Monday, June 26, 2006
On the Proposed Amnesty
First of all, I don't think it makes any sense. IED makers and planters kill more Iraqis than Americans, just like the rest of the "resistance". They kill children. They kill motorists. They lack fire discipline and a certain degree of conscience. It is a fallacious belief that there exist Iraqis who make bombs destined only American stryker vehicles and none for Shi'a mosques; and that those making bombs don't collaborate with those recruiting human bombs for Iraqi neighborhoods.
Secondly, I don't think it will have the desired effect: ending the insurgency. Because the amnesty is general, there is no reason to believe a large percentage of (or even most of) those amnestied will not go back to their former behavior. None of the Iraqi politicians suggesting this plan are suggesting that maybe they ought to ask the killers they are releasing whether they will go out and continue their work. That would be a good question because the framework of this amnesty (releasing those who murdered and maimed non-Iraqis) carries the implication that killing "foreigners" might not be such a bad thing anyway. So why would they stop? Yet without those "foreigners" the New Iraq cannot hope to succeed. This plan is not a plan. It is a hope. It is a hope against hope.
Unfortunately, I believe releasing these monsters onto Iraq will have the same beneficial effect that Saddam's general amnesty before the war did: cutting loose the worst elements on Iraqi society...only this time, with an implied justification of their criminal behavior.
This is a politician's solution. Frequently, politicians have to come up with solutions even when there is no political consensus for how to do it. In this case, the Sunni Arab parties want people released who have participated in the insurgency. But the Shi'a Arab parties are against releasing people who have targeted them and deliberately spoiled the country over the last 3 years. So what do you do? A politician splits the difference:
They will release Iraqis who have only killed non-Iraqis. Non-Iraqis don't vote in Iraq, so there is no political problem in releasing their killers. So the politicians can pretend to release "benign" insurgents (in effect, only releasing those with powerful enough connections to "prove" they haven't harmed Iraqis), while keeping in prison those who have harmed Iraqis with the political voice of the vote.
Sometimes splitting the difference can lead to a solution that does more good than harm. Usually, it either makes no change or makes things worse. I believe this plan to be the latter.
Rationalizations for the General Amnesty
Some point out that such amnesties are always granted at the end of a war. They will point out hat the Confederate forces in the American Civil War were granted such a general amnesty after the American Civil War, and also to the Germans forces after World War One and World War Two. However, I will point out, that such a general amnesty was granted to Iraqi forces fighting for the Saddam regime in April 2003. Guess what? Many still did not lay down their arms. They did not lay down their arms after the handover in the summer of 2004, nor after the elections of 2005 in January, October, or December. Yet, perhaps now that the magical Maliki government is installed, all that will change. I'm afraid I don't believe it, but then I don't have bombs going off on my street to help allay my doubts. But, once again, that shows that is a plan motivated by desperation rather than reason.
Also, the insurgency doesn't have generals or national leaders that tell them to lay down their arms and go home.
Some will argue that "Reconciliation Plans" are always implemented after the end of genocidal, malignant regimes, and/or bloody no-holds-barred civil war. But in those cases (South Africa is a good example), amnesty was granted to all, regardless of their crimes, after admitting to them. This is not that sort of plan. Iraqis are not ready for reconciliation. If they were, they would grant amnesty everyone who participated in the insurgency ~ even those who killed children and beheaded policemen. But, apparently, a reconciliation plan like that would be politically untenable. So instead, the politicians are offering up justice for American soldiers, foreign diplomats and journalists, NGO workers, Filipino sanitation contractors as a sacrifice to the gods of desperate hope.
But What If It Worked?
But let's set all that aside. Let's --for the sake of argument-- presume that this phony, sad, and morally repugnant plan of forgiving those who kill American soldiers ~currently only in Iraq because the duly elected Iraqi government wants them there~ and others in Iraq to do good by the Iraqi people....lets presume it will have the practical desired effect. Let's pretend that it will make things better (if only marginally) and not worse. There are still two major problems with it.
ONE. Since this war began, I have argued strenuously against those who say the Iraqi people should be grateful for what the US has given and lost in liberating them from Saddam. I have declared that Americans and Iraqis are partners in the New Iraqi Experiment. I have said (as I stated here at in the comments at 24 Steps To Liberty) that America deposed Saddam, spent billions to stablized Iraq, and gave up the best of our children for American security. The virulence of Saddam, of Arab Nationalism, of political Islamic extremism, and the unlimited cash that oil gave to the Middle East's worst tyrants and exporters of hate, made the continued oppression of the region an imminent threat to American civilization. All this was brought home on 9-11.
The Iraqis, meanwhile, have endured great grief and misery in attempting to secure a free, liberal nation in between Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia (as well as socio-political throw-backs like Jordan and Turkey).
This plan would end the American-Iraqi partnership. If this plan is implemented, then the relationship between America and Iraqi will cease to be that of partner and become one of parent and child. Partners have no need to be grateful of each other, but that gratitude is often enough freely given to each other. A child, on the other hand, is not grateful because it is expected that the parent will give all for his child as the child only takes. The parent goes without supper so the kids can eat their fill. The parent slaves at work so the children can have the best. This plan calls for the Iraqis to consume America's (and the rest of the world's) right to justice for the murder of its people, while the Iraqis give up nothing in this regard.
TWO. This plan will further undermine American support for Iraq at a time when it is still desperately needed. I might be convinced to give up justice for my fellow citizens for a marginal improvement in Iraq, but many will not. If you think this won't be an issue in the American elections in November, then you don't know anything at all. Democrats who have been rooting for Iraq's failure from the beginning have already been gleefully denouncing this plan.
This is a draft, I will add the links to applicable bloggers and news articles later today.