Fire with intent

Robert Fisk: In whose interest is it to destroy the entire physical infrastructure of the state, with its cultural heritage?

This story, and the extended version in this interview imply that a) the looting and arson of museums and ministries in Baghdad was carried out by organised gangs, and b) the commanders of the US forces were aware that this would happen but did nothing about it, while guarding the Minstry of Interior and the Ministry of Oil.

Two possibilities (excluding the most conspiratorial or foolish), both of which assume that US intelligence was aware that these raids would occur: a) the US forces didn't want to appear under attack by Iraqis, so decided not to guard the places where this would be most likely to happen in order to avoid conflict, or b) a deal was made with leaders of the organised gangs that these places would not be defended, in exchange for removing resistance to the US forces when entering and holding Baghdad. It would be interesting to know whether intelligence sources knew who was planning these raids in advance, and also whether the power of organised crime in Iraq is strong enough that the latter kind of deal could have been made.

Update, from an article in New Scientist:

The looting was most likely the work of organised criminals, suggested John Ashcroft, head of the US delegation to an international meeting in Lyon, France. The meeting, held on Tuesday, was to discuss ongoing efforts to recover the missing treasures.

"From the evidence that has emerged, there is a strong case to be made that the looting and theft of the artefacts was perpetrated by organised criminal groups," Ashcroft said.