Amnesty for (some) Iraqi insurgents: Good idea?

I was reading this article today talking about the possibility of providing a limited amnesty for some of the insurgents in Iraq. From appearences this wouldn’t cover any of the foreign fighters, and also no one who has committed crimes against civilians (“Those who had committed homicides and caused blood shedding for the innocents will be excluded from this amnesty,”). I’m unsure if this will also extend to killing US/coalition soldiers…or Iraqi soldiers/police. Or if it should for that matter.

For debate, is this a good idea, to grant as wide an amnesty as possible and attempt to split the insurgency…and perhaps further alienate the foreign fighters from the general Iraqi population.

As an aside, thoughts on how far this amnesty should extend? Should Iraqi insurgents who fought solely against the US/coalition be included or not…and why not or why? How about those who target Iraqi military or civilian organizations like the police and other security type groups? Should the US be pushing for this…and if so, how hard should we press the Iraqi’s on an amnesty? Or should we leave it (and the terms) completely up to the Iraqi’s to decide?


Not much of a choice, xt. See, while the WH continues their delusional spin about the way things are going in Iraq, reality keeps getting in their way.

A number of things are happening at once and none of them bode well for the Bush Cabal. Take a look for yourself:

Iraq News Is Bleak, Even for Pentagon Clip Service

If you take the time to follow the cites provided therein, you’ll find one in particular that deals with the concerns raised in your OP. Namely that against all spin, there is NO military victory in sight. Not now and likely not in the long run either.

In fact, I’ll go ahead and link straight to that story. This is what your own military is saying about the situation:

Military force not enough in Iraq

From there:

I’ll leave it up to you to connect the dots.

At some point an amnesty is probably a necessary step. If the insurgency is sizable you don’t want to force its members to remain active as the only means to avoid prosecution, long after the issue has been settled. (Let the dead enders fade away rather than taking a big chunk of Iraq with them). Distinguishing between the “soldiers” of the insurgency and the “murderers” who killed civilians probably allows some flexibility in prosecuting the worst offenders. Having both sides conveniently agree that the “murderers” were mostly foreigners is certainly a unifying idea (and may even be true)

From a domestic Iraqi political point of view I would think that for an amnesty to have meaning those who fought against the new government or its American and coalition allies would have to be included for the amnesty to have meaning. Whether this will fly in Washington is another question entirely. I seem to recall this issue arising previously and Washington quashing any idea that granted amnesty to those who fought against our troops. (Understandable, certainly from an American domestic political point of view).

An amnesty only of non-combatants would be meaningless absent a truly secure Iraq where there is a sea-change in opinions about the insurgency (which may be just one atrocity away I suppose).

Whether in the long run an amnesty will lead to ex-insurgents getting free drinks for war stories at bars in their dotage (or whatever the Islamic equivalent) or just give them a few years to train and build up courage for a rematch would depend on the Iraqis and their new government.

Iraq is a sovereign nation and may apply an amnesty to whomever they wish.

pause for hysterical laughter

I think an amnesty is an excellent idea. It should be applied only to those who fought military/police targets, though. I think allowing those who attacked civilians to receive an amnesty would be a travesty.

Actually, I’m not sure why I’m posting. MMI’s post stated pretty much my exact opinion.

[Reader’s Digest version]
Me, too.
[/Reader’s Digest version]

Problem goes deeper than that, IMO.

For instance, I question the legitimacy of the current “transitional Iraqi Government.” How long would it survive on its own?

Seems to me that if one measures a Government by its ability to, well, govern, there’s none in central Iraq.

PS-On the strenght of the insurgency.

Informed Comment

Just another day in newly freed Iraq.

I think amnesty offers are usually a good idea, but this one seems premature. I think it would have been better to wait until the insurgents looked like they were unambiguously loosing the war.

It seems like offering it now would only put the people who’d accept it in danger.

If my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a bycicle.

From post number two in this very thread:

Much more at source. From your own commanders on the ground.

Channeling Otto von Bismarck, putting on realpolitik glasses…

Could be a good move for the Iraqis. Especially if America makes some kind of display of opposing the gesture, they could then be seen as being independent, even defiant, of America. Nice thing about amnesty, if it works you look great, and if it doesn’t you can come down with both jackbooted feet and shrug, saying “Hey, we tried, they hate freedom…” Amnesty is easily cancelled, especialy when you got the names and addresses of the people who applied for amnesty.

