Baath books being pulled from shelves of Iraqi universities

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Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports [Ar.] that the Debaathification Committee in Iraq has begun pulling all works that praise the Baath regime in Iraq, which ruled 1968-2003, from the shelves of university libraries. The newly banned works include theses, research papers, books and other publications. They will be sequestered in a high-security special library and kept away from university students because "they are far from the scientific spirit" and because they glorify "the Baath ideology."

The Debaathification Committee is controlled by the Iraqi National Congress of corrupt financier and current vice premier, Ahmad Chalabi. Although apparently only Chalabi's relatives voted for him in the December 15 elections, he continues to have an outsized impact on Iraq, and not for the better, either. What Mr. Chalabi's committee does not understand is that the"scientific spirit" is strong enough to deal with all kinds of books, and is violated by making some forbidden and pulling them off the shelves of the university libraries.

Middle East expert Keith Watenpaugh writes:

Functionally this decision to" cleanse Iraqi universities and its libraries from the vestiges of the Baath" could lead to the impounding of some of the best research/writing done in the"golden years" of academic activity in Iraq 1972-1980. Most work in that period was vetted by Baathist officials and panegyrics to the party and officials appear at least on the first page, if not sprinkled throughout the text. Those of us who have worked in similar settings are familiar with this phenomenon.

On the other hand, various academic/party apparatchiks wrote/had written for them books and theses of little value beyond revealing how thoroughly the party had poisoned academic life in the period of the Iran-Iraq war and the later sanctions. The (contemporary) Bayt al-Hikma was an institution created primarily for this purpose. It's unlikely these would be much missed.

It strikes me that this will constitute part of a larger project, and may merely be prelude to a purge of Iraq's academic community of groups/individuals who may be judged problematic to the current Iraqi leadership or parts thereof. Those deemed"problematic" may merely be non-Muslims/ non-Shiite Muslims or those not inclined towards Iran with sufficient enthusiasm or who oppose/favor the American presence. Flavor of the moment - take your pick.

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