Worried about Iraqis writing their own history? Then let’s violate international law, again

Military-controlled Information Access, Academic Imperialism, and the Cultural Cleansing of Iraq

On three previous occasions I raised the issue of the illegality of seizing Iraqi documents, relocating them to the U.S., and then controlling access to them for the purpose especially of Pentagon-funded academic researchers–see: “Minerva Research Initiative Violates International Law and Iraqi Sovereignty,” and “Minerva Project and Looted Iraqi Documents,” and “What are the Pentagon’s Minerva Researchers Doing?“.

Given news over the past two years since I started writing about this, and the U.S. ratifying the 1954 Hague Convention, plus the promised return of the documents (having made digital copies), and further reading of the legal principles established for the protection of written records during an occupation, it seemed that some further analysis was needed.

Illegality and the Supreme Crime: the Starting Point

The starting point of this case is, of course, the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an unprovoked act of aggression that had no support in international law, which violated the U.N. Charter, and failed to win the support of the U.N. Security Council. Who says the invasion of Iraq was illegal?

First, we have the admissions from the U.S. and the U.K., namely from Richard Perle and Jack Straw themselves. Richard Perle, one of the notorious “neocons,” a key member of the Bush’s Defense Policy Board which advised Donald Rumsfled, told an audience in London back in November 2003: “I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing” (source). From early on, he conceded that the war was illegal. He added, “international law…would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone” and that there was “no practical mechanism consistent with the rules of the UN for dealing with Saddam Hussein” (source). In a “secret and personal” letter from Jack Straw (the U.K. Foreign Secretary in 2002) to Prime Minister Tony Blair, he “warned the prime minister that the case for military action in Iraq was of dubious legality“; Straw also stated that “regime change per se is no justification for military action” and “the weight of legal advice here is that a fresh [UN] mandate may well be required” (source). It is important that they both concede this point, because it means that at the highest levels there was recognition of the fact that the U.S. and U.K. had committed the “supreme crime” as outlined in Nuremberg (more below). Any actions committed as part of this supreme crime, thus come under its shadow.

Second, Kofi Annan, then U.N. Secretary general, in an interview broadcast by the BBC World Service Interview Program, declared explicitly that the U.S.-led invasion violated the UN charter and hence international law: “I have indicated [the war against Iraq] was not in conformity with the UN Charter,” and, “from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal” (source).

Third, the greatest mass of international legal opinion also supported Annan’s view. The International Commission of Jurists on 18 March 2003 expressed its “deep dismay that a small number of states are poised to launch an outright illegal invasion of Iraq, which amounts to a war of aggression. The United States, the United Kingdom and Spain have signalled their intent to use force in Iraq in spite of the absence of a Security Council Resolution. There is no other plausible legal basis for this attack. In the absence of such Security Council authorisation, no country may use force against another country, except in self-defence against an armed attack” (source).

Fourth, agencies and agents within some of the states that took part in the invasion, have confirmed both international legal opinion, and what Perle and Straw rightly conceded. This year, an official inquiry in The Netherlands, “in a damning series of findings on the decision of the Dutch government to support Tony Blair and George Bush in the strategy of regime change in Iraq, the inquiry found the action had ‘no basis in international law’” (source). Willibrord Davids, a Dutch supreme court judge, said U.N. resolutions in the 1990s prior to the 2003 invasion have no authority for the invasion. In the 551-page report (scroll to page 517 for the English version), the inquiry stated: “The Dutch government lent its political support to a war whose purpose was not consistent with Dutch government policy. The military action had no sound mandate in international law” (source). In the U.K., Lord Bingham, a former Lord Chief Justice, explained that the British decision to invade Iraq along with the U.S. was “fundamentally flawed” in terms of its legality (source). Also in the U.K., in a minute dated 18 March 2003 from Elizabeth Wilmshurst (Deputy Legal Adviser) to Michael Wood (The Legal Adviser), copied to the Private Secretary, the Private Secretary to the Permanent Under-Secretary, Alan Charlton (Director Personnel) and Andrew Patrick (Press Office), Wilmshurst stated: “I regret that I cannot agree that it is lawful to use force against Iraq without a second Security Council resolution I cannot in conscience go along with advice – within the Office or to the public or Parliament – which asserts the legitimacy of military action without such a resolution, particularly since an unlawful use of force on such a scale amounts to the crime of aggression; nor can I agree with such action in circumstances which are so detrimental to the international order and the rule of law”–Wilmshurst resigned in March 2003 because she did not believe the war with Iraq was legal (source).

The 2003 aggression against Iraq was not just any violation of international law, it was specifically a crime.

The Nürnberg (Nuremberg) Tribunal condemned a war of aggression in the strongest terms: “To initiate a war of aggression…is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” It held individuals accountable for “crimes against peace”, defined as the “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing.” The U.N. General Assembly unanimously affirmed the Nürnberg principles in 1946, and it affirmed the principle of individual accountability for such crimes (source).

U.S.-led Occupation and the 1907 Hague Convention

The U.S. invasion was followed by what was/is an occupation, formally described as such under international law, and though the U.S. was not a signatory to the Hague Convention of 1954 at the time, it was a signatory to the Hague Convention of 1907: “Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annex: Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land.” In our debates about the Minerva Research Initiative, the Pentagon program for funding academic research using seized Iraqi documents, we have so far focused only on the 1954 Convention, which became relevant only in the last two years.

The U.N. Security Council in 2003 formally recognized the U.S. and the U.K. as occupying powers. The UNSC resolution expressly recognizes the status of the two occupying powers in its preamble where it in states that, “Noting the letter of 8 May 2003 from the Permanent Representatives of the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the President of the Security Council (S/2003/538) and recognizing the specific authorities, responsibilities, and obligations under applicable international law of these states as occupying powers under unified command (the ‘Authority’),” and the Security Council resolution affirmed that the 1907 Hague Convention was in force: in paragraph 5 the Security Council, “Calls upon all concerned to comply fully with their obligations under international law including in particular the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907” (source). So there is agreement, from the U.S. and U.K., to respect the Hague Convention of 1907.

So what do the 1907 Hague regulations stipulate?


  • Art. 43. The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.
  • Art. 46. Family honour and rights, the lives of persons, and private property, as well as religious convictions and practice, must be respected.
    Private property cannot be confiscated.
  • Art. 47. Pillage is formally forbidden.
  • Art. 56. The property of municipalities, that of institutions dedicated to religion, charity and education, the arts and sciences, even when State property, shall be treated as private property.

The Minerva Research Initiative, the Hoover Institution, the Conflict Records Research Center: Adding to Illegality, Promoting Colonialism in Research, Dismissing Iraqi Sovereignty

Saad Eskander, director of the Iraqi National Library and Archives

In “Minerva Research Initiative: Searching for the Truth or Denying the Iraqis the Rights to Know the Truth?,” Saad Eskander, the Director of the Iraq National Library and Archives, raises several very pertinent, very critical, issues concerning the highly problematic nature of the “Iraqi Perspectives Project,” one of the five component research areas that make up the Pentagon’s Minerva grant program. Eskander speaks of the records that were “illegally seized by its [the U.S.’] military and intelligence agencies” Eskander, who in fact supported the U.S. invasion (see his interview with Charlie Rose below, which also addresses the same issues of the seized records), said that the Pentagon’s Minerva program continues a pattern of U.S. “violation of international conventions on the safeguarding of cultural heritage of occupied territories, and goes against the principles of rule of law, self-determination, and human rights that are supposed to govern the so-called Free World.” He adds: “Records are fundamental for the construction of any nation’s collective historical memory. This is why the protection of documentary heritage has been enshrined in international legislation, notably the 1954 Hague Convention.” This also raises the issue of academic and political colonialism, of who gets to write the history of the conquered and the occupied, an issue that more hopeful types might not have expected to surface again as late as now. That the records were seized without Iraqi consent or knowledge, is also pointedly raised by Eskander, who blames U.S. forces for some of the looting: “The Americans were themselves involved in the lootings. We all know that tens of millions of the seized Iraq records were shipped to the U.S.” During the reign of the U.S. occupation government, the Coalition Provisional Authority, Eskander notes that “U.S. military and U.S. State Department officials encouraged and even helped others to loot and then to ship abroad Iraqi records, notably the Iraqi Memory Foundation (IMF).” The IMF is “essentially a private American initiative, whose activities unequivocally violate current Iraqi archival legislations (No. 111 of 1969 and No. 70 of 1983).” In order to better dismiss Iraqi concerns, “the IMF does not recognize Iraq’s national government or its sovereignty. And this is ironic, given the fact that the ‘New Iraq’ is considered to be a close ally of America!” exclaims Eskander. These acts of seizure, looting, and what can only be described as pillage (with the full weight of the term implied under international law), means that “the Pentagon is practically and overtly usurping our duty of collecting, preserving and facilitating access to Iraqi records for all people, who may and should use them for research and other legitimate purposes”. The coloniality of the situation is inescapable: “Providing access to sanctioned U.S. universities, U.S. research centers and U.S. scholars is gross discrimination against the undeniable owners of the seized records, the Iraqi People, who are the main subject of the records“. For Iraqis, “this is an undeniable cultural imperialism, which is not really different from the colonists’ looting and smuggling of ancient artifacts of colonized peoples during the last two centuries.”

