U.S. fought to protect Iraqi history, Marine says

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Soon after the U.S. Marines seized the ancient Iraqi city of Babylon in 2003, Iraqi treasure hunters were picking through the ruins of a 2,600-year-old palace.

Capt. Emilio Marrero Jr., a Navy chaplain, watched from atop a fortress wall with a few Marines and two Iraqi guides.

An Iraqi host whispered, "Ali Baba." Thieves.

Armed with little more than indignation and the cross on his left collar, Marrero hollered down in his Bronx accent at the looters: "Ali Baba! Stop."

A pair of armed Marines climbed down from the wall and drove the looters from the ruins.

It was a small victory.

It also was a glimpse into the difficult job of winning the Iraqis' trust while occupying the cradle of civilization. "We're trying to preserve this place, we're not trying to loot it," said Marrero, now the chaplain for Navy Expeditionary Combat Command in Virginia Beach.

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