country's antiquities.

Mr. Rumsfeld calls looting "an unfortunate thing" and tells reporters at the Pentagon no one likes it or allows it, though he says it is difficult to stop in a war zone.

However Mr. Rumsfeld says rewards will be offered for the return of priceless artifacts. He also says he hopes some are only missing because they were hidden for safekeeping ahead of the war.

"I would suspect that over time we'll find that a number of things were in fact hidden prior to the conflict," he said. "That's what most people [...] who run museums do prior to a conflict which was obviously well telegraphed in advance."

U.S. forces have been criticized for failing to protect Iraq's museums and archaeological sites. But Pentagon officials dismiss the criticism, noting coalition forces avoided targeting them during the war. They also say looting occurred while troops were still engaged in ground fighting and unable to provide security.