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Iraq
Major Focus Areas
Protecting Cultural Property
History & Culture
Significant Sites in Afghanistan
Laws, Treaties & Enforcement
Test Your Knowledge















 




1. Do not pick up or disturb an artifact or alter a monument that you know or suspect is protected cultural property.

2. Do not make first military use of any protected cultural property, historic or religious building, monument or archaeological site unless a genuine and imperative military necessity exists, considering feasible and logical alternatives.

4. Do not dig into any flat ground or hill without first determining whether the site is an archaeological or historical site.

 

6. While in theater, do not enter any mosque, Islamic shrine or madrasa in a manner that is contrary to General Order 1A.

7. Consult your OIC or Civil Affairs officer when you first encounter a protected archaeological, historical or religious site or enter a province or region with cultural heritage assets.

8. Do not assume you can avoid archaeological sites or ancient monuments by looking at a map.
 

9. Do not engage in construction projects at, or near, an archaeological or cultural heritage site without consulting the national antiquities authority and receiving written permission.

10. Review Chapter 6 ("Historical and Cultural Preservation") of the CENTCOM Contingency Environmental Guidance: Environmental Quality Regulation (*R 200-2) for more essential information.

 

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1. Do not pick up or disturb any artifact that you find on the ground. Do not restore or alter any standing monument that you know or suspect is protected cultural property.

Removing any object from an archaeological, religious, historical or cultural heritage site on Iraqi soil is considered looting. The only exception to this prohibition must involve a genuine and imperative military necessity considering other feasible or logical alternative.

Taking artifacts from an archaeological, religious or cultural heritage site without genuine military necessity not only constitutes a violation of General Order 1A, it is also a violation of Iraq's cultural heritage law.


Taking artifacts from protected sites in the United States (such as a protected Civil War battlefield, national park or anywhere on federal land, including U.S. military bases) is a violation of U.S. law as well. Bottom line: taking artifacts while in theater, by whatever means or for whatever reason, is always a mistake.

Do not climb upon, deface or physically alter any ancient site or monument. Doing so is disrespectful and a violation of General Order 1A.

Do not attempt remedial action or restoration of any ancient building or site that you encounter. These tasks are best left to Civil Affairs officers and staff who possess the necessary equipment and expertise.

Do not
tolerate any archaeological souvenir hunting or vandalism. It is every soldier's and civilian staff member's duty to report such behavior to the nearest OIC.

Inform your OIC or appropriate military authority if you witness, receive reports, or see obvious signs of looting of historical, religious of archaeological sites or monuments. Post guards to prevent additional looting.



Do not climb atop monuments or sculptures


 

 

 

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2. Do not make first military use of any protected cultural property, historic or religious building or monument or any archaeological site unless a genuine and imperative military necessity exists, considering other feasible or logical alternatives.

During military operations, the President and the Secretary of Defense shall approve Rules of Engagement (ROE) to govern the use of force in a manner that is consistent with both U.S. and international law and reinforce the principles of the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC).

Under the LOAC and the Geneva Conventions, "any normally protected entity, such as a mosque or cultural site can lose its protection if the enemy uses it in a way that makes it a military target," said Major Gen. Thomas J. Fiscus, the judge advocate general of the Air Force in a 2003 interview.

Therefore, if an enemy makes first military use of a cultural, religious or historic site, international law allows U.S. forces to consider the site a valid military objective or target.

Current ROE allow religious and historic sites to be targeted if they are: (a) used by snipers (see the Abu Hanifa Shrine example and Falujah mosque examples below), or (b) used as shelter or as fighting positions by hostile forces, or (c) used by hostile forces to store weapons caches.

For this reason, to prevent the cultural or religious site or building from becoming a valid target, battlefield commanders should avoid making first military use of, or bedding down at, any protected cultural, religious or historic site or building — unless a genuine and imperative military necessity exists, considering feasible or logical alternatives.

