From the first days of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, United States forces seized official government records created by Saddam Hussein’s regime and exploited them for valuable military intelligence. Millions of pages of these Iraqi state records were then transferred to the United States for further research. Digital copies were even made available to scholars, providing a wealth of new insights into the recent history of Iraq and Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Yet their continued storage and use in the United States remains controversial. The Iraq National Library and Archive has repeatedly demanded the immediate return of all archival material captured during the war, arguing that these records are an inalienable part of Iraq’s national heritage. Negotiations have dragged on as it remains unclear if Iraq is truly ready for these records, which document decades of suppression and abuse, and contain the names of both informants and targets, perpetrators and victims alike.
The seizure of these Iraqi records is not without precedent, as archives are routinely captured by enemy forces during wartime. “Archives in Wartime” will feature a panel of expert archivists and historians who will discuss the current dispute over the Iraqi records within this larger historical context, examining the complex political questions at stake, as well as the tangled legal, historical, and archival issues which arise when state records are captured by invading forces.