Joel Mowbray

The first rollback of the de-Baathification in Iraq, which was announced last week, was portrayed as a move to help bring skilled technocrats back into positions where their ?talents? could be put to good use.

Representative of the resulting media coverage is the New York Times reporting it as a move aimed at ?bringing back thousands of teachers and professors.?

But the shameless spin was a lethal cocktail of understatement and myth.

Looking at just the official line?bringing back those who are ?innocent, capable people who were Baathists in name only,? according to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) spokesman?the policy seems both sensible and reasonable.

What is actually happening, however, is anything but.

For starters, there are no actual teachers who were impacted by de-Baathification.  In the broader field of education, lots of people were ousted from government positions?but they were largely administrators, principals, and chancellors. 

To the extent people were ousted whose jobs were as teachers, they were only fired if they were top Baath Party leaders.  Consider the treatment given to some ?teachers? under Saddam.  Those who actively supported the regime made up to seven or eight times as much as real teachers?meaning the primary source or their income was not teaching, but loyalty.  Loyalty to the Butcher of Baghdad.

The unfunny punch line to the ?teachers? joke is that thousands of teachers who did not actively report to Saddam on students and fellow teachers and who were newly re-hired last year will now lose their jobs to make room for Baathist thugs, according to former Defense Department official Michael Rubin, who was in Iraq until recently.

It looks like re-Baathification is already on the slippery slope.  In an April 14 press conference, United Nations envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brakimi indicated that he wanted to bring back top Baathists from a wide array of fields.  In his opening remarks, he said:

?It is difficult to understand that thousands upon thousands of teachers, university professors, medical doctors and hospital staffs, engineers and other professionals who are sorely needed in the country have been dismissed within the de- Baathification process, and far too many of those cases have yet to be reviewed.?

The significance of this statement?almost universally ignored by the media?cannot be understated.  Not only is Brahimi destined for a much larger role after CPA administrator Paul Bremer leaves in the near future, but the UN envoy already enjoys direct access to George W. Bush and Tony Blair.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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