Down the Memory Hole
The Pentagon sits on the documents of the Saddam Hussein regime.
Dec 19, 2005, Vol. 11, No. 14 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Title: IIS [Iraqi Intelligence Service] Request to move Persons, Prisoners, and VIPs to Private Residences
The descriptions of other documents are more provocative:
Title: Intelligence coded memo by two IIS officers containing info on various topics; weapons boat, Palestinians training in Iraq, etc.
Title: Presidential instruction from Hussein concerning mass graves in southern Iraq, and how to handle the PR/media fallout.
Presumably, this was a plan to blame any mass graves on deaths supposedly caused by depleted-uranium artillery shells used by U.S. forces in the first Gulf War--a favorite talking point of the pro-Saddam left in the 1990s.
Other document descriptions raise more questions than they answer:
Title: Chemical, Biological Agent Destruction
Title: IIS Correspondence for the Iraq Embassy in the Philippines and Iraqi MFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs].
Were biological and chemical agents destroyed by the Iraqi regime? When? How? How many? Does the correspondence between the Iraqi Embassy in Manila and the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs shed any new light on the $25 million ransom that Muammar Qaddafi paid Abu Sayyaf in the summer of 2000, ostensibly to secure the release of 25 Westerners held hostage by the Filipino al Qaeda affiliate? Who traveled to Pakistan? What was his involvement with bin Laden? Did he have anything to do with the Iraqi government?
One would think the U.S. government would want answers to questions like these. But the DIA has been angling since last spring to close the DOCEX program in Doha. According to two Pentagon sources with direct knowledge of the issue, the future of that DOCEX program has been the subject of intense debate in recent weeks. Analysts with knowledge of the project say that the work is not close to being completed and warn that the closure of the DOCEX project there could mean the premature end to an important effort.
Although there are other facilities doing similar work in Baghdad and suburban Washington, the effort in Qatar is the most robust, with approximately 700 translators working in three shifts to review materials. (In a November 21 article in these pages--"Where Are the Pentagon Papers?"--I mistakenly reported that the Qatar effort employed some 200 translators. In fact, there are three shifts, each using 200-plus translators.)
Asked whether the program is on the verge of elimination, a spokesman for the DIA says that the Qatar DOCEX program is like any other program, in that it is subject to annual reviews and may always be defunded from one year to the next.
If anything, given the stakes in Iraq and the potential trove of useful information captured in postwar Iraq, one might expect the Bush administration to allocate additional resources to these document exploitation efforts. Instead they are about to be closed down. Why?
Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.