BAGHDAD, Iraq – Abu Jaafar pulls out one of the dozens of files piled on his desk and leafs through evidence that a Finance Ministry employee once served in Saddam Hussein’s notorious intelligence agency. Snapping the file shut, he pronounces his verdict: "This man should be fired."
The office in charge of removing senior members of Saddam’s Baath party from state institutions has kicked back into gear under the new government made up largely of Shiite Arabs and Kurds, who were savagely repressed by the former regime.
Should you be wondering what “files” Abu Jaafar is leafing through, I have an idea. Jon Lee Anderson wrote in the New Yorker, 11-15-2004:
This summer, I visited the Supreme National
Commission for De-Baathification, which occupied two floors of a
concrete office block inside the Green Zone. A poster on one wall bore
the simple message “Baathists=Nazis.” The director of the commission,
Mithal al-Alusi, is a tall, lanky man of fifty-three who speaks English
with a syrupy drawl and, even in the office, wears a pistol tucked into
Alusi is a protégé of Ahmad Chalabi, the
leader of the Iraqi National Congress, the exile group favored by the
Pentagon before the war. Chalabi had been appointed chairman of the
commission in September, 2003. Since then, he had lost much of his
influence, in part because intelligence concerning Iraq’s weapons of
mass destruction, which he promoted, had proved useless. In June, when
sovereignty was transferred to Iyad Allawi, a rival of Chalabi’s with
ties to the C.I.A., not a single member of the I.N.C. was given a post
in the new government. But Chalabi’s access to the de-Baathification
commission—and to the files of thousands of Baathists—gave him
continued leverage. (When I saw Chalabi in Iraq this summer, he pulled
out the intelligence dossier of a senior member of Allawi’s government
and translated what he claimed was damaging information about him.)
And, you may remember Chalabi’s fall from favor with the neocons. Elizabeth Sullivan reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer May 23, 2004:
Why else would the Pentagon have flown the former London banker and his hand-picked (and U.S. taxpayer-supported) army of 900 loyalists into Nasiriyah
before the smoke had even cleared on last year’s Iraq invasion? Chalabi’s armed gang was being given the green light to expand its reach and power.
Why else would Chalabi loyalists have been allowed to seize truckloads of secret Mukhabarat files in the early days after Saddam’s fall, and then demand
$350,000 a month from the Pentagon for the privilege of access to documents that weren’t theirs to begin with? Chalabi reportedly has used some of the files to try to blackmail former Baath Party members.
Why else would Chalabi be named head of the coalition’s "de-Baathification" efforts, giving him tremendous power to name winners and losers in the new Iraq? His virulent anti-Baathist feelings help explain some of the coalition’s most misguided early moves, including the disbanding of the Iraqi army.
Those files were the otherwise-objectionable Chalabi’s ticket to acceptance by Jafaari’s ruling Shiite coalition, and probably largely why they tolerated him.