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Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Looted Baghdad museum re-opens. 7,000 artifacts missing.

Iraq's restored National Museum is reopening Tuesday, nearly six years after looters carried away antiquities and treasures as U.S. troops stood by in the chaos of Saddam Hussein's fall from power.

The museum, rededicated Monday, was among hundreds of institutions - universities, hospitals, cultural offices - ransacked during the lawless aftermath of Saddam's ouster. It became a symbol for critics of Washington's inability to maintain order amid the disintegration of Iraq's police and military.

"It was a dark age that Iraq passed through," said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at a ceremony inside the museum. "This spot of civilization has had its share of destruction."

Officials have touted the museum's reopening as another milestone in Baghdad's slow return to stability.

When asked at the time why U.S. troops did not actively seek to stop the lawlessness, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld famously said, "Stuff happens ... and it's untidy and freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things."

Others claimed the U.S. troops lacked a clear mandate to act from Washington.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have said about 15,000 artifacts were stolen from the museum and about 8,500 of those items had been recovered. A number of countries in the region, including Jordan, Syria and Egypt, have returned stolen objects to Iraq. More