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End the War in Iraq and Pay Reparations

Unless we are serious about impeaching him, fact that George Bush lied us into the Iraq war or "mishandled" the war is irrelevant at this point in time, and Democrat harping on Bush's deceptions and incompetence only makes it harder to get out of Iraq "honorably." Nor does it matter whether or not the intelligence information received by the Congress during the run-up to the war was inaccurate, or that, as Hillary Clinton claims, "If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have voted to go to war."

These reactions all obscure the overriding MORAL fact that our country started an unjust and unnecessary war against another country. At this point it does not matter if the war was triggered by poor information, and it does not exonerate our nation if we acted on poor information, any more than it would exonerate anyone in a civil lawsuit. If, for example, a doctor in a medical care group does an unnecessary surgery because he acted on faulty information provided by another doctor in the group, and that surgery causes great harm, the group or the other doctor is liable. SOMEBODY has to pay. If the surgeon botches the operation, he or the group is liable. SOMEBODY has to pay.

The same legal and moral logic must be applied to the war in Iraq in order to make sense of this bloody situation. We as a country went to war, and at this point it doesn't really matter why or what individuals are culpable. We as a country are culpable, just as Germany and Japan were culpable for World War II. We as a nation made war, we as a nation destroyed a country, and we as a nation caused the death of thousands of people. What matters now is how to end the war, how to redress the terrible wrongs that we have done--how to make amends for a botched surgery that was done because of bad information. If we decide later that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice are war criminals, we can attend to their prosecution at a later time.

But as long as we are tied up in blaming Bush, his administration, and his military strategists, we will continue to miss this basic moral point.

It is also confusion about the basic moral point that forces many people to insist on staying in Iraq. "If we leave now, things will get even worse and descend into greater chaos," goes the argument for staying. What this really says is, "If we leave now, we will cause even more damage than we've already done." This is a MORAL argument. It admits we have done great wrong, but that we must continue to stay to prevent even greater wrong.

The problem is that staying is NOT the only way to prevent a greater wrong, nor does it even pretend to make amends for the wrong already done. It simply avoids responsibility for the destruction and murder for which we are responsible by burying it under more military activity.

But there is another way out of the war that forces us to face up to our moral responsibility to the Iraqi people. This is simply to admit we were wrong in starting a war and to offer to pay reparations to the Iraqis. Of course some will say this is a sign of weakness, but it is not. Just as truly strong people are not ultimately diminished by admitting they have done wrong, neither are powerful nations. In fact, such a move will only enhance that nations respect and reduce the anger that people of other countries feel toward it. Germany's open and powerful admissions of its immense crimes and its payments of reparations have not lowered its standing in the world. On the contrary, such actions have helped Germany regain its status.

(This is obviously not the only precedent for reparations, including voluntary reparations. The United States government has paid reparations to the 110,000 Japanese Americans who were interned in concentrations camps during World War II, and apologized for this wrongdoing. See www.pbs.org/childofcamp/history/civilact.html.)

It seems quite reasonable to estimate that Iraqi citizens deserve at least $250 billion in compensation for the death and destruction we have caused. This money could either be released in payments of about $10,000 to each individual Iraqi, or the sum could vary, being made to families based on the loss of life and property to each family. The latter would, of course, be more difficult to administer, but on the other hand would be more equitable.

These payments should be made on the strict condition that the Iraqis suspended the civil war they are now fighting among themselves. Any continuation or resumption of hostilities among Iraqis would result in cancellation of the payments. This stipulation itself might very well be more effective in keeping the situation from "getting worse and descending into further chaos" than sending more troops in Bush's proposed surge. It would certainly help begin to restore some of the respect we have lost throughout the world, and in the end might very well cost less than continuing to send troops and equipment to Iraq. It would also provide an opportunity to focus more directly on eliminating terrorists rather than distracting ourselves with a war that has actually become a recruiting tool for terrorists.

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