Bremer Fires 28,000 Iraqi
School Teachers

By Richard Sale
UPI Intelligence Correspondent

"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," Johnson said.
"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 official said.
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 services.
"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 official said.
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 officials said.
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 reserved.




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