Friday, March 17, 2006

the final nail

the funny wingnut moment of this week comes with the bush administration's sudden decision to declassify a bunch of documents dating to just before the iraq war.

the declassified documents are on this site. the document that seems to have generated the most interest in right blogistan is the one described as follows:
Synopsis: 2002 Iraqi Intelligence Correspondence concerning the presence of al-Qaida Members in Iraq. Correspondence between IRS members on a suspicion, later confirmed, of the presence of an Al-Qaeda terrorist group. Moreover, it includes photos and names.
many right wing bloggers paraded the document as proof that bin laden and saddam hussein were, in fact, in cahoots with each other. AJStrata wrote a post titled "Saddam Tied to Al Qaeda" in which he pronounced "Consider this the final nail in the coffin of the liberal fantasy about Al Qaeda ties to Iraq[.]"

the document in question is here (pdf). it's in arabic with no english translation. in my opinion, it's unreadable; a combination of bad photocopying, bad scanning, and particularly bad handwriting. i can make out a couple of words here and there, but that's about it. initially, i tried and failed to find the word "al-qaeda" (القاعدة) anywhere in the document. but, on second glance, i can see it now on page 3.

there are a series of photographs on pages 5 and 6 (actually, the two pages appear to be two attempts to reproduce the same page) that looks like they might be al zarqawi. the photos, however, seem to be labeled "ahmed fadeel nizaal al-khilayla," whoever that might be. maybe it's one of zarqawi's aliases. or maybe it means something else. that's about all i could get out of it.

but then people with far better arabic than me got their hands on the documents. juan cole described the document as something like an APB to capture zarqawi. abu ardvaark writes:
The reproduction (and handwriting) was bad enough that I couldn't make it out very well. It did have photos - including one of Zarqawi. This document is being touted as evidence that al-Qaeda was in Iraq in 2002, but from what I can make out of the chicken-scratchings it looks more like Iraqi intelligence was trying to find out if Zarqawi was there (hence the mug shots), and not finding anything. I'm not sure where the "later confirmed" came from.
i have no idea what the document really means. as i said before, the writing is pretty hard to read and, in any case, it's probably a bit beyond my abilities. but it's really hilarious to watch a bunch of people wave around a document they can't read, claiming it's slam-dunk evidence that they are right.

i have a ton of scraps of paper i picked up in syria and lebanon last fall. they all have those funny squiggly letters that most americans can't read. i'm happy to scan them for any bloggers out there who want to pass them off as proof-positive that dick cheney was the real mastermind behind 9/11 or that george bush is bin laden (have you ever seen what osama looks like without the beard? i didn't think so). if you want some sinister looking pdf, just drop me an email. most of your gullable public won't know any better anyway.