When U.S. forces built a camp at Babylon in 2003, it was widely discussed as a possible breach of the "no first military use" rule. Another controversy involved U.S. forces making use of the Malwiya Minaret at Samarra as a sniper's nest in 2004-05, which generated international media attention and prompted Geoffrey S. Corn, an International Law Advisor at the Judge Advocate General's Office to analyze the issue:

     "Assuming, arguendo, that the minaret used by U.S. forces ... fell
      within the definition of cultural property, the use [as a sniper's nest]
      was permissible based only on a determination of imperative military
      necessity. While use of the vantage point offered by such a structure
      was undoubtedly intended to enhance the effectiveness of the operation,
      the prohibition against the military use of cultural property absent such
      a justification does not allow for a general military necessity based
      exception. Instead, the concept of imperative necessity suggests that no
      other feasible alternative be available for achieving what is presumptively
      an important military objective. This prohibition has arguably attained
      customary international law status, and at a minimum, appears to be
      binding on U.S. forces through either operation of the object and purpose
      rule derived from the international law of treaties, or through operation
      of DOD Directive 5100.77 "

According to this analysis, rather than make first military use of the Malwiya Minaret at Samarra, a feasible alternative should have been sought. Only the Officer in Charge can determine whether a genuine and imperative military necessity exists with no feasible or logical alternative.


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Baghdad Mosque



Baghdad Mosque




Baghdad Mosque






 

babylon occupation

ishtar gate damage





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During the fall and winter of 2004-05,
U.S. forces made first military use of
the Malwiya Minaret at Samarra.
Reports in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and Reuters identified snipers and spotters from the 1st Battalion 26th Infantry Regiment taking up position atop the Minaret. The OIC presumably reasoned that a valid military objective was achieved
by positioning the snipers at that point. It also made the Minaret a valid military target. Complaints from Iraqi authorities caused the snipers to vacate the Minaret in March 2005. Insurgents then exploded a bomb that damaged the top of the Minaret (see above). For discussion of this incident, see "Snipers in the Minaret— What is the Rule? The Law of War and Protection of Cultural Property: A Complex Equation" by Geoffrey S. Corn, International Law Advisor, Office of the Judge Advocate General, in The Army Lawyer, July 2005, pages 28-40.



The Abu Hanifa Shrine Minaret in downtown Baghdad (left) was used as a sniper's nest by Iraqi forces during the final days of combat before Baghdad fell. Firing from that position continued during the evening of April 9-10, 2003. The next day, U.S. forces took out the sniper (and inadvertantly damaged the Minaret) under the imperative military necessity waiver found in Article 4, paragraph 2 of the 1954 Hague Convention. The decision to fire on the minaret was valid under international law. Click image to enlarge.








The rotor wash from a single helicopter landing can severely damage sensitive archaeologocal structures and remains.

 

 

 




This UH-60M Black Hawk maintains the correct safe distance as it passes the Great Pyramids at Giza during the 1983 Bright Star Exercise. (Photo © Defense Industry Daily. All rights reserved)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drive around — never across — an
archaeological site or monument grounds.
















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3. Do not purchase or acquire any artifacts, antiquities or cultural heritage items while in theater.


No matter how innocent they may look or how inexpensive the price, purchasing artifacts that appear to be old from a street vendor or a shop while in theater is a fundamental mistake. If you attempt to return home with the artifact, you are likely to be caught and may suffer the same consequences as the American journalist Joseph Braude (see the 2004 court case United States v. Joseph Braude).

Do not believe sellers who tell you that the item they are selling for a low price is "not important", and is thus permissible to purchase. If an object looks old, it probably is old and will probably be confiscated by military inspectors when you leave the theater of operation or be confiscated by U.S. Customs & Border Protection when you return stateside.

No dealer operating in Egypt or Iraq or Afghanistan can provide a valid export permit needed to legally purchase and export. Only the government can issue such documents, and they rarely do.




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When the American author Joseph Braude purchased these three innocent looking cylinders in Baghdad during June of 2003, they still bore the inventory numbers of the institution from which they had been stolen, the Iraq National Museum. Braude was caught trying to bring the artifacts (Sumerian cylinder seals dating from the 3rd millennium B.C.) back to the United States. Customs and Border Protection seized the artifacts, a federal prosecutor issued an indictment and Braude pled guilty at trial in 2004. Acquiring artifacts while in theater is always a mistake. Photo: Dr. John Malcom Russell. Click image to enlarge.



