The Battle Over Iraq’s Archives

By Staff

The Chronicle of Higher Education–the 2007 Utne Independent Press Award winner for political coverage–just filed this scoop today: A massive trove of Baath party documents from the era of Saddam Hussein has found a controversial, temporary home at the Hoover Institution, the Stanford-affiliated conservative think tank and library.

The Chronicle reports that Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi exile who was a leading proponent of invading Iraq for humanitarian reasons, has been searching for a safe haven for the documents since digitizing them in 2005 with the help of the U.S. government. (The government got a digital copy out of the deal.)

Makiya, who discovered the documents in April 2003, says his Iraq Memory Foundation got the OK from Iraq’s deputy prime minister and the prime minister’s office to make the deal with Hoover, which will house the documents for five years. But Saad Eskander, the internationally respected director general of the Iraq National Library and Archive, says the documents belong in Iraq and that the private foundation’s possession of them is illegal. (The International Council on Archives noted that only “a legislative act of the state” can sanction “the alienation of public archives.”) 

Despite the pitched debate between the two men, they do agree on something: The 100 million pages of Iraqi documents kept by the U.S. Department of Defense–the largest known cache of Baath-era papers–“belong in Iraqi hands,” the Chronicle reports. Both men have asked the Pentagon to turn the documents over to their respective organizations. 

Hannah Lobel

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.