Day By Day

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Merits of Debaathification

Christopher Hitchens explains why it is a good thing the Iraqi Army disbanded.
The Iraqi army was... the replication of sectarianism within the state, consisting of a Sunni oligarchy using conscripts from other communities to enforce its will and eating up the common national treasury to conceal unemployment and inefficiency while subjecting young people to involuntary servitude. Yet almost every liberal in America... appears to be committed to a nostalgia for Saddam Hussein's draft.

Take a moment to imagine what would have been written in the liberal press had the old military class been preserved and utilized to "stabilize" Iraq. I can write the headlines for you: "Baathist War Criminal Gets Second Career as American Employee"; "Once-Wanted Man, Brigadier Kamal Now Shares Jokes With 82nd Airborne"; "Kurds and Shiites Say: What Regime Change?"; "From Basra to Kirkuk, America Brings Saddamism Without Saddam." And, if you like, I can add the names of the reporters who would have written the stories.

This is not just another way of saying that there were few good options in Iraq's future, because anybody with any sense knows that already. Nor is it a defense of the very abrupt and peremptory way in which Paul Bremer dismissed the officer corps almost overnight. However, I think it stands to the credit of the United States that it did not insult the population by grabbing and using the existing reins of repression, just as it stands to our credit that we adopted de-Baathification, or, in other words, the policy of demolishing the rule of a corrupt and fascistic party. People say that the poor management of this issue led to an insurgency from quarters that would have hated a change of regime from whichever source it had come. Better that than a revolt against us from the people who detested the whole Saddamist system to begin with—the majority, lest we forget.

Read it here.

I particularly like the part where he offers to name names.