Iraq Accuses Baathists; Election Law Still in Limbo; Blair Misled Parliament, Interfered with Military Preparedness

The government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Sunday aired the confessions of three men, members of the Baath Party, that it captured after the October 25 bombings that killed 125 persons and destroyed several government buildings. Baghdad said that the men had come from Syria, but stopped short of accusing the Baathist government of Syria of complicity in the attack. A million Iraqi refugees are said to be in Syria, and some of them are former high-ranking Baath officials or officers.

Al-Hayat writing in Arabic quotes passages from the men’s confessions in which they describe belonging to Baath cells and secretly meeting in preparation for the attack.

US politicians and military men seem reluctant to acknowledge the underground Baath Party as a source of some of Iraq’s continued violence, choosing instead to attribute virtually all major violence to “al-Qaeda,” by which they appear to mean the Islamic State of Iraq or similar Salafi organizations not in fact directly connected to Usama Bin Laden. This discourse seems to me to have elements of propaganda in it, and began with Bush’s and Cheney’s attempts to link their war on Iraq with 9/11. The US also plays up Iran as a destabilizing force in Iraq, even though it is highly unlikely that Iran would want to destabilize the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, and Washington has never presented convincing proof for the allegations.

It does not suit US officials to acknowledge a struggle against Iraqi Baathists, in part because that would be an admission that the US has been fighting Iraqi citizens all along, and because it is also an implicit confession that the war on the Baath was never completely won. Iraqi sources are more candid, talking of al-Awdah (a reformulated Baath Party) and of Baath cells as a continued danger, elements of the resistance to the American-installed government that US journalists seldom recognize. But secular Arab nationalism is one important strain in Sunni Iraqis’ rejection of rule by Shiite fundamentalist parties.

Al-Maliki may also be implicitly campaigning against a revived Arab nationalist trend in Iraqi politics by stressing the culpability of Baathists for the massive bombings. Al-Hadba, an Arab nationalist party, won Ninevah Province in last January’s provincial elections, and Sunni Arab nationalist parties did respectably in some other Sunni Arab provinces.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi parliament again failed on Sunday to resolve the crisis over the election law, which was vetoed by Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni Arab. They say they will try again Monday, but every day of delay makes it less plausible that the election will be held in January as is constitutionally mandated. There is also a danger that even if the Sunni Arabs can be mollified, there will be further wrangling with the Kurds, who want more seats in parliament for their three provinces.

Leaked British documents show that then PM Tony Blair had secretly agreed to go to war against Iraq with George W. Bush and had begun operational planning in February, 2002, but lied to parliament about it, claiming that disarmament was the issue, not regime change. Blair ordered the British military not to engage in proper preparations for the war, since such steps would be observed by parliament and the representatives of the people might get a clue as to what was really going on. He therefore sent his troops, ill-equipped and unprepared, into battle. They also had no instructions or training as to Phase IV or post-war security and reconstruction, for which they were nevertheless made responsible. As a result of their unpreparedness, Iraq fell into chaos with the fall of the government and Basra was looted. The University of Basra lost most of its equipment and its entire library was stolen or burned, under the tender mercies of Mr. Blair’s civilizing mission.

Blair is directly responsible for the deaths of all the British troops lost in the invasion, given the way he interfered in their preparedness. He is also responsible for all the Iraqi civilian deaths that derived from that unpreparedness. Some British officials allegedly fear that what he did could be construed as a war crime in international law. The invasion was certainly illegal, since there are only two grounds for legitimate war in the UN charter– self defense in the face of an enemy attack, or United Nations Security Council authorization. Blair had neither pretext. At least the British government is conducting an official inquiry into the war, unlike the American.

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4 Responses

  1. It might suit al-Maliki to attribute the October 25 bombings to Iraqi Baathists, rather than to some other sectarian faction; but given that "enhanced interrogation techniques" have not been repudiated even by the new US Administration, why should we believe these confessions?

  2. "Blair is directly responsible for the deaths of all the British troops lost in the invasion, given the way he interfered in their preparedness. He is also responsible for all the Iraqi civilian deaths that derived from that unpreparedness."

    Do you mean over and above those that would still have been killed If there had been better preparation?

    It was a War Crime, unfortunately International Courts are only for Third World Nations.

  3. Confessions taken by Iraqi security forces are not something that I would take seriously. This is propaganda by Al Maliki government in an attempt to gradually undermine/waterdown growing nationalistic sentiments that the Iraqis are expressing and certainly have reflected that recently in the last last local elections in which Mr Al Maliki was the biggest beneficiary (against the Pro-Iranian Shiite parties who were his real competition). Now for the next Parliamentary elections, Al Maliki, I think realizes that nationalism (traditionally adopted by Arab Sunnis in the post-2003 era) will be one threat that he can deal with prior to the elections through the Ba'athists are back card which is quite clever considering. I disagree with your sentiment that Iran does not want to destabilize the government. I believe that Iran knows that the government will not go to the Sunnis anyway, yet, to make sure that Iran can make the most out of the situation in Iraq is by making sure that no one Shiite party has absolute control and play these parties against each other by supporting them all and making sure that they stay tightly monitored and in some ways encourage the in-fighting as long as they )Shiite parties) go back to Iran for advice and support. Its the traditional divide and concur plan.

  4. Al-Maliki may also be implicitly campaigning against a revived Arab nationalist trend in Iraqi politics by stressing the culpability of Baathists for the massive bombings.

    I find it somewhat surprising that you are arguing that Maliki is against Iraqi nationalism. He has spent the last year and a half, at least since Bush's declaration of a colonial SOFA text in June 2008, relying on Iraqi nationalism, in order to get the US to sign the final SOFA text of November. Has he really abandoned nationalism? I find it difficult to believe.

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