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Antiquities Coalition: Culture Should Not Be a Military Target

January 7, 2020

Statement Follows Reports that the U.S. Government Would Consider Striking Iranian Cultural Sites

The Antiquities Coalition welcomes the statement by the U.S. Department of Defense reaffirming the United States’ longstanding commitment to safeguarding cultural heritage from war and terrorism—not just for preservation, but as a tool to share American values, build diplomatic ties, and fight violent extremism around the world. 

“Historically, the United States has been a leader in defending civilization from those who seek to rewrite history, whether the Nazis in World War II or ISIS today,” said Deborah Lehr, Chair and Founder of the Antiquities Coalition. “The Trump Administration has successfully used cultural heritage to strengthen counterterrorism and law enforcement cooperation with our partners across the Middle East and North Africa, resulting in the signing of an unprecedented number of bilateral agreements with countries such as Libya, Algeria, and Jordan. This outreach is both preserving history and furthering America’s other interests by recognizing and respecting the region as a cradle of civilization, art, writing, law, and faith.”

In recent years, world wonders such as the Great Pyramids, Palmyra, and Tomb of Jonah, as well as countless other sites and the communities surrounding them, have been targeted or outright destroyed by rogue states and violent extremists. These attacks followed the playbook of history’s most hated villains from the Third Reich, to the Khmer Rouge, and the Taliban.

We are grateful that the U.S. position on Iran has been clarified. Indeed, any efforts by the United States to harm cultural heritage would undermine our ethical and moral leadership at a critical time in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond. 

Now is the time for Washington to build on decades of tireless efforts by our greatest Presidents, Generals, and generation after generation of American heroes in and out of uniform. This includes progress by the current administration, such as last October’s celebrated relaunching of the “Monuments Men and Women,” through which our armed forces are helping to secure cultural heritage in war and other disaster zones. This type of initiative exemplifies the best of the American tradition while strengthening our national security. 

Our country’s leaders may at times be called on to protect and defend America and our democracy, but it is critical that military actions are not taken at the expense of the values our nation embodies.



About the Antiquities Coalition 

To protect our shared heritage and global security, the Antiquities Coalition is leading the international campaign against cultural racketeering, the illicit trade in ancient art and artifacts. We champion better law and policy, foster diplomatic cooperation, and advance proven solutions with public and private partners worldwide. We are working toward a future when the past is preserved for the next generation, not looted, smuggled, and sold to finance crime, conflict, and terror. Learn more at