 

 

 

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4. Do not dig into any flat ground or hill without first determining whether it is a protected archaeological or historical site.


Many unexcavated archaeological sites in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt and other countries look like natural hills. Digging for any reason at a known or suspected archaeological site without governmental approval is a violation of the cultural property laws of most nations (such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, as well as the United States), if the site is found on federal land or at a protected Civil War battlefield or similar site.

An effective alternative to digging trenches, filling sandbags or erecting berms in regions with protected cultural heritage sites is to make use of HESCO barriers.







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5. Familiarize yourself with the Blue Shield symbol that is used to designate ancient sites and historical or religious monuments and buildings that are subject to international protection.

Discussion of the Blue Shield symbol can be found on this page.





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6. While in theater, do not enter any mosque, Islamic shrine or madrasa in a manner that is contrary to General Order 1A without an imperative military necessity with no other logical or feasible alternative.

General Order 1A, subsection 2(a), states: "Entrance into a Mosque or other site of Islamic religious significance by non-Moslems unless directed to do so by military authorities, required by military necessity, or as part of an official tour conducted with the approval of military authorities and the host nation. This provision may be made more restrictive by Commanders when the local security situation warrants."

Do not enter or occupy any Islamic religious sites unless:
    
(a) your presence is part of a general tour conducted with the permission of
      the local imam or religious official on the scene; or

(b) your entrance is the result of a direct order from an OIC; or

(c) your entry is based on an imperative military necessity with no feasible or
     logical alternative, which only an OIC can determine.


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During the November 2004 battle for Fallujah, mosques were used as fighting positions and weapons depots by insurgents. Coalition forces invoked the imperative military necessity waiver under the 1954 Hague Convention so that certain mosques could be targeted from the air and fired upon and entered during the course of the ground campaign. Weapons depots were found inside mosques across the city. Photo: Ali Jasim, Reuters. Click image to enlarge.

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7. Consult your OIC or Civil Affairs officer and ask questions when you first encounter a protected archaeological, historical or religious site or first enter a province or region with known cultural heritage assets.

Whenever possible, identify the governmental institutions, authorities and individuals who are responsible for the region or site(s) that you may enter or approach.

Also identify the local Civil Affairs officer who may have useful information or advice. Do ask your Civil Affairs officer to explain and clarify best practices for safeguarding cultural heritage site and monuments in your area of deployment. And whenever possible, consult Civil Affairs and local authorities before undertaking any activity that might damage an archaeological site.

Inform CA officers or responsible parties in the host government about your location and activities. Experts may recommend that the entire area be examined to ensure it does not contain unrecorded archaeological sites.






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8. Do not assume you can avoid encountering protected archaeological sites by looking at a map.

Afghanistan contains more than 3,000 documented (and many more undocumented) archaeological sites — too many to fit on any map. Iraq is thought to have more than 30,000 archaeological sites, many of which are undocumented and unexcavated, many without even a modern place name.

Most archaeological sites in the Middle East, south Asia and north Africa are not found on any map. So if you see the tell-tale signs of ancient habitation, such as a low compact hill or rise on an otherwise flat terrain, steer clear of that area unless military necessity requires you to advance.

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9. Do not proceed with construction projects at, or near, an archaeological or cultural heritage site without consulting your LEC (Lead Environmental Component) on the ground. The LEC may need to consult archaeologists from the national antiquities authority and receive written authorization or official permit in order to proceed.


Construction at or near an archaeological or cultural heritage site usually requires written permission from the cultural minister or the state antiquities authority; proceeding without permission may violate the host nation's cultural property law.

Do not trust the expertise of local (non-archaeological) government authorities (they may grant permission without authorization in order to use a U.S.-led construction project as cover to carry out illicit activities, such as site looting).

Consult your LEC and receive the necessary permits before commencing any type of earth moving or construction.

Engineering and construction units that have permission to operate near a cultural heritage or archaeological site should review the construction and engineering recommendations found on this page of the training resource.



 

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10. Review Chapter 6 ("Historical and Cultural Preservation") of the CENTCOM Contingency Environmental Guidance: Environmental Quality Regulation (*R 200-2) for more essential information.

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