Skip to comments.Allawi Slams U.S. Over Iraq Army, Baathists to Return (he actually said "mistakes were made")
Posted on 06/06/2004 12:11:40 AM PDT by ambrose
Allawi Slams U.S. Over Iraq Army, Baathists to Return
Sat Jun 5, 2004 01:48 PM ET
By Alastair Macdonald and Lin Noueihed
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's new prime minister, Iyad Allawi, condemned Washington for disbanding Saddam Hussein's army and said on Saturday his government could issue a law reinstating some former Baath party members next week.
He stressed Iraq would no longer threaten its neighbors but called the U.S. dissolution of the army last year one of many grave errors since Saddam's fall and said he would rebuild strong security forces to combat violence plaguing the country.
"Mistakes, big mistakes, were made including dissolving the army, police services and internal security forces," Allawi, a CIA-backed former exile opponent of Saddam, told Al Jazeera television. "We have begun to rectify these mistakes."
"Iraq does not assault neighbors or brothers but Iraq must be strong and able to defend itself if necessary," he said.
Saddam sent his army into Iran and Kuwait and fired rockets at Israel during his three decades in power. After its catastrophic defeat last year, the U.S. governor of Iraq, Paul Bremer, dissolved the 375,000-strong army and imposed a campaign of "de-Baathification" to clear out the old regime.
But Allawi, who broke with the Baath party in the 1970s, has made clear that Iraq needs the expertise of many who worked under Saddam if it is to rebuild security and intelligence services that can quell Islamist militants and sectarian militias once 150,000 mostly American troops leave the country.
He had already said Baathists innocent of major crimes should be rehabilitated: "The decision will be announced next week," he told Al Jazeera of plans for a law to that effect.
ATTACKS ON FOREIGNERS
Saturday saw a spate of attacks, including one that wounded would-be recruits to the new Iraqi army, one that killed a U.S. soldier in Baghdad, two apparently aimed at foreign civilians and one that killed the brother of the man believed to have betrayed Saddam's sons to U.S. forces.
But as the U.S. occupying authority prepares to hand power to the new interim government at the end of June, violence at last seemed to have abated around Najaf, two months after rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr launched a Shi'ite uprising in the south.
Wrangling over a United Nations resolution to endorse the handover of sovereignty to Allawi's administration on June 30 also looked close to being resolved. The United States and Britain offered a third draft giving Baghdad's interim government the right to ask U.S.-led forces to leave.
A roadside bomb killed one U.S. soldier and wounded three close to a district known as a stronghold of Sadr support in Baghdad. Five soldiers were killed nearby on Friday.
On the capital's main airport highway, two civilian vehicles of a type favored by foreign contractors were set ablaze and witnesses saw at least two charred corpses.
In the northern city of Mosul a foreign security guard was killed and two were wounded when their vehicles came under fire, and a rocket wounded 17 Iraqis at an army recruiting post.
Salaah al-Zeidan, brother of the Iraqi believed to have led U.S. troops to Saddam's sons Uday and Qusay last year, was killed in an attack on his car along with three family members.
U.S. troops killed Uday and Qusay at Zeidan's brother's house in Mosul in July. Local people believe Nawaf al-Zeidan, a distant relative of Saddam, fled Iraq with a $30 million reward.
U.S. officials would like to see a U.N. resolution passed in the coming week, and President Bush said he was optimistic: "I am confident we will get one soon," he said on a visit to Rome.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said a letter sent by Allawi to the Security Council on Saturday detailing how his government would oversee foreign troops should bring a deal closer.
Russia said it was still not entirely satisfied.
Two months ago the prospects looked dim for an Iraqi government, with no popular mandate and few security forces, to take over the running of the country.
But the siege of the violent city of Falluja ended when the U.S. Marines cut a deal with former generals in Saddam's army and the guerrillas who had fought them.
In the south, U.S.-led troops have squeezed Sadr's fighters out of town after town, helped by pressure from Shi'ite elders. The young cleric offered a truce on Friday in his last bastion, Najaf. It seemed to be holding on Saturday as police returned to patrol the center while guerrillas and U.S. troops withdrew.
Crucially, U.S. commanders softened a demand that Sadr turn himself in on a murder charge, leaving his fate in Iraqi hands.
Setting the seal of the Shi'ite establishment on the deal, Sadr was granted an audience with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the senior cleric in Iraq. "He thanked Moqtada al-Sadr for solving the crisis and ending the resistance," a Sistani spokesman said.
