Monday, November 3, 2008

Scholars Who Wrote about the CIA backed Iraqi Coup in 1963 that Brought Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party to Power

Some of you may know me as the guy who published my master's thesis entitled, "U.S. Covert Intervention in Iraq 1958-1963: The Origins of U.S. Supported Regime Change in Modern Iraq." This is published and available in the library at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona California. I am finally getting around to posting some of my research on this, specifically focusing on the 1963 CIA backed Iraqi coup that put Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party in power. I will start with detailing the previous scholars that have exposed U.S. involvment in the 1963 coup.

The first scholar to mention this in a book was Hanna Batatu who in 1978 published his classic tome, Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq. This is the earliest historical study in English that mentions the CIA involvement in the 1963 coup.[1] Batatu shames other historians who wrote before him by citing a public record that they all had access to: the September 1963 Al-Ahram (Egypt’s very popular paper) cited Jordan’s King Hussein’s assertions that the CIA met repeatedly with the Ba’ath party before the coup and supplied them with the lists of “communists” whom the Ba’ath party brutally purged after the takeover. Batatu cites this and qualifies it by informing the reader of Hussein’s CIA connections, but then adds personal knowledge of surreptitious pre-coup contact between Ba’th party members and Americans. Hanna Batatu was the first book writer to record this “in the interest of truth,” and thus he distinguished himself as a thorough scholar.

Edith and E. F. Penrose published Iraq: International Relations and National Development in 1978. They interviewed “well informed Iraqi Baathists” who stated that the CIA had collaborated with the Ba’ath in 1963. “Hashim Jawad, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, told us later that the Iraqi Foreign Ministry had information of complicity between the Baath and the CIA.”[2]

In 1987, Marion and Peter Sluglett published Iraq Since 1958, updated in 2001. The Slugletts summarize the U.S. involvement in the coup, including information about the CIA collaboration gained from their own interview with a “high ranking former member of the U.S. State Department.”[3] This was probably James Akins, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and 2nd Secretary of Politics in the U.S. embassy in Baghdad at the time of the Ba’athi coup. Akins has a reputation for being helpful with information about the CIA involvement in the coup, but he recently declined to go “on the record” with me about 1963.[4]

In 1996, Malik Mufti published Sovereign Creations. Chapter nine, entitled “Renewed Unionism: 1963-1964,”[5] is most informative. Mufti summarizes information printed in Batatu’s Old Social Classes, the Penrose’s Iraq and then adds information about Ba’thist arguments between Syrian and Iraqi elements that he gained from a personal interview with Jamal Atasi, former member of the Syrian cabinet.[6] This provides further documentation of U.S. collaboration in the 1963 coup.

Said K. Aburish is perhaps the most complete writer on the topic of U.S. intervention in Iraq in 1963. His books, A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite, issued in 1997 and Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge, published in 2000 acknowledge the research of previous writers such as Malik Mufti, Hanna Batatu, and the Slugletts but go much further. Aburish’s great contribution is that he added detailed information gained from personal experience as well as numerous interviews with key figures in the 1963 coup such as James Critchfield, CIA chief of the Middle East during 1963; Hani Fkaiki, member of the Ba’ath Party Command during 1963; and many other Americans and Iraqis both named and confidential. [7] [8]. Aburish is a Middle Eastern journalist in the 1950s and 1960s and an East-West liaison for procurement of arms and strategic materials for Iraq from 1974 to 1977 and 1981 to 1984. After this, Aburish has become a prolific writer about the Middle East and his books give valuable insight into this topic. He was very helpful to me through many email interviews and I am greatly indebted to him for helping me unravel the basic picture of what happened in Iraq in 1963.

This is just some of the scholarly evidence I have accumulated regarding the CIA's assist to Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party in 1963. The details of what I learned through these scholars, as well as other published memoirs, government documents, and interviews with the people who were involved with Iraq in 1963 will come later.

[1] Batatu, Old Social Classes, 985-986.
[2] Penrose, Iraq, 288.
[3] Marion and Peter Sluglett, Iraq Since 1958, 327n.
[4] Zeman correspondence with retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer James Akins, June 2005.
[5] Mufti, Sovereign Creations, 143-167.
[6] Ibid, 144.
[7] Aburish, A Brutal Friendship, 394.
[8] Aburish, Saddam Hussein, 388-390.

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