With violence flaring in Iraq, the United States is shifting much of its focus to former top Saddam loyalists?in order to bring them back.
And that has many in Washington worried that Iraq could become even more insecure in the short-term.
Although spun by the State Department and even the White House as a move to bring back ?innocent? former Baathists, such as ?teachers,? the re-Baathification of Iraq is poised to become much more widespread. Most troubling is that the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) has already reinstated senior officials in both security and military forces.
The idea that many ?innocents? were impacted by Bremer?s de-Baathification last spring is pure myth. Of two million Baathists, only 15,000 ? 20,000, those in the top for levels, were purged.
To climb into the top ranks of the Baath Party, one had to actively support the regime, meaning no one affected by Bremer?s order was a party member for the mere purpose of holding a job. But there?s more on the line here than just sending the wrong message to ordinary Iraqis; the country?s security is at stake.
As U.S. soldiers continue fighting insurgents in Fallujah, the CPA has allowed back dozens of senior police officers?one informed estimate places the figure at nearly 60?in nearby Ramadi, some of whom may be called on to provide assistance to coalition forces.
The irony of bringing back Saddam loyalists when our main struggle?aside from the nuisance created by Shiite cleric al-Sadr in the south?is against their fellow Sunnis attempting to thwart democratic rule is apparently lost on the CPA.
Things look even worse for the new Iraqi military. Already, former full colonels and even generals have been placed in high-ranking positions. And the man running that process, Gen. David Petraeus, has a troubling track record.
Gen. Petraeus, who was the commander of the 101st Airborne, did everything he could after the war to curb de-Baathification in Mosul, Iraq?s second-largest city and a Sunni stronghold north of the infamous Sunni triangle.
When some 900 ?teachers? in the Mosul area were marked by the CPA and the Iraqi Governing Council as members of the top four levels of the Baath Party, Gen. Petraeus intervened. According to various press accounts, the General pressured the public school system to keep the former top Baathists on the payroll. His wish was granted.
Gen. Petraeus, who lived in one of Saddam?s palaces north of the city, persuaded the University of Mosul to review the cases of ousted professors. Roughly two-thirds got their jobs back.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, 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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