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Documents detail life under dictator. (Up front: news, trends & analysis).

Like the Nazi Regime, Saddam Hussein and his ruling Baath party kept meticulous, thorough records on everything from payoffs to tribal leaders to quotas for cheering crowds in attendance at Hussein's birthday celebrations.

After British and U.S. military forces gained control over Basra and began searching the Mother of All Battles Branch of Iraq's ruling Baath party, they found thousands of documents revealing details about life in Iraq under Hussein. At the chief party headquarters in Iraq's second-largest city, officials kept copious files on every comrade in their ranks, tracked thousands of army deserters, and passed on intelligence warnings about spies and saboteurs. One hand-drawn map that was found indicated the location of "traitors in the city's marshes."

The Washington Post reported that no detail was too small to escape the party's attention--from making sure women showed up at military parades to determining the location of machine guns to defend local party buildings. The documents offer a grim portrait of a regime that ruled with money and intimidation. The records left behind reveal the weaknesses of Hussein's regime, including a lack of food and water for Iraqi troops and a failure to meet recruiting quotas. Army deserters were perhaps the single biggest preoccupation, as revealed by hundreds of pages that document the party's payoffs to guards who caught deserters. The files show that the Baath party released false statistics on military recruits, employed an elaborate ranking system for paying off tribal sheiks, and spent much time and effort on demonstrations of support for its dictator.

The documents also divulge that security was a major obsession throughout the hierarchy. Several files, labeled "highly confidential," "personal," and "immediate," detail the danger posed by Iranian agents and suspected acts of sabotage in southern Iraq and activities by exiled Iraqi opposition groups, such as the Iran-based Badr Brigade.

The archives could help Iraqis find missing relatives and assist displaced refugees in proving property rights, according to Human Rights Watch. But tons of government documents that could be used as critical evidence of war crimes in future trials of Iraqi officials were destroyed by looters and Hussein's retreating security forces.

As U.S. troops closed in on Baghdad, Iraqi forces hurriedly destroyed thousands of secret intelligence files. In many central government buildings, files were reduced to ashes. Knight Ridder reported that at the General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI), the Iraqi equivalent of the FBI and CIA, one file room with 2-foot-thick concrete walls was burned. In another GDI building, U.S. forces found smoldering files in every room and an industrial-strength shredding machine in every other room.
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Author:Swartz, Nikki
Publication:Information Management Journal
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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