The Iraqi Army Day
The 6th of January is the day of the Iraqi Army!
The foundation of the Iraqi army by the British started in 1920 when Sir Percy Cox the British High Commissioner suggested to create and train an Iraqi army to help and support his troops in that area. Some of the Iraqi officers served in the Othman Empire Army have been used as nucleus in the army. The official formation was declared in the 6th Jan 1920 with the Unit of Mosa Alkhadem first and a new Ministry of defence born. Jaffar Al Askari was the first minister. Among the officers was Nori Alsaaid (see my previous blog about him).
King Faisal I who was deported by the French from Syria was the British appointed king in Iraq and the first Iraqi government formed in 25 Oct 1920. At the beginning the Iraqi army remained exclusive to the elite (VIP) until 1935 when the government introduced the compulsory service. It was an exclusive honour for the youth at that time to become an officer. It was the ambition of those who were looking for the glory and the rank. King Faisal I himself supervised the selection of the officers.
The Iraqi army was one of the largely involved regional armies in politics. Its first failed coup was in Feb 1936 by the leadership of Baker Sadqi. From then on the army became a strong tool used by the different parties to change the balance towards them! This led to many coups and blood shed as well as assassinations. The major effect of the army interference in politics was on the law and the institutions like the parliament and the unions. The coup means bypassing the law and the institutions so it weakens them.
Most of the officers who led the coups were assassinated or executed and haven't reached power until 14th July 1958 when Abd Al Karem Kaseem a Major General (Liwaa) led a coup resulted in the end of the Kingdom and the birth of the Republic. Kaseem was high ranking leader in the Maasker (army camp) Al Mansor in Al Muqdadiah, Diyala 160 km North East of Baghdad at the edge of Hemrren Mountains before the coup. The king and many of his followers were killed. The coup was then named the 14th of July revolution. Four years later another coup happened resulted in the killing of Kaseem and the Baathist came to power. The Baathist (Al Harrs Al Kawmi) (The National Guards) has committed a lot of crimes including killing, tortures, rapes and so on. Few months later another coup cleared out the Baathist. The last coup was in 17th July 1968 by the Baathist again with the help of the army. One have to say that many Iraqis believes that the only coup which made significant changes and improvements especially for the poor is Kaseem's one, that is why they call it revolution.
Until the black coup of 17th July 1968 soldiers and officers were though involved in the coups but remained loyal to the nation and not entered into the political parties. The Baath party with Saddam's neurotic, dictator, dubious, totalitarian and criminal personality changed this and introduce the Baath as the sole party in the army. He created what is called (Al Maktab Al Aaskari) or the military politburo. It was the most powerful office in the army for which attached another powerful office called (Dairat Al Tojeh Al Siasi). The latter was a big tool of propaganda and brain wash to glorify the leader. The aim of Saddam was to strangulate the army and crippled it from any attempt to topple him.
Like all the institutes and organizations in Iraq the army during Saddam regime has been subjected into complete changes. Indeed the army suffered more than anything else. Saddam and his thugs used to call it Saddam's army! In actual fact it was the foe number one that Saddam used to fear! Saddam destroyed the professionalism of the army personality. He humiliated the Iraqi officers and soldiers and pushed them into unnecessary wars. He submitted them into ongoing scheduled executions to make the seeds of fear grow always inside them. By the end of the day and after 3 decades he make even the high ranking officers to sing slogans and poem glorifying him like God!
I know many high ranking officers told me back in 1980s that they fear even the porter who makes them a tea because he may be an agent for one of the many security systems in the army. One can not imagine how an officer able to manage his troops while he himself fears them and he don't know whose among them spying on him. Writing a report accusing an officer means the end of his life after torture and humiliation!
High ranking officers among Saddam's family and tribes had been created from nothing with primary school educations or even less. They were ready to kill their fathers and mothers in return to the facilities they received from Saddam!
