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Initiative for Peace in Iraq by South Mountain Peace Action and Families of the Fallen for Change

An Initiative for Peace in Iraq by South Mountain Peace Action
and Families of the Fallen for Change.

On February 8, 2006, a public forum was held in Maplewood NJ on US policy alternatives in Iraq. The forum was called "A Responsible Withdrawal from Iraq." Five categories of withdrawal proposals were discussed at the forum, as well as President Bush's "National Strategy for Victory."

In this report, the forum sponsors, South Mountain Peace Action and Families of the Fallen for Change, review and update the five withdrawal proposal categories and the President's victory strategy. We include feedback from forum attendees. And finally, we make a recommendation on which proposals should be adopted to achieve a Responsible Withdrawal from Iraq.

The five categories of withdrawal proposals that were presented at the February 8, 2006 forum can be found at:

Link to Withdrawal Proposals

Recent developments that impact our findings:

(1) A poll by Zogby International and Le Moyne College taken between Jan 18th and February 14, 2006 found that 72% of US troops in Iraq want theUS to withdraw its troops by the end of 2006 and 29% want US troops withdrawn immediately. At the same time, 53% want the number of troops doubled and bombing missions increased to control the insurgency.

Link to Zogby poll of US Troops in Iraq.

(2) The level of violence between Iraqi factions rose to record levels following the February 22, 2006 bombing of the Shiite Golden Mosque in Sammara.

Link to article on Bombing of Golden Mosque.

(3) A reported Iraqi Sunni peace proposal that includes a role for the United Nations and possible international peacekeepers from Arab countries has been cited by Tom Hayden.

Link to Tom Hayden article

The proposal appears on a website called "Iraq Resistance"

An Assessment of the Proposals and Victory Strategy and
Recommendations for Action by South Mountain Peace Action
and Families of the Fallen for Change:

Our purpose in holding the February 8, 2006 Forum was not to revisit the origins of the war in Iraq, but to educate ourselves and the public on existing proposals to end US military involvement there so that we could adopt an informed position on how to work for a responsible US withdrawal from Iraq.

Families of the Fallen for Change has developed and is advocating its own withdrawal proposal based on an agreement with Iraqi factions, including the insurgency (but not Al-Qaeda), that US troop levels be lowered in tandem with lowered levels of violence in Iraq.

South Mountain Peace Action has advocated an international solution, led by the United Nations, to allow a rapid return of US soldiers, similar to Representative Lynn Woolsey's Resolution H Con Res 35. This solution was expressed in a petition with 1,300 local names delivered to our two Congressmen and two Senators in 2005.

SMPA also initiated a public letter signed by all local officials of Maplewood and South Orange and nearly all student representatives at Columbia High School and Seton Hall University urging our Senators to co-sponsor the Feingold Resolution for a timetable for US withdrawal.

The essence of the positions of SMPA and FoF is that we want US military involvement in Iraq to end as rapidly as possible in a manner that will minimize further loss of life for Americans and Iraqis and will give the Iraqi people the best possible opportunity for establishing a peaceful and viable society.

At our forum, Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, citing the views of Middle East intelligence experts, said, "No one believes there will be more violence if we withdraw from Iraq than if we stay." However, SMPA and FoF believe that a US withdrawal should be designed to minimize the level of violence in Iraq after we leave. The FoF proposal is unique in providing specific mechanisms to encourage lower levels of violence as American troops withdraw.

As the FoF proposal provides, the starting point to achieve lowered violence is through negotiations with all Iraqi factions, including the insurgents (but not Al-Qaeda). We believe that an important role can be played in the negotiations by the United Nations and other international bodies such as the Arab League.

We also believe a role for such organizations is vital to help Iraqis find common ground to create a civil society and institutions that address the interests of all Iraqi factions.

And finally, as provided in the Woolsey Resolution, a role for a non-US international peacekeeping force should be considered to help Iraqis make the transition to full sovereignty.

