Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Iraq and the Problem with Revenge | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An exclusive interview with former US Governor of Iraq Paul Bremer conducted by Asharq Al-Awsat’s Talhah Jibril confirmed that one of the most important reasons behind the instability seen in Iraq following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime until today is the Iraqis desire for revenge and the absence of a spirit of inter-Iraqi reconciliation.

The first sign of this desire for revenge is seen [as a result of] the decision to disband the Iraqi army, and not as Bremer said “to recall the army.” The decision to disband the army led to the demobilization of six hundred thousand Iraqi soldiers; if we assume that each of these soldiers supports three other individuals, this means that around one million and eight hundred thousand Iraqi citizens were left destitute.

The other issue revealed by Bremer is the Debathification [of the Iraqi civil service] and what resulted from this. According to Bremer, this decision which was taken by Iraqi politicians resulted in eleven thousand teachers who were members of the Baathist party losing their jobs. If we assume that each of these teachers supports three other individuals then this means that around thirty three thousand Iraqis were deprived of the opportunity of being able to live with dignity.

Of course we are now beginning to understand what we heard with regards to the targeted assassination of Iraqi teachers and university lectures, not to mention [the targeted assassination] of pilots and those in other professions. It is clear that this was an organized crackdown against anybody suspect of being a Baathist.

Is it reasonable to expect stability following the suffering that occurred in Iraq as a result of Debathification and the disbanding of the army? Indeed a significant number of Iraqi citizens do not feel that Iraq is better or fairer in the post-Saddam era, but rather feel threatened.

Iraq is witnessing a vicious cycle of revenge and retaliation, and unfortunately everybody has their own reasons and objectives [for this]. A large number of Iraqis suffered as a result of Debathification and the disbanding of the army, and this laid the foundation for sectarianism and other issues which undermine the Iraqi state.

Sadly the debate on the return [to the civil service] of those that were affected by Debathification is still taking place, and this is an essential element in Iraqi politics today that is used as an instrument of Iraqi political combat; there are no signs that this issue will be resolved.

I am not talking about the return of the Baathist party, but the return of the Iraqi citizens [to the civil service] who have suffered simply because they were members of the Baathist party during the Saddam Hussein era. Nobody is calling for the return of anybody that has blood on their hands.

What Iraq needs today is tolerance, reconciliation and justice. The justice of the state, rather than the justice of those who are dreaming, in order for this important stage in modern Iraqi history to take place, namely the withdrawal of US troops.

What Iraqis in all their various communities, sects, and religious and ideological subdivisions do not realize is that mother Iraq is the nursemaid; she is the dome under which all Iraqis meet in order to discuss their issues and problems. The enemies of Iraq will find many of those who are disadvantaged and frustrated [due to Debathification and the disbanding of the Iraqi army] willing to bear arms, and of course Iraq will be the victim.

What Iraqis need today – above all else – is more tolerance and less distrust. Nations are not built by hatred, revenge, and settling scores.