Saddam’s Terror Training Camps

What the documents captured from the former Iraqi regime reveal–and why they should all be made public.
by Stephen F. Hayes
01/16/2006, Volume 011, Issue 17

THE FORMER IRAQI REGIME OF Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, according to documents and photographs recovered by the U.S. military in postwar Iraq. The existence and character of these documents has been confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD by eleven U.S. government officials.

The secret training took place primarily at three camps–in Samarra, Ramadi, and Salman Pak–and was directed by elite Iraqi military units. Interviews by U.S. government interrogators with Iraqi regime officials and military leaders corroborate the documentary evidence. Many of the fighters were drawn from terrorist groups in northern Africa with close ties to al Qaeda, chief among them Algeria’s GSPC and the Sudanese Islamic Army. Some 2,000 terrorists were trained at these Iraqi camps each year from 1999 to 2002, putting the total number at or above 8,000. Intelligence officials believe that some of these terrorists returned to Iraq and are responsible for attacks against Americans and Iraqis. According to three officials with knowledge of the intelligence on Iraqi training camps, White House and National Security Council officials were briefed on these findings in May 2005; senior Defense Department officials subsequently received the same briefing.

The photographs and documents on Iraqi training camps come from a collection of some 2 million “exploitable items” captured in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan. They include handwritten notes, typed documents, audiotapes, videotapes, compact discs, floppy discs, and computer hard drives. Taken together, this collection could give U.S. intelligence officials and policymakers an inside look at the activities of the former Iraqi regime in the months and years before the Iraq war.


2 thoughts on “Saddam’s Terror Training Camps”

  1. Newsmax has also been running with articles concerning these documents.

    If these documents exist, and if they actually show what the Weekly Standard and Newsmax say they show, then we are left with a major quandary. Why is the administration not trumpeting their contents as proof of the rightness of our actions? Why are they being neglected, even as Bush’s approval rating is stuck under 50%?

    The best Republicans are left with is to say that the Bush Administration is too incompetent to fully staff the translation effort of documents that would probably silence a large chunk of criticism of the war. The defense against overstating the case for war is that you were too stupid to pay attention to the documentary evidence our invasion uncovered that proved you were right all along.

    Nice. I feel better.

    According to Newsmax, the fabled WMD not only exist, but the documents uncovered tell you where it was stashed. Which means the administration is doubly stupid. Not only did we not recover the WMD we were supposed to be looking for, but we (if that is true) have left dangerous chemical weapons loose in the desert for years. The administration left itself open to charges of lying, and probably left the WMD to be picked up by terrorists in any case.

    Who might have gotten to them in the meantime? Who wasn’t arrested who knew their location? If these docs show the training of terrorists, could any of those terrorists be in the U.S. RIGHT NOW?

    Here’s the deal on this – if these docs are true, then they help bolster the President’s case for war. They don’t make me feel better about how the war was waged, nor would they have convinced me that it was the best way to go. But they certainly help add credibility. But if what these docs say is true, then the fact that they have been left untranslated, unread, and with no action taken upon them is just plain criminal. It is incompetence of the highest order.

    It also, in my mind, demonstrates that either the Bush Administration never believed in many of the purported causes of the war, or simply wasn’t really concerned. Bushies appear to have been far more concerned with their Wilsonian experiment than in actually catching terrorists. If they had been interested in catching terrorists, then these docs (if they are real) would have been translated and acted upon immediately. If they had been interesed in finding WMDs, then these docs would have been translated and acted on immediately. As of December, the Administration is still saying that the WMD did not exist. Well, that may be true – now anyway.

    In general, this just adds to my frustration level with this administration, in which no definitive answer ever emerges about anything.

  2. If the Iraq war has taught us anything it is that vague speculation and vaporous, unsubtantiated rumors that seem to fulfill our preconceived assumptions should never be the basis for foreign policy.

    First, the reports released about these camps, leaked by shadowy unnamed sources in the administration, still contain no mention of Al Qaeda, so the assertion that Iraq had any role in attacking us on September 11th would still be false. Statements by Bin Ladin and others condemning Saddam Hussein as a “secularist” and indicating an antipathy between the two are well documented. It still seems unlikely that they would share the same goals or work together,

    Second, it’s unclear what foreign policy interest Saddam Hussein would have had in Algeria or Sudan. What was his motive? How would creating turmoil in Algeria help Saddam Hussein?

    Third, we do know that Saddam Hussein had seen the movie “Blackhawk Down”, and afterward sought to develop his own units of urban paramilitaries to wage guerrilla should the United States ever invade his country. If Saddam Hussein was training non-Iraqi insurgents, could he have been intending to use them as auxilleries at home, rather than to stir up trouble abroad?

    Lastly, as Glen says, the hesitation on the part of the administration to investigate or share information which would bolster its case for war is highly suspicious.

    Any documents proving the existence of training camps in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq should be subjected to thorough investigation and scrutiny by impartial objective researchers. Instead we are repeating the prewar practice of releasing little isolated bits of information here and there as fact, while applying a highly slanted interpretation, without the proper validation, background information and context. Having been misled once in this manner, we need to exercise a much greater degree of caution and skepticism in the future.

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