- "A piece of real stupidity" - former CIA official
- American's top man in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, last week
fired 28,000 Iraqi teachers as political punishment for their former membership
in the Saddam Hussein-dominated Baath Party, fueling anti-U.S. resistance
on the ground, administration officials have told United Press International.
- A Central Command spokesman, speaking to UPI from Baghdad,
acknowledged that the firings had taken place but said the figure of 28,000
"is too high."
- He was unable, however, after two days, to supply UPI
with a lower, revised total.
- The Central Command spokesman attributed the firings
to "tough, new anti-Baath Party measures" recently passed by
the U.S.-created Iraqi Governing Council, dominated by Ahmed Chalabi, a
favorite of administration hawks in the White House and Pentagon.
- "It's a piece of real stupidity on the part of the
neocons to try and equate the Baath Party with the Nazis," said former
CIA official Larry Johnson. "You have to make a choice: Either you
are going to deal with Iraqis who are capable of rebuilding and running
the country or you're going to turn Iraq over to those who can't."
- Facing a spreading insurgency, this was "not the
time to turn out into the street more recruits for the anti-U.S. insurgency,"
- "It's an incredible error," said former senior
CIA official and Middle East expert Graham Fuller. "In Germany, after
World War II, the de-nazification program was applied with almost surgical
precision in order not to antagonize German public opinion. In the case
of Iraq, ideologues don't seem to grasp the seriousness of their acts."
- Administration officials told UPI that from the beginning
of Bremer's arrival in Iraq, the Bush administration has consistently misplayed
the issue of Iraq's former ruling Sunni group, most of whom were members
of the Baath, but who are also the most able and knowledgeable administrators
in the country. In addition, many able government employees joined the
Baath Party not out of any special political sympathies, but simply to
attain or retain their jobs.
- "The anti-Baath edicts, all of which are ideological
nonsense, have been an outright disaster," a State Department official
said. "Whatever happened to politics as the art of the possible?"
- "All we have done is to have alienated one of the
most politically important portions of the Iraqi population," another
administration official said.
- According to several serving and former U.S. intelligence
officials, the latest firings are only one of a series of what one State
Department official called "disastrous misjudgments." He cites,
as one of the first, how senior Pentagon officials, relying on Chalabi's
advice, led the Bush administration to believe it would inherit the Iraqi
government bureaucracy virtually intact at the end of the war.
- This same group ignored warnings from the internal CIA
and State Department studies about looting and general lawlessness in the
event of a U.S. victory, these sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
- In a long editorial last Sunday, the New York Times said
that the lack of U.S. preparation for a post-war Iraq was "most likely"
due to the Defense Department and the president's security advisers (believing)
in the assurance of Mr. Chalabi and other Iraqi exiles."
- Another major and disastrous decision was Bremer's order,
on arrival, to disband without pay the Iraqi military force of 400,000
men, several of these sources said.
- A Pentagon critic of the administration said: "We
spent a lot of money on psychological operations that urged the Iraqi army
to remain out of the fight.
- "They did, and what did we do? Rewarded them by
throwing them out of work and denying them a living."
- What deeply disturbed many U.S. Iraqi experts in the
State Department and CIA was the fact the Iraqi army was a highly respected
institution in Iraq, which Saddam Hussein did not trust and used other
organizations like the Republican Guard to spy on.
- But it was disbanded in an effort to sweep aside any
viable internal leadership and to install "democrats" from Chalabi's
Iraqi Governing Council, a half-dozen former U.S. diplomats and serving
administration officials said.
- "Disbanding the army only alienated the Iraq Sunnis,
who could have been useful in restoring public services and getting the
country up and running," a State Department official said.
- Only 20 percent of the population Iraq's Sunnis are better
educated, more experienced and more unified than the Shiite majority, he
said. Since a U.S. victory would erode their position of dominance, they
were very receptive to the argument that the U.S. government needed to
utilize their expertise in order to ensure a smooth political transition.
- This, of course, did not occur, the State Department
- Instead, under orders from Secretary of State Donald
Rumsfeld, Bremer tried to get rid of former Baathists in the Iraqi government
by removing the top six layers of bureaucracy, U.S. officials said. The
decision was made on May 16.
- One of its effects of this was to re-energize Islamic
militant forces in the country, this official said, even though, "The
Sunnis are a secular force, hostile to Iran and Shiite influences, not
much given to promoting radical religious causes."
- "All you were doing were pissing off people who
were armed and had no place to go," a former senior CIA official said.
- But with the Sunnis sidelined, the Shiite, who have strong
links to Chalabi, gained in power even though leading Shiite religious
parties such as SCIRI and al-Dawa closely connected to Iranian security
- "I think Chalabi's group is permeated with Iranian
influence," said former CIA counterterrorism chief Vince Cannistraro.
- A Pentagon official pointed out that Lt. Gen. Jay Garner,
Bremer's predecessor, had a much more "pragmatic" attitude. "Garner
was a guy who was willing to deal with anyone who could get something done.
If he was a Baath Party guy, fine. If he wasn't, fine. The point was could
the guy do the job?"
- British historian Tom Bower points out in his "The
Pledge Betrayed," how the Allies were forced to abandon many features
of their de-nazification programs in Germany because of the hardships they
caused. Even by February 1945, three months before the end of the war,
American and British forces were abandoning their reluctance to employ
Nazis because of the inefficiencies of such policies. "Armies rely
on water, electricity and other civilian services," Bower said. "The
temporary employment of Nazis had to be allowed."
- The Americans even decided, "The administrative
machinery of dissolved Nazi organizations may be used when necessary to
provide certain essential functions such as relief, health and sanitation,
with de-nazified personnel and facilities," Bower said.
- He concluded: "Any offer to help organize the chaos
was gratefully accepted."
- But in today's Iraq, in spite of steadily escalating
attacks on U.S. forces, the desire of the IGC to enforce political correctness
produced "incoherence, chaos and disorganization," one Pentagon
- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld even moved to get
rid of 16 of 20 State Department people because they were seen to be "Arabists"
-- overly sympathetic to Iraqis, U.S. government officials said.
- A former Garner team member was quoted in last week's
Newsweek as saying the vetting process for Iraqis "got so bad that
even doctors sent to restore medical services had to be anti-abortion"
-- an article of faith in the Bush administration.
- When Secretary of State Colin Powell protested directly
to Rumsfeld, he ignored Powell, the Newsweek source said.
- "We had no coherent plan or coordinated strategy
for post-war Iraq," a former senior CIA official told UPI. Instead
there were "rosy misassumptions, wishful thinking, ideological blindness."
- There is some hope, at least in the case of Iraq's army.
- Already there is a full Iraqi brigade, comprised of former
Iraqi military men, working with the U.S. Fourth Infantry Division, with
another brigade, quickly taking shape under its auspices, administration
- With Chalabi continuing to have no internal popular Iraqi
support, "The best thing we could do for Iraq's stability would be
to reinstate the Iraqi army," a State Department official said.
- Copyright 2003 by United Press International. All rights