STRENGTH THROUGH PEACE
A NEGOTIATED TIMETABLE FOR WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAQ
October 12, 2006
Strength Through Peace endorses the idea of negotiating a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.
The argument against a timetable is that the insurgents would “just lie low” until we’re gone, and then take over. This argument does not stand up under scrutiny. The strategy of the insurgency is to use violence to prevent the elected government from stabilizing the country. If the insurgents “lie low” and allow the government to restore order to the streets, recruit and train their security services, get reconstruction of the infrastructure underway, and start reducing unemployment, then the insurgents will have lost the battle. If the government stabilizes the country, then the insurgency has lost.
The call for a withdrawal timetable on the order of two years has arisen through the efforts of Iraqis and their neighbors to negotiate an end to the war. In November of 2005, the Arab League invited insurgent leaders to Cairo, to ask what it would take to make peace. Everyone engaged in the negotiations condemned as “terrorism” the use of violence against civilians. What the insurgents wanted was (1) the recognition that to fight in resistance to a foreign invader is a legitimate right, and (2) a definite commitment by the US to withdraw within a certain time frame.
Iraqi leaders followed up and in June of 2006 the new Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, produced a reconciliation plan. Recognizing that resistance is a legitimate right, al-Maliki offered amnesty to any insurgent seeking peace who had fought only military personnel and not civilians. But the idea of amnesty for insurgents who had killed American troops aroused righteous indignation in this country, notably from Democrats playing the patriot card.
STP supports the proposed amnesty. How could the insurgents possibly lay down their arms, if they were not offered amnesty for their actions? Otherwise they would have to continue fighting for their very lives. Most wars (including our own American revolution) have ended with such an amnesty. We call for clear recognition of the distinction between terrorism and legitimate resistance.
The centerpiece of al-Maliki’s reconciliation plan was a timetable for US withdrawal to be agreed upon with the government and the resistance. The Bush administration in Washington flatly rejected the idea of a timetable, saying it would just “encourage the terrorists.” The Senate was debating two Democrat proposals at the time which Republicans were deriding as “cut and run.” And under intense pressure, Nouri al-Maliki withdrew both the timetable and the amnesty from his reconciliation plan, which rendered it ineffectual.
Even after the truncated plan was announced, eleven Sunni insurgent organizations sought out government and media sources to say they would make peace if the United States would commit to the withdrawal of its forces within two years. These are eleven insurgent organizations out of an estimated twenty-four, so they would represent a significant part of the insurgency. An official of the largest Sunni political party claims that 70% of the insurgent groups would follow such an initiative. The foreign jihadists who mount the suicide bombings comprise just 5% of the insurgent forces. 
But the Sunni effort came to nothing, which is very unfortunate. Just a few days earlier, an unnamed “senior coalition military official” (quite possibly General Casey himself) had been speaking favorably of negotiations with the insurgents.
"Does that mean the subject of a date is up for negotiation?’ he was asked. "I think that if men of goodwill sit down together and exchange ideas, which might be defined either by a timetable or by ... sets of conditions, there must be a capacity to find common ground," the official said.
STP calls for good-faith negotiations with all insurgents willing to discuss an end to their resistance to the elected government. We deplore the summary rejection by the Bush administration of terms for peace developed in a sustained diplomatic process.
The reconciliation originally proposed by Prime Minister al-Maliki presents by far the best hope for “success” in our supposed mission in Iraq. If the eleven Sunni groups offering peace were to join in the government security forces, the sectarian polarization now threatening civil war would be significantly mitigated. The proposed time frame for an American withdrawal is more ample than that envisioned by many Democratic legislators.
The al-Maliki negotiation
plan may be our last chance for a semblance of “success” in Iraq. The
recently-released National Intelligence Estimate says the Iraq war has become a
“cause celebre” fueling the spread of the jihadist movement.
An authoritative military report concludes that Anbar Province is essentially
lost to American or Iraqi government control.
61% of the Iraqi people approve of attacks on
US troops, 71% want us out within a year, and 78% say our presence is “provoking more conflict than it is preventing.”
STP calls on Congress to consider well and to declare that it is US policy to negotiate on the basis of Prime Minister al-Maliki’s original reconciliation plan, including a timetable for the withdrawal of all US forces and an amnesty for those who fought against military targets only and not civilians.
STP calls on Congress to refuse any further funding for an indefinite occupation of Iraq, and to fund on-going military efforts in Iraq only under a definite withdrawal plan negotiated with the Iraqi government and all in the insurgency willing to negotiate.
