Skip to comments.US decree strips thousands of their jobs
Posted on 08/29/2003 8:17:28 PM PDT by Pokey78
Anti-Ba'athist ruling may force educated Iraqis abroad
Tarik al-Kubaisy, vice-president of the Iraqi Society of Psychiatrists, is a worried man. It's not just that the queue of patients suffering from severe stress disorders in Iraq's war-torn society is growing longer by the day.
Nor that a country of 25 million has fewer than 100 psychiatrists and many are planning to emigrate now that Saddam Hussein's restrictions on foreign travel have gone.
The other concern for Dr Kubaisy, who was awarded a London University PhD after four years at the Maudsley hospital, is that the Americans have taken away his job.
Like many young Iraqi professionals, he joined the Ba'ath party several years before Saddam became its leader and turned Iraq into a one-party state. But under Order Number One, issued by Paul Bremer, Iraq's US administrator - the so-called "de-Ba'athification" decree - Dr Kubaisy's position as a professor in Baghdad University's college of medicine has ended.
When Baghdad University and Iraq's other colleges re-open next week, around 2,000 senior staff have been told to stay at home, Dr Kubaisy estimates. Although they were Ba'ath party members, none was connected to the former regime's security apparatus.
"It's collective punishment. It's conviction without any charge," Dr Kubaisy said yesterday. "I'm becoming a bit paranoid but I think the Americans intend to force Iraqi brains to go abroad".
Coalition officials argue that every Ba'athist has not been purged. Only those who held one of its top four ranks are barred from public service.
"The de-Ba'athification decree is the most popular thing we have done here," a senior coalition official said.
It was strongly promoted by Washington neo-conservatives like Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defence, and his friend, Ahmed Chalabi, a businessman convicted in Jordan of fraud who is now a member of Iraq's governing council.
"The problem is they didn't look at who were really leaders. They made the issue of rank too important and went down too low," said Husam al-Rawi, a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a professor in Baghdad University's architecture department. "Instead of targeting a thousand or a few hundred people, they targeted 80,000."
Prof Rawi joined the Ba'ath party as a 15-year-old in 1958 and was a section head, the third rank down. Dr Kubaisy was even lower, a secretary of a branch.
He was never asked to spy on other faculty members, he insisted. "We weren't involved in policing. We had no association with the security organisation. They had their own informers, who didn't have to be party members," he said.
"If you wanted to go abroad to attend a conference, you had to apply to the dean of the faculty and then the university and then the ministry of the interior. It didn't depend on us. I was often refused permission myself."
Prof Rawi joined the Ba'ath party when it stood for socialism and opposition to religious extremists. "After Saddam Hussein took power, the party became a skeleton with no spirit." By then it was too late to get out.
The de-Ba'athification decree is also causing turmoil in government ministries, hospitals and other bodies considered part of the civil service. Anyone in the top three levels of management loses their job if he or she was a party member, regardless of rank.
"History teaches us that victors have to be magnanimous, but what are we seeing here? A new society created on the basis of hatred and revenge," said a senior official who declined to be named.
"When I joined the party in the 1970s, it was the party of oil nationalisation, eradicating illiteracy, autonomy for the Kurds, and national reconciliation ... Then Saddam destroyed the party. He executed more Ba'athists than anyone else ... Most of us felt relieved when he was overthrown.
"When this war began to loom, we were in an intellectual dilemma. Mounting an insurrection against the regime meant helping the powers which wanted to invade us. But if we supported the dictatorship, it was against our basic interests."
Anger was the prevailing mood among large sections of the Baghdad middle class, he said. People felt criminalised.
The de-Ba'athification decree provides for appeals and exemptions, if a person has the support of staff, for example, and their jobs are judged indispensable. A petition for Prof Rawi, signed by 350 students and 30 staff, was sent to the US administration two months ago, so far to no avail.
With the weeks ticking by and universities about to re-open, most sacked academics have lost hope. The decree says nothing about protecting pensions and they may not be paid. At least half the 2,000 university staff who have been dismissed are likely to lose their government housing too.
Prof Rawi said this violated the fourth Geneva convention. "An occupier cannot dismiss people from jobs, administer collective punishment, and discriminate against people on the basis of political belief".
A coalition spokesman said that only between 15,000 and 30,000 people had been affected: "The suggestion that there are lots and lots of innocent people who have been unfairly dismissed is not true. Less than 5% of the Ba'ath party members are covered".
The argument that they supported the party when it was Socialist, but not what it became, is ridiculous. History shows us that it is a natural progression.
The hard lesson for Baathists: There's no civil service rules over there, get used to it buddy. Your group is now on the outs.
Now there is a blessing to count.