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Amnesty for Terrorists: Why Not?

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On Wednesday, information leaked from the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the Iraqi government was considering offering amnesty to terrorist groups who were willing to lay down their arms and cease hostilities. The reports were quickly repudiated in a statement issued later in the day, and Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, who had been the source of the leak, was fired from the Maliki administration.

In a public statement after his firing, Kadhimi stood by his assessment of the Iraqi administration's plans, saying: "The Prime Minister himself has said that he is ready to give amnesty to the so-called resistance, provided they have not been involved in killing Iraqis." Maliki's office was quick to distance itself from Kadhimi and to stress that any amnesty would only be considered for terrorists who had not killed U.S. troops or Iraqi soldiers or civilians. Maliki went on to make a televised speech on Thursday, where the issue of negotiating with terrorists was raised again with an emphasis that only those who did not have "Iraqi blood on their hands" would be approached.

While talking to the press on Wednesday, President Bush made a lot of use of the term 'reconciliation' in the context of Iraq, which many of his opponents have interpreted as a subtle statement of support for this idea of offering an olive branch to selected terrorist groups. And it does seem likely that President Bush is aware of Prime Minister Maliki's intentions and that the U.S. leadership in Iraq may also be involved in considering this course of action.

In reaction, many on the left have gone absolutely berserk over this possibility. People who a week ago were shouting for us to get out of Iraq and basically give the country to the terrorists are now demanding that we draw a line in the sand and refuse to give a single inch. People who were shouting about the Maliki administration being a U.S. puppet government are now demanding that we stop them from acting on this idea and tell them how to deal with their internal problems. A whole gaggle of Democrat politicians held a press conference to express their outrage, led by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) who said:

"It is shocking that the Iraqi prime minister is reportedly considering granting amnesty to insurgents who have killed U.S. troops. On the day we lost the 2,500th soldier in Iraq, the mere idea that this proposal may go forward is an insult to the brave men and women who have died in the name of Iraqi freedom. I call on President Bush to denounce this proposal immediately."

What on earth could have caused this sudden change of so many Democrats from doves to hawks overnight? Could it be the possibility that, if Maliki can persuade most of the more moderate terrorists to lay down their arms, Iraq might not turn into the disaster they've been saying it is and it might even start to get sorted out before the midterm elections?

When you look at it, are negotiations with some of the terrorist groups such a bad idea, and might this not be the right time to do it?

You always want to go into negotiations from a position of strength. With sources inside Iraq suggesting that, with the death of Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda forces there are in total disarray and their own internal memos indicating that they are feeling 'gloomy' about their prostpects. And with a massive cleanup of Baghdad underway, with 75,000 Iraqi troops hunting down terrorist cells, it looks very much like the Iraqi government is in the kind of strong position where they can afford to offer the hand of peace to some of the more legitimate groups, like the Shiite militias, and bring them into the political process. If that takes amnesty, then it ought to be on the table.

We've negotiated with terrorists throughout our history. We negotiated with the Viet Cong. We negotiated with the PLO. Today's terrorist may be remembered in history as a freedom fighter. Remember, our country was founded by terrorists – read up on the Sons of Liberty sometime. In fact, we've already negotiated with insurgents in Iraq during the course of the war, reaching accomodations with moderate militias in Basra and other areas to function as auxiliaries of the Iraqi military.

So why not negotiate? Why not further isolate the truly criminal terrorists in Iraq by extending some consideration to those whose terrorism is more the product of internal Iraqi politics than of some grand Jihad? Making a few deals would make it much easier to hunt down and eliminate the real bad guys. Hell, the militias will probably help us do it.

What's more, if we've set Iraq up to be a sovereign nation, shoudn't it be the Iraqi leadership, who will have to deal with these people in the long run, who make the decision on how to treat them? It certainly shouldn't be Democrats on Capitol Hill who've been giving aid and comfort to these terrorists for years, just because the political winds are blowing against them now.

I guess I'm weird because I'd like to see the War in Iraq end quickly with the establishment of law, order, and a successful democratic government for the Iraqis. If that means negotiating with some terrorists, why the hell shouldn't it be done? I'd be outraged if our government and the Iraqi leaders weren't considering it.

