Iraq: January 12, 2004


The tons of Iraqi government records are yielding a lot of embarrassing secrets. Data has been obtained identifying many, if not most, of the 50,000 senior Baath party members. There were about 1.5 million Iraqis who belonged to the Baath party, but only the senior, or "full" members, obtained most of the benefits, and committed most of the crimes. Some 28,000 Baath party members have been identified and barred from government work. Another 20-30,000 are expected to receive the same treatment. There are complaints that many of these people are key professionals and technical experts that are needed to rebuild and run Iraq. But many of these people have blood on their hands, and if they live in a non Sunni Arab area, they are in danger of assassination by a relative of someone they harmed in the past. Some of the Baath party members were popular with the people they worked with, and kept their dirty work to a minimum, or secret. But you didn't become a senior member of the Baath unless you were will willing and able to get dirty. Dig deep enough, and you'll find something ugly in the background of a top Baath member. Many Iraqis feel that if the Baath party is not smashed, there will be a civil war with the Sunni Arabs. At the moment, the Baath party is still operating. The documents captured with Saddam showed that, has have the documents, and people, captured in daily raids. 

The Saddam government documents have also provided revelations involving who sold illegal goods (weapons and industrial equipment) to Iraq during the years of the UN embargo. Many of the sellers appear to be the usual gun runners and smuggling gangs. But there is evidence that the Syrian and Russian government took a more active role in keeping Saddam supplied with forbidden goods. It is known (from stuff found inside Iraq) that goods were coming from Western and Eastern European countries. More paper work is expected to show up shortly. The Russians protest, with some accuracy, that high tech Russian military gear (like GPS jammers) are being sold illegally by criminals. But the US points out that Russian government officials are involved with the shipments to Iraq, compelled by either bribes or orders from above.

While the Baath party runs a Sunni Arab militia, the other groups have their own crews of gunmen. The Kurds have had well armed and organized militias for a decade. There are several Shia militias, one of them quite radical and hostile to coalition troops. Disarming and defusing these militias is a major task for the coalition forces, but may not be done before the new Iraqi government takes over this July.


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