Stephen F. Hayes in the Weekly Standard reveals that a treasure trove of up-to-now unreleased captured Iraqi documents and photographs provide clear refutation of one cornerstone position of critics of the US invasion — the belief that the secular Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein would never work with radical Islamist organizations:
THE FORMER IRAQI REGIME OF Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, according to documents and photographs recovered by the U.S. military in postwar Iraq. The existence and character of these documents has been confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD by eleven U.S. government officials.
The secret training took place primarily at three camps–in Samarra, Ramadi, and Salman Pak–and was directed by elite Iraqi military units. Interviews by U.S. government interrogators with Iraqi regime officials and military leaders corroborate the documentary evidence. Many of the fighters were drawn from terrorist groups in northern Africa with close ties to al Qaeda, chief among them Algeria’s GSPC and the Sudanese Islamic Army. Some 2,000 terrorists were trained at these Iraqi camps each year from 1999 to 2002, putting the total number at or above 8,000. Intelligence officials believe that some of these terrorists returned to Iraq and are responsible for attacks against Americans and Iraqis…
The discovery of the information on jihadist training camps in Iraq would seem to have two major consequences: It exposes the flawed assumptions of the experts and U.S. intelligence officials who told us for years that a secularist like Saddam Hussein would never work with Islamic radicals, any more than such jihadists would work with an infidel like the Iraqi dictator. It also reminds us that valuable information remains buried in the mountain of documents recovered in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past four years.
Nearly three years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, only 50,000 of these 2 million “exploitable items” have been thoroughly examined. That’s 2.5 percent.
Apparently, opinions on releasing the material were fiercely divided within Congress and the Bush Administration. Many were eager to release nearly all of the massive collection of information, but some influential officials of the Defense Department, having been burned before, feared that the
mainstream press might cherry-pick documents and mischaracterize their meaning. “There is always the concern that people would be chasing a lot of information good or bad, and when the Times or the Post splashes a headline about some sensational-sounding document that would seem to ‘prove’ that sanctions were working, or that Saddam was just a misunderstood patriot, or some other nonsense, we’d spend a lot of time chasing around after it.”