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Granting Amnesty to Iraqi Insurgents

I'm surprised by Democrat responses to to al-Malaki's proposal to grant amnesty to insurgents who pledge allegiance to the new government. Carl Levin has called it "Unconscionable,” Schumer said it is "an affront to every American," but I'm afraid this has less to do with policy and justice than it does about finding another issue on which to attack the administration.

Granting Amnesty in post-conflict stabilization is nothing new and has been miraculously successful in the past. Two great examples where Amnesty was used in post-conflict reconstruction are the American Civil War and the South African Truth and Reconcilliation Commission after apartheid. Lincoln offered Amnesty to members of the confederacy, who among other things, pledged allegience to the Union and did not mistreat soldiers held as prisoners of war. Following apartheid, instead of prosecuting all criminals vis-a-vis Nuremberg, South Africa instead decided to hold public hearings where criminals who confessed their crimes openly would receive amnesty, and also bring closure to victims' families.

In both the cases of America and South Africa, amnesty was superior to prosecution. Mass prosecutions of all criminals would have strained the new government's coffers by paying for enormous terms of imprisonment, drained the economies by removing substantial portions of the skilled labor force, and fostered a culture of resentment and vengeance with those disaffected by the new regime.

The same holds for Iraq, a country divided along sectarian lines that can't afford more vengeance and more resentmnet, that can't afford an even greater handicap to its economy, that can't afford a cottage industry of prisons, and that can't afford... well, you get the idea.

I know that people want to do justice to American soldiers who gave their lives that Iraq might live. But as Abraham Lincoln noted in the Gettysburg address, "We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract." And he continued:
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain...
Senators Levin and Schumer are fixated on retribution for the insurgents that killed American lives. They should instead place their attention on the cause for which they gave their lives and the policies that are best for its future. That would be just.

Those comments where made about a plan to grant amnesty to insurgents who killed Americans. It was orginially rumored that the plan would grant immunity to Iraqis who killed Maiercans but not to those who killed Iraqis. That is what sparked the outrage. The final version of the plan however, didn't draw any distinction between American and Iraqi murders and didn't grant amnesty to either.

Hans, I understand that. But my more general point is that I don't see an amnesty to insurgents who have killed Americans as that outrageous.

We gave Amnesty to southern inciters of rebellions who killed Americans. South Africa gave amnesty to whites who killed blacks. In both cases, the outcome was probably better than what would have ensued under mass prosecutions.

The current amnesty proposal does not offer amnesty to insurgents who have already been convicted, but it does prevent futurue prosections of insurgents who are guilty (of which there are legions).

I think what is outrageous is sending the message that is okay to kill Americans but not Iraqis. Also, those amnesties we granted after the conflicts ended. This is literally returning killers to the Iraqi street to start killing Americans again.

Many of the pardons in the American Civil War were made in the middle of the war.

It was also my understanding that the distinction was not Americans vs. Iraqis, but American soldiers vs. Iraqi civilians. I could be wrong about this.

There are other issues I don't have time to go into now, but hopefully we can return to this later.

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