What I fear most in the shorter term is that American support for the Shia government will be increasingly seen as a sectarian issue, that America loves Shia and hates Sunni. This would be a bad thing. Hoo, doggies.

Trouble is, from a “spreading democracy” point of view, the Shia government is legitimate, the Shia are the majority. Indeed, an oppressed majority. They have every right to demand power and use it as they see fit.

Cold realism: we should throw our weight behind a Shia strongman, a Saddam Lite, declare his regime legitimate and get the Hell out of Baghdodge. This is not a good outcome. But I’m becoming increasingly convinced that there is none.


A military solution is not possible. A political solution, led by the Iraqi government and viewed by the population as legitimate might work. And if that happens (and I agree that it’s an enormous if), then an amnesty would make sense.

Offering amnesty to an enemy that isn’t losing is a bit ridiculous; but the enemy can lose through a variety of means, not just a defeat at the hands of the US military.

While in general, amnesty seems like a good idea, I’m not sure it’ll make much difference. I imagine the the gov’t has gone after just about any insurgent they have a name and address for. Most of the others , therefore, can probably find amnesty just by hanging up their AK-47’s and melting back into the populace. This would have the added advantage for them of not having to trust the Iraqi gov’t at it’s word, or risking that they wouldn’t fall in to one of the categories of insurgent that doesn’t qualify for amnesty and being arrested once they turned themselves in.

That pretty much sums it up. The insurgents are in the same position of the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

The don’t have to win. They just have to not lose. If they can do that long enough we’ll end up deciding the price is too high and bug out (with honor, of course).

So anything that starts to bring the insurgency strength levels down would be helpful.

Hell, offer them all green cards and $10,000 cash and see what that does.

Exactly. And by that metric they are, in fact, winning. As I’ve pointed out a couple of times in this thread already, your commanders on the ground, if you’re able to get past the jargonese, are saying as much.

As for the potential benefits of the ammnesty in question, if the offer is sincere, seems to me it would have to include a timetable for COW troops withdrawl. Because if they agree on little else, that is the one binding ideology amongst the insurgents and their copious supporters.

Doubt the US is on the same page – sadly I see more of the same, and worse, ahead.

Well, I don’t really want to get into the whole debate on if we are winning or losing the war. I disagree that things looks so bleak (or even that winning/losing is cut and dried enough to make a clear call) or that the insurgents are winning…or that their situation is improving. For every commander who you quote (or interperet) I can find one who paints a rosier picture. All that will do is you will say that guy is lieing or being pressured to put on a brave face, etc. From a military perspective the US/Iraqi government holds the high ground essentially and has all the aces. For the insurgents to win they have to be able to sustain this level of effort for years…something I don’t think they are capable of, not at the present/past levels. YMMV and as I said, I don’t want to debate that here (again).

As for my OP, and having said the above, I agree that amnesty (at least a limited amnesty) looks pretty promissing from my perspective. Its a win/win for the Iraqi government…IF they do it right. Part of that though is going to involve, IMHO, breaking somewhat away from America and setting the amnesty on anyone who has not specificially targetted CIVILIAN targets. Thats going to mean amnesty for people who have directly fought both the US/coalition forces and the Iraqi military forces (though I would draw the line on the mass assassinations of the police as that has involved civilians in the attacks). Thats going to be a tough pill for the US to swallow from a political perspective, but I REALLY think its a pill the Iraqi government needs to force down our throats to make this work.

IF they actually do an amnesty, and IF its correctly selective, I think they can go a long way to isolating the insurgency to foreigners and mercenary types…and if they can do that, then every attack by the insurgency will only breed anger and determination for peace and a ‘get back to business’ attitude in the general population of Iraqi’s.


Military action was never intended to destroy the insurgencies (yes, plural; there are or were multiple ones). It did a fine job of changing the platform on which it rested. Even Sunni’s are changing opinions about the new government, in large part because they see their Shia and Kurd neighbors doing fairly well and being pretty much fre of mass violence. Instead, they, the Sunni’s, are being attacked by the foreigners they invited in.

