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5/24/03 - RIDDING IRAQ OF BAATH PARTY - 2003-05-27

As with Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist party in Germany, the instrument of Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical rule in Iraq was an all-powerful party -- the Arab Baath Socialists. Saddam joined the Baath party as a teenager in 1956 and rose quickly and ruthlessly through its ranks to become the Iraqi dictator. Now that Iraq has been liberated from the dictator’s rule, it must -- like Germany in 1945 after the Second World War -- be purged of a corrupt and evil party apparatus.

Ambassador Paul Bremer is the U.S.-led coalition’s civil administrator in Iraq. He said the coalition will waste no time in removing Baathists from positions of authority:

“We have and will aggressively move to seek to identify these people and remove them from office. We have hunted down and will continue to deal with those members of the old regime who are sabotaging the country and the coalition’s efforts.”

Under Saddam Hussein, the Baath party controlled Iraq through patronage and terror. Millions of people joined the party simply to be able to get a job. And most of them were victims -- not perpetrators -- of the party’s atrocities.

But thousands of Iraqis became deeply involved in the Baath party’s crimes as they rose to positions of authority. Ambassador Bremer says that some thirty-thousand Iraqis are too compromised by their service to Saddam Hussein to be allowed to hold key jobs now:

“We are trying very hard to work with the Iraqis to restore essential services in health, education, water, electricity. We are working as hard as we can with the people in those ministries who are available and who are technically competent. In some cases, we have found people who have offered to work with us have turned out to be members of the Baath party, and those people have been put out of office when we found that out.”

At the same time that Iraqis are rebuilding their country, they will also have to build a new leadership. This will not be easy. But resourceful people did exactly that in postwar Germany a half century ago. And resourceful people will do it in Iraq. .