US soldiers and airmen fighting in Iraq are to receive a new weapon in their arsenal: a pack of playing cards to help them identify ancient ruins before creating new ones.
The Pentagon's move, echoing its post-invasion production of a deck of cards depicting "Iraq's most wanted", is part of a belated Pentagon scheme to prevent further war damage to the country's 11,000 archaeological sites.
More than four years after priceless antiquities housed in Iraq's National Museum were looted and much of the country's ancient heritage was despoiled, 40,000 packs of the playing cards will be dealt out to American troops - roughly one deck for every four soldiers.
The cards are illustrated with pictures of rare artefacts or sites of special interest, in the hope that soldiers will avoid turning them into battlefields.
Each suit has a theme: diamonds for artefacts, spades for digs, hearts for "winning hearts and minds", and clubs for heritage preservation.
The cards also carry handy slogans. The five of clubs says: "Drive around, not over archaeological sites". Another asks: "This site has survived 17 centuries. Will it and others survive you?"
In what may be seen as an optimistic initiative, troops are asked to consider taking up alternative firing positions if historical treasures are at risk. Likewise, air force pilots are urged to bomb sensitively.
In one infamous incident in 2003, a site at Nebuchadnezzar's ancient city of Babylon was used as a helicopter landing pad and a camp for 2,000 troops.
Last year Donny George, Iraq's most prominent archaeologist, fled the country saying growing insecurity was making preservation work impossible.
I wonder if these will be showing up at eBay or other sources (a la the 'Iraq's Most Wanted' deck)