Who should get the Baath Party’s secret files?

The Hoover Institution, the conservative-leaning think tank located at my alma mater Stanford University, is finding itself in a bit of hot water over some 7 million pages of Baath Party records that both Iraqi and American archivists now say were taken by an “act of pillage” and must be returned to Iraq immediately. The ...

593360_080811_makiya5.jpg
593360_080811_makiya5.jpg

The Hoover Institution, the conservative-leaning think tank located at my alma mater Stanford University, is finding itself in a bit of hot water over some 7 million pages of Baath Party records that both Iraqi and American archivists now say were taken by an "act of pillage" and must be returned to Iraq immediately.

The documents came to Stanford as part of a deal with the Iraq Memory Foundation, a nonprofit group run by Kanan Makiya (above left) -- an Iraqi exile known for his outspoken advocacy for the war in Iraq. Makiya, who stumbled upon the documents during the invasion's nascent period in 2003, maintains the information they contain is too dangerous for general view because they explicitly mention individuals who collaborated with the Hussein dictatorship:

This was not stuff for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to have access to," he said in a recent interview. "This stuff was dynamite."

The Hoover Institution, the conservative-leaning think tank located at my alma mater Stanford University, is finding itself in a bit of hot water over some 7 million pages of Baath Party records that both Iraqi and American archivists now say were taken by an “act of pillage” and must be returned to Iraq immediately.

The documents came to Stanford as part of a deal with the Iraq Memory Foundation, a nonprofit group run by Kanan Makiya (above left) — an Iraqi exile known for his outspoken advocacy for the war in Iraq. Makiya, who stumbled upon the documents during the invasion’s nascent period in 2003, maintains the information they contain is too dangerous for general view because they explicitly mention individuals who collaborated with the Hussein dictatorship:

This was not stuff for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to have access to,” he said in a recent interview. “This stuff was dynamite.”

While the last thing Iraq needs is more dynamite, this episode is yet another example of the United States and a certain cabal of Iraqi exiles thinking they know what’s best for the country. As long as there’s a reasonable enough guarantee that the documents will be safe, I agree with Jon Weiner’s op-ed in Friday’s Los Angeles Times: “It’s up to the Iraqis to decide what to do with them.”

Patrick Fitzgerald is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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