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US Disbands Iraqi Army, Key Ministries - 2003-05-23

The American head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Iraq has put an end to the backbone of Saddam Hussein's power. Paul Bremer has issued an order that dissolves the Iraqi army and several government ministries that played key roles in the former regime.

In addition to the army, the Ministries of Defense and Information have been officially disbanded, and several Baathist security organizations have also been closed.

In a statement released Friday Mr. Bremer says a new Iraqi defense corps will be created that is non-political, professional, militarily effective and representative of all Iraqis.

The new corps would be under civilian control and, according to the statement, will be created in the near future.

Mr. Bremer said the moves are part of a campaign to show the Iraqi people that the regime of Saddam Hussein is gone and will never return.

The Information Ministry was Saddam Hussein's propaganda machine. It kept a tight rein on information inside the country, and required all foreign reporters in Iraq to work under its supervision.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi military personnel and public employees will be affected by the order, including Saddam's elite Republican Guard. All military and security courts have also been disbanded.

Those losing their jobs will be eligible to receive one month's severance pay. However, those with the rank of colonel or higher would not receive the payment because it would be presumed they are members of the outlawed Baath party, unless they can prove otherwise.

One former Iraqi army colonel told the Associated Press the U.S. order is not fair. He said many soldiers served their country well for many years and now will have no salary and apparently no pension.