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wrbones
04-20-03, 05:35 AM
‘Nazi’ files incriminate top Iraqis
The Sunday Times ^ | April 20, 2003 | Marie Colvin





HER dusty file was one of hundreds of thousands of documents stacked in a house in a wealthy neighbourhood of Baghdad. Asma Rasheed married a pilot, lived comfortably in the presidential compound of Saddam Hussein and directed a microbiology programme that was not supposed to exist.

Rasheed’s light blue folder has emerged from a huge archive seized by forces loyal to Ahmed Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, which opposed Saddam. The archive — a dark who’s who of Iraq — reveals the tiniest details of blandishments and humiliations by a paranoid regime that shared the Nazis’ obsession with documentation.

In four days since arriving in Baghdad from the southern city of Nasiriya, Chalabi’s forces have captured the complete archives of the Iraqi army, the Special Security Organisation (SSO), led by Saddam’s younger son Qusay, and the Amn al-Amm, the Iraqi equivalent of MI5.

The archives had been removed from ministries and hidden in private homes. The military files were stacked floor to ceiling on metal shelves in the former home of Raifa Chalabi, the opposition leader’s sister. The house, in the wealthy al-Mansour neighbourhood, was confiscated by the regime two years ago.

The archive’s guards were not supposed to let this treasure-trove fall into the hands of the opposition. The next-door neighbour said they had returned every day last week to try to burn the house, but he and others had driven them off.

If she is still alive, Rasheed will not welcome the discovery of her file. The 52-year-old scientist worked in the research programme of the SSO, which was responsible for protecting Saddam’s inner circle.

Qusay also directed Saddam’s illegal procurement of weapons of mass destruction and, according to Rasheed’s file, appears to have hidden an entire research programme from United Nations inspectors.

Like other files, Rasheed’s reveals the extent to which the regime watched people. An interrogation record shows she was asked about her personal life and replied: “All my friends are Ba’athis (members of Saddam’s party)”. She was rated “good” on that evaluation.

The file of Lieutenant Colonel Hamid Lefta discloses that he was promoted because as head of the central prison of the Fifth Army he executed Lieutenant Colonel Nizar, Staff Colonel Hamid, Lieutenant Gazi and Major Muafaq. Their crimes are not recorded.

Then there is Sheehab Ahmed Moussa, whose photograph shows an unsmiling man of heavy brows and pudgy cheeks. Now 54, he joined the Ba’ath party at the age of 12 and got on well in the Iraqi military, rising to serve as a captain in a chemical weapons unit in the Iran-Iraq war.

Moussa passed his interrogation with flying colours. When asked: “Down to your third cousin, has anyone in your family been sent to prison or been forced to leave their job for political reasons?” he was able to answer: “No.”

He also answered “No” to the questions of whether anyone in his family, down to the third cousin, had been executed; married a non-Iraqi; lived outside Iraq; or belonged to any party other than the Ba’ath. At the end of his interrogation he signed a document agreeing to his execution if he had lied.

American officials will want to ask Moussa more questions. By 1996 he had risen to general manager of chemical production at the Al-Qaqa site in Iraq, one of those suspected of harbouring Saddam’s manufacture of chemical weapons.

He also travelled for the Iraqi regime: a document marked “top secret” reveals that in 1993, after the Gulf war and imposition of United Nations sanctions on Iraq, he visited Moscow. In 1996, the ministry of military industrialisation, the centre of Saddam’s illegal weapons programme, sent Moussa to China.

Chalabi’s discovery of the files followed work by an underground network begun in 2000 and called the Information Collection Programme, run by Aras Karim. The capture of the archives is part of what Chalabi believes must be Iraq’s next step: de-Ba’athification, which he likens to the denazification of Germany after the second world war.

“This is not about revenge,” Chalabi said yesterday. “The Ba’ath party set up a post- defeat strategy, with alternative headquarters and alternative organisations. Their task is to disturb public safety, prevent normalisation and convince the population that the Ba’ath is still here and that they are in charge. This must be stopped and the Ba’ath organisation must be uprooted.”

There is ample evidence to support his statement. On Friday, guards protecting the Amn al-Amm archive made a last stand, opening fire with Kalashnikovs on the men he had sent to seize it. Last night gunfire erupted again around Chalabi’s compound and one of his bodyguards was shot in the back.

Chalabi set up his headquarters last week at the hunting club in al-Mansour. His relationship with the Americans who control the country is one of love and hate. He has support in the upper echelons of the Pentagon, but mid-level officers who answer to Central Command in Qatar have thrown up obstacles at every step of his journey.

After being airlifted from northern Iraq by the American military, he and 600 fighters of his Free Iraqi Forces were stuck for 10 days outside Nasiriya in a flea-ridden, bombed-out airbase awaiting American approval to travel to Baghdad.

In the end Chalabi bought cars in Kuwait and drove to Baghdad in a sandstorm. Halfway through the eight-hour journey, an American officer called. “We are told you are headed to Baghdad,” she said. “We request: what are your intentions?” Chalabi answered: “I’m going home.”

Chalabi comes from a wealthy Baghdad family forced to leave the city in 1958. His baggage includes criticism that he is unknown in Iraq, is compromised by financial dealings in Jordan and is too lightweight a figure to lead such a brutalised country.

His first night in Baghdad, however, began another journey to what supporters believe will be his eventual election as leader of Iraq. He sat in the reception room of the hunting club, greeting local leaders, officers from Saddam’s former stronghold of Tikrit and men who had worked underground for him for years.

In a twist of irony that did not escape Chalabi, he sat at the head of a horseshoe of chairs, a place favoured by Saddam’s son Uday, who held monthly parties at the club.

Staff are full of the terrors inflicted by Uday, and American intelligence has photos of a party where men are shown apparently stabbing themselves and shooting others for Uday’s entertainment.

“It is a mix of megalomania and total depression,” Chalabi said of his home city. “Saddam left his mark everywhere: in the monuments, the militarisation of society, the total devastation.

“Iraqis have a sense of Iraqi identity. We need to make sure that Iraqis feel they have a stake in their country, in a democratic Iraq. The best way to do this is with a federal system.”

US forces, he believes, should stay for the first elections, which should be held in no more than two years.

The Americans are not sure what to do with a man who simply turns up and gets on with it. On the afternoon of his second day in the hunting club, two American tanks crashed through the metal gates.

With his hands in the air, Za’ab Sethna, an aide with an American passport, walked up to the agitated soldiers on the tanks as they aimed at Chalabi and his men. “We have orders to secure this compound,” the American yelled to Sethna.

“For us or from us?” Sethna yelled back. “Don’t know, sir,” replied the American soldier.

The home of Rasheed in Saddam’s compound is empty now, but her trail, and those of all who helped him in his tyrannical rule, is far from cold.

As with the Nazis, their obsession with documentation will help the people tracking them. Saddam’s followers have few places to hide.