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About Dave Nalle

  • Arch Conservative

    Yes it will be interesting to see how history remembers George W. Bush if Iraq does succeed in establishing a functioning democracy with the which the US had genial diplomatic relations for years to come.

  • http://jpsgoddamnblog.blogspot.com JP

    Here’s the problem i see – we’ve been arguing for 5 years that Al Qaeda and “the insurgents” in general are unorganized and independent of one another, capable of surviving and thriving even if the head’s cut off. Now we’re supposed to believe that we can “negotiate” and somehow this is going to convince all the independent pieces to drop their weapons?

    Further, here’s our own President from back in April of this year: “…we must defeat the enemy overseas so we don’t have to face them here again. And that requires a strategy that is offensive in mind: press the enemy, find the enemy, bring the enemy to justice, never relent, never give them quarter, understand you cannot negotiate with these people.”

    Would this not be, in Republican strategist words, a “FLIP FLOP?”

  • http://jpsgoddamnblog.blogspot.com JP

    Sorry, forgot to link to Bush’s comments.

  • Maurice

    Amnesty for non-killer terrorists seems odd at first blush but I have so say that getting the fringe guys to come over to the good side and further isolate the bad guys sounds like a great idea. It definately allows us to “…press the enemy, find the enemy, bring the enemy to justice, never relent, never give them quarter..”.

    The rest of that quote “…you cannot negotiate with these people.” refers to the hard core Al Qaeda guys that will only be taken dead.

  • Eric Olsen

    good point Dave – post-war amnesty is an age-old tradition. Should we have imprisoned all the Confederate soldiers?

  • troll

    this shows the importance of words used to identify the ‘enemy’…amnesty for ‘insurgents’ would be an easier sell than for ‘terrorists’

    as for the Dems – their political motives and insincerity oozed throughout the debate on the ‘War Resolution’

    almost as blatant as the Repubs’ jingoism

    troll

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    “I guess I’m weird because I’d like to see the War in Iraq end quickly with the establishment of law, order and a successful democratic government for the Iraqis. If that means negotiating with some terrorists, why the hell shouldn’t we? I’d be outraged if our government and the Iraqi leaders weren’t considering it.

    Dave,

    You’re not wierd – you’re a westerner and you see things through an American’s eyes.

    These guys from Al Qaeda will say Habíbi to you if you have a gun on them, and may even sit down for tea and cakes. But the bottom line is that you’ll never get further than a hudná with them. At bottom, any truce is a chance for them to develop their military further and kill you a bit later. Their point of view is worship facing the qa’aba or wind up in boot hill.

    The same problem you are having is to be found in the secular élites of Israel who think they can negotiate with an enemy bent on destroying them. The enemy bent on destroying you has to be killed. It’s preferable if Moslems do the killing – Wahhabi Islam ia killing their religion – but if that is not possible, then we will have to do it.

    Learn from the painful experience of others. Our leaders sat down with Arafat and they all called each other Habíbi, signed long documents and shook hands on executive mansion lawns and such. Arafat got his training at the knees of the Egyptian branch of the Moslem Brotherhood, which thinks a lot like Al Qaeda.

    I’m not saying that one should never negotiate with the enemy to conclude a peace. But this enemy will never negotiate peace with you – only a truce till he can kill you.

  • Maurice

    Have to disagree with Ruvy. People are people. These people can be brought out of the stone age and fight off the propaganda that sickens their minds. They can learn to embrace freedom and safety for themselves and their children.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Ruvy, I hope I made clear in my article the distinction between Al Qaeda and the home-grown terrorists/insurgents in Iraq. I don’t think anyone wants to sit down at a table with Al Qaeda under any circumstances – including the insurgents. What we’re talking about here is cutting the local boys a break to make it easier to go after the foreign terrorist invaders.

    Dave

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Maurice,

    When Rabin shook Arafat’s hand in 1993, I thought what you wrote above. Seventeen hundred Jewish deaths later, I know better. That is why I cited the example. Without those 1,700 deaths to validate my point of view, it would just be smoke blown out of a hat. If you refuse to learn the lesson, you repeat it. In this instance, that can be a fatal error.

