Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

For those who need to be reminded: Who were the Ba'athists?

I find it very funny that some U.S. analysts don't get why De-Ba'athification is such an emotional issue in Iraq. The video above was shown a couple of weeks ago during one of the ongoing trials against the leadership of the Ba'ath Party. I had never seen it before. I can tell you that it was one of the most poignant moments that I have had during the whole time I've done this; 'this' meaning since the start of my work against Saddam. I couldn't find the way it was originally aired, without the music in the background, so this version will have to do. While the video was being shown in the court as evidence (...one of the men seen cheering at the end is a defendent) the sobs of the mother of one of the victims, called to the court as a witness, can be heard. Then, out of nowhere, the judge lost it: he berated one of the defendents for averting his eyes, as if he could not stand the hideousness of the images. He asked, "Are you pretending that you didn't see what was happening then? That you didn't hear what was happening?"

To me, the judge's outburst should go down as an important moment in human consciousness, for the whole world to learn from, not just Iraqis. Let tyrants everwhere be on notice, you too may be shamed someday.

The images, gestures and clothing of the Fedayeen Saddam (...about 50 of the barred candidates for this election were members of Fedayeen Saddam) evoke what we later saw Zarqawi and Al-Qaeda doing, as they too cut off heads and held them up as trophies.

Just remember that a government, with a seat at the United Nations, was doing this to its citizens. That was the Ba'ath. Those were the Ba'athists. That is why people are still pissed.


Anonymous amagi said...

I have never forgotten, and have known it with an unshakable moral certainty since I began this; 'this' meaning the loud unapologetic exhortation of an active policy of de-tyrantification, the assertion of inalienable basic human rights and the stewardship of representative government wherever possible.

I am terrified -- literally terrified -- that the consequence of those policy decisions I remain deeply committed to will be the ascension of another crypto-fascist thugocracy, dressing itself now in the trappings of anti-Ba'athification and sharpening the knives for more retribution, score-settling and plutocracy while the masses scrabble in the dirt and nothing changes.

This was, I deeply believe, the one chance that the free world had to bring about that virtual impossibility of 'peace in the Middle East.' As Iraq goes towards freedom, so will the rest, messily and bloodily, with untold human suffering, but at least future generations will be spared the iron boot on the human face and the withering fear of the midnight knock.

If Iraq backslides into fascism it will not all have been for naught -- after all, a dictator was justly executed and many, many of the guilty were punished, one way or another. Many of the innocent, too, and that old adage about omelets and eggs comes to mind, but it just means you have to be damn sure you end up with an omelet. But if Iraqi liberalism should fail at this juncture, I see the veil of darkness descending over the Middle East in perpetuity. The Iranian Mullahs will be invigorated, the nascent rebellion there exsanguinated and who will fear the power or influence of the free world then? The hydra will have too many heads, and we might as well 'mind our own business!' as the wags would have it. That's how I see it anyway.

The point is not no more Ba'athists, the point is no more bullies, no more dictators and no more apologists -- because if the dictators and their henchman are villainous, their apologists are cretinous scum -- nothing short of real representative government for all, everywhere, full stop.

If it all falls apart, it will be wind under the sails of every 'realist' and appeaser and I'll be left to wonder if it really was worth it, compounding misery on top of misery, to prove the gods of the copybook headings right once again. I can take being on the losing side -- I'm accustomed enough to that -- but can I take -- can my conscience take -- being on the wrong side?

4:35 PM, February 11, 2010

Blogger Don Cox said...

I can only say that I agree with every word you both write.

The fundamental problem in politics is how to prevent evil men from gaining power. That is why the US constitution limits the powers of the President. I am not convinced that the new Iraq constitution is robust enough to prevent tyranny.

4:33 AM, February 12, 2010

Anonymous Faisal Kadri said...

It is precisely because de-baathification is an emotional issue it should be approached with institutional justice, instead we have in Iraq widespread guilt-by-association and demagogary driven by politics. I agree with Amagi and I believe it is wrong to publish the video clip in a political context.

