Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Declare Peace Campaign

As reported here, nationwide civil disobedience campaigns are attempting to pressure Congress to find a path out of the Iraq war. I am in favor of this campaign, of course, but it won’t be easy to find a way out of Iraq. That’s the definition of “quagmire.” Many of us, including myself, warned before the invasion that it would be difficult to leave once we toppled the Saddam government.

It could have been different: The invasion would have still been immoral, but if we had gone in with 100,000 troops we might have been home by now. What would it have taken? Protecting hospitals and civilian infrastructure instead of oilfields. Not dismantling the Iraqi army, but only the top generals who might face, along with Saddam, crimes against humanity trials. Strict oversight of rebuilding efforts, with no tolerance for graft or war profiteering and an emphasis on quick rebuilding of the country. Internationalizing the occupation force quickly, building no permanent U.S. bases. Quick transition to democratic rule.

Now, it will be difficult to get the UN or any other international force to replace the U.S. forces. Without that, the incipient civil war could become full scale upon U.S. leaving. But neither can we stay since our presence is fueling both the indigenous (nationalist) insurgency and “al-Qaeda in Iraq,” the post-invasion violent jihadist (jihad also takes nonviolent forms) umbrella group of foreign fighters whose purpose is to make Iraq ungovernable.

Unfortunately, as with Yugoslavia, we may have to divide Iraq in order to prevent its self-destruction. If this is the route taken, I hope “Iraq” becomes the name of a confederation which itself could lead to a future reunified nation. There are problems with this solution, too: Turkey won’t want an independent Kurdish state on its border as a rallying point for the PKK (Kurdish separatists in Turkey) and neither the West nor the rest of the Middle East wants a Shi’ite state on the border with Iran. Nevertheless, when war has ruined the good outcomes, sometimes one has to choose the best of the bad alternatives that remain.

In the meantime, I would hope that NGOs like Christian Peacemaker Teams would continue training Muslim Peace Teams to create indigenous nonviolent movements that could help reunite Iraq and provide a visible alternative to armed insurgency.


September 23, 2006 - Posted by | peacemaking

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