The US civil administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer announced steps to reinstate some former members of Saddam Hussein’s disbanded Baath party in the new army, as well as in schools and universities. Bremer made the announcement in a rare televised address to the nation that appeared aimed at rallying Iraqi support as the US-led coalition battles a dogged insurgency by both Sunni and Shiite Muslim militants. Amid mounting concern over the poor performance of Iraqi security forces during recent attacks, the US overseer said more former members of Saddam’s military would be allowed to join the ranks of the new army. He also announced measures to speed up the reinstatement of thousands of teachers who lost their jobs because they were once Baathists, even though they were often forced to join the former dictator’s party.
I don’t understand this at all. Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress have said from the beginning that de-Baathification was an absolute necessity. Are they wrong? While it’s true that the Baathists – an Arab mutation of National Socialism – did keep the Shiites in check by killing over 100,000 of them, I’m not convinced that this is the solution. Then again, I’m not there, so it’s impossible to speak with any degree of certainty. But from a theoretical point of view, this sounds problematic at best. Also, from what I’ve read, those teachers were used as spies, so they participated in the system even if they weren’t enthusiastic about it.