  • Bliffle

    “These people can be brought out of the stone age and fight off the propaganda that sickens their minds. They can learn to embrace freedom and safety for themselves and their children.”

    Sure. Just like the palestinians.

    Pretty soon we’ll see smiling pictures of Rumsfeld meeting with guys who used to slit the throats of american consultants for video.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I apologize Dave. The point you make in the comment was not clear to me in the article upon first read. Being an editor here, maybe you can insert a line indicating a bit more forcefully your point about not negotiating with Al Qaeda.

  • Maurice

    Bliffle and Ruvy

    I am still referring to the ‘fringe’ people not the throat slitters.

    Most of the people that died in the Waco fire were ‘fringe’ members being led by a handful of hard core nuts. It would have been nice if we could have granted amnesty to those ‘fringe’ people.

    I stand by my statement that people are people no matter their race or creed.

  • Bliffle

    “I stand by my statement that people are people no matter their race or creed.”

    Sure, they have the same vices. Only a few seek the freedom that means freedom for their rivals as well. It’s a big sacrifice for freedom to abandon old prejudices and hatreds on behalf of freedom for your enemies.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Ruvy, the 3rd to last paragraph seems pretty clear on that issue. I didn’t want to say Al Quaeda only there, because I suspect there are some extreme Ba’athists and other Jihadists who would be in the same boat of being too dangerous to deal with.

    Dave

  • Wright

    Very interesting, Dave. And thanks to Ruvy for his perspective as well.

    If some Dems are really getting hot and bothered by the notion of negotiating with “terrorists” who have not killed U.S. troops or their fellow Iraqis (I have not yet verified this myself), I have little use for them and will vote accordingly.

  • http://www.1bigdragon.blogspot.com Peter J

    Dave, I wish I were enough of an optimist to believe we could all shake hands and go home, live life happily ever after and not one little boy or girl will ever die with half of their head blown off again.
    I’m very conflicted here, I did not want to go to Iraq, I wanted to go to Afganistan on 9-12 and light up the desert, take out every goddam camp in one fell swoop! I still cannot for the life of me figure out why we didn’t do just that,,nothing else.
    But now, after all of the young Americans killed or mutilated and all of the innocent Iraqi lives lost, watching these barbarians hack peoples heads off like it was Funniest Home Videos, I don’t believe we can trust insurgents, terrorists or whatever we call them to hold up their end of any deal.
    When I think of any situation whether it be Iraq, Palestine or Africa where ghoulish soul-less entities come out of the night and dis-member, burn, hack or mutilate babies and innocents it makes me so fucking angry I want to invade every goddam one of them and skin the bastards alive.
    But we can’t. We can only do that in places like Iraq where we have a payoff, not just the peaceful satisfaction that we may have saved a thousand babies from the unspeakable horrors that the one mercenary we just killed would have inflicted.
    I don’t believe we can trust them. How can you trust someone who is willing to strap explosives on to kill other people who never did a friggin thing to him? I think, now we’re committed until we are reasonably sure that the Iraquis are able to keep their own law and order.
    I can’t even believe that I’m saying this since I’ve been a firm believer we should pull out immediately!
    But, My change of heart didn’t come without compromise. I believe that from now on, we maintain an all volunteer army to be dispatched the moment we become aware of any mercenaries slaughtering civilians, no matter where, payback or none, to dismember and incinerate the bastards on the spot!

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Wright, if you don’t believe my quote from Harry Reid, then follow the link to the Washington Post article. I don’t have a link to the rest of the statements, but I was watching CNN and they paraded out major democrat figures from the senate to express their objections to anything but war, war, war.

    Dave

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Dave, I wish I were enough of an optimist to believe we could all shake hands and go home, live life happily ever after and not one little boy or girl will ever die with half of their head blown off again.

    I’m not even that much of an optimist. This idea isn’t going to solve all of Iraq’s problems overnight. But what it would do is calm things down a bit and let US and Iraqi forces focus their efforts more. It would also encourage a lot of the insurgents to change sides and help out, and they have better connections in their local communities than the US or the national police do.

