This past May, Iraqi archaeologists were able to visit the areas for the first time since the start of the war. While sites like the carved walls of Nineveh were in drastic need of protection from the sun and wind, the fact that many areas were largely unexcavated probably protected them from looters, according to Diane Siebrandt, cultural heritage officer for the U.S. State Department in Baghdad.
It is nice to hear from the State Department that many areas around Mosul were spared the looting that has devastated thousands of archaeological sites in Iraq. But is it really true as a general statement? We have no time-series photos of all the areas around Mosul to verify this. And the sites that have been visited are among a small number that came under US military protection. They have been spared not, as the State Department officer claims, because Mosul's sites are largely unexcavated -- unexcavated sites elsewhere in Iraq have been decimated -- but because we have guarded them. That is something the State Department and the military have been unwilling to acknowledge, since it would obviously point to the need to put military and security resources into guarding sites at a point when the overall administration policy has been to reduce our footprint. We owe it to the Iraqis, and to ourselves, to do more to secure the sites from the looting that is daily destroying more and more of the record of our origins.