Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s reconciliation plan has raised the hackles of American politicians
across the political spectrum. Democrats and Republicans have denounced his provision granting amnesty for insurgents who have killed Americans. This opposition makes perfect sense from an American point of view. Those insurgents killed our husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. How can we possibly give those killers a free pass? That’s a bitter pill to swallow after all the United States has done for Iraq, to paraphrase Senator Carl Levin’s words.
Al-Maliki’s plan offers amnesty for “opponents who have not been involved in acts of terrorism”.
"The launch of this national reconciliation and dialogue initiative should not be read as rewarding the killers and criminals or accepting their actions," he said. "There can be no agreement with them unless they are punished with justice.
"To those who want to rebuild our country, we offer an olive branch," he said.
The offer is not a little vague about who will qualify. A previous suggestion of amnesty that seemed to include insurgents who attacked Americans–“...those whose hands weren't stained with Iraqi blood” also provoked objections, enough to cost the aid who floated the suggestion his job. The new offer attempts to circumvent this problem but in doing so, it seems to be too limited to include those it will need if it is to succeed in reconciling the warring Iraqi factions.
As always, Juan Cole
has an interesting take on the proposal.
...[I]f the point of the amnesty is to bring the guerrilla leadership in from the cold, this amnesty is useless. What Sunni Arab guerrillas worth their salt have killed no Iraqis and no US troops? As for the rest, why would Sunnis who had not killed anyone need to be amnestied? And wouldn't they be rather pitiful guerrillas?
This is like Kissinger saying he would talk to the North Vietnamese but not to any of them who helped the VC kill ARvN and US soldiers. There wouldn't have been any round table talks.
The offer would seem to do little to foster a genuine reconciliation among Iraqis. Cole suggests that the real target are the ex-Ba’athists who joined the party as a matter of employment. But they are unlikely to be the insurgents, particularly the senior members of former regime who provide the organizational and financial leadership that supports the insurgency. As a practical matter, this offer looks like a non-starter.
Even so, I find the American reaction to be a part of the problem that plagues our policy in Iraq. No, we don’t look kindly on those who attack, injure and kill American troops but amnesty has always been part of the reconciliation process in war, an attempt to bring hostile parties together in some agreement, whether it be nations or factions within a country. In the words of one senior American official: “This is what we did after the Second World War, after the Civil War, after the War of Independence. It may be unpalatable and unsavoury but it is how wars end.”
Sometimes, it’s a necessary step toward ending a war, especially a civil war.
It looks to me like American resistance will hinder Iraqi reconciliation since neither Democrats nor Republicans are willing to recognize a well established method for reconciling warring parties. More disturbing is what this attitude says about Iraqi sovereignty. Apparently, Iraqis do not have the ability to resolve their own internal conflicts if America objects.
Reconciliation in Iraq may well be impossible, given the sharp ethnic and sectarian divisions in that country. American objections and demands make a difficult process even more so. Cross posted at Daily Kos. Other Daily Kos diaries on this subject are here and here.