Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Success" in Iraq: de-de-Baathification

The Iraqi Parliament has finally done something that the Bush administration, and many others, considered essential to political progress in Iraq: it passed a law intended to open government jobs to former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. What should have been heralded as an accomplishment, however, may only serve to further reinforce the bumbling nature of President Bush’s ill-conceived adventure in Iraq.
Let's remember that the only reason the Iraqis have to pass an anti-anti-Baathification law in the first place is to undo the anti-Baathification law originally passed by Paul Bremer with the blessing of the Bush administration.
In an act that many saw as the original sin that led to Iraq's current turmoil, Bremer crippled Iraq's institutions of governance and security and created half a million angry and jobless people in the process. He has since said that there were legitimate grievances about the order but that it was necessary to bring oppressed Shiite Muslims and ethnic Kurds into the government.

Bremer's order affected 400,000 members of the armed forces and all civil servants and officials above the Baath Party's lowest rank-and-file level, a number estimated at 32,000 to 85,000.
Bremer now blames the Iraqis for screwing up his brilliant plan.
We then turned over the implementation of this carefully focused policy to Iraq's politicians. I was wrong here. The Iraqi leaders, many of them resentful of the old Sunni regime, broadened the decree's impact far beyond our original design. That led to such unintended results as the firing of several thousand teachers for being Baath Party members. We eventually fixed those excesses, but I should have made implementation the job of a judicial body, not a political one.

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