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An Honorable Exit from Iraq

Poka Laenui Editor's note:  This article was orignally published in the Fall 2007 issue of YES! Magazine and re-printed on this site on September 18, 2007.  Despite a new administration in Washington and certain hopeful overtures on US Iraq policy, there is nothing in Poka Laenui's poignant perspective that doesn't deserve repeating.  On the Sixth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, let it serve as a reminder of the crimes of our goverment's ongoing policies and how far we still must travel on our path to a sustainable, just, and lasting peace in Iraq and with the Iraqi people.

The United States should not win in its war against Iraq. It should change its strategy to being just.

The United States was wrong to attack Iraq. Possession of weapons of mass destruction is not a justification, moreover Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Toppling Saddam Hussein is no justification; the imposition by a stronger nation of its political preference for the running of another nation's government has never been a legitimate basis for attack.

Every justification for the attack by the United States against Iraq leads to the same conclusion: the United States acted as an international delinquent, a violator of Iraqi sovereignty, and an international threat to peace.

So how could one even entertain the notion of winning a war for which there is no justification?

The thinking among the "leadership" of American society in trying to find a victorious exit from Iraq is awry. The United States has been the bad guy all along. It must now exit honorably. The elements of an honorable exit strategy should include the following:

1. Confession. Declare to the Iraqi people and the international community that the United States was wrong in conducting this war.

2. Apology. Apologize to the Iraqi people and the international community for its conduct of the war.

3. Reparation. Take responsibility for the repair of the damage caused by the war, and bring the people and the physical condition of Iraq back to the condition they would have been in had the United States not invaded Iraq. Iraqi families who have suffered the loss of lives or injuries should be compensated in amounts established by a neutral commission and fully funded by the United States.

4. Leadership. The United States should leave Iraq immediately and turn over its responsibility for reparation to an international coalition that will direct the rebuilding of Iraq.

5. Relinquish profits. The profits gained by U.S. companies and individuals as a result of the war should be turned over to the reparation effort.

6. Disengage from Iraqi affairs. The United States should make a legally binding commitment to refrain from any overt or covert attempt to affect the internal affairs of Iraq.

7. Accept accountability. U.S. individuals, including the highest-ranking civilian and military personnel, should be subject to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and to domestic courts to answer to war crimes charges. This plan will not be supported by the U.S. public initially, because of its high price. But the plan will stop the cost from escalating further in terms of lives lost and injuries on all sides of the war, and the destruction of property.

The price will only go higher the longer this unjust war continues, and the repayment will eventually be meted out, if not willingly by the United States, then through continued terrorism throughout the lives of our children and their children, ad infinitum.

The continuation of this war will not resolve terrorism. If terrorism is to end, it will only come through a just peace. An end to U.S. government terrorism will decrease other forms of terrorism, and this, along with the elements above, can begin to build a foundation of justice as the basis for long-lasting peace.

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Poka Laenui is executive director of Hale Na`au Pono, a Community Mental Health Center in Wai`anae, Hawai`i. He is active in the Hawai`i and international arena as a proponent for indigenous people's rights and for the decolonization of Hawai`i.

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