U.S. Occupation and the 1954 Hague Convention

On 25 September 2008, the U.S. Senate finally voted to become party to the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, a convention that the U.S. itself helped to draft but failed to ratify for half a century (source), a fact that seemingly went entirely unreported by major news media. However, now that the Convention has acquired force, and becomes part of the corpus of U.S. domestic laws as well, the obligations of the U.S. are indisputable.

The Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954) sets out the following principles and regulations for the handling of cultural property.

First, what is “cultural property” and hows does it relate to this case?

In Chapter 1, Article 1, the 1954 Hague Convention includes in its definition of cultural property, “(a) movable or immovable property of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people, such as monuments of architecture, art or history, whether religious or secular; archaeological sites; groups of buildings which, as a whole, are of historical or artistic interest; works of art; manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological interest” and “(b) buildings whose main and effective purpose is to preserve or exhibit the movable cultural property defined in sub-paragraph (a) such as museums, large libraries and depositories of archives.”

In Chapter 1, Article 4, the Convention includes the following regulations: “3. The High Contracting Parties further undertake to prohibit, prevent and, if necessary, put a stop to any form of theft, pillage or misappropriation of, and any acts of vandalism directed against, cultural property. They shall refrain from requisitioning movable cultural property situated in the territory of another High Contracting Party.” In addition, while the Convention ambiguously refers to “military necessity” (not defined) as a possible waiver of the obligations set out in Article 4/1 (not quoted here), it is clearly not a blanket waiver of the entire Convention. Indeed, in Article 4, the final point states: “5. No High Contracting Party may evade the obligations incumbent upon it under the present Article, in respect of another High Contracting Party, by reason of the fact that the latter has not applied the measures of safeguard referred to in Article 3.” That means that the argument that the Iraqis had failed to establish adequate measures for protecting their own property, does not free the U.S. from its obligations.

In Chapter 1, Article 5, under the heading of “Occupation,” the Convention requires that “1. Any High Contracting Party in occupation of the whole or part of the territory of another High Contracting Party shall as far as possible support the competent national authorities of the occupied country in safeguarding and preserving its cultural property.” However, “2. Should it prove necessary to take measures to preserve cultural property situated in occupied territory and damaged by military operations, and should the competent national authorities be unable to take such measures, the Occupying Power shall, as far as possible, and in close co-operation with such authorities, take the most necessary measures of preservation.” Again, the U.S. did neither–it did not cooperate with local authorities, and taking the most necessary measures of preservation certainly does not imply airlifting all of the archives to another country, and making access available only to select academics funded by the Pentagon, or those in allied think tanks.

Under the heading of “Military Measures” in Chapter 1, Article 7, the Convention states: “1. The High Contracting Parties undertake to introduce in time of peace into their military regulations or instructions such provisions as may ensure observance of the present Convention, and to foster in the members of their armed forces a spirit of respect for the culture and cultural property of all peoples” and “2. The High Contracting Parties undertake to plan or establish in peacetime, within their armed forces, services or specialist personnel whose purpose will be to secure respect for cultural property and to co-operate with the civilian authorities responsible for safeguarding it.” Clearly the U.S. had done neither with respect to Iraqi archives, and had indeed ignored the demands for the return of the documents, by those same civilian authorities responsible for safeguarding the records, most notably, Saad Eskander, the Director of the Iraq National Library and Archives, and several Iraqi government ministers.

Over the past 20 years, several meetings and conferences of state representatives party to the Convention have met to solicit and discuss legal opinions and proposals for tightening the “military necessity” provisions of the Convention, for both defining it, delimiting its use, or even eliminating it entirely from the Convention (source). This is important because the U.S. cannot simply ignore evolving legal opinion. “Military necessity” is very much up in the air.

Minerva’s “Iraqi Perspectives Project” after the 1954 Hague Convention

On the specifics of international law, Eskander very rightly notes that the established principles “do not provide for the shipment of the seized records to the occupiers’ Capital or for making all or parts of these records accessible for propaganda and politically-motivated research purposes”. Eskander is aware that the U.S. was not a signatory to the 1954 Hague Convention, until 2008– “After signing the 1954 Hague Convention recently,” he says–and thus it had no force over American actions (that is why we spoke of the 1907 Hague Convention, which was in force, but ignored). Eskander argues “the U.S. now has clear obligations to protect and to return all current and non-current records of the occupied Iraq”. That is in fact the case, and the U.S. government has not disputed his interpretation.

Indeed, not only has the U.S. government not disputed the illegality of the seizure of the records, it has promised some small ex post facto recompense. That is not a gift, but rather a plain recognition of the obligations the U.S. has undertaken with respect to international law.

The U.S. State Department has not challenged Iraq’s claims (the Pentagon has, however), as we should note (source). It is also the fact that Eskander is not alone in making his requests for the return of the seized documents. In fact, it was a “high-level Iraqi delegation led by Deputy Culture Minister Taher al-Humoud” that met with U.S. State Department officials this May to press for the return of records held in the U.S., and specifically records pertaining to Iraq’s Jewish minority (source). Not all of the records are even in the U.S.: some are held at a U.S. military base in Qatar (source). The U.S. took the documents and then dispersed them to several corners, no doubt helping to make the seized documents much harder to find and reclaim.

Again, the U.S. State Department has not only not challenged Iraq’s claims, it has finally agreed to them. Shortly after meeting with the delegation above, it was announced in Baghdad by Vice-Minister of Culture Taher Hamoud: “We have reached an agreement after negotiations with the State Department and the Pentagon for the repatriation of Jewish archives and millions of documents that have been made taken following the events of 2003”. Hamoud added that “these documents have been released from the Hoover Institution (at the University of Stanford), the State Department and National Archives”. According to Hamoud, “48,000 containers filled with millions of records and Jews archives were transported to the United States” (source1, source2).

There has also been support for Iraqi demands to return all documents, from within relevant bodies in the U.S. In February of 2008, the central council of the American Library Association passed a resolution that called for millions of stolen Iraqi documents now in the United States to be returned to the Iraq National Library and Archives. The resolution stated that the documents “represent Iraqi social memory” and that the ALA “condemns the confiscation of documents…by the United States and British forces and strongly advocates the immediate return of all documents.” We are also told that this resolution garnered support from professionals around the world (source). Indeed, the Society of American Archivists and the Association of Canadian Archivists have supported Eskander’s claim against the U.S. government and the Iraq Memory Foundation, issuing a joint statement condemning the foundation’s gathering of the documents as “an act of pillage, which is specifically forbidden by the 1907 Hague Convention” (source).

In Light of the Crime: A Look at Some of the Criminals

To initiate a war of aggression…is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”–Nuremberg Tribunal

“Harvard University pulled back from a proposal to store the documents fearing, apparently, that it might break international law by doing so.” (source)

One of the most troubling characters in this story is Kanan Makiya of the “Iraq Memory Foundation,” a group set up by Iraqi expatriates in the U.S. Makiya claims he received permission from the Coalition Provisional Authority–the colonial government that ruled Iraq– to move the records to his parents’ home in Baghdad (source). The first step therefore was to remove to private possession what was the property of the state and people of Iraq. The Iraq Memory Foundation then began to interfere with the documents, setting about to scan and organize them (source), and we do not know what might have been done to records that the politically motivated Makiya might have found troubling to his preferred narrative of Iraq’s political history. He was under no one’s supervision. In 2005, the IMF claims it reached an agreement with the U.S. military–again Iraqi authorities are absent–to ship the documents to the U.S. (even though the U.S. had, and has, numerous large and heavily protected bases within Iraq). The U.S. government was also to make for itself a digital copy of the collection, without seeking the permission of Iraqis (source). Saad Eskander cited “Iraqi laws passed in 1963 and 1983, as well as international law (both The Hague and Geneva Conventions regard documents as part of a nation’s cultural heritage), to bolster his assertion that the Iraq Memory Foundation’s possession of the documents is illegal” (source). Eskander is right, and the Hague Convention of 1907 (Art. 43 above) firmly stipulates that existing local laws governing the use of records must be upheld by an occupying power–except that this occupying power premised its whole operation on a complete denial of any laws.