10:24 AM, February 12, 2010

Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Dear amagi,

Thank you for your deeply sobering comment. I agree with everything you wrote. However, Saleh al-Mutlag is not the litmus test of Iraqi democracy. He was tripped up by law (...note the article in JAC that I missed). And he didn't do himself any favors by refusing to specifically rebuke the crimes of the Ba'athist era in the last couple of weeks even though given ample room to do so in his press appearances. As you may have gathered, I was against casting out Mutlag from the political process, as much as I loathe what he stands for and he knows it. In fact, I saw him on Wednesday, and did my part, however minimal, to try to settle this issue politically, so that the political process isn't stymied. But what has happened has happened. A better litmus test is what happened at the court where that video was shown, and the mother's pain that was allayed, just a bit, for a son lost, and whose body still doesn't have a grave to identify it. In the courtroom, she withdrew her right to press charges against the defendant. Such powerful imagery is what builds a nation, and a new political system cannot provoke the sensibilities of the victims if it wants to close the book on the previous era. That is why De-Ba'athification is necessary. You should know, although it isn't being reported, that many people, even members of the anti-Ba'ath political elite, are against the ad hoc application of De-Ba'athification now being applied on the provincial level. Such witch-hunts will be blocked by responsible actors. But at the same time, no one will allow a political player to act as if there was no shame in being a Ba'athist. That is why Mutlag was punished. It is one thing to be a wily politician and to speak to Ba'athist sentiments and votes, but you cannot trample on the sentiments of the victims of the Ba'ath and expect to be let off the hook.

The judge's outburst was meant to say, "Have you no shame?" And that is what I personally want Ba'athists to feel for that era in which they acquiesced to tyranny.

Thank you again for such a thoughtful comment.



10:53 AM, February 12, 2010

Blogger Matthew Avitabile said...


Thank you for posting this. The Ba'athist National Socialists were some of the worst bastards in recent global history.

3:29 PM, February 12, 2010

Blogger Jason said...

It is certainly understandable why de-Baathification is such an emotional issue. But in order to maintain rule of law, rules should have been put into effect with traditional requirements of "due process" (ex., hearing before an impartial tribunal, opportunity to present a defense and to confront and cross-examine accusers, etc, etc). Otherwise, you are likely to get an excess of demagogary, abuses of raw political power for purely political ends, and greater potential destabilization of the country. This would have been a wonderful opportunity for the courts to step in and say, yes, de-Baathification is appropriate, but you have to follow these requirements of due process. It is a necessary counter-weight to majority rule.

8:37 AM, February 13, 2010

Blogger Jason said...

Are the events next door in Iran, or the Sadr/SIIC connections to the Khamenei Regime an issue for Iraqi voters? Are Iraqis sympathetic to the protesters? Or the Mullah Regime?

12:21 PM, February 14, 2010

Anonymous JMC said...

Jason this whole Baathist issue which was dug up by the INA was all intended to get Iraqi voters to forget about all that and that if the INA had their way Iraq would be another Iran.

We will see if it works or not. If it works Iraq will never have a free and fair election in the future, because the INA represents people that will do whatever it takes to 'win' elections just like Ahmadinejad and his cronies.

2:46 PM, February 14, 2010

Anonymous Basil said...


I would be forever grateful to you if you were to spit on Mutlag's face on my behalf the next time you run into him. I would go so far as to name my son after you.

All Baathist pigs and their sympathizers and apologists should be completely shut out of the political process and ostracized in the new Iraq. Their children and their future progeny should be taught about the crimes that their forefathers inflicted on the majority of the Iraqi people. Even if they are not convicted of any direct crimes, they should be publicly humiliated and disparaged in every possible moment.

There should be no place whatsoever for such uncouthed scum in the new Iraq.

6:16 PM, February 14, 2010

Anonymous Feras said...

Basil... u r my hero and a hero to every revengeful imam ali-loving shia that lived under the baath party that was founded in iraq by the traitor shia fouad al-rikabi

9:49 AM, February 15, 2010

Anonymous Marwan said...

The Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party is a progressive, Arab Nationalist, Socialist party with deep roots in Iraq and the Arab world.

No wonder you are a visiting "scholar" at Hudson. You have mastered the art of repeating American propaganda.