Note that the insurgencies have changed tactics recently to attack civilian populations more and more. This is eroding their credibility in Iraq severaly. Even if the US withdrew now, it’s highly unlikely that it would fall in anarchy easily. The insurgents cannot win. The only issue now is making sure the new government remains stable long enough to solidify its position in Sunni territory.

Military action, in this context, is a tool but was never the whole of the matter. Regardless of whether you like Pres. Bush, he does not rely on guns where flowers will do.

OK. But then you go on to do just that. Impossible to argue one thing without discussing the other.

Is there a higher military authority on the ground than Gen. George W. Casey? Because this is what he just said about the current state of affairs:

Seems pretty clear to me this is not a one-of comment but rather the consensus amongst your COs and not the opposing view which you claim you can present.

Well as long as you dont want to “debate that here” and do so anyway, I’ll proceed likewise.

Putting on my own Mrs Cleo hat, I see your bet and raise you any number of years:

1-They are, in the majority, fighting for their country against an occupying force. Motivation is not going to be a factor for them. Can you say the same thing about US troops? Have you read the latest numbers on recruiting goals? Think the insurgents are having the same difficulty? Think again and re-read Gen Casey’s comment: ``the Pillsbury Doughboy idea’’

2-Aces? What aces? For all the US’s technological advantages, seems to me, that they are incapable of putting down the resistance.

Think Soviets in Afghanistan for a clearer picture.

First of all, there is no Iraqi Goverment in the strict sense of the word, but rather a transitional goverment with no apparent powers to engage in long term negociations with anyone. Remember, their main task is to draw a Constitution by August and prepare new elections for what is supposed to become the sovereign Iraqi Gov. Me, I think it’s all a facade for the real power struggle going on behind closed doors between the many aspiring factions and the US’s ultimate goal – which has little to do with “democracy” or “freedom” BTW. But that is yet another lenghty topic.

Again, IMO, no timetable for departure, not much to negociate for a large part of the insurgency.

Historically, time’s on their side – and they know it.

Yep. And no better example than the larger topic that occupies us here, the invasion of Iraq and the ensuing cascade of flowers proffered by the newly liberated Iraqis.

Thanks for that. You’re a funny guy.

Well, I really didn’t want to debate this again, and not here. I’ll just respond briefly to your comments and leave it up to you where we go from there. Seems we are essentially in agreement about the actual OP.

Well, unfortunately your cite requires registration so I couldn’t really go through it. Nothing in what you quoted though indicates, to me at lesat, that Casey is claiming we are losing…which seems to be what you are stating.

Doesn’t seem like he’s talking about anything more than how an insurgency like this works. I don’t see where he’s basically throwing up his hands and saying the whole thing is doomed…which is again what you seem to be implying to me.

Motivation may or may not stay high with the insurgents…no one can tell. Its equally possible that eventually the Iraqi people will get fed up and turn on the insurgents, or on the US/Iraqi government. Neither you or I can make a reasonable prediction as to how motivated or not motivated the insurgents will remain. We also don’t know the latest numbers on recruiting goals for the insurgents…is it going up steadily? Has it peaked? Is it going down? No one knows. And no one knows how it will be 6 months, a year, 5 years into the future either.

What we CAN think about though are logistics. Do you know what makes an insurgency go? Money and supplies. Iraq started off flush with money, weapons, amunition and munitions. SH literally had the nation bristling with them, stockpiles everywhere (and IIRC he managed to loot his own banks just before the war started, carting off billions of dollars in hard currency to gods know where…at a guess though, a lot of that fell in the pockets of some of these insurgent groups).

However, such things are not a perpetual motion machine. Every time a stockpile is located and destroyed, every time a base is hit…hell, every time weapons are used and fired…its a drain. Assuming for a second that the Iraqi government/military eventually gets their shit together and is able to at least make inroads into closing the borders to massive resupply, just where do you expect the weapons and supplies to come from in the future? Who is going to supply them and how are they going to get them there? Oh, no doubt a trickle will continue in, but we aren’t talking Vietnam or Afghanistan here.

