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January 12, 2008
De-Baathification Measure passes Iraqi Parliament
A measure designed to allow thousands of Sunni Muslims who served under Saddam Hussein to regain their employment in the Iraqi government has passed the parliament today:
Iraq's parliament adopted legislation Saturday on the reinstatement of thousands of former supporters of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to government jobs, a key benchmark sought by the United States as a step toward easing sectarian tensions. Without a doubt, this is the most significant political development in Iraq since the invasion. It was always first on the list of demands made by Sunnis before any kind of reconciliation would be talked about. And the American government had been pushing the measure for years. The holdup had always been a lack of trust by Shias that Sunnis wouldn't try to take over the government as well as a belief that those Baathists guilty of war crimes or crimes against Iraqis should not be rewarded. The measure addresses those concerns:
The bill was approved by a unanimous show of hands on each of the law's 30 clauses. Titled the Accountability and Justice law, it seeks to relax restrictions on the rights of members of the now-dissolved Baath party to fill government posts.
It is also designed to reinstate thousands of Baathists dismissed from government jobs after the 2003 U.S. invasion — a decision that deepened sectarian tensions between Iraq's majority Shiites and the once-dominant Sunni Arabs, who believed the firings targeted their community.
The draft law approved Saturday is not a blanket approval for all former Baathists to take government jobs. The law will allow low-ranking Baathists not involved in past crimes against Iraqis to go back to their jobs. High-ranking Baathists will be sent to compulsory retirement and those involved in crimes will stand trial, though their families will still have the right to pension. This is an extraordinary day in Iraq. And it is time for the Democrats to face up to the fact that it would never have occurred without the presence of American troops. If the nation had listened to them last year, there would be chaos in Iraq. Instead, there is hope - real, palpable hope - that all sides in Iraq can come to some kind of accommodation and live together in peace.
The Baathists who were members in Saddam's security agencies must retire — except for members of Fidayeen Saddam, a feared militia formed by Saddam's eldest son, Oday. They will be entitled to nothing.
It has come with a heavy price - for both America and Iraq. But today's vote has brought peace closer than at any time since American troops helped the Iraqis tear down the statue of the hated Saddam.