'Pit bull' dogs Iraq Museum looters
The pit bull cuts a Napoleonic figure in the low-lit auditorium. "What I'm here for today is to give you the facts of what happened at the museum, and the facts are pretty interesting," Col. Matthew Bogdanos tells a crowd of defense and art history specialists assembled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
From April to November last year, Colonel Bogdanos led a team of CIA and Customs agents and military officials in the first probe, and probably the most thorough, of the looting of Baghdad's National Museum and the role US troops played, or failed to play, in protecting it after the city's fall.
Now, after recovering more than 4,000 stolen artifacts, Bogdanos's team is in shambles, its members recalled to other projects or done with their tours of duty. The Marine colonel himself will be returning to civilian life at the end of March. So this winter he's touring the world, pleading with government officials, military experts, and antiquities specialists to continue his effort to recover more than 9,000 missing treasures dating back to the birth of city life, the invention of written language, the world's first laws.
"These artifacts are the product of our shared history - they're mine as much as they are [museum director] Donny George's - and I want them back," he says.
In civilian life, Bogdanos is a Manhattan prosecutor; he made his nickname in court, dogging the likes of rappers Puff Daddy and Shyne. Last April, when Gen. Tommy Franks approved the colonel's request to lead the team investigating the museum looting, Bogdanos remembers him saying, "That pit bull thing you do in New York? You do that in Baghdad, and let the chips fall where they may."
Bogdanos is a spit-shined slickster built like a fireplug; he radiates a defensive energy that can be hard to take. He's also a trained classicist with a soft spot for Homeric epic and words like "exquisite." He is, in other words, a particularly intriguing leader and frontman for an investigation worth investigating.