Thursday, August 31, 2006

An American in Jordan Asks Iraqis What They Want

The best possible way for us to get out of Iraq . . .

. . . . every other way spells disaster.

Barbara Briggs-Letson writes:
Ninety-four Iraqis and four U.S. soldiers died in Iraq on Aug. 3 and 4. Those were the days I sat in a hotel conference room in Amman, Jordan, listening to Iraqi leaders. I returned home sure that the Iraqis are more capable than we are of calming and rebuilding their country. They have a peace plan that we need to help them implement.
I was in Jordan with 13 other U.S. citizens as part of a Global Exchange/Code Pink peace delegation. Our purpose was to ask Iraqis what they want the United States to do - and what not to do - and to bring back their ideas to the American people.

I learned that there is a viable Iraqi plan for peace. The U.S. has no right to interfere with this plan. On the contrary, we should be supporting it and trying to make it work. In November 2005 an Iraqi reconciliation conference (which included "insurgents") was held in Cairo and produced a 28-point plan for peace and national reconciliation.

Though the peace plan was arrived at cooperatively by many different factions, the U.S. government opposed several points and on June 24, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki eliminated four of the 28 points: (1) amnesty provisions, (2) timetable for withdrawal, (3) a halt of U.S.-led coalition operations and (4) compensation for war victims. He then offered the mutilated plan to the Iraqi Parliament.

As I listened to the speakers, different methods and time frames were suggested but several points came through consistently.

The U.S. must agree to a timetable to completely withdraw our military. We must also agree not to have military bases in Iraq. The sooner we agree to a timetable, the sooner violence will diminish. We can begin by immediately withdrawing troops from areas where there is little or no conflict.

The Iraqi government and the United States must recognize that "insurgents" may be justified "resistance" fighters and that they are often considered by Iraqis to be "freedom fighters." Part of this recognition has to do with amnesty. We must allow Iraqis to set up a program of amnesty - as they see fit.

The United States must pay reparations to the Iraqi government and individuals for jobs lost, for infrastructure destroyed and for what we did to Iraqi citizens. This includes tortured prisoners. This will cost us a lot of money.

Iraq needs a strong army to keep order. Every person with whom we spoke agreed on this point. The U.S. must pay for developing the army and give advice and support, if asked. The militias, which some believe now receive U.S. support, must be disbanded. Some want the U.N. to provide an armed force. Some want the U.S. to leave immediately, others want the U.S. to remain for a specified period and build-up an army. But, everyone agrees that the U.S. needs to provide funds.

Iraqi parliamentarians must be allowed to change their constitution, which is now a Western document representing our view of the world - not their history and culture.

The 100 Bremer laws, which Paul Bremer left in Iraq, force the country into an economic format they do not want. For example: one law makes "contractors" not subject to Iraqi laws. Other laws permit foreigners to own land and resources in Iraq. These do not benefit Iraq.

Sunnis and Shiites have lived together in peace for generations. Western interference and perceptions fuel conflict.

Iraqis were surprised and encouraged to learn of the United States' strong and vocal peace movement.

Iraqis who spoke with us represented Shiite and Sunni groups as well as minor parties, though no Kurds. There were scholars, economists, legislators, politicians, professors, physicians and tortured prisoners.

Iraqis are intelligent and able people, who will work out their destiny in their own way. The U.S. needs to cede power and let Iraqis take care of Iraq. We have made a mess of their country, and there is no reason to believe that our remaining there will improve Iraqi life.

Our government is profoundly hated in many countries in the Middle East and remaining in Iraq is fueling anger. The foreign policy and military of the United States feed these hatreds. As citizens, our biggest job is to stop these policies and change them. Not only because we fear people who hate us, but because it is the right, moral and ethical thing to do.

We need to start by supporting and paying for the Iraqi's own plan for peace and reconciliation.

Most Americans have no idea what the Bush administration is doing in their name, and how democracy is the last thing that Bush wants for Iraq. Bush should be called on it every time he says ". . . they hate freedom."

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