Reconciliation: Iraq’s Only Chance

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Iraq needs a National Reconciliation Conference. This conference has to bring in Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. It has to bring in even the hated Baathist; not all of them could have been Saddam Hussein’s agents and supporters. Also, sometimes people with blood-dripping hands have to be brought to the table for the common good. South Africans reached an accommodation with and even forgave racist criminals who administered Apartheid, killing countless Africans. Why can’t such an approach be explored in Iraq?

President Bush’s poll numbers languish beneath 40% and things will get worse in the days ahead with Iraq continuing to burn and the death toll soaring. Who in his or her right mind, Democrat or Republican, can still support this operation to “liberate Iraq�?

With this type of “liberation� accompanied by daily death, destruction and detonations, one can excuse Iraqis who crave for the days of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. Attacks by Iraqis against American and Iraqi government forces continue to escalate. A new chapter was opened with last week’s bombing of a hotel in Jordan claiming the lives of dozens of innocent people most of whom were attending a wedding. Clearly the strategy is to drive a wedge between the U.S. and any Arab governments that support its Iraq policy. Egyptian authorities must be glancing nervously.

As Iraqi parliamentary election nears, you can bet attacks will increase. The U.S. cannot win in Iraq and the U.S.-sustained government there cannot win. Increasingly, more Iraqis will lose hope. Only the bombers and saboteurs can benefit from such a stalemate. They thrive on death, destruction and detonations. Their calling cards? Bombings,  assassinations, and murder. They’re not accountable to anybody and they have no deadline or timetable.

Whereas the U.S. and the government it sustains can only win by ushering in peace, political stability, reconstruction, and economic recovery. Impossible tasks in this prevailing environment. Does the White House truly believe that it can kill every bomber and saboteur in Iraq? Hell will freeze over before that happens. The bombers and saboteurs simply have to wait it out. Domestic support for the war is plunging like a meteor. In the end, the White House will have to face reality and start withdrawing troops from Iraq. Americans increasingly don’t believe it’s worth losing U.S. lives for a people who don’t seem to crave U.S. –style “liberation.� Americans are also rebelling against an Administration that went to war based on lies, and as the British put it, “sexed up� intelligence.

The solution? While it now sounds heretic, sooner or later more people may see it this way: Iraq needs a National Reconciliation Conference. This conference has to bring in Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. It has to bring in even the hated Baathist; not all of them could have been Saddam Hussein’s agents and supporters. Also, sometimes people with blood-dripping hands have to be brought to the table for the common good. South Africans reached an accommodation with and even forgave racist criminals who administered Apartheid, killing countless Africans. Why can’t such an approach be explored in Iraq? South Africa allowed murderers to confess their sins and continue to earn a living; in Iraq Baathists were purged whole cloth at the urging of that rouge opportunist liar Ahmad Chalabi, now deputy prime minister. The U.S. is used to dealing withy unsavory characters. The U.S. bedded Agusto Pinochet and the late Ferdinand Marcos; the U.S. now cozies to tyrants such as Pervez Musharaff and Yoweri Museveni, now pushing Uganda towards civil war.

Why is the U.S. rushing to try former dictator Hussein instead of focusing on Iraqi reconciliation? How can the U.S. try Hussein when crimes against humanity – by both sides – continue in Iraq? The time is now: After the U.S. withdraws, bombers and saboteurs will take their chances and fight it out with any regime left in place. Which side do you think will prevail? Do I hear someone yelling Vietnam?

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