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[casi] on the appeal for the release of Huda Ammash

Dear CASI,

I am intrigued by Nermin Al-Mufti's appeal to women Worldwide.  Nermin's
article in Al-Ahram fails to mention that Huda Ammash was a member of the
Ba'ath Regional Command.  The earlier appeal by Barbara Nimri Aziz appended to
Nermin's message is misleading in that it speaks of Ammash's election to what
she calls the "Iraq Supreme Council" when we know that there was no such thing
resembling an election to the Ba'ath leadership.  In fact, Ammash can plead
that she could not have rejected a position she had been forced into by Saddam
Hussain.  Barbara Aziz also speaks of Ammash's "distinguished family, with a
father [Salih Mahdi Ammash] who was once a popular political figure".

Salih Mahdi Ammash was a military attache in Washington in the 1950s and
subsequently participated in the bloody 1963 coup in which many thousands of
leftists were murdered and the country was plunged into chaos for the best
part of a year.  Ammash senior was involved in another conspiracy that brought
the Ba'ath back to power in 1968 with himself as Interior Minister.  In this
position, Salih Mahdi Ammash was at least nominally in charge of the Amn
Al-Amma (Public Security Department) headed by the notorious torturer Nadhim
Kzar.  Kzar was in reality answerable to Saddam Hussain (before they fell
apart) who was building up his own separate security agency as well.  To be
sure, Ammash was more moderate and more cultured than the thuggish Saddam and
Kzar, and he was also popular among the then tiny band of Ba'ath Party
faithful, but he was a conspirator who disgraced his high public office and
who was responsible for assasinations and military coups.  Ammash's power
relied not so much on popularity, but on the military and on Saddam's and
Kzar's brutality, and because of that, he himself was soon made dispensable
and kicked up to ceremonial positions which he accepted without protest.
Saddam went ahead corrupting Iraq's politics and public institutions and
plunging the country into a series of crises that ultimately led to the
catastrohpic conditions it is in today under a US colonial regime.

I write the above because I believe that solidarity with the Iraqi people in
their struggle against the occupation must not be hijacked through the back
door by supporters of the old regime.  Now for Dr Huda Ammash herself, there
is no evidence that she was responsible for any specific crime apart from her
collective responsibility as part of the Ba'ath leadership.  Furthermore, the
reason why she is being held has almost certainly nothing to do with
involvement in a weapons programme either.  Nevertheless, with all the human
rights violations going on in Iraq today, Huda Ammash's incarceration is not
one that should execise the greater energy of the friends of the people of

Huda Ammash should not be held out as the prime example of Iraqi scientists
being persecuted by the occupation authorities in order to cover the lies of
the absence of so-called WMD.  It is important to continue to highlight the
plight of Iraqi scientists who are in US custody or who are otherwise being
persecuted by the occupation.  It is also important to state that many of
those scientists and engineers were responsible for the remarkable
rehabilitation of Iraq's infrastructure after the destruction in 1991 and that
they are being prevented from doing so today by the occupation, Bremer and
Haliburton.  However, List members would be doing the Iraqi people a
disservice if they fell into a trap of defending the record of the Ba'ath
regime.  I do not wish Dr Huda Ammash any harm, but she is not my hero.

Kamil Mahdi

Dr Kamil Mahdi
University of Exeter

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