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Last week, a majority of Iraqi lawmakers demanded a timetable for U.S. and other foreign troops to leave their country. The very next day, the Al Fadhila party, a Shi'ite party considered moderate by the (often arbitrary) standards of the commercial media, held a press conference, in which it offered a 23-point plan for stabilizing Iraq.
The plan addressed not only the current situation in Iraq -- acknowledging the legitimacy of Iraqi resistance, setting a timetable for a complete withdrawal of occupation troops and rebuilding the Iraqi government and security forces in a nonsectarian fashion -- but also the challenging mission of post-occupation peace building and national reconciliation. It included provisions for disbanding militias, protecting Iraq's unity, managing Iraq's natural resources, building relationships with other countries based on mutual interest and the principle of non-intervention in domestic issues, and healing the wounds of more than 30 years of dictatorship, war, sanctions and foreign occupation.
An online search shows that the peace plan was largely ignored by the Western commercial media.
That's par for the course. While every nuance of every spending bill that passes the U.S. Congress is analyzed in minute detail, the Iraqis -- remember them? -- have proposed a series of comprehensive peace deals that might unite the country's ethnic and sectarian groups and result in an outcome American officials of all stripes say they want to achieve: a stable, self-governing Iraq that is strong enough to keep groups like al Qaeda from establishing training camps and other infrastructure within its borders.
Al Fadhila's peace plan was not the first one offered by Iraqi actors, nor the first to be ignored by the Anglo-American Coalition. More significant even than proposals made by Iraqi political parties are those put forth by the country's armed resistance groups --- the very groups that have the ability to bring a halt to the cycle of violence. Comprehensive plans have been offered by the Baath party, which ruled Iraq for three generations, the Islamic Army in Iraq and other major armed resistance groups and coalitions. The plans vary on a number of points, but all of them shared a few items in common: the occupation forces must recognize them as legitimate resistance groups and negotiate with them, and the United States must agree to set a timetable for a complete withdrawal from Iraq. That's the key issue, but Iraq's nationalists see it only as the first step in the long path to achieving national reconstruction and reconciliation.
But these plans are unacceptable to the Coalition because they (a) affirm the legitimacy of Iraq's armed resistance groups and acknowledge that the U.S.-led coalition is, in fact, an occupying army, and (b) return Iraq to the Iraqis, which means no permanent bases, no oil law that gives foreign firms supersweet deals and no radical restructuring of the Iraqi economy. U.S. lawmakers have been and continue to be faced with a choice between Iraqi stability and American Empire, and continue to choose the latter, even as the results of those choices are splashed in bloody Technicolor across our TV screens every evening.
Last year, a comprehensive, 28-point proposal for stabilizing Iraq was offered by the nascent Iraqi government itself after long meetings with different Iraqi groups. According to local polls and political leaders, most Iraqis believed it was the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel -- the plan was attractive to the vast majority of the public, even those Iraqis affiliated with violent resistance groups. But the plan wasn't acceptable to Washington, and was watered down so as to be unrecognizable under U.S. pressure.
Many Americans -- quite understandably -- believe that only wild-eyed, RPG-toting crazies who, in the words of George W. Bush, "hate and fear democracy," oppose a U.S.-led occupation that would otherwise be embraced -- or at least tolerated -- by a majority of "good" or "moderate" Iraqis.
Peaceful protest suppressed
But while the commercial press focuses on the bloody scenes created by those who have taken up arms against the occupation and the fledgling Iraqi government, the reality is that a significant opposition has been expressed in nonviolent means such as regular demonstrations on the streets of Baghdad and other cities, petitions signed by Iraqis, strikes organized by Iraqi unions, parliamentarian work to create binding legislation, and opinion articles in the dozens of Iraqi newspapers that have proliferated since the invasion. This nonviolent demonstration of Iraqis' anti-occupation sentiment reflects large majorities of all of Iraq's major ethnic and sectarian groups -- more than eight out of 10, according to many polls.
As early as 2005, the University of Michigan's Juan Cole reported that the Sadrist movement -- named after the father of the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr -- had gathered a million signatures on a petition demanding a timetable for occupation forces to withdraw. More recently, the Arabic press reported that as many as a million Iraqis -- a million Shia and Sunni working together -- had protested the continuing occupation in Najaf on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad last month.