Friday, November 4, 2011

Al-Ahram Weekly: "Iraq's stolen memory"

Salah Nasrawi has an editorial in Al-Ahram Weekly entitled "Iraq's stolen memory" arguing that the "massive state archive that American forces captured after they invaded Iraq in 2003 are considered a treasure and part of Iraq's national heritage, which should be returned to Iraq." The editorial is keyed to the recent release of documents coinciding with the CRRC/Wilson Center conference on the Iran-Iraq War.

Nasrawi states that the release of the documents is raising eyebrows among many Iraqis about the morality, legal responsibility and academic honesty of keeping and re-examining foreign documents seized during occupation."  Nasrawi also discusses the IMF documents and the Iraq Jewish Archives and states that
The Iraqi government has repeatedly demanded the return of the historical documents held in the United States arguing that continued US possession of these documents would be of great concern. Neither the US army nor the government has disclosed plans on how to deal with the Iraqi records or say if they will be transferred to Iraq after the US troops withdraw by year end. 
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Still, Iraqi scholars stress that the taking of the documents threatens not only the Iraqi people with the loss of their historical memory but also the academic credibility and impartiality if that archive is being treated as war spoils or colonial booty. In the case of Saddam's and the Baath archive, they argue that the analysis of the contents of such documents is critical to any final assessment of Saddam's era and they are essential for Iraqis to come to grips with their past.
Iraqi officials have demanded that the records be sent to the Iraqi National Library and Archive, a repository for government and historical documents from many periods and the key institute for researching Iraq's history. While the US government has remained aloof, a key question remains: by what right will US academia obtain and research the Iraqi records without Iraqis' consent or participation?