Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A New Deck of Cards for Troops in Iraq

The Pentagon is sending another deck of playing cards to troops in Iraq - this time showing some of the country's most precious archaeological sites instead of the most-wanted former regime officials. Some 40,000 new decks of playing cards will be sent to troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan - as part of an awareness program so troops can help preserve the heritage of those countries, said Laurie Rush, archaeologist at Fort Drum in New York. It's aimed at making troops aware they shouldn't pick up and bring home artifacts and also to avoid causing damage to sites - such as an incident after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when U.S. troops built a helicopter pad on the ruins of Babylon and filled their sandbags with archaeological fragments from the ancient city. Each card in the deck shows an artifact or site or gives a tip on how to help preserve antiquities. "Drive around, not over, archaeological sites," says the five of clubs."This site has survived 17 centuries. Will it and others survive you?" asks the seven of clubs, which pictures Ctesiphon Arch in Iraq. The majority of cards are about Iraq, but some shows sites in Afghanistan - the king of diamonds shows Buddha statuary at Hadda. In another program, U.S. pilots have received training in recognizing and identifying ruins, cemeteries and other sites so they don't accidentally bomb them. In another, soldiers are simulating incidents - such as practicing what they would do if they were taking hostile fire from an archaeological ruin. "Obviously we have to put our soldiers safety first," Rush said, but they would consider whether there might be a way to return fire without harming the site. The military sent a 55-card deck to troops Iraq in 2003 with pictures and information about the most-wanted former senior government officials, distributing them to thousands of U.S. troops in the field to help them recognize and find the officials.

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