On the trail of stolen Iraqi art

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If truth is war's first casualty, the Iraq Museum in Baghdad has the scars to prove it.More than two years after the museum, home to the remains of mankind's most ancient cities, was pillaged by an army of looters, thousands of the stolen objects have yet to be recovered.

And it appears that civilian and military experts may never agree on exactly what happened at one of the world's most prized museums or on who should have protected these treasures.

Matthew Bogdanos, a Marine Reserve colonel and the U.S. military's lead investigator into the thefts, details the assault on the museum and its aftermath in his new book, Thieves of Baghdad (Bloomsbury, $29.95), written with thriller author William Patrick.

The book, released last week, is the civilian world's most detailed look at how the thefts unfolded and the behind-the-scenes efforts to recover the priceless antiquities.

The classics scholar-turned-attorney who has just returned to civilian life also describes the events in a report published in the current American Journal of Archaeology

In the book, Bogdanos, 48, tells the more personal story of the path he took to Baghdad from his family's lower Manhattan apartment after the World Trade Center fell on Sept. 11, 2001. A prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney's office — nicknamed "Pit Bull" because of his tenacity — he was best known for prosecuting Sean "Diddy" Combs on weapons charges stemming from a nightclub shooting. Combs was acquitted in March 2001.

All changed with 9/11. The four-year journey that followed took Bogdanos into active duty, through a stint tracking down Taliban records in Afghanistan and finally to his role as leader of the team investigating the museum thefts.

"We didn't have any expectations when we arrived at the museum. We just knew there was a problem to be fixed," he says.

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