If the administration refuses to carry out such negotiations, STP calls on Congress to refuse any funding except for an expeditious, phased withdrawal of all our forces from Iraq.
A withdrawal negotiated with the government and the resistance is to be preferred. But even in the case of a unilateral, phased US withdrawal, the Iraqi people will manage their differences more easily when violent resistance to our occupation is no longer a factor.
Strength Through Peace offers this plan for our exit from Iraq in the context of a larger vision which includes a significant commitment of funds for the reconstruction of Iraq, where “significant” is in some proportion to what we’ve spent to make war in Iraq. We propose a similarly significant commitment of funds for a serious program to reduce our dependence upon foreign oil and get us out of the business of invading other nations in order to control their resources. And we call for a clear understanding that the President can initiate no military action against any other nation (including Iran) without Congressional authorization under the War Powers Act.
 “Bush Vows He’s ‘Not Giving Up’ in Iraq, Washington Post, June 25 2005, http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0B10F83D5E0C768EDDAF0894DD404482;
“General Decries Call for Timetable,” Washington Post, Nov 17 2005,
 “Amr Moussa in Iraq to Push for Peace,” al Jazeera, Oct 20 2005, http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/214A6338-A073-4861-89EF-54A2400E5012.htm;
“Iraq Cleric Backs Reconciliation Meeting,” al Jazeera, Oct 22, 2005,
 “Arab League Invites 100 Iraqis to Meeting,” Washington Post, Nov 14 2005,
 “Iraqis Say There Should Be Troop Timetable,” Washington Post, Nov 21 2005, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/21/AR2005112100532_pf.html;
Juan Cole, “Iraqis Ask for Withdrawal Timetable,” Nov 22 2005 06:30:00 AM, http://www.juancole.com/2005/11/iraqis-ask-for-withdrawal-timetable-ap.html.
 “Peace Deal Offers Insurgents an Amnesty,” The Times of London, June 23 2006, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7374-2239088.html.
 “Democrats Furious About Iraq’s Amnesty Plans,” NPR, June 25 2006 http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5510293.
 See US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, significantly, who speaks favorably of amnesty in an interview: “A Road Map Home,” Washington Post, June 28 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/27/AR2006062701547_pf.html; see also “a senior US official” in The Times of London, cited above.
 “Maliki’s Master Plan,” Newsweek/MSNBC, June 24 2006, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13283529/site/newsweek/. The Times of London, cited above, quotes the text: “We must agree on a timed schedule to pull out the troops from Iraq, while at the same time building up the Iraqi forces that will guarantee Iraqi security and this must be supported by a United Nations Security Council decision.”
 “Cheney: Iraq Pullout Would ‘Validate and Encourage the Terrorists,’” CNN, June 22 2006, http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/06/22/cheney/index.html.
 “Rallied by Bush, Skittish GOP Now Embraces War,” New York Times, June 21 2006, http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F70910FA34550C718EDDAF0894DE404482.
 “Iraq Plan Part of Grand Strategy,” BBC, June 25 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5115064.stm; “Amnesty to Exclude Killers of GIs, Iraqis,” Washington Post, June 28 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/27/AR2006062700427_pf.html; “U.S. Waters Down Iraqi Peace Plan,” Medea Benjamin and Raed Jarrar, AlterNet, June 28 2006, http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/38143/.
 "If they set a two-year timetable for the withdrawal we will stop all our operations immediately" (statement to AP): “Insurgents Offer Truce in Return for a Timetable for U.S. Pullout,” USA Today, June 28 2006 http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2006-06-28-amnesty-plan_x.htm;
“Sunni Group Endorses National Reconciliation Plan,” USA Today, June 27 2006, http://dailywarnews.blogspot.com/2006_06_01_dailywarnews_archive.html.
 “Insurgents Offer Truce …,” USA Today, June 28 2006, cited above.
 “Death of Zarqawi May Strengthen the Nationalist Sunni Resistance” (Reuters), Today in Iraq, Daily War News, June 9 2006, http://dailywarnews.blogspot.com/2006_06_01_dailywarnews_archive.html.
 Mona Salem, “Sunni Rebels Reject Deal,” Herald Sun, July 1 2006 (see statement of the influential Sunni Muslim Scholars Association: "Neither the principal armed groups of resistance nor political organizations like ours have accepted this plan which ignores a timetable for the withdrawal of [foreign] troops”): if not available at http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,19647701^1702,00.html, see the same article at http://www.gatago.com/talk/politics/mideast/21755961.html.