As Eskander rightly noted, Makiya “is not under the supervision of the Iraqi state. He just represents himself. He cannot decide alone where to store them,” speaking about the Baath records, “They are our documents—the documents of the Iraqi people” (source).

One of the institutions that was among the targets of Eskander’s complaints was a think tank, the Hoover Institution, housed on the campus of Stanford University. This has been discussed in the previous articles I mentioned at the outset. The interesting thing about the Hoover Institution is that it has arrogated to itself the right to decide when Iraq deserves to have the documents again, deeming itself the most important authority on the security situation in Iraq. This is in spite of the 1954 Hague Convention to which the U.S. is now a party, which  does not permit any party, let alone a private one, to decide that because one party’s conditions for protecting documents is bad, that therefore another party can just simply take everything back to its home country. That is a wild misinterpretation at best, and particularly glaring in Hoover’s case, in light of the many generals and public officials who have told all of us, repeatedly, that “the surge worked,” and that Iraq is now peaceful and sovereign. Who is the Hoover Institution to say otherwise?

The Hoover Institution has records consisting of more than seven million documents that once belonged to Iraq’s Baath Party and security forces. The documents came to Hoover via the Iraq Memory Foundation (IMF), another of Eskander’s targets for legitimate criticism. Indeed, neither Hoover nor the IMF–what an appropriate acronym–are the only villains in this story. Eskander has also asked for the return of Iraqi documents kept by the National Archives in Washington, which took Iraq’s Jewish archive, and to the Pentagon and the CIA, which took other Iraqi records (source). Each of these has usurped the right to dictate who should see the records, which is purely an Iraqi decision to be made. In terms of Hoover and others, this is decidedly an act of colonialism.

Jessica Huckabey, the acting director of the Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC) at the National Defense University is another of the characters in another institution that has taken the same colonialist posture, in determining who should get access to Iraqi records, and for the most part, they are to be American academics. Mark Stout, a friend of Huckabey’s, is one of the academics that has exploited this situation having used the records, and he writes lustily: “I can tell you that for those scholars interested in modern Iraq, terrorism, or modern military history, there is a goldmine here.  Reputations to be made.  Dissertations to be written….” If anyone misses the air of exploitation and self-serving greed around the colonizer, then one needs to start inhaling. Don’t hold your breath if you expect American elites, and the opportunists among them, to act with due regard for the rights of other human beings, instead opting to hunt and capture trophies to display for their personal aggrandizement. Reputations to be made, certainly. But what kind of reputation?

Stout‘s concern for the law and morality is nil–he emphasizes: “The originals were ‘seized’ as provided for under international law and are held by the U.S. Government.” He is wrong on all counts, as we see from reading what is provided for by international law, by any and all of them that established the principles for the U.S. to follow, and which it flouted. Stout even doubts the act of seizure, placing snark quotes around the word “seized,” as if the act could have been anything else, like a temporary donation perhaps. As we also know, unless the Hoover Institution is a branch of the U.S. government, the documents are not all held by the U.S. Government, as Stout wrongly asserts.

“As provided for under international law.” Elsewhere, in an argument with Hugh Gusterson, Stout again insists, saying “In fact, there is specific provision for this in international law.” But he does not actually point to any international law, nor any article in one. He points to an opinion piece, and even that mostly contradicts his assertions. Trudy Peterson, at any rate, is not The Hague. When one wishes to make use of legal provisions to support one’s argument, then it is incumbent on you to demonstrate that your assertions are correct, by exact and specific reference to those provisions. Saad Eskander did, and that is why he is right, and the U.S. ultimately has conceded the argument. What the Hague Conventions of 1907 and 1954 most decidedly never did is to err on the side of occupying powers and their “rights” nor did they invite readers to lessen the rights of the occupied to their cultural property. Any argument that suggests otherwise, would then have the unenviable task of explaining why such conventions even exist.

Speaking of Trudy Peterson, she is a “a former acting archivist of the United States under President Bill Clinton and an international archival consultant” (source). In fact, she supports the basis of Eskander’s argument: “Ms. Peterson believes the National Library and Archive should be the ultimate home of the documents, and she stands by the recommendations of the International Council on Archives, a professional group, which state that ‘the alienation of public archives can … only occur through a legislative act of the state'” (source). Where Peterson clearly is in error is in saying to a reporter that “the violence and insecurity in Baghdad may be good reasons to keep the records out of Iraq for now” (source). There is no provision under international law for doing so. She also conflates Baghdad with all of Iraq. Like the people at the Hoover Institution–namely, Richard Sousa, the director of Hoover’s library and archives, and Abbas Milani, the director of Iranian studies and an Iranian exile–Peterson takes a view opposite that of Gen. David Petraeus–“the surge worked”–John McCain–“the surge worked”–and various high officials in both the Bush and Obama regimes that claim Iraq is a better place, including Vice President Joseph Biden who claims Iraq is a success story (source). At any rate, this is besides the point: Chapter 1, Article 5 of the 1954 Hague Convention says that Peterson, Sousa, and Milani are all wrong–security conditions are no excuse for an occupying power to remove cultural property to the occupier’s home country.

Trudy Peterson’s and others’ supercilious remarks that Iraq is not ready to get back its property, have been the justified targets of heavy criticism from Jeffery Spurr, Islamic and Middle East Specialist at Harvard University’s Fine Arts Library, who observed: “That the newly-designated temporary custodian should be a private institution, and that notable bastion of conservative views, the Hoover Institution, should come as no surprise given that Mr. Makiya has perforce become a fellow traveler of the Neo-cons since he made common cause with the Bush Administration in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. That such an institution in far-off California should consider itself the proper site for these documents as opposed to the national archives of Iraq is the height of arrogance.” He added, in criticism of the Gravois article in The Chronicle of Higher Education that I also sourced for this essay, that it appears to “privilege the self-serving arguments of Kanan Makiya and his colleagues, and employs quotations from Dr. Trudy Huskamp Peterson, a prominent expert on archives and international law relating to archives, in such a way as to support the plausibility of the refusal to return the originals to their proper custodian, the Iraq National Archive, and its Director General, Dr. Eskander” (source).

Stout’s defense of the CRRC is that it only houses digital copies. How did it get them? Who makes the decisions of who gets to access the “goldmine”? Were any Iraqi civilian authorities, and any Iraqi laws, consulted before making what is clearly a unilateral decision based on illegal possession? How is copyright protected? How are documents relating to the recent past, and the identities of individuals, protected? If there were any legitimacy to Stout’s argument, would he not have been able to cite the numerous Iraqi scholars and Iraqi national agencies that support his view? How many scholars from Iraq have had access to those same digital copies? Can he name even one? Or this is just another one-sided American perspective, expressing muted jingoism and cheering colonial capture with gusto?