SMPA / FoF Initiative:

Following these points and taking into consideration the
opinion of nearly three of four American troops in Iraq that we
should withdraw by the end of 2006, SMPA and FoF recommend the following:

(1) That Congressman John Murtha's resolution to redeploy US forces "at the earliest practicable date" be supported in the House and that Representatives be encouraged to amend the resolution to incorporate the FoF proposal that would tie the rate of redeployment to lowered levels of violence, with the agreement with all Iraqi factions, including the insurgents (but not Al-Qaeda). We also encourage an amendment that would call for a process -- with the agreement of all Iraqi factions as defined above -- to involve international organizations, especially the Arab League and the United Nations, to help build civil institutions that represent the interests all of Iraqi society.

(2) That similar legislation that incorporates the Murtha resolution, the FoF proposal and the role of international organizations, be introduced in the Senate.

SMPA and FoF believe that combining the Murtha and FoF proposals and an increased role for international organizations provides a framework under which US troops could leave Iraq in conditions of decreasing violence with improved chances for peaceful accomodation among the Iraqi factions. However, if negotiations fail to result in lowered levels of violence over an extended period of time -- six months to a year -- then the Murtha proposal would be controlling and a US troop withdrawal would proceed under its terms alone.

Appendix 1

Presentations at February 8, 2006 Forum, "A Responsible Withdrawal from Iraq."

Appendix 2

Texts of Iraq Withdrawal Proposals

Appendix 3

Feedback from Forum Attendees:

From Chris H
Thank you for an informative meeting. However, I believe we should not be discussing the various proposals, ALL of which contain CONDITIONS for US withdrawall. The anti-war movement must like we did during Vietnam, keep the focus on "Bring the Troops Home Now" to relate to the soldiers, and truly "OUT NOW" is the only demand we should have. We have no right to impose any plans or conditions. They will figure out how to get out when we make them.get out.
Demonstrations, defense of anti-war GIs, rallys, Resolutions calling for "OUT NOW", reaching out to new constituancies through Mass Actions, Referendums etc. will all create the climate where the GI's will feel able to join with us and will make a draft impossible. This will take time but relying on congress and the senate to do this will never happen until we mobilize the tremendous anti-war sentiment that is growing.
If it is true that the majority of Iraqi's want the US troops out, then "Bring them home Now" as the only practical focus, will have the most impact internationally and at home, and ultimately among the G.I.s.
During the Vietnam war there were big disagreements in the movement between "Negotiation" and "Immediate Withdrawal". There is an excellent book by Fred Halstead called "Out Now" which revisits the entire history of the U.S. movement against the war, and what worked and what didn't work . It is well worth reading.

Posted by: Chris H at February 9, 2006 11:22 AM


Reply to Chris H by Paul Surovell

Dear Chris H,

Perhaps you didn't notice, but one category of withdrawal proposals discussed at the Wednesday forum was called "Unconditional Withdrawal." The specific proposals can be viewed on the "Documents" page of this website. Click "Documents" at the top of this page.

Also, your assertion that the forum suggested that we rely on the Congress is somewhat misplaced. In fact, most speakers suggested that citizens need to PUSH Congress, as well as the President, to adopt a withdrawal strategy. In fact, it was stated from the podium and in the printed program, that a key purpose of the forum was to develop a report to present to New Jersey's Senators to urge them to support a withdrawal strategy.

On the question of whether Iraqis want US troops out NOW or over a timeframe, please click "News & Opinion" at the top of this page and you'll find a recent poll that found that 70% of Iraqis want a timetable for US withdrawal, but only 35% want the US out in six months or less. Similarly, you'll find a recent poll of Americans which found that 56% of Americans want a timetable for US withdrawal, but only 14% want the US out now.

Posted by: Paul Surovell, Moderator at February 11, 2006 11:24 AM

From Phil K

The Feb. 8 forum not only widened my understanding of options for Iraq, but was a gripping, fact-filled evening which held my interest throughout.

I was immensely impressed by the level of expertise and organization not only of the main commentators, but of all who were involved. Ray McGovern expressed everything my wife and I had felt and feared for three years, Paul Martin was practical and informative, and Paul Schroeder and Rosemary Palmer were nothing short of sensational.