 Maliki’s Master Plan,” Newsweek/MSNBC, June 24 2006, cited above. Ambassador Khalilzad had in fact been talking with certain Sunni groups for some time: “Every War Must End,” Newsweek/MSNBC, June 12 2006, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13283529/site/newsweek/.
See also Steve Soto, “Baghdad Issues Watered-Down, GOP-Friendly Reconciliation Plan,” The Left Coaster, June 25 2006, http://www.theleftcoaster.com/archives/008040.php.
 The Prime Minister’s plan included a commission to determine whether individual insurgents were in fact innocent of civilian blood, and an equally well-considered suspension of the de-Baathification of the security forces (Times of London, cited above).
 The Kerry-Feingold resolution of June 21, 2006, called for complete withdrawal by July 2007.
 “Declassified Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate ‘Trends in Global Terrorism …,’ dated April 2006,” http://www.dni.gov/press_releases/Declassified_NIE_Key_Judgments.pdf;
“Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Hurting US Terror Fight,” Washington Post, Sept 24 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/23/AR2006092301130_pf.html. Note that this National Intelligence Estimate was in the hands of the Bush administration even as they were pressuring Nouri al-Maliki to eliminate the heart of his reconciliation plan.
 “Situation Called Dire in West Iraq,” Washington Post, Sept 11 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/10/AR2006091001204_pf.html: knowledgeable officials say the report concludes “that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there.”
 Program on International Policy Attitudes, Univ. Maryland, World Public Opinion poll, Sept 27 2006, http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/home_page/250.php?nid=&id=&pnt=250&lb=hmpg1; cf. “Poll: Iraqis Back Attacks on US Troops,” Forbes, Sept 27 2006, http://www.forbes.com/home/feeds/ap/2006/09/27/ap3050414.html.
 The Army is asking for a 41% budget increase for current force and repairs: “Army Warns Rumsfeld,” Los Angeles Times, Sept 25 2006, http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-military25sep25,0,7311732,full.story?coll=la-home-headlines. They’re saying quietly they’ll need an additional 60,000 troops: “Top Generals Hint at Army Expansion,” ABC News, Sept 25 2006, http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/print?id=2489700.
 “We don’t negotiate with terrorists…” said Vice President Cheney, “… you have to destroy them”: interview on Fox News, Jan 19 2006, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/01/20060119-7.html. The recent National Intelligence Estimate, however, suggests we are creating terrorists faster than we can destroy them (Washington Post, Sept 24 2006, cited above).
 The facts suggest that President Bush wishes to maintain troops in Iraq at all costs, (1) for strategic military purposes and (2) to secure for Western companies an advantageous access to Iraq’s oil supply. Behind the first is the Project for a New American Century (cf. “Rebuilding America’s Defenses – A Summary,” May 6 2003, http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3249.htm). Authority on the second is Antonia Juhasz (see “Iraq’s Oil Timeline,” Left Turn Magazine, May 1 2006, http://www.thebushagenda.net/article.php?id=173).
 Two-thirds of the American people disapprove of the President’s handling of Iraq: CNN Poll, Sept 29-Oct 2 2006, http://www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm. We have unquestionably been taken to war upon false claims: see most recently the report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; cf. “Iraq’s Alleged Al-Qaeda Ties Were Disputed Before War,” Washington Post, Sept 9 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/08/AR2006090800777_pf.html.
 A large majority of the Iraqi people say that a US commitment to withdraw either would strengthen the government (53%) or would not weaken it (23%). Those who say they want US forces to withdraw within a year include 74% of Shiites and 91% of Sunnis (including 84% of Sunnis in Baghdad). See the poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes cited above.
 STP calls for a commitment to completely withdraw all US forces and to relinquish all bases. We believe that nothing less will ease the suspicions of the Iraqi people (78% of whom believe the US intends to maintain permanent military bases). Nothing less will address the aggravating causes of jihadist terrorism described in the National Intelligence Estimate (cited above). Nothing less than a complete withdrawal will restore to the Iraqi people their rightful sovereignty.
 Since the present STP position statement was written, the central idea has been has been articulated and affirmed by the knowledgeable Robert Dreyfuss and Raed Jarrar: “The End of Maliki?” Democracy Now!, October 23 2006, http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/10/23/1425227.