"Brother Moqtada al-Sadr will talk with legal authorities via committees overseen by the national security adviser," and will disband his militia, Allawi said. (Additional reporting by Maher al-Thanoon in Mosul and Suleiman al-Khalidi in Najaf)
Opinions are like a$$holes. Everybody has one.
I hope we can begin drawing down our forces by August.
I happen to agree with Allwai here... get an Iraqi army going... let THEM patrol that dung heap. That's what we did to post-WWII Germany...
What I mean is in post WWII Germany, we booted out the Nazi war criminals, but allowed army regulars to stick around and do policing work..
The coalition disbanded the Iraqi army and then paid US Tax Dollars to the ex-soldiers to sit at home on their butts, doing nothing for the money.. ( can you say "welfare" ? )
The Military and Police should have been "vetted", and placed on duty in their old jobs. ( unless of course, evidence or charges of "crimes against humanity" were made. )
This should have been done within 15 days of the fall of Bahgdad..
Secondly, the same process should have taken place for certain government bureaucrats.. ( at least at the lower levels, those without power or influence, that did all the actual day to day paperwork, etc.. )
I believe fully half of the insurgency could have been avoided if Iraqis had been actively involved much sooner, and without all the wasted time of "training" fresh people..
All of the points you make are excellent.
I'm just a little tired of hearing about Iraqi's upset with the situation over there.
If they do not get off their butts and fight for their country, they will loose it to thieves and murderers.
Their first free election may be their last.
I remember seeing film footage of Iraqi soldiers leaving the army and going home, before the "army" was disbanded.
Seems to me the only ones staying in the "army" were those loyal to Saddam.
He wants to be careful what he wishes for. He may re-enlist the old army at his own peril. It was obvious that the old army had to be disbanded and then re-grouped during a vetting process.
IRAQ THE MODEL
Monday, May 10, 2004
Old soldier in a new army.
A relative of mine was forced as the millions of Iraqis to serve in Saddams army. He was poor and peaceful and couldnt stand the humiliation and the torture that service meant. He lived in Baghdad and served in Basrah. He was paid about 10 thousand Iraqi Dinars a month, which equaled about 5 US $ at that time, while the ride from his place to his unit cost about 2 or 3 thousand Dinars. Above all he had to bribe the sergeants and the officers only to avoid the hell they could make his life there, as they couldve made it a lot worse. Others more fortunate paid money to the officer in charge to stay at home and the officer would arrange it to look like they are serving. This may amount to 250-300 thousand Iraqi Dinars a month, and it was a very common practice at that time. And as tens of thousands of Iraqis, he decided to run away. He remained a fugitive for years, hiding from the eyes of the military police. He couldnt see his family more than 2 or 3 times in the year. We helped him find a job and a place to hide where they couldnt find him.
Few days ago I was visiting his family to pay our respect in the 1st annual anniversary of his fathers death.
When I saw my relative, and despite the nature of the occasion, I felt happy. Heres a free man. I smiled as I said, you must be very happy to be free again, and not fear the MP. He said, "you cant imagine! Its like being born again. Ive never felt so free before. But what are you doing for a living now? I hope youve found a job. I asked. He smiled as he said, "I volunteered in the new army". Really! I thought youd never wear a uniform after that terrible experience he replied "Oh no, this is entirely different". I said, I'm sure it is, but who convinced you to do so!? And when did that happen? "A friend of mine who volunteered before I did told me some nice stuff that encouraged me to do the same, so I volunteered about a couple of months ago". He replied. So tell me about it, are you happy with this job? I asked. "You cant imagine! Its nothing that weve learned or knew about the military life". He answered. I expected it to be so, but can you tell me about it I asked and I didnt have to ask anymore, as my relative started talking excitedly without a stop. He said:
The most important thing is that this army has no retards or illiterate in it like the old one. Now education is an essential requirement when applying to serve in the new army and anyone who hasnt finished high school at least has no place there. In fact most of the volunteers are college and technical institutes graduates.
Everything is new, no more worn out dirty uniforms that only God knows how many people used before you, and they never minded about the size. This time they took our sizes and handed each one of us a new elegant uniform thats worthy of an officer! It was a common scene, you know, that soldiers wander near their halls in their underwear after training hours. Some of them did that because they didnt have much to wear when they wash their uniforms, but the majority did it out of custom. Now this is unacceptable, and everyone received a nice comfortable suit to wear after the training hours.