Sources (ordered by date of publication, earliest to latest):

  1. Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annex: Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land,” The Hague, 18 October 1907.
  2. Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict,” The Hague, 14 May 1954.
  3. The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and the notion of military necessity,” Jan Hladik, International Review of the Red Cross, 30 September 1999.
  4. Crimes within the Court’s Jurisdiction,” International Criminal Court/United Nations Department of Public Information, May 1998.
  5. Iraq – ICJ Deplores Moves Toward a War of Aggression on Iraq,” International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), 18 March 2003.
  6. ‘Preventive War’ and International Law After Iraq,” Duncan E. J. Currie LL.B. (Hons.) LL.M., GlobeLaw: Iraq, 22 May 2003.
  7. War critics astonished as US hawk admits invasion was illegal,” Oliver Burkeman and Julian Borger, The Guardian (UK), 20 November 2003.
  8. Iraq: Annan Calls U.S.-Led Invasion Violation Of UN Charter,” Charles Recknagel, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 16 September 2004.
  9. Wilmshurst resignation letter,” BBC, 24 March, 2005.
  10. Disputed Iraqi Archives Find a Home at the Hoover Institution,” John Gravois, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 23 January 2008.
  11. Librarians and archivists demand US return of stolen Iraqi documents,” Sandy English, World Socialist Website, 01 March 2008.
  12. Iraqi Files in U.S.: Plunder or Rescue?” Hugh Eakin, The New York Times, 01 July 2008.
  13. Minerva Project and Looted Iraqi Documents,” Maximilian Forte, Zero Anthropology, 26 July 2008.
  14. US Senate Ratifies Agreement to Protect Cultural Resources,” American Anthropological Association, September 2008.
  15. Minerva Research Initiative: Searching for the Truth or Denying the Iraqis the Rights to Know the Truth?” Saad Eskander, The Minerva Controversy, October 2008.
  16. Minerva Research Initiative Violates International Law and Iraqi Sovereignty,” Maximilian Forte, Zero Anthropology, 31 October 2008.
  17. Iraq war ‘violated rule of law’,” BBC, 18 November 2008.
  18. What are the Pentagon’s Minerva Researchers Doing?“, Maximilian Forte, Zero Anthropology, 12 June 2009.
  19. Iraq launches bid to recover Saddam-era documents,” Aseel Kami, Reuters, 15 July 2009.
  20. RAPPORT COMMISSIE VAN ONDERZOEK BESLUITVORMING IRAK,” Amsterdam, The Netherlands, January 2010.
  21. Iraq invasion violated international law, Dutch inquiry finds: Investigation into the Netherlands’ support for 2003 war finds military action was not justified under UN resolutions,” Afua Hirsch, The Guardian (UK), 12 January 2010.
  22. Captured Documents: Military Historians and Terrorism Scholars vs. Anthropologists?” Mark Stout, On War and Words, 15 January 2010.
  23. Revealed: Jack Straw’s secret warning to Tony Blair on Iraq,” Michael Smith, The Sunday Times, 17 January 2010.
  24. Captured Documents, Historians, Anthropologists, etc. (Part II),” Mark Stout, On War and Words, 18 January 2010.
  25. Captured Documents, Historians, Anthropologists, etc. (Part III),” Mark Stout, On War and Words, 18 January 2010.
  26. Iraq’s battle is one for the books,” Matti Friedman, Josef Federman, Randy Herschaft, The Washington Times, 20 January 2010.
  27. Iraq Demands Jewish Artifacts Be Returned,” Virtual Jerusalem, 04 May 2010.
  28. Iraq: Agreement with the United States to recover Jewish archives,” Ennahar Online, 14 May 2010.
  29. US agrees to return Iraq records,” Anne Barker, ABC News, 14 May 2010.
  30. Iraq asks U.S. to return millions of archive documents,” Aseel Kami, Reuters, 19 May 2010.
  31. Iraq asks Hoover to return records,” Devin Banerjee, The Stanford Daily, 25 May 2010.
  32. Captured Iraqi and Terrorist Records Now Available,” Mark Stout, On War and Words, 27 May 2010.
  33. ‘Cultural cleansing’ of Iraq?” David Tresillian, Al-Ahram, 03-09 June 2010.
  34. The United Nations, International Law, and the War in Iraq,” Rachel S. Taylor, World Press Review, no date.

Click here to see Saad Eskander interviewed on the Charlie Rose Show

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32 thoughts on “Worried about Iraqis writing their own history? Then let’s violate international law, again

  1. ishtar

    Thank you Max, for bringing this up. Nowhere the manipulation of these archives was
    manifest, than in the show- trials of Saddam Hussein and officials of his regime.

    First of all , a huge part “millions of documents” of the state archives which was confiscated by the Americans was entrusted with a private group called “Association of Free Prisoners”- AFP, affiliated with one of Iran-backed Iraqi parties, USAID helped this group with $194,823 to sort out Iraqi confiscated documents to be used in the show trial “of the Century”. The association presented the trials with scores of witnesses who, suspiciously, repeated the same story, word by word, to the last detail, bringing with them “false” documents or out of context documents which would help implicate the ex-Iraqi officials.

    Every time a witness was cross examined by a defendant lawyer “where did you learn this?”
    he would reply with “from the Association of Free Prisoners”.

    On the other hand, if you remember, the Iraqi ex-judge Awad al Bandar, who was tried and
    executed after the occupation , with Saddam Hussein, for the “crime” of being the head of
    the trial and conviction of 140 conspirators who with the help of Iran, back in the 1980s
    when, the Iraq-Iran war was at its full rage, had made an attempt to assassinate the Iraq head of the state and commander-in-chief, then Saddam Hussein. At the show trial of the
    occupation, Al-Bander was convicted according to “out-of-context” few papers of the file
    of the trial of 140 conspirators, he pleaded that the whole file be brought, because, it
    contained documents would prove that that trial “which lasted for 2 years” was just and fair. The occupation court told him that there was no such file at hand, only those few papers that implicated him.

    Also,the same thing happened with the show trials of the ex-Iraqi military officers, The
    well known general Sultan Hashim who was the last minister of defense in Iraq before the invasion, pleaded with the court to present the files of the military operations in the north of Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war, he even said to the Judge “Is not the ministry of defense is under your government’s control now, why can not you bring the said files?”

    He was told that there were no such files to be found. Where are the files of an 8 years war? All they had was the few papers that implicated him.

    This is one way of re-writing the history of Iraq by the occupiers.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      This was an absolute scandal, and an almost classical, colonial piece of grotesque theatre. It was clear that the intention of Bush, who used a whole army for a drive-by personal vendetta, was to eliminate the entire family of Saddam Hussein, and to collect trophies along the way. His two sons, gunned down, and their bloodied faces put on display for the media–then the U.S. media had no qualms with the gory display. Saddam Hussein’s capture and handling like an animal, videotaped and shown on U.S. television. His execution, likewise. His pistols, held by George W. Bush himself, as personal trophies. From the start the trial was a thinly veiled orchestration of the execution of a foreign head of state, which is illegal under U.S. law, but can acquire an air of legality if you can find enough local allies to do your bidding. It was not remotely a fair trial, and there was clearly a rush to execute, in a system under foreign occupation. The U.S. once again violated international law, at the very least for handing over a prisoner in its custody to those who had guaranteed to kill their prisoner.

      I found the whole thing to be gruesome, shocking, and disgusting. It wasn’t good enough for al-Maliki however, he also wanted Hussein’s daughter in Jordan to be extradited for another quick trial, as if the aim was to erase any relative or descendant of Saddam Hussein–except that the same, and even far greater crimes have been committed against Iraqis by the likes of al-Maliki and the American occupation. That he has not been indicted by the International Criminal Court, unlike his counterpart in Sudan, is very telling of how international law and international relations can be explicitly colonial in their bias. Milosevic was captured and tried for ordering and presiding over far less than Nouri al-Maliki and others.

      After Saddam Hussein’s murder, I wrote the following piece, copied over from another blog I wrote on:

  2. humbleauthor

    Much to respond to here, but for the nonce, I’ll just note a few quick points.

    1) My use of quotation marks around the word “seized” was not in the least meant to be snarky, as claimed. In fact, the I impute to the word “seized” is precisely opposite to the one you infer. “Seized” is a term of art used to refer to documents that are LEGALLY taken in the course of an armed conflict, as opposed to those which are illegally taken, looted, stolen, or otherwise misappropriated.

    2) I would also suggest to you that you inquire to the CRRC itself as to its procedures for granting access to the digital copies of the record there. You will find that Jessica Huckabey doesn’t control access to them. Rather, you will find that Institutional Review Boards at the university and research centers from which researchers come in fact control those records, in that Jessica will let anybody in who comes with an IRB-approved research plan in hand.

