Stephen Hayes has spent the past several months covering various aspects of the roughly 2,000,000 mostly “exploitable items” captured in Iraq and now held by the United States government. Steve reports:
To date, some 50,000 of the 2 million “exploitable items” in the possession of the U.S. government have been examined by U.S. intelligence analysts, many of them only for their relevance to the search for weapons of mass destruction. (The numbers are the best guesses of several officials who have worked on the document exploitation project.) There remain, then, approximately 1,950,000 items whose contents are unknown to anyone in the U.S. government.
Some U.S. officials, including several at the Department of Defense, have argued in internal deliberations that the exploitation of these materials is best left to historians. What is the urgency, they ask, about translating and analyzing documents that come from a deposed regime?
There are at least two answers: to defeat the insurgency in Iraq; and to gain a better understanding of the relationship between rogue regimes and the transregional terrorists they use to extend their power.
“It’s not about looking at the past to understand the past,” says one former U.S. official who has worked on the document exploitation project. “It is about looking at the past to understand the present and to understand the future.”
Steve has much more in his important article: “Read all about it.”
JOHN adds: I’m not sure whether it’s because the administration is high-minded or obtuse, but it really doesn’t seem to understand that the political debate over whether the Iraq war was worth fighting is of great importance, and not just to future generations. Translating and releasing these documents would be of great help in answering that question, and would certainly strengthen the administration’s case. (Why do you think the New York Times and Washington post aren’t clamoring to see them?) But for some reason, the administration doesn’t perceive this as important.