Looting vs theft

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Apr 17 16:07:08 UTC 2003

mark worden (mworden at wizzards.net) asks:

 >When is looting not theft?

 >Several news stories have stated that the antiquities taken from the
 >Iraq museum was most likel[y] a "well-executed theft."

looting certainly is theft; it's spontaneous, largely unplanned theft
(involving taking by force, usually by crudely breaking into
buildings).  what the news stories were suggesting was that the taking
of antiquities had in fact been planned and carefully executed;
specific antiquities were, the claim is, targeted and spirited away,
probably to sell to collectors.

meanwhile, there was a lot of just plain looting going on, which would
provide excellent cover for a well-executed theft.  episodes of
widespread looting very frequently are taken advantage of by thieves
with specific objects in mind.

arnold (zwicky at csli.stanford.edu)

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