View Full Version : Documents Show Urgent Iraqi Push to Recruit and Control Troops

04-18-03, 02:10 PM
Documents Show Urgent Iraqi Push to Recruit and Control Troops

UBAYR, Iraq, April 17 Eid Ali Abbas Jaafar, an Iraqi serviceman, vowed to give his life in "a martyr mission against the American-Israeli enemies" or anyone else who attacked "this dearly beloved country."

"I will meet expectations by fighting a hero's battle," he wrote, in a personal proclamation that he swore before his local Baath Party office a month before allied armies rolled into Iraq.

Mr. Jaafar was supposed to be one of the weapons in Saddam Hussein's arsenal. It was impossible to determine whether he lived or died in the war that has just concluded.

But what is clear is that as the prospect of war with the United States escalated last summer, Iraq's governing Baath Party mobilized cadres across the country and emptied prisons seeking to kindle loyalty and recruit troops, many of whom had been deserting.

According to documents found in a party bureau in Zubayr, near Basra, Iraq's largest southern city, local party officials significantly stepped up their efforts beginning last summer to indoctrinate troops on the importance of readiness, of loyalty to Iraq and to Mr. Hussein, and they collected declarations from Iraqis professing a willingness to make suicidal attacks against the invader.

The documents represent an important record of the culture of the Baath Party and the tactics it used to galvanize and control its security forces.

An example is a record of a "prisoner's meeting" called in October in Zubayr after a nationwide release of Iraqi prison inmates. The government described it as an act of clemency, but the documents suggest that it was a calculated attempt to bolster loyalty and fatten the military ranks.

At the Zubayr meeting, 18 prisoners, evidently convicted deserters, were summoned before party leaders to hear "the human side to this great order of amnesty" and "the fatherly gesture given by comrade leader Saddam Hussein, God bless and protect him."

The failure of the inmates to "stand in the face" of the American military threat was alluded to in one document that then recorded their joyous reaction to Mr. Hussein's decision to release them, and they all pledged not to fail him again.

By the end of the meeting, the prisoners understood that the price of liberty was to return to their military units, after a 10-day vacation, and resume their duty of "sacrificing for their country" and its "great leader."

When war appeared all but certain, the local Baath Party began its campaign of recruiting volunteers for "martyr missions." They came from the ranks of regular army units, but also auxiliary units like the coast guard and border patrol.

It is impossible to know how many martyr declarations were gathered. At the party headquarters in this city of 25,000, 46 such statements were on file. Yet the quick collapse of Iraqi resistance and the relatively low number of suicide attacks suggests that loyalty to Mr. Hussein was thin.

There were notable exceptions, in which Iraqi men and women performed what could only be called suicide missions, attacking tanks with rocket propelled grenades from rooftops and pickup trucks, and perhaps Mr. Jaafar was one of them.

But those incidents, and the martyr documents on file here, do not convey the fear that existed in these transactions between party leaders and soldiers whose lives, and the lives of their families, depended on their absolute obedience to Baghdad, experts on the Iraqi military say.

The standard of loyalty, along with the potentially fatal consequences of disloyalty, was part of Baath Party indoctrination. Hence this question on the party membership application: "Have any of the applicant's family members (up to three generations) been executed or convicted because of a criminal act, spying or a conspiracy against the government?"

The Baath Party documents found in Zubayr shed little light on the overall operations of the Fedayeen Saddam, the irregular army built by Mr. Hussein's eldest son, Uday.

On Feb. 6, Comrade Raad Hamadi of the coast guard's first patrol unit said with remarkably little flourish that he had asked that his "report" show that he was willing "to perform a martyr mission, and this is because I believe in our just cause."

One party scribe repeatedly wrote the same statement on torn sheets of notebook paper. The soldiers simply signed at the bottom. Some men copied the same text in their own hand.

Fadel Migmas, Fadel Jakhir, Sulaiman Khalaf and Ahmad Mahr all identically requested permission "to perform a martyr mission to defend our country, Jerusalem and our prudent party leadership."

It seems possible that these statements were coerced from people who had been released from prison or otherwise pressed by their superiors to fulfill some quota, stated or unstated, of soldiers who could be thrown against the allied invasion force on suicide missions.

The documents also reveal the Orwellian, if mundane, bureaucracy of Baath operations.

A flier describing the hazards of smoking had to be approved by five different party officials, all of whom signed the document.

Three party members who attended the same meeting each filed reports, a redundancy that showed conformity and discipline. Other reports on party activities appeared to have been filed before the events occurred, a shortcut that demonstrated an ingrained party culture where outcomes were preordained.

Each month, party officials visited local military units to lecture soldiers on the increasing threat of American invasion and to assess their readiness. Despite the fact that some units were down to two-thirds of their listed strength, February's unit inspection reports declared all units "good" in the areas of morale, training and equipment.

What cannot be gleaned from the documents is how much the party leadership believed in the version of reality that it contrived. The Persian Gulf war of 1991 had seriously degraded the Iraqi Army, and many experts believe that party officials could see as well as Iraqi commanders that they had little hope of defending themselves against the allied forces whose bombers and tanks destroyed the headquarters where these documents lay scattered.

Party officials were apparently trapped between demands from above to mobilize and the reality that they had few resources with which to accomplish a daunting mission. The recruitment of "martyrs" may have been a last attempt to show on paper that troops were willing to die defending the government, though when war came, most troops simply fled the battlefield.

F.B.I. officials said today that several dozen agents would help to analyze documents seized in Iraq and pull any information related to terrorism, possible war crimes or other areas of interest.

Some 25 agents are being assigned in Washington to work on what the bureau calls document exploitation. Other agents in the gulf region are working on the matter, and the bureau expects to send such agents into Iraq as well, officials said.

"We don't really know yet what the documents will reveal," an F.B.I. official said.