Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Idled Iraqis Cry Foul Over Firings: "Bremer decided to purge every Baathist who had risen above ordinary membership to any of four higher ranks in the rigidly vertical party structure. It is not clear how many people were affected, but at least 20,000 teachers, engineers, technicians, managers and other professionals lost their jobs and pensions; some affected Baathists say the number is much higher. The majority were division-level Baathists, one rung above simple membership, who had relatively little power and were often promoted merely for attending rallies or performing well at work."

"In the past month, several official-looking forms have been circulating in the capital that promise job reinstatement to Baathists who renounce the party and are found "fit" to return to work. Some have been handed out in batches by U.S. soldiers outside American bases; others have been given to departing employees by their bosses; still others appear to be forgeries.

"One evening last week, for example, more than 300 fired teachers, policemen and engineers lined up outside a U.S. compound, where soldiers passed out forms in English titled "Agreement to Disavow Party Affiliation." They required the petitioner to renounce all ties to Baathism and to pledge to help U.S. authorities "build a new government." They bore the signature of one Lester M. McFarland.... In an interview later in the week, an adviser to Bremer confirmed that requirement and said he had never heard of McFarland. "There are many fictitious documents floating around," said the aide, Drew Erdmann. "This has been extremely difficult for people, and it's terrible to see others preying on them, but I see documents every day with names like L. Buell Brimmer." A handful of exemptions have been granted, he said, but the decree is "very clear. They must be authorized by L. Paul Bremer."

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