Franks Orders Baath Members to ID Selves
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks on Thursday ordered all full members of Saddam Hussein’s toppled Baath Party to identify themselves to the U.S. military _ the latest salvo in efforts to dismantle the wellspring of Saddam’s power.
The order from America’s top commander for the war made no mention of supporters and affiliates, the lower-level Baath bureaucrats and skilled civil servants whom the United States is counting on to form the foundation of a new Iraqi government.
Franks, in a statement read on the U.S.-led coalition’s Information Radio, said the announcement was directed at the upper levels of the Baath Party. The party had 12 levels in its ranks, and only the top eight levels were full members.
``Go to the nearest U.S. military forces and identify yourselves, and then wait to be told what to do,″ the general’s statement said. ``There must be no Baath Party activity, because the party no longer exists.″
As many as 1.5 million of Iraq’s 24 million people belonged to the party under Saddam. But only about 25,000 to 50,000 were full-fledged members _ the elite targeted by U.S. officials in recent efforts to root out possible Saddam supporters.
The order amplified earlier calls by the radio station and U.S. officials for party members to come forward and be counted _ and possibly, in some cases, punished.
It came nearly a week after the U.S. civilian administration, led by L. Paul Bremer, declared that up to 30,000 former Baathists would be excluded from any new government.
Still, the United States must balance its desire to purge Baathists from power with its need to get a government running. An entire generation of Iraqis had to affiliate with the Baath Party to obtain civil service jobs, so a wholesale purge could undermine the Americans’ own reconstruction efforts.
Many of the upper-level figures in Saddam’s regime _ the most-wanted, including the Iraqi leader himself _ are already being pursued and are depicted on a deck of cards designed to familiarize U.S. forces with their faces.
The United States has announced plans to comb through the deposed regime’s records, interview co-workers of Baath members and seek testimony to make sure the government is free of the party’s influence.
The Baath Party was founded in neighboring Syria in 1947 and spread across the Arab world, promoting Arab unity with a repressive, Soviet-style party structure.
Iraq’s Baath Party, dominated by Sunni Muslims in a country that has a Shiite majority, took power briefly in the early 1960s, then ruled Iraq continuously from 1968 until last month _ most of that time under Saddam.
Neighboring Syria is ruled by a Baath faction headed by President Bashar Assad.