    3) A careful reading of my posts on this question would make clear that I have never addressed the legality/illegality or morality/immorality associated with the records at Hoover, nor yet of the Jewish records taken from the Iraqi Intelligence Service and presently housed at the National Archives. As I have said repeatedly, I have only ever made any claims about those records of which digital copies are to be housed at the CRRC, which are an entirely different collection, from cradle to grave in terms of the circumstances of their acquisition, who they were acquired by, who has them presently, and who has copies of them.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Thank you for your responses, and feel free to respond to anything else at any time, should you wish. Your third point is entirely valid and correct–but this article, following Eskander, addresses the issue of removal of Iraqi documents, regardless of where they ended up (and I am certain we cannot know where they all ended up, since they have been clearly scattered), and I thus mention several different institutions and locations. It’s true, you focus entirely on the CRRC, and the CRRC is only a part of this article. You do also make wider claims about the removal of Iraqi documents that go beyond the particulars of the CRRC, as we see in your first point here. I don’t think you have, or can, establish that there was a legal seizure, and in none of the international conventions do I see the point being made about “seized”. Indeed, not even the U.S. government has challenged the idea that the removal was illegal, since it has conceded Eskander’s arguments.

      I also do not dispute your second point. I am sure that the CRRC has these measures in place for American researchers. That is also entirely unsatisfactory. The CRRC has no right to have these documents, or copies of them, to begin with…and Iraqi researchers do not come under any American IRB. I question the value of IRB clearance when the materials in question came into hand by illegal means, when they are someone else’s property, and when the really ethical, professional, and scholarly thing to do would have been to at least partner with Iraqi scholars in doing this research.

      What I did not get into was the issue of methodology, but it would seem to me, as someone who has done archival research using both contemporary records and those dating back over two centuries, that doing research using these documents without interviewing survivors, descendants, associates, local experts, etc., produces a highly slanted misunderstanding that is dependent only on the little “truth” that is allowed by the documents themselves. One way of doing the necessary source criticism, especially of very controversial state documents, is to integrate the documentary research into ethnography and the study of oral history. You cannot do that sitting at a computer at the National Defense University. To allow Americans the first crack at these documents, with these obvious limitations, Americans with access to the world’s major publishing companies, means that a limited, partial, and slanted “truth” will immediately gain ascendancy, and Iraqis will have to play catch up with their own history. This is actually the central concern of the article.

      1. humbleauthor

        I appreciate your gracious response.

        I think in part we are talking at cross-purposes. My use of the word “seized” was in specific reference to those documents that are in the CRRC or potentially in the pipeline to be in the CRRC. Those do not include the Jewish collection, nor those at Hoover. Accordingly, my use of the word “seized” does not apply to them.

        On the IRB point I think we must agree to disagree here.

        On the third point, I think we are in substantial agreement. I don’t think any historian would disagree that augmenting the study of documents with oral interviews and other types of sources that are closer to actual living people– field work, if you will–is highly desirable. I would just say that using documents in no way precludes a scholar from doing such field work.

        I would disagree with what I take to be an implication of your final point above, however, namely that these materials deal exclusively with Iraqi history. I would argue that they ALSO deal with American history. They also deal with the history of many others, as well. Iran, Israel, the Palestinians, Kuwait, and Egypt spring immediately to mind, given what I’ve seen in these records. For instance, looking at Iraqi records relating to DESERT STORM can help us, as Americans, have a better understanding of the processes by which we got involved in two wars which cost us, among other things, thousands of American lives (not to mention allied and enemy lives) and hundreds of billions of dollars and much of our standing in the world.

  3. ishtar

    Mr. Humbleauthor,

    You say “I would disagree with what I take to be an implication of your final point above, however, namely that these materials deal exclusively with Iraqi history. I would argue that they ALSO deal with American history. They also deal with the history of many others, as well. Iran, Israel, the Palestinians, Kuwait, and Egypt spring immediately to mind, given what I’ve seen in these records.”

    Any archivea, even in the remotest part of the world, would deal with the history of everybody else. The bottom line here is that this is an Iraqi archives that has been originated in Iraq, thus it belongs to Iraqis. Americans have no business to take possession of it or use it in anyway without the consent of Iraqi people.

    You may remember that Iraqi soldiers when invaded Kuwait, took the Kuwaiti archives away to Iraq. Now we could have claimed that that archives had more to do with Iraq than Kuwait, as historically, Kuwait was part of Iraq under the Ottoman Empire, consequently, much of the Kuwaiti society was an extension of the Iraqi society; nevertheless, the UN Security Council under chapter 7, mandated Iraq to return every single page of that archives.

    Sorry Humbleauthor, but I think that the mere discussion of terms and ways of the best uses of our archives is outrageous to me, as an Iraqi. I cannot help but feel angry that you had had access to our national stolen archives when I, and perhaps my children and grandchildren would not have this privilege. The only valid approach would be demanding the return of every page of our archives to its legal owner, the people of Iraq.

  4. Joe Doe

    I find it quite interesting that the Iraqi govt. sanctioned the preservation of the documents by Iraq Memory Foundation and Hoover, yet Eskandar still claims it was illegal. There is a plethora of documents (from the Iraq Govt. itself) clearing the IMF/Hoover of any wrong doing, yet in this article it shows condemnation.
    Also in this article it illustrates how an Iraqi Icon, Kanan Makiya, was on a political objective by preserving these documents. Where is the evidence? I have now read many times over different allegations on different people that Eskander has went after with unsubstantiated claims. In the US this would be “defamation of character”. I find it most interesting that this article cites so many laws, yet condones blatant attacks on people, that for all it knows, had the best intentions at heart, and is being attacked as a “political campaign” (since the term is used so freely) by Eskandar himself.

    Eskader claims to be preserving the artifacts of the Iraqi people, however in this documentary shown by CNN it shows his staff clearly stamping on the very “artifacts” he claims to preserve.
    I am sure most Iraqis wouldnt want documents, that are artifacts, molested in this way. I am sure most preservationists/archivists, when they see this video will cringe. Even the ones that prematurely agreed with eskander to begin with.
    I say, get the documents back to Iraq as soon as possible, but not in the hands of this clown, and in a safe place (temperature/climate controlled). Until such safe place exists what is wrong with keeping them in places where it can be undamaged by the elements?
    I would also not give my real name because i know that I would be harassed as others have by Eskander.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      I should tell you that, politically, I share very little in common with Eskander, who tells Charlie Rose that he was in favour of the invasion, and I opposed it well before it finally took place. He also says Iraq is now a much safer place, and I use these assertions with irony…I say that his critics who argue the contrary (like I in fact would) do so in sudden disagreement with their country’s leaders, both military and civilian, without explaining the basis for their diverging viewpoints. I do believe that Iraq is in ruins and the daily violence is nothing anyone would call “safe.” That, however, does not change the facts of where the documents belong. Ultimately, of course, the fate of the documents matters much less than that of Iraqi human lives, and anyone truly concerned about either would not have cheered “shock and awe”…and shall I show the CNN videos of their talking heads speaking with wide smiles and warm tones about “shock and awe,” or better yet the Fox reporters with explosions as their backdrops and the “fuck you Haji” smirks on their faces? So you’re not speaking to an Eskanderite here, but we clearly have very similar opinions on matters of international law and rights to cultural property.

      I would love to see the documents that the IMF has, clearing it to take possession of the archives, given that there was no Iraqi government at the time, and the clearance instead came from the U.S. military and the Coalition Provisional Authority. Eskander is also right, there was local legislation in place that was ignored, and the problem is that it cannot be ignored under the terms of the 1907 Hague Convention. Whoever dismissed those laws, especially if Iraqi, is then guilty of wrongdoing and should be prosecuted.

      Thank you for your commentary. Your real name is not required, I merely object to those who hide behind pseudonyms to make outrageous personal attacks. I don’t think that was your intent here.

      1. Joe Doe

        Thank you, I am not trying to make personal attacks without merit. I merely think its ridiculous that Eskander has…look at the following. in the comment section. When I found this I was speechless at first, then became quite angry someone of his position can say something like this.
        I hope that explains the frustrations behind my writing. Second the law Eskander Cites was created during the Saddam regime. In fact only the Council of Ministers can erect an detachment that can oversea the housing/preservation of the documents, of which it has not erected yet.
        Eskander says he himself will run it with others that support his cause, yet nothing has came out of the Council of Ministers. So I find it a bit premature to take sides, even though many are quick to support Eskander. Be weary of orders he cites, and be quick to question what order has followed or even preceded those very orders.
        I understand that he has a public post, but people there are many posts in Iraq currently that are “wishy washy” until this “lame duck” time frame is concluded.
        I will be the first to champion rule of law. However I would expect the same from this community.

        One more thing I absolutely agree that the people’s security are more important in the grand scheme of things than these documents. In fact put it on the back burner until the security situation gets better. That is why I believe there is a political agenda behind this campaign to return them back immediately. I would be more concerned with the infrastructure of the country. keep the streets safe first!