One of the officers said to us you know what? One of the reasons you lose your wars is the boots you were wearing He then handed each one of us a pair of those brand new boots that we could only dream of buying them in the old times, and said Put these on and youll feel like you can fly and it did feel almost like that!
I knew exactly what my relative meant, as I had to wear those boots at Sadams times when they forced us to do a month of military training during our summer vacation in college, and they warned us that anyone who refused to do so would be expelled from his college. Wearing those inflexible rigid boots in that heat was more like a torture. They were my worst memory of that camp and caused me multiple painful sores that needed weeks to heal.
My relatives face was glowing as he continued, "you cant imagine how much valued we are and how much our religion and traditions are respected. When we pass by a mosque, the officer in charge shouts no talk until we pass the mosque by a considerable distance, and when one of the officers enters our hall, if he sees that one of us is praying he remains silent and order us to keep quite until our comrade finishes his prayer.
For the first time in my life, I feel Im somebody. Im not a trash as Saddam and his gang tried to make me believe as he finished his last words his voice went faint as if he was chocking. I felt his pain and tried to change the course of our talk, how much do you get paid I asked, Oh, pretty much, more than enough, thank God and what about your meals I added and he said with a smile, Oh you wont believe it. Everything that we couldnt get in our own homes before and that we only saw when the officers in the old army made a feast to honor a guest! I mean we have everything; meat is essential in every meal, vegetables, fruits apples and bananas. Its still unbelievable to many of us! he went on,
One of the most important things that the Americans concentrate on in our training is physical fitness. A month ago I could hardly jog for one kilometer before falling to the ground exhausted and out of breath, and now I can run 4-5 kilometers without being exhausted.
A frown crossed his face as he said I remember when they used to train us at the most hot hours of the day for hours without allowing us to rest for a while under a shade or drink any water, and when we get almost killed by thirst, we would be forced to drink from the dirty contaminated ditch water. Now we dont even drink tap water! Each one of us gets more than enough an amount of that healthy bottled water everyday
To some people this may mean little if anything, but my relative looked at it as something huge, and indeed, before the war, drinking bottled water was really a luxury that a very small percentage of Iraqis could afford. In my house we used to boil the tap water and cool it before drinking it, because we knew it was not safe and we couldnt afford buying bottled water everyday.
I feel Im somebody now. Im respected and get all what most people get. Do you believe that they threw one of the Iraqi officers out of the army because he used us to do him personal services, like carrying his bags, and when we complained about his behavior, they told him Do you see any of us, American officers use our soldiers? You can go home. You still have the mentality of the old regime and you cant fit in this new army! imagine that! They listen to our complains, we the soldiers, and bring us justice even if it involved the higher ranked officers. This had never happened in the old army.
But what about the dangers you are going to face when you graduate? Youll face it everyday, and youll probably have to fight Iraqis. Have you thought about that? And how do you feel about it!? I felt some regret as I asked this question, but it was too important to ignore. My relative said, Of course I thought about it! He sighed as he continued, Dangers were there since I was born; wars, MP chasing me for years, chaos etc. These will not stop me from going on with my life, and I have a feeling that those thugs are the same people who oppressed me along with all the poor Iraqi soldiers. No, Im not afraid of them and Ill do my job. At least this time I know Im doing the right thing and that my services will be appreciated I looked at him admiringly as I said, They are appreciated already! Congratulations, brother, for the new job and for being the free and new man you are
When I left, I felt real hope in the new Iraqi army. Despite its terrible performance till now, one cannot be pessimistic after hearing the way this army is being formed and the way the soldiers look at it. Im sure itll take time, but Im also sure that well definitely have an exceptionally efficient, small army with great morals and respect for the law and the institution they represent. An army that can preserve peace and order, and protect the constitution once the Iraqi people agree on one.
As for the Baathists, you don't have a 1-party control of a country for 30 years and everyone NOT "be" a Baathist. We learned in Germany after WW II that there were "Nazis" and there were Nazis, and you could use the former but you had to prosecute and execute the latter. Nothing unusual in these comments.
The Bush Administration has pretty much said the same thing. Determining who should be reinstated is the trick, but I think it is going to happen.
Goodbye Chalabi, Hello Re-Baathification.
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