Across from Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace, jobless Iraqi
military officers wait in the sparse shade of a tree. Their
ultimatum to US authorities inside: Reverse the decision to dismiss
the Iraqi Army en masse or face organized resistance next week.
Occupation authorities plan to start recruiting for the New Iraqi
Corps, a successor to the army, by the end of the month. But as part
of the de-Baathification process, L. Paul Bremer III, the civilian
official in charge of postwar Iraq, announced that only demobilized
enlisted soldiers are eligible. Any officers above the rank of
lieutenant colonel will be excluded from public life altogether.
"By next Monday, if we don't have results, we will form a new
Iraqi army, called the Armed Front Against the Occupation," warns
Maj. Assam Hussein Il Naem, who says he represents about 160
officers - all trained men who could make life difficult for the US
and British soldiers here. "New attacks against the occupiers will
be governed by us. We know we will have the approval of the Iraqi
The army's disbanding is one of several components of the US de-
Baathification policy, which has incensed thousands of Iraqis -
including many who were not members of Mr. Hussein's Baathist Party.
For Mr. Bremer's newly renamed Coalition Provisional Authority, or
CPA, last week's decision to dissolve the Iraqi military is a
necessary step in the road to refashioning Iraq. But for many of the
nearly 400,000 Iraqis who served in the military, it is a shocking
move aimed at enfeebling the country - and one that leaves them
The tension is an example of the gap developing between the
expectations of average Iraqis and the intentions of occupation
authorities trying to run Iraq. While US and British forces hope to
remake Iraq's military as a leaner, Baathist-free force, Iraqi
officers feel that the two powers should be rewarding Iraqis for
laying down their weapons during the war and paving the way for the
invading forces to enter Baghdad.
And, as jobs supplied by the old regime - military or otherwise -
have disappeared, few people have found sources of income to fill
Several thousand men protested earlier this week outside the
Republican Palace. The protesters say they are trying to negotiate
with US military officials to get their jobs back.
"We are demonstrating now because the Americans didn't fulfill
what they promised in the pamphlets they dropped on the ground
before the war," says Brig. Amer Abdul Ameer, a tall, tanned man in
dark aviator sunglasses. If they don't reverse course, "I will be
the first to carry out military attacks on the Americans."
The military is not the only institution that has been completely
dissolved. Occupation authorities in Iraq will be putting about half
a million Iraqis out of work when military and civilian employees
are lumped together. Despite some talk of giving small severance
payments to Iraqis whose jobs are deemed obsolete, many soldiers
said they would not accept such fees in place of a job.
"We are aware of the difficulties the Iraqi de-Baathification
policy has caused," Bremer said this week, adding that his authority
is "trying to mitigate" the fact that so many average, even
apolitical people have lost their jobs. …