    I’m very conflicted here, I did not want to go to Iraq, I wanted to go to Afganistan on 9-12 and light up the desert, take out every goddam camp in one fell swoop! I still cannot for the life of me figure out why we didn’t do just that,,nothing else.

    It’s an entirely separate topic, but regardless of what you may have heard we went into Iraq because it’s on the opposite side of Iran from Afghanistan. That’s what it’s all about, surrounding Iran.

    But now, after all of the young Americans killed or mutilated and all of the innocent Iraqi lives lost, watching these barbarians hack peoples heads off like it was Funniest Home Videos, I don’t believe we can trust insurgents, terrorists or whatever we call them to hold up their end of any deal.

    The thing is that there are all sorts of different insurgents. Some of them are irredeemable. No one wants to make a deal with the Jihadist groups. But the tribal warlord militias, the urban gangs running protection rackets, the religious insurgents and militias and some of the baathist groups are all potentially turnable if a deal can be made that they’ll stick by.

    I don’t believe we can trust them. How can you trust someone who is willing to strap explosives on to kill other people who never did a friggin thing to him? I think, now we’re committed until we are reasonably sure that the Iraquis are able to keep their own law and order.

    Suicide bombers are almost exclusively the tool of the jihadists like Al Qaeda. No one wants to make any kind of deal with them, including the Iraqis. Most of them aren’t even Iraqis themselves. They’re invaders in the country. Remember, Zarqawi was Jordanian and their new leader is Egyptian. Most of their suicide bombers are poor people from backward countries like Yemen and Sudan or people forced to strap on a bomb to save their families.

    But, My change of heart didn’t come without compromise. I believe that from now on, we maintain an all volunteer army to be dispatched the moment we become aware of any mercenaries slaughtering civilians, no matter where, payback or none, to dismember and incinerate the bastards on the spot!

    That’s a tempting perspective to fall into. The USA World Police idea. I think that someone like Al Gore, if president, might very well accept that idea as a national policy. Modernize the army, trim it down to the best of the volunteers and redesign it specifically for anti-terrorist action. The ramifications of a policy like that are pretty scary, but it’s one of the viable alternatives to the global strategic approach the Bush administration is using against terror-sponsoring nations. To pull it off we’d have to make political assassination legal again and compromise a lot of our other values, and I’m not sure that’s something the American people would accept.

    Dave

  • http://nicholasstixuncensored.blogspot.com/ Nicholas Stix

    As a great leader once (must have) said, “Family values don’t end inside the Sunni triangle.”

  • http://www.1bigdragon.blogspot.com Peter J

    Dave,

    We went into Iraq because it’s on the opposite side of Iran from Afghanistan. That’s what it’s all about, surrounding Iran.

    Here I agree with you completely, as I said, we can only do that in places like Iraq where we have a payoff.

    You make a good argument on every end but what it all really boils down to is trust. Trust doesn’t have a party label on its forehead and in situations that don’t only involve the people making the decisions it’s very difficult to stand back and observe on a strictly political level without becoming emotionally involved. Obviously, I’m not the kind of person to make these decisions as I see things on an emotional level but I also believe that all views be considered whether political, logical, or even emotional. Without taking all of these aspects into consideration without inane argument nothing will ever be resolved. This is where we are now. Childish wrangling between political parties(all political parties,Republican,Democrat and everything in between)is sure to pull our nation apart.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Agreed on the importance of trust, but the key thing in this situation is that it’s not the US who needs to trust the insurgents but the Iraqi government. Not only do they know them better, but they are also the ones who have to deal with them in the long term – or so we hope.

    Dave

  • Lumpy

    This could be a real test of how much autonomy the US will actually let the Iraqi government have.

  • Clavos

    dave,

    Good piece. Your point about negotiating from a position of strength is key; with the killing of Zarqawi and events following, we’ve not had a better opportunity for negotiation since the war began-we shouldn’t waste it.

    The point raised in comments about whether or not the insurgents can be trusted to negotiate in good faith is interesting–given that the initiative to negotiate comes from the Iraqi leadership who are our allies, I think we should trust in their judgment on this. If it works, it will certainly be a major step in the right direction.

    As for the dems being agin it–again, I think you hit it–if it works, it’ll take most of the wind out of their sails and they know it.