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U.S. Criticized After Important Sites were Looted

The United States Military has come under criticism for not doing enough to protect important buildings in Baghdad that were torn apart by massive looting after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime last week. VOA-TV’s Chris Simkins has more on what was lost and who is suffering the most from the looting.

In Baghdad Thursday a new wave of looting. U.S. Marines take charge of a looted bank, hauling away bags of cash for safekeeping. Elsewhere around the capital it was too late as buildings were completely ransacked and everything of value was stolen. It was the same scene at Iraqi Government Ministries where valuable intelligence was trashed days after Saddam Hussein was removed from power.

Last week, looters targeted hospitals, stealing equipment, medicine and even bed mattresses. The International Red Cross says a number of people at Baghdad’s Al Rashad home for the insane were raped as the city fell into chaos. Now volunteers have been providing some food and bread for the patients and the Red Cross is providing them with drinking water.

Nearly all of the patients, who are chronic schizophrenics, fled the hospital but several hundred returned. Not knowing what to do, much of the hospital staff left the facility.

“There were nurses there were doctors the people who were responsible for the hospital but they could not do anything with these people then they left the hospital.”

Looters also ransacked Iraq’s National Museum where horrified curators are trying to catalogue the loss. Ancient Iraqi treasures that were centuries old were either stolen or destroyed. Experts say that professional thieves stole some of the valuable artifacts.

“We had only two pieces. That’s one Egyptian copy of Hammurabi’s code of law, which the original is in Paris. The second is the black obelisk which is in the Birch museum and these two pieces were not touched.”

Now some Iraqis and international aid groups say American soldiers should have done more to protect Iraq’s hospitals, museums, and ministry buildings from looters. And some say they warned U.S. military officials of the possibility of looting. But U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejects the allegations, saying it was impossible for soldiers to fight the Iraqi Army and protect all the important buildings in the capital at the same time. The former director of operations at the U.S. defense Department Lieutenant. General Gregory Newbold, says the speed of the regime’s collapse made it difficult to protect key buildings.

“In hindsight, I think we would have put more military police units and more civil reconstruction units into the flow. But it was not predictable at the time we were putting the plan together.”

Some of the artifacts stolen from the Baghdad Museum have already appeared on the open market. The United States has sent F.B.I. agents to Iraq to try and track down the thieves who stole the Iraqi art and artifacts. F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller.

We are firmly committed to doing whatever we can in order to secure the return of these treasures to the people of Iraq.

And now Coalition forces are slowly recruiting law enforcement professionals to work with local Iraqi police to protect key facilities. The people who work at these buildings fear it may be too late since so many valuables have already disappeared.