Published on Friday, April 23, 2004 by Reuters
Chalabi Compares U.S. Policy on Baathists with Nazis
by Khaled Yacoub Oweis
BAGHDAD - A U.S. policy shift that may allow former Baathists join a new Iraqi government was akin to putting back Nazis in charge of Germany, Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi said on Friday.
"This policy will create major problems in the transition to democracy, endanger any government put together by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and cause it to fall after June 30," Chalabi told Reuters.
He spoke after the White House announced an overhaul of the "de-Baathification" policy, which may let some former members join an interim government being put together by the United Nations ahead of a planned June 30 transfer of power.
"This is like allowing Nazis into the German government immediately after World War II," added Chalabi, who heads a council committee specifically dedicated to keeping the upper ranks of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party out of office.
Chalabi said U.S. Governor Paul Bremer discussed with the council on Thursday how to reinstate junior public workers, such as teachers, who were nominally Baath members, but did not mention Baathists taking part in a new government.
Bremer was due to explain changes to the policy in a televised speech to Iraqis later on Friday.
The Baath Party, founded by French-educated Syrian intellectuals in the 1940s, ruled Iraq from 1968 until Saddam was toppled last year by a U.S.-led invasion.
"CHAUVINIST AND RACIST"
The former Iraqi opposition, violently crushed by the Baath, supports helping junior party members return to work if they did not commit crimes, but is aghast at the prospect of Baathists returning to assume senior government positions.
"We refuse this U.S. direction. Like the Nazis, the Baath was a chauvinist and racist organization," said Adnan al-Assadi, an official of the Dawa Party which is represented on the council.
"It will help security deteriorate further, disappoint Iraqis who have trusted the coalition to manage the political process and lead to civil war," he added.
Saddam all but wiped out the Dawa, ordering the execution of its leader Mohammad Baqer al-Sadr in 1980 along with his sister.
The party split and has been trying to recover since Sadr, one of the Shi'ite Islam's foremost thinkers, was killed.
A Sunni Governing Council member also expressed dismay at the White House announcement, although the policy could bring more Sunnis to positions of power.
Naseer al-Chaderji said there were former Baathists who had joined the party without believing in its ideology, but such people would have to be chosen by Iraqis who best know their record if they were to serve in the new government.
The upper echelons of the Baath were mostly from the Arab Sunni minority that ruled Iraq since its foundation in the 1920s but has been losing power and privileges under the U.S.-led occupation.
"The United States have turned Iraq into a guinea pig without giving Iraqis a say," Chaderji said.
© Copyright Reuters 2004.