      2. Maximilian Forte

        Allow me a question, and two observations.

        What kind of Iraqi icon takes the property of the Iraqi people and hands it over to the invaders and occupiers, for the use of researchers in the home country of the occupier?

        An observation: by removing the documents from Iraq, the documents have possibly been destroyed beyond repair–not necessarily physically, but in terms of credibility. Too many political interests have handled those documents, sifted through them, and possibly filtered out some documents or altered them. We don’t know, and that is a big problem. Ultimately it means that any of the published work produced on the basis of these “records” becomes very suspect. I personally would neither read, nor buy, nor recommend any book written by an American that used these documents, and would view such works as a sham. This is especially the case of records that first went into the private hands of Kanan Makiya, who worked without any supervision. As an “icon” with a heavy axe to grind against Saddam Hussein, whatever passed from his hands to these American institutions is already very questionable.

        Finally, while I agree that not all archives and not all social and historical conditions can ever be the same, I feel compelled to note that I myself have used documents from a colony that had known wars, insurrections, and invasions, and survived in reasonable condition. What I mean to say is that the level of safety and security required for documents is much lower than that required for the protection of human bodies on the street, and that therefore it may be very misleading to say that because Baghdad is not “safe” (when do you expect it to be???) that the documents will not be safe either. At best, it’s an unproven assumption. The reality is that most of the worst looting took place right under the noses of American troops, and some of it at least with active encouragement and participation of American troops.

  5. ishtar

    Joe doe

    “I find it quite interesting that the Iraqi govt. sanctioned the preservation of the documents by Iraq Memory Foundation and Hoover, yet Eskandar still claims it was illegal.”

    What Iraqi govt. It is a puppet govt. which has no political will.

    “Also in this article it illustrates how an Iraqi Icon, Kanan Makiya, was on a political objective by preserving these documents. Where is the evidence?”

    Icon for whom? the neo-conservatives? what more evidence than he, himself has provided before, during and after the invasion?

    “Until such safe place exists what is wrong with keeping them in places where it can be undamaged by the elements?”

    Some of those documents have been kept and preserved in Iraq for centuries before USA came into existence. All successive Iraqi governments – before the US-puppet ones- had helped preserve Iraqi archives in safe places “undamaged by elements” .

    1. Joe Doe

      addressing your points in consecutive order.
      1. Since we are going about International Community Law, whatever your opinion on the govt. It is one that represents Iraq. So yes sanctioned by the govt.
      2.Long before Kanan Makiya was recognized, he was using the pseudonym Khalil, to publish a book “Republic of Fear” to illustrate the countless human rights violations the previous Iraqi regime had sanctioned. So yes an Icon! His literature was prohibited in the country, under the former regime. Caught with the book, you can be brought up on charges.
      3. The documents Askander is referring to(and I was referring to), were created after the Saddam regime was created… 68… it was preserved in govt. offices, where it was not considered a part of the Iraq society. It was found in sewage, dirt, and even shelled areas. They were cleaned, disinfected/treated, while preserving the original integrity of the documents. All of this with the anticipation of them going back to Iraq. Instead Askander starts to claim that these documents were stolen, pillaged? shame on him!
      Iraqis should be weary of the fact he still has his position. A INLA director that cites opinions as facts is a disgrace to an overwhelmingly bureaucratic system, and should be held accountable.

  6. ishtar

    Joe Doe

    You seem to have personal issues with Askandar. Well I do not care about him. What concerns me most is the Iraqi Archives.

    I will discuss your points:

    1″. Since we are going about International Community Law, whatever your opinion on the govt. It is one that represents Iraq. So yes sanctioned by the govt.”

    According to the International Law, Iraq is still under occupation and it is still under chapter 7 of the UNSC, so it is not a sovereign state yet.

    2- “Long before Kanan Makiya was recognized, he was using the pseudonym Khalil, to publish a book “Republic of Fear” . Yes, I agree, it was an Iconic book full of lies on which Bush based his justification for an illegal war.

    3- “The documents Askander is referring to (and I was referring to), were created after the Saddam regime was created… 68… it was preserved in govt. offices, where it was not considered a part of the Iraq society”.

    You mean that everything that passed in Iraq after 1968 up to 2003 is not Iraqi history, and those government offices were not considered a part of the Iraq society? Well, this is a very strange opinion of someone who claims concern for “Iraqi memory”. The documents stolen by the USA was not confined to this era. How come then that Jewish history of hundreds of years old was stolen too?

    “It was found in sewage, dirt, and even shelled areas. They were cleaned, disinfected/treated, while preserving the original integrity of the documents”

    If it was found in such conditions, you must blame the invasion and occupation and the destruction of those Iraqi government offices. Even though, they could have been treated while still in Iraq, for instance in the green zone, or any other safe places.

    1. Joe Doe

      1. I do not want to get into a semantics over whether or not Iraq is currently a sovereign state or not.
      2. Justifications for war? no It was merely stating the present virus plaguing Iraq known, at that time as the Saddam Regime.
      3. Ofcourse the documents were considered part of Iraq society. I was merely speaking from the Saddam regime perspective. A perspective I am happy to say no longer exists, and with the knowledge of how the regime sustained itself, it would be nice to avoid having another one following it, citing specific documents that are contained with in the collections.
      4. Finally, the documents were in such filth because of war, people trying to profit from the information within, and people that simply wanted to see what files the government wrote about themselves(in many cases). Unfortunately they didn’t care about the documents that didn’t pertain to themselves, and let the documents almost rot.

      I dont care whether I change your opinion on the war, politics, etc… the only thing i care about is to elaborate the truth about the documents, that they are held by different parties, in particularly, some of which granted authority by the current Iraqi government. Whether you think its a puppet government or not is of no consequence to me or the legal community. If you respect rule of law in theory, you should respect it in practice.

  7. ishtar


    “I dont care whether I change your opinion on the war, politics..” why not? please go on , your words are “music to my ears” as the iconic saying goes!

    As for “Whether you think its a puppet government or not is of no consequence to me or the legal community. If you respect rule of law in theory, you should respect it in practice.” is inconsistent with what you believe. Now let us change the “puppet government “with your virus theory, what will we have here?

    “Whether you think its a virus plaguing Iraq or not is of no consequence to me or the legal community. If you respect rule of law in theory, you should respect it in practice.”

  8. Iraq

    I hope I’m not interrupting,
    Could someone explain me what the”International Community Law”is? Please!


  9. ishtar


    I understand why you are wondering about international community law, it is because we, Iraqis, have come from a “rogue state”. But I think that it means the law that is set by USA for the meek and the weak only to abide by, especially if they have oil or lithium under their soil.

    It is just like democracy? what? you do not know DEMOCRACY too? It is the rule of people, anywhere, by corporate America.

  10. Iraq

    Well, I’ll suggest a (law of jungle) instead of ( International Community Law), not because of I’m from a “rogue state”. But… what shall I say ? It was my mum’s mistake! She has not breastfed me DEMOCRACY, the American way!!!

  11. AbuHashim

    I found the whole discussion very interesting…

    Joe Doe refers to Kanaan Makiya as an “icon”, who has written “The Republic of Fear” and who has a grudge against the Baath Regime.

    Kanaan Makiya graduated from High School (Baghdad College) in 1966 as an ordinary, non-bright student, like many like him. While his colleagues went to universities to pursue studies, his father, Muhammed Makiya, a famous architect and the head of the department of architecture in Baghdad then, arranged for him special exemption from the army. Over the period of one year, Kanan received special private tutoring in the premises of the department of architecture, free of charge, given by professors and teachers in the department. Apart from the immorality of that, it was also illegal, and a misuse of authority by his father.
    In 1967, Kanan left Iraq to study architecture in the US, having been given a place due to his father’s connections, not by virtue of his grades.
    During these years, his father was arrested in Iraq with a group of Iraqis for belonging to a prohibited Masonic lodge. The members were all pardoned by Saddam, even though the punishment for that in Iraqi law was severe.
    Kanaan was never known during his young years for having any political inclinations or of being a member of any party. At some time in his adult years, Kanaan became a Marxist and worked with the PFLP for a while!

    In the late 1980s Kanaan Published the Republic Of Fear under the pseudonym Samir Al Khalil. The book is full of information and details that no ordinary Iraqi would have access to, let alone a half Iraqi who has never lived a day under the Baath rule.

