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Geoff Schad gschad@MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU Date: 28 Oct. 2004 11:50:00 -0400 Subject: Re: De-Baathification, Nazism, and History The article Keith forwarded to the list raises important issues concerning the political process now underway in Iraq, the character of Ba`thism, and how one should understand the Rashid `Ali junta. It is no surprise that the current "reeducation" program in Iraq should compare the Ba`th and earlier Iraqi nationalists to the Nazis. On one hand, the CPA appears to have modeled its "de- Ba`thification" policies on post-World War II denazification in Germany, as partial and as compromised as that process was, and certainly Wolfowitz et al equated Saddam with Hitler and the Ba`th with the Nazis. Moreover, it has been an article of faith among anti-Ba`th Iraqi exiles that the Ba`th was essentially a fascist movement if not fully Nazi. Kanan Makiya's _Republic of Fear_, the ur-text of this train of thought, appears to lay the blame for the Saddamist cult of personality and all that went with it not so much on Saddam Husayn and his needs for total control as on Ba`thism as such, arguing that the authoritarian/totalitarian tendencies of the post-1968 Iraqi regime were inherent in the original Ba`thist ideology as articulated by Bitar, `Arsuzi, and especially `Aflaq. Is this a correct reading of the early Ba`th? I don't have my copy of Batatu in front of me, but weren't the Ba`th's founders more influenced by Marxism and by French rather than German forms of romantic nationalism than by fascism and Nazism? Certainly, the Ba`th constitution posits a view of the "Arab nation" rooted more in culture, language, and a positive sense of belonging to it as opposed to a racialist vision (which was held by some liberal Arab nationalists, such as Edmond Rabbath). Beyond that, the program of the Ba`th can be read as compatible with the ideals of European social-democratic parties. Arguably, what made Ba`thist regimes repressive was not the original ideological program but rather the decision to seek power through alliances with military cliques rather than democracy, as Bitar himself admitted shortly before his assassination. The problem of the junta that backed Rashid `Ali al-Gaylani is somewhat different. Gaylani himself may well have been motivated by little more than personal ambition and an Iraqi Arab nationalism that saw Britain as the main impediment, hence the alliance of convenience with Italy and Germany. But the officers of the "Golden Square" who had backed him were products of a system of political socialization that was at the very least xenophobic in outlook. We cannot forget that Bakr al-Sidqi, whose 1936 coup prefigured that of 1941, had won his spurs by means of a (very popular) pogrom against the Assyrians in 1933, and that his outlook was shared by many field-grade Iraqi officers. These same individuals engineered the 1941 coup and the alliance with Italy and Germany. That the restoration of the monarchy at end May/beginning June 1941 was followed by the _farhud_ (pogrom) against Baghdad's Jewish population was probably no accident. It is probably a stretch to claim that 1941's leaders were "Nazis," as the current "reeducation" program insists, but pro-Nazi they certainly were at least in a tactical sense, and xenophobic and exterminationist patterns of thought were certainly current in Iraqi elite circles during the late 1930s and early 1940s. I would welcome additional discussion about these issues on the list by those who are more specialized in both Ba`thist and Iraqi history. On another matter, with respect to Keith's query about non- Iraqis in Rashid `Ali's Baghdad, as Keith knows the Syrian leaders Jamil Mardam, Lutfi al-Haffar, and Sa`dallah al-Jabiri took refuge in Iraq after the assassination of Dr. Shahbandar in June 1940, Mardam not returning to Syria until late 1942. This suggests that Iraq's "independent" status, not just the nationalist character of Gaylani's brief regime, was an important factor in making it a haven for Arab nationalists of all stripes. --Geoff Schad Adjunct Professor Department of History Villanova University