Matthew Bogdanos could not have known what an eventful four years he would have. Normally a prosecutor in New York, Bogdanos was recalled to active duty by presidential order just hours after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 (he went back to civilian life in October, as this issue was going to press). As he outlines in the accompanying article, he headed the American military’s counterterrorism team, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, and took the lead in the efforts to recover Iraq’s looted antiquities.
Though his involvement with the recovery of antiquities officially ended in November 2003 as part of a normal rotation of duties, Bogdanos has continued to be involved in the recovery of looted objects—on his own time and, occasionally, on his own dime (he has paid for his own travel, for example). He has traveled to six countries and has met with eight international organizations to try to get someone to assume responsibility for coordinating international anti-looting efforts (he has not succeeded). “We can’t do this nationally,” he told BAR. “Scotland Yard, Jordanian Customs, the Italian carabinieri all do a great job, but only within their countries.”
We asked Bogdanos why he, a counterterrorism specialist, became involved in combating antiquities looting. In addition to his life-long love of classical civilizations, there is a more practical reason. The two are part of the same effort, he explained: The sale of looted antiquities is funding the current insurgency in Iraq. “We never recovered antiquities without also recovering weapons,” Bogdanos told us. “Drugs are funding the insurgency in Afghanistan; in Iraq it’s antiquities.”—S.F.