Why? Because it hasn’t happened yet? Are there any indications that the insurgency is making any headway? Do you pre-suppose that the Iraq military will never get any stronger? That the border will never be closed? I will take back my statement that we have ALL the advantages though…thats not true. Resistance fighters always have some advantages, the biggest is generally being able to decide the timing for their attack. But you don’t really understand military matters much if you fail to see what a disadvantage the insurgents have especially in this particular war. They have no real means of logistics resupply in any meaningful way once the surplus supplies they are using runs out. Their insurgency is fragemented without any common goals…a situation that could lead to infighting eventually. The Iraqi government/military IS getting stronger. And of course there is the US military who has a pocketful of aces up its sleeve. Satelite and remote drone recon, better equipment, better training, better (and completely secure) communications, better (and again secure) logistics. The one wild card is…political will. Do we have it to stay there for another 5 years? Gods know, I don’t.

Look, I’m not saying that this insurgency is going to just disappear or that we are necessarily winning it…I’m just saying you are over stating to say we are losing this war atm. Right now I think its pretty finely balanced and its riding on A) How well this new Iraqi government does and is accepted by the Iraqi people, B) How well and rapidly their own military spins back up to speed…and what its final incarnation actually IS, C) If the US is able to hold on by its finger nails to some kind of reputation and goodwill in the region (I know, not much hope but not all lost…yet). This issue won’t be decided on the battlefield but by the citizens of Iraq.

Ok. WHo is playing the role of the US, getting billions of dollars, weapons systems and training and ‘advisors’ to the Iraqi insurgents? Who are the unifying rebel leaders? I admit that Afghanistan is a lot closer a model of Iraq than Vietnam is, but there are still problems with trying to use this to get a clear picture of whats going on in Iraq or to make any kind of predictions by comparing what happened in Afghanistan. For one thing the terrain is completely different. The relation to the borders is different. And of course, the logistics is different…there simply IS no superpower thats going to help out the Iraqi insurgents. Hell, no nation state is going to come out and support the Iraqi insurgents except maybe covertly…and it will be pretty covert at that, since no one wants to be caught red handed with Bush and his lunitics in office. Gods know what they would do if they had REAL proof that, say, Syria, was openly giving the insurgents money, arms and training. The saying ‘come down on them like a ton of bricks’ comes to mind though, and I’m sure that isn’t lost on Syria or any other state around Iraq.

Anyway, if you want to continue this, by all means start a thread entitled ‘Resolved: The US is losing the war in Iraq’ and present your evidence. I’m not seeing it, but hey…not like I haven’t been wrong before. Prove your case and maybe I’ll change my mind. But for THIS thread, lets stick to the Amnesty and whether its a good or bad thing. I was really hoping SOMEONE would come in and say it was a bad idea, but so far everyone, to one degree or another, is saying its a good thing.


Thanks Squink.

I agree…I think long term only a political solution, and and IRAQI political solution, will work. Thats why I’m hopeful about this amnesty idea.

Definitely. For this to work the Sunni Muslims need to be brought into the government in a real way.

Interesting. From what I had been reading and from what some of my friends in the military have been telling me, this paints a slightly different picture (though he doesn’t really give many details here so its hard to say). I had been hearing that, numbers wise, the insurgency seemed to have stabalized, neither shrinking nor growing. And of course, this doesn’t get into the long term logistics aspects that I think are key to continueing an insurgency at the current/past levels. However, he’s a hell of a lot more knowledgable on this than I am, so I assume he is factoring all that in when he (and the others in the article) make their comments on the state of the war there.

I’m going to mull this over and do some research on my own…might need to (again) re-assess my stance on this subject. Hell, getting to be a regular thing with me changing my position on this damn war.


I don’t get, I honestly don’t. You get to respond point by point to my post and ask me (for a second time) to refrain from rebutting. And again, I’ll note that the two topics are inexorably interwined – as you can see by my very first post to this thread, the “ammesty strategy” is being forced upon the COW by the very strenght of the resistance. Nota bene: it’s not ME that’s saying that (even if I obviously agree) but your own COs!

From Squink’s link (ty, BTW):

At any rate, at the OP’s request, I’ll bow out of this thread.

I may or may not pursue a separate one – you can lead a horse to water and all that…