If you combined The Iraq Museum, priceless artifacts, thieves and smugglers, terrorists, soldiers, multiple law enforcement agencies and put it all in a war zone you would get the book Thieves of Baghdad. Focusing on his fight to recover stolen artifacts from the Iraq Museum, Marine Colonel, prosecuting attorney, and author, Matthew Bogdanos weaves his way through his upbringing, witnessing the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, his return to active duty and deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. It was his maverick attitude and ability to think outside the box that brought him to the Iraq Museum to begin with, and it was his hard work and determination, along with that of his team and other law enforcement agencies, that resulted in the recovery of so many antiquities. Despite all that has been done, there is still a long way to go. The loss of even one artifact is far too many.
The theft of antiquities from The Iraq Museum and archaeological sites in the area is still such a relevant issue that TV shows such as NCIS and White Collar have devoted episodes to catching some of the smugglers. Of course White Collar addresses the theft of art and antiquities in every episode, since that’s what the show is about. The point is that episodes like this illustrate that the theft of antiquities in Iraq, as well as the rest of the world, is still a very current issue.
Overall, Thieves of Baghdad is excellent. Any book that has a marine quoting the classics and ancient Greek before kicking in a door on a raid, all the while making references to Sean “Diddy” Combs and Jennifer Lopez, is a must read book.
Sarah Kollar is a Conservation Specialist at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan. She earned a BA in History from Michigan State University and an MS in Historic Preservation from Clemson University/The College of Charleston. Sarah volunteered at the Charleston Museum and was a summer intern at Central Park Conservancy working on monument conservation. It’s her early love of history, which led her into this field, has developed to include a passion for cemeteries, architecture and archaeology.