A member of the Iraqi National Congress says coalition forces in Iraq are collecting hundreds of thousands of documents, detailing atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein's regime. Kanan Makiya has ideas on how the files should now be used.
Mr. Makiya says Saddam Hussein's capture made him more passionate about organizing the hundreds of thousands of files kept by the former Iraqi regime.
But the archivist says he is having a hard time convincing others about the need to quickly determine how to handle the materials.
"Since the capture of Saddam Hussein, now nearly a month ago, this stuff is crucial to the evidentiary basis of the trial… that needs to be built up against him," he said. "So you would think that the urgency of taking control of this paper trail and working on it is now paramount. And yet that is not the case."
Mr. Makiya, who heads the Iraq Research and Documentation Project, is in Washington lobbying the American government to take action to preserve Iraq's archives.
He says some files have already been misused. He says there are some cases of people obtaining files and selling them or using them against others.
"Since we're entering cycles of elections, and new figures are arising and the Iraqi body politic is in the process of formation, even as we speak," he explained. "These things are like sticks of dynamite in the arena. We don't have anything regulating these files at the moment. Nothing."
He wants Iraq's American-appointed Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council to establish laws penalizing file peddlers.
He also wants the authorities to pass legislation on use of the archives for legal purposes and by scholars.
"It's not just a record. In a sense, this is a memorial," he said. "This is the raw material of our experience that we would want down the line, future history books, to be written about. This is about not forgetting what happened. Above all, it's about changing the way Iraqis view themselves and their own identity."
The archivist, who spoke at the American Enterprise Institute, in Washington, says he believes coalition forces in Iraq are already indexing and classifying 100-200 million pages of documents.
Mr. Makiya says he hopes his Iraqi Memory Project will be given access to the files so it can preserve the record of atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein's regime.