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October 11, 2006

Iraq "reconciliation plan" promoted by American peace activists

Posted by David Postman at 11:18 AM

Dal LaMagna, liberal activist, businessman and co-chairman of Maria Cantwell's re-election campaign, is promoting a Reconciliation Plan for Iraq drafted after a meeting in Jordan between American peace activists and a group of Iraqis, including members of parliament, prominent sheiks and torture survivors.

The American delegation for the August trip included Cindy Sheehan, Tom Hayden, LaMagna and others from the groups Code Pink and Global Exchange.

The plan is comprised of what the Iraqi participants said they wanted to see happen in their country, LaMagna said. He filmed the trip. Excerpts of transcribed interviews with the Iraqis are included on the document he is circulating.

LaMagna is now going to promote the plan to Democratic congressional candidates as a way to get the U.S. out of Iraq in a fashion that best helps the Iraqis.

Cantwell has not seen what LaMagna produced, said campaign spokeswoman Katharine Lister:

"Senator Cantwell knew Dal LaMagna traveled to the Middle East in August and that he filmed his experience. But with preparation for the first of two debates and at least seven joint appearances, she hasn't had the chance to see the video."

LaMagna said he wants to tell Democratic candidates:

I am urging you to frame your comments about the Iraq crisis by saying: It's time Americans start caring about what the Iraqis want for their country rather than what the current U.S. administration wants.

There are 10 points to the plan:

1. End the occupation of Iraq. 2. Create a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops that is synchronized with the implementation of the Iraq reconciliation plan. 3. Disband the militias created after the occupation. 4. Revise Bremer's Orders and allow the Iraqis to rebuild their army. 5. Rewrite the Iraqi Constitution. 6. Keep Iraq as one state and do not partition into multiple states. 7. Begin the promised reconstruction of Iraq. Employ Iraqis and not foreign workers or contractors. 8. Acknowledge Iraqis' right to resist the U.S. occupation, negotiate with the resistance, and give amnesty to Iraqis resisting the occupation. 9. Investigate all the crimes that were committed by the new Iraqi Government and by the occupation forces in Iraq. 10. Make a fair distribution of oil income and natural resources.

LaMagna joined Cantwell's campaign in July as the senator tried to firm up her credentials with anti-war Democrats. LaMagna owns owned Tweezerman, a personal care business, and founded ProgressiveGovernment.org. He has also blogged at The Huffington Post.

If you look at the full plan and read the comments from the Iraqis you'll see that while they want the U.S. out, some caution against an immediate withdrawal, with one even saying Americans should not "cut and run." (A Shiite echoing Republican talking points.)

La Magna wants to push Democrats to change the way they talk about Iraq:

For instance knowing what I now know I find it disconcerting that Democratic candidates are referring to a "civil war" that is going on in Iraq. As you can read, these Iraqis feel there isn't a civil war going on but only the desire for certain interests to have everyone believe there is one in progress. Why? So people will accept the idea of partitioning Iraq, dividing it into three countries.

Every Iraqi we heard from was very clear that they want one Iraq.

Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., has proposed dividing Iraq and has warned it is dangerously close to civil war.

The list of Iraqi participants in the meeting includes some controversial figures, such as Sheik Ahmad Awad Al-Kubays. Rutgers University Professor Eric Davis wrote last year in "Religion in the News":

Said to be linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Kubaysi has been highly critical of the American administration in Iraq, and has not been shy about expressing his views in his newspaper, al-Sa'ah"(The Watch). In the June 9, 2004 edition, al-Kubaysi was quoted as saying: "Iraq is infected with several dangerous ailments, first of which is the occupation that wants to steal our land, funds, culture, and existence. The occupation also wants to steal our honor, as you heard from the scandal about what happened in its jails." ... Last September, the interim Iraqi government banned al-Kubaysi from returning to Iraq, reportedly because of his ties to Sunni militants. It was claimed that he gave $50 million to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to fund the latter's militant activities in 2003 — a charge both al-Kubaysi and al-Sadr denied.

The BBC's David Loyn talked to him in June 2003:

DAVID LOYN: In this mosque, the scars of war are a reminder of the continuing presence of Americans. The preacher we spoke to is a Wahabi, the sect which produced the Taliban. He has moderated his early call for an immediate armed uprising against the Americans but it's only on hold. He believes a jihad, or holy war, will be necessary for Iraq.

SHEIKH AHMED AL-KUBAYSI: Jihad has already been declared from the moment of occupation. From the day the foreigner entered our land, jihad was declared.

DAVID LOYN: Do you think there's a common cause between the former government forces and Islamic leaders?

SHEIKH AHMED AL-KUBAYSI: If you knew the nature of the Arabs and the Iraqis in general, you would not ask this. There are many basic things we agree on, like kicking the occupier out.

At the meeting with the Americans in August al-Kubaysi focused blame on America for Iraq's problems:

"We think of the occupation as a bad tree, and that bad tree is attracting all kinds of bad birds. And the only way to have these birds fly away is by cutting that tree."

"The truth is that as the sheik said before me there is only one problem in Iraq
that you all know. And that is the occupation and it's the source of all the
problems that's happening in Iraq. And they will start with hope and try to work
with you all of us to join our efforts to try stop that and prevent it from
continuing and end this occupation of Iraq."

Saleh Muhamed al-Mutlaq was another participant. He is the former chief Sunni representative on the National Assembly committee that drafted Iraq's new constitution. But he rejected the constitution and led an effort for Sunni's to vote against the referendum.

The August trip to Amman got very little attention in the United States except from supporters among peace activists and the left and critics on the right.

Geoffrey Millard, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace, was among the Americans on the trip. He wrote afterward that while there were conflicting views among Iraqis on how fast American should leave Iraq,

Either approach seems much closer to the Murtha or Kerry plan for exit of the region than the Bush doctrine of "stay the course" that now dictates American troop levels in the war.

On the right, the trip was seen as near treason. (Several conservative commenters, though, referred to Iraq as the meeting place, while the meetings took place in Amman, Jordan.) Said Front Page Magazine:

TO FIND PEOPLE WHO HATE AMERICA AS MUCH AS THEY DO, the Fifth Column Left had to go halfway around the world to meet with Iraqi political leaders who call terrorism "honorable national resistance" and say foreign jihadists "are guaranteed Paradise" — and at least one of whom has ties to militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr. By the end of the trip, the American leftists would echo these sentiments.

And locally, LaMagna's participation brought the attention of Sound Politics' Eric Earling who wrote in a September post:

Mr. LaMagna is clearly to the left of most of America, and associates closely with individuals whose views many voters would find disturbing. Perhaps Senator Cantwell could explain why he holds such a prominent position on her campaign?

UPDATE: LaMagna will be showing his film "Iraq for Sale" and talking about the trip to Jordan Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Playhouse on Bainbridge Island. It is free.

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