This nonsense may work with the select group of ignorant readers who read what you repeat, but for Iraqis and Arabs they know better.

9:20 PM, February 15, 2010

Blogger Iraqi Mojo said...

"You have mastered the art of repeating American propaganda."

Isn't America defending the Baathists in this dispute?

9:57 PM, February 15, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course not! They are putting lite pressure, but are not serious about keeping an existing MP like Saleh in the democratic process.

11:00 AM, February 16, 2010

Blogger Jason said...

America is "defending" any person or group; just trying to have a free and fair election and peaceful transition of power, as opposed to either the Saddam or the Iranian model.

12:02 PM, February 16, 2010

Anonymous Marwan said...

The Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party is the only hope for Iraq and the Iraqi people. They built a progressive, unified, dynamic society and economy. No wonder the sectarian fascists and Imperialists who teamed up against them will have to lose for Iraq to have any hope in the future. The commentors on this site appear to know very little about Iraq. Not surprising.

3:09 PM, February 16, 2010

Anonymous Marwan said...


America is a racist, imperialist, warmongering evil empire that invaded Iraq. If you really believe America is there for altruistic reasons you are a typically stupid American who believes the bullshit your government feeds you. What happens in Iraq is not Americas business. Just get the fuck out you arrogant bastards.

3:11 PM, February 16, 2010

Blogger Iraqi Mojo said...

"They built a progressive, unified, dynamic society and economy."

and then Saddam led Iraq to war and ruin.

8:36 PM, February 16, 2010

Blogger Iraqi Mojo said...

'Gen. Ray Odierno, the senior American commander in Iraq, said Tuesday that two influential Iraqi politicians now involved in blocking candidates in the parliamentary election next month had close links to Iran, which the general said was trying to undermine the vote.

General Odierno was unusually blunt in publicly expressing concerns about the actions of the two Iraqis: Ahmed Chalabi, who was a confidant of Bush administration officials in the prelude to the 2003 invasion but now is perceived as having supplied false intelligence to the United States; and Ali Faisal al-Lami, suspected of involvement in murderous activities of Shiite militants, including a bombing in Baghdad, accusations that he denies.'

8:51 PM, February 16, 2010

Blogger Iraqi Mojo said...

Marwan, are the Sunni Arabs still pissed off at America for overthrowing their hero and chasing him down like the rat he was and putting him on trial? The 3arab jarab don't like it when their murderous tyrants are put on trial, do they?

10:21 AM, February 17, 2010

Blogger Jason said...

Thanks, Mojo. Wasn't sure whether best to respond or ignore. I have followed Iraq's progress daily, with altruistic intentions and prayers for a new, sustainable democracy, since 2003. I hope to be able to hold a private celebration and raise a glass in toast after the March elections. Victory will be much sweeter if Khamenei's allies come out significantly weakened and corruption held to a minimum.

11:45 AM, February 17, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nibras don't you agree that Ahmed has been the most inconsistent in terms of views vis-a-vis Iraq.

At the beginning he was the head of de-Baathification, then I heard him in 2007 say on tv that de-Baathification was a mistake. Then again he supports it.

Of course you could write books about how Ahmed seeks nothing but personal interests and played a big role in removing Saddam (bravo) and played a big part in the destruction of Iraq afterwards. Why then do you support him/work with him??

...Wait, I just read your intro again and it fits - you seem to be not too dissimilar!

"blogging is an exercise in vanity; it is the joy-ride of ego-trips. So, excuse my pompous self-righteousness, and try to enjoy your stay."

10:09 AM, February 19, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are a typical American. You can ignore any comment you dont like, but you cant ignore the fact that your government is a mass murdering, warmongering government that invaded Iraq with no justification. This is why the whole world hates you. You killed over a million Iraqis atleast and we have another 4 million refugees. And you think you actually did them a favor. You are a perfect example of how sick Americans are. Your government and media has really fucked up your mind. On the next 9-11 when you see people celebrating dont stand around like a jackass asking "why do they hate us" The answer to that question is the warmongering of your regime and the stupidity of American assholes like you.

7:32 PM, February 20, 2010

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