Of the proposals, the McGovern plan as I understand it appeals to me the most. Because it cuts off funding for military action at a definite point, it is clear and not dependent on benchmarks or politics, which in this climate will be manipulated; and it finances the debt of reconstruction we owe the Iraqi people. It also, by definition, stops the uncontrolled bleeding of dollars which we cannot afford and, I believe, has conditions, finally, for contracting the reconstruction funds fairly. Next I like both the International plan (because it widens involvement to what it always should have been), and the FOFC plan (because, while a longshot, it addresses the US and opposing combatants directly).

The Warner and Feingold plans will only become political footballs if implemented, and the Bush/Hyde plan: well, I don't want to be accused of disliking it because it's Bush, but I kept looking it over AND THERE IS NO PLAN.

As for our withdrawal making the situation worse, at this point I don't see how that would happen, but withdrawal could certainly give it the chance to improve. Who is to say the Iraqis cannot settle their own issues post-Saddam, either as one unified country, a three-part federation under treaty to share resources or, if a civil war is inevitable, it will come whenever we leave (we had one here and survived).

Finally, putting together the thoughts of Wednesday evening with my own information and speculation, I am pretty well convinced that not only is the war a lie, but training Iraqi troops is a lie, reconstruction is a lie, and this administration's talk of ever leaving is a lie.

This is but the Endless War tour of the Bushites, tickets paid for with the lives of the young, the dreams of the poor, and the future of the Republic: step right up, past the Reagan the Great Communicator monument, drop your freedoms in the turnstile, and come on in!

Posted by: Phil K at February 10, 2006 09:24 PM


From Dorothea H

Wow! what a wonderful forum! It definitely advanced my knowledge of the options available and my understanding to the extent that I feel maybe we could make a difference. Most of the time, it seems so hopeless, but knowing about proposals in Congress brings hope and helpful focus. Above all, the Forum pretty much convinced me that immediate withdrawal is the only way. I wasn't ready to say that before! I was concerned that it would worsen the situation.

I think that I would support the proposal by McGovern, Price and Miller, and UFPJ (same?), though as soon as practicable seems pretty vague. I looked up H.R.4232 on the Internet and get nervous about supplying funds to any agency of the U.S.Government for reconstruction. Careful oversight would be essential.

The International Solution sounds promising, too, with the emphasis on diplomacy. I'm strongly for that. As for Schroeder's proposal, the Benchmarks, "levels of violence," how would these be determined? Sounds rather difficult to me. In general, I think it is a big order for a layman to judge which is best.

You were concerned about the length of the program; I can understand, but the way you involved many people of diverse backgrounds was brilliant. No better way to develop commitment and spread interest around.

Of course, Ray McGovern was terrific. I've only heard him on "Expert Witness." Never saw him, and he's got it all: charm, wit, experience, intelligence.

Posted by: Dorothea H at February 14, 2006 12:55 PM


From Barbara B

Rank 1 / Rep. Murtha / Easiest and cheapest to implement. Why continue a war that shouldn't have been started in the first place? Could cause more violence or a civil war to break out.

Rank 2 / Rep Woolsey / To sustain stability in the region, this should be done as we are withdrawing our troops. May be hard to organize given the distrust most countries feel for the USA, but worth a try

Rank 3 / Families of the Fallen for Change / Good idea. This should probably be tried first quietly through diplomatic channels. This could give Iraq's insurgency a reason to stop the violence. /

Rank 4 /Senator Feingold / okay, better than the other two proposals

Rank 5 / Senator Warner / too indefinite, too vague

Rank 6 / President Bush / Goals are impossible to achieve in this environment. We'll never leave Iraq if we want all of this to happen.

Posted by: Barbara B at February 23, 2006 02:05 PM


From Chris B

Question 1 Rank by preference, why?

International Solution -- The broadest base of support and removal of the US as sole provider [and target of insurgency]

Withdrawal based on benchmarks -- Easily quantifiable, gives Iraqis immediate control

Unconditional Withdrawal -- Risky, but defined.

