The old John Lennon song begged that we should “give peace a chance.”
The noise generated in the United States over the issue of “amnesty” for insurgent fighters in Iraq who may have killed or wounded American soldiers makes it sound as though a lot of us are not willing to give peace a chance.
Iraq’s Prime Minister, al-Maliki has constructed an offer to the non-Jihadi insurgent groups which proposes their re-integration into Iraqi society. They have responded with a counter-offer that revolves around a two year time table for the withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq. In return for that they offer a complete cease fire on the part of all guerrilla forces under their control. In my opinion an agreement like that would isolate the Jihadis and permit their extermination by coalition and Iraqi forces, some of which might be found among the parties on both sides of this dialog .
Some people in the United States find this possibility for peace to be unacceptable because the insurgents whom al-Maliki is negotiating with have been fighting American soldiers. The reasoning is that those insurgents are criminals and perhaps murderers and that they must receive criminal justice for their crimes.
This is a truly stupid attitude. It is true that the propaganda that has supported the war effort had described the insurgents as uniformly Jihadist and terrorist. The same propaganda has described them as criminals. This may have been useful in shaping public opinion in the United States over the last three years, but it is no longer useful. The coalition now confronts the need to assist the al-Maliki government in bringing together enough of the disparate factions in Iraq to build itself a support base which will enforce and maintain a peace that will justify the sacrifices soldiers have made in the war.
The United States has rarely, if ever, taken the position that mere service in war against itself constituted criminal behavior. In a few instances after World War II individuals were held accountable and punished for their personal culpability in “crimes against humanity,” “planning and waging aggressive war,” etc., but this sanction was not applied to the men who served in the ranks. Indeed, very senior officers were held blameless for their participation in the struggle.
It is axiomatic that peace must be made with enemies, not friends. If Iraqi insurgents who have fought and perhaps killed Iraqi and coalition soldiers are excluded from the possibility of reconciliation and amnesty, then who will be left to make peace with? The answer is simple. No one. That would mean that the war will go on and on and on. In that case it would prove impossible to withdraw coalition forces for a long time.
It should be obvious that the al-Maliki government would not have made this offer of amnesty and “national reconciliation” if it believed that it will be able to suppress the insurgencies by force of arms.