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US Looks to Nazi Germany as Model for Regime Change in Iraq

Originally Published 19 March 2003

A new research paper by University of Warwick researcher Maja Zehfuss points to the increasing tendency of commentators on regime change in Iraq to compare it to US post-war policy in Germany. New York Times writer James Dao has said that ?The process will be painstaking, similar to de-Nazification in postwar Germany?. Congressman Skelton, has also exhorted the government that ?Planning for the occupation of Germany and Japan took years before the end of the Second World War.? He claims that ?We had a plan in place for the occupation of Germany and it worked?.And today we have, as you know, democracies in both Japan and Germany.?

Maja Zehfuss?s paper also notes the statement that U.S. policy must ?encourage the self-government of people on the grounds that tyrannies have been demonstrated to be dangerous to the security of the world and that nations in which people govern themselves are more likely to keep peace and promote the common interests of humankind.? This is an excellent summary of what U.S. administration is saying about Iraq but those words were actually a statement from the Potsdam Conference in 1945.

Her paper goes on to note that the idea of de-Nazification was developed particularly by the US and expressed in occupation directive JCS 1067 which stipulated that: ?You will remove and exclude from office any persons who act, or whom you deem likely to act, contrary to Allied interests and principles?. Whilst the Soviets removed only Nazi policy-makers and officials, the Americans aimed to re-educate the whole people. However The U.S. administration has not indicated how it plans to establish who was and was not part of the ?regime? in Iraq and may in fact have to follow a policy closer to that followed by the Soviets, rather than the US, in occupied Nazi Germany.

Her paper points to another particularly sobering comparison between Iraq and Nazi German noting that in May 1945, when the German Reich surrendered, the country was devastated and in chaos: 14 million refugees and expellees streamed into what remained of Germany. Allied bombing had killed about 1,000 civilians a day on average. Many city centres were completely destroyed. 400 million cubic metres of rubble had to be cleared up. The food ration in November 1945 was 1550 calories. Foraging for food became the major preoccupation.? With their victory, the Allies had taken charge of a situation which many Germans referred to as Zusammenbruch (?collapse?).

The researcher believes that everything would depend on how the intervention is portrayed, and whether or not this portrayal is accepted by the people of Iraq. As Secretary of State Colin Powell himself has said: ?I think there is an opportunity to portray this not as an oppressive invasion, but really a way of changing a regime so that the people would be liberated. Maja Zehfuss?s paper outlines that the example of de-Nazification shows, this regime change leads to a complicated set of problems that cannot be solved simply through technical means. She says that ?Powell?s statement speaks of a realisation that ?regime change? cannot simply be unilaterally enforced and that it will require active support form the Iraqi people in the aftermath of the military conflict.?

For further information please contact:

Maja Zehfuss, Dept of Politics and International Studies
University of Warwick, Tel: 024 76528465
Home: 01926 435256

Paper presented at the ISA Convention Portland, 25 February-1 March 2003