    Now the question is: how did Kanaan get all that information when he had left Iraq in 1967 not to return until 2003?? He couldn’t have had access to such detailed information wheile in the US or the UAE. Don’t you find this a bit strange??
    The information in the book was seemingly provided by the CIA (at least that is what Iyad Allawi says!) and Kanaan allegedly wrote the book… We don’t know if he even did that. All we know is that he was given credit for it.

    And so Kanaan Makiya, the son of a Free Mason and British woman, who left Iraq in 1967 before the Baath came to power, is suddenly an “icon” and an expert on Iraqi politics and the Baath party.
    Kanaan who said that the sound of bombs falling over Baghdad was like music to his ears??
    The man who in 1991 called for the dissolving of the Iraqi army?
    The same Kanaan who supports Israel and who was awarded by it?
    And you want Iraqis to think that his motives were honest driven by good will and care for the history of Iraq, of which he was not part??
    Or was there some other motive behind the “stealing” of Iraqi documents?

    Joe seemingly does not understand the Iraqi people or what guides them and their morals.
    An illegal aggression can not produce a legitimate government nor make the actions of that “government” or its masters the occupiers legitimate. But then again occupiers never learn from the lessons of history!

    Joe writes: “I was merely speaking from the Saddam regime perspective. A perspective I am happy to say no longer exists, and with the knowledge of how the regime sustained itself, it would be nice to avoid having another one following it, citing specific documents that are contained with in the collections.”

    Could you please explain to us how the regime sustained itself? And what do you personally have against the Baath regime? And do you think the regime that followed it is better??

    1. Joe Doe

      Abu Hashim,
      I appreciate your response. To answer your question, I believe the regime “sustained” itself by justifying its onslaught of the population in the north and south, not to mention systematically cleansing the population of people that would demonstrate the might of the Baath party, and doing this while trying to completely justify its actions by claiming self-defense from espionage from the Iranian regime. It is right, technically there is no case to go into Iraq when Saddam was “cleaning house”, but that is where the Intl. community should start to change the policy to better serve the people of the world.
      I have stated before that I would like to keep my identity concealed, and by stating what I have against the Baath party, it would defeat the purpose. I will answer by the following:
      The Baath ideology representing “one arab nation” is a concept that isnt completely terrible. The nightmare begins when it comes down to convincing the rest of the population that is quite proud of their Nationality, and would rather keep it that way. Iraq was flourishing, and Saddam with the help of the same Intl. community that damned so many innocent people managed to bring it down to its knees. I hope to god another regime like the former will take over. I hope these documents are researched and exploited so that steps that the regime had taken to become the “big brother” Iraq never wanted, would never be duplicated again.
      My take on the current government, is that it is still to young. I wish corruption on all party sides, Iraqi and coalition would stop, because it is breaking a country trying to survive. It cannot sustain like the status quote and I can only hope to see some more hope in the eyes of Iraqis.
      I am sorry I will not comment on your previous attempt to characterize Kanan in such a malicious way. You managed to try and completely strip his Iraq heritage by discrediting his family and working your way up to his “current” popularity. I think it is you that holds a direct grudge against Kanan and should take it up with him directly as opposed on a forum making wild speculative remarks without any evidence.
      Lets look at the possible repercussion of your actions:
      You claimed that he had indeed received files from the CIA because “that is what Ayyad Alawi says”. Seriously? In Iraq claims like this is literally painting a target on someones back! If Allawi said something like this it is completely irresponsible, even though I dont remember him saying anything of the sort.
      I have had many close to me killed because of such accusations, leaving behind families, thanks to people carelessly linking an innocent person to one intelligence agency or the other. Do yourself and myself a favor, when someone makes dangerous and careless accusations like this, be sure to ask for evidence before you quote that individual as FACT!
      It may be a friendly forum here, but some people take it way to far outside of this forum and can indeed compromise the safety of ones life.
      thank you for understanding

      1. Joe Doe

        Please forgive the crazy grammatical errors in my response. I am trying to do too many things at once.

  12. ishtar


    While you accuse Abu Hashim of “making wild speculative remarks without any evidence” you did just the same accusing Saddam Hussein of “systematically cleansing the population of people”, without any evidence. Now the word “systematically” is very far fetched and the Occupation court which tried him made every possible effort to explain “systematic” nature of “cleansing” of the Kurds. That effort turned to be a farce. Here, I would ask you to provide me with your evidences of this wild accusation. I warn you though, that I have spent years of my life investigating this and writing researches about it, and I am in a position to make good arguments based on facts.

    Also Abu Hashim does not need to provide you with evidences about Makiya, because that man , being not so discreet as yourself, said it all in interviews and public appearances. And if he did nothing except describing the sound of the bombs falling over his homeland as music to his ears, that would have been enough to tell you what kind of species he is. The most vile war criminals, at their best, would tell you that war is a necessary evil. Nobody to my knowledge, nobody has ever said that bombing your own people, or even your enemies, sounds like music. It takes a psycho to be able say it.

  13. ishtar

    Forgot to add this .

    You say “Lets look at the possible repercussion of your actions:
    You claimed that he had indeed received files from the CIA because “that is what Ayyad Alawi says”. Seriously? In Iraq claims like this is literally painting a target on someones back! .”

    First , Allawi should know as he was , or still is? at the payroll of the CIA. Second, you have just forgotten that now we have a NEW IRAQ, where being a spy for the CIA would make you a decorated hero, and it even might increase your chances of being a President, or a Prime Minister.

  14. AbuHashim

    Joe Doe,

    What you call “the onslaught of the population north and south” is the normal reaction of any state that intends to protect the safety of its citizens. And your choice of the word “onslaught” is rather bizarre.

    The Kurds in the north have been fighting against all regimes for about 100 years, refusing all and every attempt at finding a solution. Their insurgency has cost the Iraqis tens of thousands dead and millions upon millions of losses. They have collaborated with the enemies of Iraq, especially with Israel. This, my friend, is called treason. Any leader of an insurgency, who cooperates with the enemy in time of war, is considered a traitor and is executed. That goes for the US, the UK and all “civilized” countries in the world.

    During the Iran-Iraq war, the Kurds were ordered to evacuate villages on the border with Iran. Jalal Talabani, the current “President” of Iraq, prevented the people of Halabja from leaving, brought the Iranians in his city to fight the Iraqis. He was given warning before hand by the government than should he allow the Iranians to enter, Iraq would wipe them out using chemical weapons. Jalal didn’t heed the warning, and the result was the massacre at Halabja.
    Now what would the US have done in a similar case? Didn’t it drop the first nuclear bombs on Japanese cities to “prevent loss of American lives”? That you definitely accept, but consider Halabja an unforgivable crime; an ”onslaught”, even though it has not yet been proven whether it was really Iraq or Iran who used chemicals in the city, especially since Iraq did not have the chemical used.

    The situation in the south was different. The Baath regime had truly built Iraq into a semi-industrialized country in the area, leading in many aspects. The south of Iraq, especially the Marshes area, was supplied with electricity, services, water and they were even given television sets and refrigerators by the state. Yet, quite a number of them, and for sectarian reasons, sided with Iran during the war. The Marsh area became a refuge for army deserters, who organized themselves into armed groups of bandits which attacked travelers and officials, robbing and killing. Now you tell me what would the US government had done in a similar situation?

    When the Iraqi army was retreating from Kuwait in March 1991, those same elements in the south attacked the army and attacked officials and party members, killing indiscriminately and destroying public property. What would any government in the world do in such situation? Remember Waco, Texas??

    My friend there is no such thing as “International Community”. This is a term that the super powers invented to woe the feeble minded and the simple people. The international community is only present when someone does something that the west doesn’t like. Otherwise, it keeps hiding and quiet. Where was the Community when Iraqis were dying under the sanctions? We now know that this “International Community” knew all the time that what was happening to Iraqis was a crime of Genocide; that there were no weapons; and that the killing of Iraqis was intentional.

    Still worried about a few spies who worked for the CIA, Israel and Iran??

