In the bloody and destructive aftermath of the U.S.-led Coalition’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, cultural heritage workers debated how to prevent or suppress the looting of museums and archaeological sites. At the Fifth World Archaeological Congress, held in Washington, D.C. three months after the invasion, the destruction and looting of Iraqi cultural property, and the ethical responsibilities of archaeologists, were central concerns. Troubled by the explicit statements of some archaeologists and the implicit tone of others, I submitted Proposition 15. It cited the human right to “a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family [sic], including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services”; and it concluded that the WAC should recognise that “[s]o long as a standard of living adequate for health and well-being is not [otherwise] accessible. . . . [a] person has a moral right to ‘loot’”. It was not passed by the Congress’ Business Plenary.
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