Timetable for Withdrawal -- Should have been done years ago; may be too late for this now.

Warner amendment -- Better than nothing.

Question 2 Least preferred

Bush Strategy - Ill defined; at some point we will declare victory and leave. This is not so much withdrawal strategy as mission statement.

Question 2 [the other one] Unconditional withdrawal worsen situation for Iraq

I feel this is very risky for Iraq, but any course taken is very risky. The problem going in was the impossibility of controlling, or even predicting, the many constituencies' behavior in the power vacuum left in Saddam's wake. That problem remains insoluble, particularly for the US administration hobbled by an unrealistic worldview, and distrusted by almost everyone.

Question 3 Problems with benchmark proposal

I think the idea of benchmarks is very good, but how do you design it so it would be politically acceptable? I don't see Bush giving up ontrol. I believe one of the prime motives for the invasion is to establish a permanent military presence in the Middle East. If that is so, Bush will want it worded so that we are never really compelled to leave.

Question 4 Problems with international proposal.

An international group facilitating the transition to Iraqi sovereignty is the ideal solution, BUT - the US acted [de facto] unilaterally in invading Iraq. To now cede control to an International authority would be to acknowledge defeat. I fear that as long as the US electorate has any will to stay in Iraq, Bush will use that will to push the present agenda.

Question 5 Did the Forum advance my understanding of the options?

Yes, very much. Even more than that, it brought home the importance of contacting our Congressional representatives and newspaper editors to apply pressure to get things moving. [at the end of this response, I pasted an email I recently sent to Bill Pascrell]

Question 6 Any other ideas

When the the video taken at the forum is to be broadcast, publicize it - try to get as many people as possible to see it.

Sent to Bill Pascrell on Feb 10, 2006:

Dear Mr. Pascrell,

Thank you for your response to my email message about our involvement in Iraq. I am reassured by your position, and I hope that Democrats [and concerned Republicans] will become much more forceful in demanding responsible behavior by the current administration.

I agree that we need to examine the actions and motivations that brought about our involvement in Iraq - in due course. Though this pursuit should not be neglected nor given cursory attention, disengagement from the war should be front and center. Many good people are dying every day, and as grim statistics confirm, are dying in the cause of moving us further from our goal of preserving our own security.

I applaud your co-sponsorship of the Murtha resolution. This is not my ideal solution for disengagement, and is frought with risk for Iraq and America. However the Bush administration strategy is no more than slogans circulated to promote a climate of fear and false patriotism - how else can you negotiate with that unless in absolutes?

9/11 was an event that transformed our country in ways that we cannot yet appreciate. I hope not too many years will pass before we regain a sense of confidence as a nation that will leave us less vulnerable to manipulation of our fear. I elieve that this is at the heart of the feeble Congressional response to the march to war in the Winter of 2003. There were many voices of reason from all around the world who foresaw what now transpires, yet they were ignored - shouted down, by what? The tasks before Congress today are: first, end the war as quickly as possible, and second, really examine what part each of us played in getting us into the war in the first place.

Thanks again for your response, keep up the good work,

Chris B

Posted by: Chris B at February 25, 2006 09:16 AM


From Mary B

Question 1:

First choice: Benchmarks -- would give Iraqi people some sense of control and produce lowering violence.

Second choice: Timetable for Withdrawal -- withdrawal would start this year and there would be a plan to keep withdrawing.

Third choice: International Plan -- There would be the pressure of international community to withdraw and hopefull the Iraqis would not hate an international force as much as they hate the US.

Question 2:

Least preferred -- Bush strategy. Disagree with mission to win the war. It is an unjust war that is causing extreme suffering and destruction of infrastructure in Iraq. The creation of stability, peaceful conditions and sound economy are worthy goals if they could be achieved without war.

Question 3:

We might reduce our forces and later have violence increase.

Question 4:

Possible downside: It might be impossible for the 3 groups to reach agreement

Question 5:

Yes. This was an extraordinarily good program with excellent written material.

Posted by: Mary B at February 25, 2006 09:18 AM

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