    Your concept of nationality is odd. No one prevented the Kurds or Turkomans from keeping their identity, but their nationality is Iraqi if they were born and raised in Iraq and carry its citizenship. In the US, all citizens are considered nationals of the US, and no one can claim to be a Russian, Chinese, Arab or other nationality. Kanaan is a British national, and such such he doesn’t claim special status for being of a different “nationality”. That is the concept of the modern Nation-State upon which the states of the world were defined since the 18th century. So you cannot live in one country, and be independent at the same time. In fact, the Baath Regime gave the Kurds more rights than they have had anywhere else, including recognizing their cultural identity, the right to study with their own language, universities, TV and radio stations, etc… They were given autonomy, but they rejected it and resorted to arms…

    I don’t want to comment on your views of the current “government” because they are naive and expose your biases. But that is your prerogative.

    I was not characterizing Kanaan in any way. I was telling facts about him that are publicly known by a lot of Iraqis and non-Iraqis. Nothing that I wrote was untrue. Kanaan DOES NOT have any Iraqi heritage. He was raised in house where they spoke English to the limit that his Arabic was bad! Out of the 60 years he has lived, he spent less than 17 years in Iraq, as a child and teen. He has lived in the US since 1967, and even after the occupation does not live in Iraq.
    Kanaan’s “current” popularity is due to certain powers that want to make him popular. All you need is the right media coverage, a few prizes for your work, and you are popular. Then make him Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at some university, even though his knowledge of Islam is limited to him being born to father who was born a Muslim; neither of them a practicing one. This popularity of Kanaan is, however, restricted to certain areas among the western so called “intelligentsia”. Fouad Ajami is another example. Once one is taken up by the right-wing Zionist lobby, he becomes the “expert”.

    I don’t hold any direct grudge against Kanaan. I only think that is a traitor to his country. What would you call person who writes the following “But still those bombs are music to my ears. They are like bells tolling for liberation in a country that has been turned into a gigantic concentration camp. One is not supposed to say such things in the kind of liberal, pacifist, and deeply anti-American circles of academia, in which I normally live and work. The truth is jarring even to my own ears.” ? The bombs that kill Iraqis are music to his ears, and I am accused of discrediting him? If that is malicious, then my friend you better search for the word in a dictionary.

    I have not done anything that causes any repercussions. Kanaan could NOT have written the book which included details of the work of the Iraqi security apparatus without detailed information from a well equipped security agency. He was not in Iraq and could not have had such information. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and said CIA and not MOSSAD!

    I suggest you the see the following: http://www.counterpunch.org/achcar05052004.html

    As to relations with the CIA or US administration, then surely you don’t want to deny what Kanaan himself has written and said; a joint press conference with Richard Perle, on the eve of the invasion in March 2003; Dick Cheney “The president and I have met with them, various groups and individuals, people who have devoted their lives from the outside to trying to change things inside Iraq. And like Kanan Makiya who’s a professor at Brandeis, but an Iraqi, he’s written great books about the subject, knows the country intimately, and is a part of the democratic opposition and resistance.”; Kanaan himself “As I told the President on January 10th, I think they will be greeted with sweets and flowers in the first months and simply have very, very little doubt that that is the case.” Etc…

    I had 8 of my relatives killed in Fallujah, the oldest 70 and the youngest under 2. Their crime was that they lived in city which the US decided to wipe out because 4 of its mercenaries were killed outside that city. No trial; no arrests; no suspects. Simple bombardment that left thousands dead and whole residential areas flattened. Compare that to the execution of 148 in Dujail, and then come back and tell me about the regime sustaining itself…

    If you are worried about Kanaan, then you should know that people take responsibility for their deeds and are answerable to others. The bible put it very well: e who troubles his house shall inherit the wind!

    Thank you.

    1. Joe Doe

      I will for sure comment thoroughly later, but upon reading both of your comments, I would like to first express my condolences to AbuHashim for his loss. It is not easy losing a loved one.
      I am sorry for the delay, but I have quite a bit to do today, but expect a response from me soon.
      thank you,

  15. Joe Doe

    One more thing, please do not patronize the community of readers by trying to convince them that his quote, regarding the bombs being music to his ears, was directed to innocent people getting killed. Have you ever met this man before? either one of you? Have you challenged him to an educated debate/discussion? If you have I would be certain you would not regard him as such an immoral/disgusting person as you are describing. I am confident, minus absolute evidence, that he was referring to the bombs hitting as a final eradication of the regime that devastated Iraq so.
    Again, I cant address every question yet, however thought to tackle your two most common misinterpretations of the facts.
    thank you

    1. AbuHashim

      Yes Joe.

      I have met this man before. And some of what I wrote was heard from him directly….

      But I don’t think people who condoned the killing of my people in Iraq in 1991, supported the sanctions, and were behind the bunch of lies and plans to invade my country and annihilate my people are worthy of what you call “educated discussion”. A man who incites hate and war against what you call “his people” is worthy of the jungle not the academia or the world of intellectuals.

      I believe that betraying your country is the worst thing any human can do, if Kanaan considers Iraq his country at all.
      I gather you are an Iraqi, so you must have read Badr Shakir as-Sayyab (in your days at BC), especially when he said:

      “I wonder how traitors can betray.
      Would a man betray his country?
      If he betrays the meaning of his being,
      then how can he be?”

      I have never heard of bombs that differentiate between rulers and the ruled; between killers and victims. Talk of “smart bombs” has been part of the US propaganda since 1991, when in reality they were only 30% accurate. Those same smart bombs destroyed civilian shelters and burned those inside; destroyed 120 bridges; destroyed hospitals; strategic food stores; water purification and sewage plants; schools; communication systems; electricity generation and distribution plants; etc.. Nothing in Iraq escaped destruction, especially with the use of still smarter “depleted Uranium” bombs; phosphorous bombs, vacuum bombs and petrol bombs. Where was Kanaan when Iraqis were dying because of lack of food and medicine from 1990 until 2003, and where was his morality, if he had any?? He knew that the sanctions were killing the people of Iraq not the regime, so what did he do?
      And what has the regime done to Kanaan to deserve such hate, when his father the Mason was not only freed, but given projects that earned him money? Is that how he suffered?
      And please don’t patronize us by telling us he cared for the people of Iraq; people he last knew in 1967!

      And don’t you patronize us by making a monster look like a saint. A man who thinks the sound of bombs is music to his ears is a beast, lacking in morality. Brings Nero to mind!

      The regime did not devastate Iraq. It was people like Kanaan, his operator Ahmed al-Chalabi, and their masters in the US administration and AIPAC. The regime built Iraq from a backward country into a modern semi-industrialized one. That is what the UN envoy to Iraq in 1991 stated in his report. And it was returned to the Middle Ages. And as if that was not enough, and the sanctions were not enough, Iraq had to be destroyed completely and occupied by the US. And Kanaan was an important player in all of that.

      There was no misinterpretation of facts in what I wrote. I did not in fact interpret anything. I posted facts that are available widely. I am stating what Kanaan himself said and wrote, and what Cheney and others have said about him. I am certain Kanaan himself wouldn’t deny what he said or wrote. If he/you want to give a new interpretation now, that is a bit too late. The damage has been done, and no amount of interpretation or explanation can bring back the million plus Iraqis that have died as a result of the invasion and occupation towards which Kanaan worked very hard for 12 years. A face lift does not change what is inside the person; only gives the appearance of a better facade; and then only temporarily.

  16. ishtar

    (I am confident, minus absolute evidence, that he was referring to the bombs hitting as a finally eradication of the regime that devastated Iraq so.)

    Oh, ya! Of course, how stupid of me. He meant those musical, clever bombs that eradicated only the heads of a regime, not children, women, schools, hospitals, churches, mosques, and the whole structure of a modern state.

    How can you be so confident when you do not have absolute evidence of what he was referring to?

  17. ishtar


    (Have you ever met this man before? either one of you? Have you challenged him to an educated debate/discussion)

    Who needs him when we have the devil’s advocate?

  18. Iraq

    The matter, here, is not about individuals! But extends to the lost of sovereignty, lost of the whole country. When “Alawi” approved the occupying forces fired Fallujah, it points to that any of those who hold political seats in the new Iraq does not care about the Iraqis, more than seek occupier’s satisfaction!

    Joe Doe, you say :(….that he was referring to the bombs hitting as a final eradication of the regime that devastated Iraq so.)

    Did the bombing target only the regime? The occupying forces had destroyed the State of Iraq under the pretext of eliminate the regime! Then, wouldn’t be better to them, going to address the problems of famine in Africa, as long as they take it upon themselves to repair the world to get people happier?

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