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Iraqis Must Heal Themselves, Writes Lee Hamilton '52

March 27, 2007

lee hamilton mtp dec 2005.jpgMarch 27, 2007, Greencastle, Ind. - "Call it what you want -- sectarian conflict, civil war, terrorism -- violence in Iraq is now mostly rooted in disagreements among Iraqis," writes Lee Hamilton in the Indianapolis Star. The former congressman, who co-chaired the Iraq Study Group and is a 1952 graduate of DePauw University, adds, "The U.S. has a significant role to play in helping to stabilize Iraq. Yet lasting peace and stability are possible only if Iraqis achieve national reconciliation."

A Democrat who served 34 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Hamilton continues, "For the Sunni insurgency to end, Iraq's Sunni Arabs must believe they can get a fair deal through the political process. For Shiite militias to stop killing Sunnis and attacking each another, Shiite factions must accept a view of democracy in which political power is not absolute. For iraq flag.gifIraq to avoid partition, Iraq's Kurds must balance a desire for greater autonomy with the benefits of a unified Iraq. The violence underscores the difficulty of the task, but there is wide agreement on what benchmarks need to be met to advance national reconciliation."

The man who has been called "Washington's indisputable Renaissance man" outlines a number of steps that he believes are necessary in Iraq, including provincial elections and a review of the constitution.

"Lasting peace will also depend upon a law on militias," declares Hamilton. "The Iraqi government, backed by the U.S., should use force to stop militias that act as death squads, or use violence against the state. However, given the prevalence of militias within Iraqi life, dealing with militias requires long-term attention and substantial funding to disarm, demobilize and re-integrate militia members into civilian society. The Iraqi government did not meet a December target date for a law on militias. Finally, national reconciliation should assure a place in Iraq for all Iraqis, including women and minorities. And civil society should be safeguarded from government infringement, as the registration of nongovernmentalLee Hamilton 2006 DD 2.jpg groups is often used as a tool for politicizing or stopping civil society activities."

The op-ed concludes, "Steps toward national reconciliation will not be easy to take. Yet, if these measures are not carried out, the prospects for peace are grim. As one U.S. general told the Iraq Study Group, if the Iraqis do not reconcile, 'all the troops in the world will not provide security.'"

Read the complete text at the Star's Web site.

Lee Hamilton was recently appointed to a twelve member, bipartisan "War Powers Commission." Learn more in this previous article.

He was on the Greencastle campus in October to discuss the Iraq war and other matters at DePauw Discourse 2006: Issues for America. Access a story -- including video and audio clips -- here.

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