Saddam gave himself the highest military rank in the world in 1979 without any military studies at all and even without any training even as a solider. This was the rank of Moheeb Roken which means solemn or awful general staff. Misheal Afleeq announced his support and gratitude in the radio and he glorify Saddam on the same time. Afleeq have nothing to do with Iraq or with the army. He is a Syrian, sentenced to death by Hafeez AL Assad and escaped to Iraq and considered by Saddam as the founder of the Baath party!
Saddam forbid all political work for the army except the Baath party. Any one found to have political activities other than the Baath put to death. The job of the army diverted from protecting the country into protecting the leader. Same thing happened even inside the Baath party itself. The good Baathi was the one who glorify Saddam not the party. The ideology was nothing but Saddam and his speeches become the main subject for the Baath party ideology. The proper army generals whose loyalty was to Iraq suffered a lot between doing their jobs and implement Saddam's orders.
The ladder of the ranking military system was severely bypassed by Saddam and his relatives. He raised from the garbage many illiterate people into high ranks generals! The best example is Ali chemical, Hussien Kamel, Aizat Al dori and so on. He also upgrades many officers because of their loyalty or spying on their colleagues and so on.
Saddam carried out mass execution to the soldiers not loyal to his regime. This was taken even by suspicion only. In 1980s he used to order mass execution in each city which has to be attended by Baath party members, people, a doctor, and security forces. In 1990s he ordered cutting the ears of the deserters and tattooing their forehead with a cross mark. Tongue cutting and decapitation were other punishments. An officer I worked with in the North was lucky to escape death sentence because of a tongue slip when he was watching a TV and noticed some one putting a medal on his chest. He asked his colleagues; what is that thing in his chest; it looks like the picture of George Bush. He was just curious to know. Within few days his case reached into the Revolutionary Court! The only thing which saved him is his brother was a big member in the Baath who intercede for him with Saddam. The medal was the picture of Saddam which was a new thing introduced in 1980s. In 1991 after the Gulf war II Saddam felt a minor opposition from his cousin Dr General Raji Al Tikriti. He put him in a cage with several starved dogs which converted his body into bones in few minutes. He invited audience from the ministers and some army officer so to tell them this is your fate if you oppose. Raji Al Tikriti was the director of the medical affairs of the army in Al Rashed camp. He was an army physician
The Iraqi army suffered by Saddam a lot. He tried to make the army as one of his security agencies just to protect him from the Iraqis. He used ethnic cleansing. More than 90% of the high rank leaders were from Tikrit and the Sunni areas like Mosel. He used the army against the Iraqis in the South and the North. One of its brutal attacks was in the Marshes as well as in Kerbala where he had no respect to the holly shrines. The entombed Hussien Kamal attacked the Shrines in Kerbala and destroyed them. People there witnessed the officers from Tikrit and Ramadi entering the holly shrines and open fire on the sealing which is silver and gold and ornaments and mirrors just to hit the names of the Shiite Imams. These acts were done by racist unprofessional among the garbage he raised into the high ranks.
The Iraqi army without Saddam's thugs is professional and only loyal to the country and its stability.
The army has been dissolved in the 23 May 2003 by Paul Bremer the American Civil Administrator which resulted in more than 350,000 officers and soldiers without jobs!
A new army started to be formed again but still has no Ministry of Defence to lead it which is a wrong thing! There are news about ongoing talks between some Iraqi officers and the CPA to form a new MoD. This may be announced in the next few days or weeks after finalising its last stages. We heard that those officers are clear and clean from crimes but we hope so!
The air force is very important to the army and there is some news talking about its formation.
By all means the new army should not be involved in politics and its job should be only the defence and stability of Iraq. Its loyalty should be to the nation not the leaders. It should not break the law or be used aganist the nation. It should be formed from all the people irrespective of their religion or nationals or ethnic origin or sex. Its members should be educated how to respect the human rights and they should have respect not superiority to each others. They should know that the army is a job and not a privilege.
CONGRATULATION TO THE NEW IRAQI ARMY IN ITS DAY!