Our friend Captain Ed makes much of this document, which was captured in Baghdad and released on Tuesday. Here is the English translation; we’d be interested in comments on the translation by those who speak Arabic:
In the Name of God the Merciful The Compassionate
The Command of Ali Bin Abi Taleb Air Force Base
Date 11 March 2001
To all the Units
Subject: Volunteer for Suicide Mission
The top secret letter 2205 of the Military Branch of Al Qadisya on 4/3/2001 announced by the top secret letter 246 from the Command of the military sector of Zi Kar on 8/3/2001 announced to us by the top secret letter 154 from the Command of Ali Military Division on 10/3/2001 we ask to provide that Division with the names of those who desire to volunteer for Suicide Mission to liberate Palestine and to strike American Interests and according what is shown below to please review and inform us.
Air Brigadier General
Abdel Magid Hammot Ali
Commander of Ali Bin Abi Taleb Air Force Base
Mohamad Majed Mohamadi
Ed notes that it seems to be the Iraqi Air Force that was looking for terror candidates, and wonders whether Saddam had a September 11-style mission against America in mind. Well, maybe. But the memo, as translated, doesn’t say anything about striking inside the U.S., it refers to “strik[ing] American interests,” a phrase usually used when talking about American interests overseas. (We’d be especially interested to learn how other Arabic speakers would translate that phrase.)
The reference to “liberat[ing] Palestine” is no surprise, as it was no secret that Iraq rewarded the families of Palestinian suicide bombers in order to encourage violence against Israel. It is possible that the “American interests” referred to in the memo could be encompassed by an attack on Israel.
Only those who have their hands over their ears while shouting “La-la-la, I can’t hear you” continue to deny that Saddam’s regime supported terrorism. This memo is clearly one more piece of evidence to that effect. But its real significance can only be assessed in context with a great many other documents. As I’ve said before, the ongoing review of captured Iraqi and Taliban documents isn’t like a search for a smoking gun or a needle in a haystack; it is much more like the patient assembly of a very large mosaic, one tile at a time.