Accessibility links

Interview with Robert Rabil - 2003-05-09


MR. BORGIDA
Now joining us here in our studio, Robert Rabil of the Iraq Research and Documentation Project. It's a project affiliated with the Free Iraq Foundation and Harvard University.

And, Mr. Rabil, we'd like to talk a little Iraqi politics with you, because this week there has been some grumbling inside Iraq by those who believe that members of the Baath Party remain in power, or at least are getting a second chance to have some influence inside Iraq. And many Iraqis, at least publicly, have been opposing this. What are your thoughts on that?

DR. RABIL
There is something we have to understand, that the Baath Party, under Saddam Hussein, has tried to turn as many Iraqis as possible into accomplices. So, here you have the complicity nature of the regime. The idea for Saddam Hussein was the more people who collaborated with me, the less they were willing to oppose me. So, this should form the point of departure, in that many people that worked for the Baaths or they worked for the government, they did that out of necessity. And it's very important to emphasize that point because it's very important for them. Now, some of them, they did not. So, here you have to create some mechanism where you have to vet the people. I would say myself that the low level to the medium level, if they know how, especially now, where you need electricity, you need security, you need oil, you need water, some of those people who don't have blood on their hand, if they are vetted by the U.S. administration, yes, why not.

MR. BORGIDA
So, let me follow up on that because, in practical terms, you're saying we ought to vet these folks, [but] how does one do that? How does one ask somebody how much blood is on your hands, to use your phrase? Is that a practical impossibility?

DR. RABIL
Well, I think it's very practical. Because I think, if you have blood on your hand, in society, they will know you. People can come and they can identify you. If you did something wrong, people will come and they will identify you. And also, through my research, I know that most of the people with blood on their hand belonged to security, belonged to the intelligence apparatus. So, you see that there is a way to go about it. It's going to be hard. Some people are going to be upset. Some people are going to say, why him -- especially with the police -- they used to see him with the Baath Party. They used to see him standing in the street and now he's coming.

But I think we should have a balance. We should not keep a lot of Iraqis [out] who worked with the regime, because they did that out of necessity.

MR. BORGIDA
Mr. Rabil, isn't this in some ways a recipe for continued disruption? Because what you will then have is a scenario in which people are, in a sense, going to presumably U.S. officials or others and saying, this person I don't like, he was a bad person, he has more blood than the other person. And you have a society that is based on paranoia and so on. Isn't that much of the same then?

DR. RABIL
Well, for one thing, we are going to face this. But let's not forget about the past. The past 35 years, Iraq has been ravaged under the Baath Party and under Saddam Hussein. And myself, I am expecting this. And I am expecting more than that. But that does not mean that we have to do what we have to do. We have to first provide stability, provide security, provide water, provide these necessities. And what is happening now is that some people in the Baath Party or some people that were in the government, they know, they have the know-how. So, what are you going to say, just keep them home?

So, here we are facing reality. And the reality is it is difficult, and we have to face it. So, what I'm saying is that no, we are not going to get all the Baaths back in power. No. We are not going to get the bad people in power. No. But those people who worked out of necessity -- and many people, believe me, from my research, many people did work for the government. Many people did work for the government, indirectly or directly.

MR. BORGIDA
Mr. Rabil, you've satisfied my curiosity about the practical realities. I understand the point you're making. Let's presume now that these folks have assumed positions of some mid-level responsibility in the new Iraqi Government. I want to ask you, in the minute or so we have left, what do you see in the weeks and months ahead, continued uncertainty, insecurity, or a movement to a free and democratic Iraq, with all of these people back in those positions?

DR. RABIL
Let me stress this. I want to emphasize that [only] so many people are going to go in, so they're going to be probably a minority. And, like I said, the people that are going to go in, they are not going to have blood on their hand. But I see myself an uphill battle, and I am optimistic. Look at Basra now. It has some electricity, and some people say 24 hours of electricity. Look at Baghdad now. You have some electricity. And let's not forget that the regime collapsed, so you have no structure. We are beginning from scratch. And I think, with good efforts and with good people and with our good soldiers there, I see a good chance.

MR. BORGIDA
Let's hope that your optimism will prevail. Robert Rabil of the Iraq Research and Documentation Project. It's affiliated with the Free Iraq Foundation and with Harvard University. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

DR. RABIL
Thank you for having me.

XS
SM
MD
LG