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‘Thieves of Baghdad’ author to speak at opening convocation

Matthew BogdanosMatthew Bogdanos, author of “Thieves of Baghdad,” will present the keynote address at opening convocation at Linfield College on Friday, Aug. 23, at 11 a.m. in the Ted Wilson Gymnasium.

In “Thieves of Baghdad,” Bogdanos tells the story of the mission to recover priceless archaeological treasures stolen from Iraq’s national museum after the start of the war in 2003. The book was the reading project for all first-year Linfield students, and will serve as a centerpiece for discussions and special programs throughout the year for freshman Colloquium and the college’s PLACE initiative (Program in the Liberal Arts and Civic Engagement).

When Baghdad fell, Bogdanos was in southern Iraq, tracking down terrorist networks through their financing and weapons-smuggling networks. Upon learning about the looting of the national museum, he led an elite group chosen from a multiagency task force in pursuit of Iraq’s priceless antiquities. “Thieves of Baghdad” covers expansive ground, recounting the Bogdanos family’s flight to safety at Ground Zero on 9/11, the mission to hunt down al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan, experiences in the war-torn streets of Baghdad, and tracking down leads from Zurich and Amman to Lyon, London and New York on the trail of antiquities.

Complex threads intertwine in an investigation that led to the recovery of thousands of irreplaceable objects. The team worked to locate the most sensational treasure of all, the Treasure of Nimrud, a collection of gold jewelry and precious stones often called Iraq’s crown jewels. Ultimately, they recovered thousands of Iraq’s treasures in eight countries, and exposed the link between antiquities trafficking and terrorist financing. Bogdanos subsequently presented findings to the United Nations, Interpol, British Parliament, and in The Hague. He received a National Humanities Medal for his efforts.

Bogdanos holds a degree in classics from Bucknell University, a law degree and a master’s degree in classical studies from Columbia University, and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the Army War College. He has been an assistant district attorney in Manhattan since 1988. Recalled to active duty as a colonel in the Marines after Sept. 11, 2001, he received a Bronze Star for counterterrorist operations in Afghanistan, and served two tours in Iraq. He was released back into the reserves in 2005, and even after returning to the DA’s Office, has continued the hunt for stolen antiquities.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Convocation is the traditional ceremony that celebrates the beginning of the new academic year. Faculty dress in academic regalia and new faculty members are introduced to the Linfield community. Classes at Linfield will begin Monday, Aug. 26.