‘National Reconciliation’: By the Numbers
This is what the New York Times failed to report on in its front-page story yesterday.
According to Order No. 34 (issued symbolically on April 7, the founding anniversary of the Ba’ath Party), the following numbers give an idea of how far the Iraqi government went in order to rehabilitate members of the former regime:
Number of officers returned to the armed services: 1,259
Number of officers accepted into the armed services: 316
Number of soldiers returned to the armed services: 3,517
Number of soldiers accepted into the armed services: 1,640
Number of officers who requested retirement, are ineligible for return, didn’t pass the medical exam, or do not wish to return to active duty, and who will be awarded pensions: 9,935
Number of soldiers who requested retirement, are ineligible for return, didn’t pass the medical exam, or do not wish to return to active duty, and who will be awarded pensions: 63,557
Total number of beneficiaries: 80,224
The beneficiaries will be getting generous salaries and pensions unimaginable under the former regime.
These spread sheets with the names and addresses of the officers and soldiers who stand to benefit from Order 34 can be downloaded (Arabic Excel files) from the unofficial site of the ‘National Reconciliation Committee.’
The vast majority of the names, as indicated by last names and geographical areas, are Arab Sunnis.
To give a sense of how big a leap of ‘good faith’ this is for the Iraqi government, the former commander of the Special Republican Guard and close relative of Saddam Hussein, Lt. Gen. Kamal Mustafa, is being awarded a pension. He was one of the 55 Most Wanted regime members. In addition to being a close male relative of the tyrant, Mustafa’s younger brother, Jamal, was Saddam’s son-in-law. Mustafa’s first cousin, Gen. Khalid al-Abdullah, was head of the internal security of the Iraqi intelligence service, the mukhaberat, and was appointed head of the mukhaberat during the war when the previous head escaped. Even though there is footage from the quelling of the 1991 Uprising in Nassiriya that shows Kamal Mustafa beating and killing civilian detainees, all three were probably dealt with leniently because they had cooperated with the Iraqi opposition (specifically with the Iraqi National Congress) in the years leading to the war. Jamal Mustafa and Khalid al-Abdullah were persuaded by the INC to return from Syria and hand themselves over to U.S. forces.
If anything, these lists serve to show that the Iraqi government has been doing its part in reabsorbing former officers of the regime.
However, the sob story being peddled by persons such as General Raad al-Hamdani (see NYTimes story yesterday) and the American-led Force Strategic Engagement Cell, as well as the CIA, is that the Iraqi government is uncooperative. That’s plain bunk. But the underlying issue here is that officers such as Hamdani are not interested in being rehabilitated as individuals, rather they want to be rehabilitated as Ba’athists, which is a no-go area under the constitution. The Ba’ath Party cannot, by law and by any moral standard, be rehabilitated in Iraqi politics or society.
The political demands of the Ba’ath Party are simply unacceptable to the Iraqi public, the vast majority of which were directly victimized by the former regime.
Raad al-Hamdani in uniform
The Ba’athists want to pretend as if there is no shame in their past association with the Saddam regime, and they have been consistently encouraged to do so by several American interest groups. They seek to maintain their previous organizational network, with an eye towards an eventual overthrow of the democratic order. There is no U.S. policy to rehabilitate Ba’athism, so why are these State Department and CIA bureaucrats following their own cavalier policies, without being held to account, neither by the White House (under Bush and Obama), the Congress, or the media?
As a further sign of accommodation, the Maliki government has frozen the administrative duties of the De-Ba’athification Commission staff pending their reassignment or retirement as government employees, and word is out that the ‘National Reconciliation’ executive branch will be headed by Zuheir Chalabi, a former INC member from Mosul (no relation to Ahmad Chalabi).
The context of Order 34 should be critically relevant when placing Ba’athist talking points, justifying their intransigence vis-à-vis the government, on the front page of a newspaper.
But the caliber of journalism being what it is; be thankful that I’m around to give perspective.
FURTHER READING: Just a follow-up: When the Iraqi government published the 'National Reconciliation' Law in the official gazette, as mandated by Iraqi law, they purposely left out the article that would have barred thousands of serving officers from government jobs. It was sneaky, not to mention illegal, trick in contravention of what the parliament passed, and it was orchestrated and encouraged by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, according to a couple of sources. That is why several thousand officers in the security services who otherwise should be out on their asses are still at their jobs 15 months after the law was enacted. Again, why are U.S. officials subverting Iraqi democracy? By what mandate?
When the law was passed (January 2008) I had a few decidedly 'undiplomatic' thoughts on the matter, which I jotted down in a post. What I wrote at the time still reflects how I feel about De-Ba'athification, an issue that is admittedly both emotional and ideological for me.