From those wonderful folks who broke the Downing Street Memo comes this latest bit of news. Is the U.S. negotiating with terrorists? According to this report in the Sunday Times of London, apparently so.
At a summer villa near Balad in the hills 40 miles north of Baghdad, a group of Iraqis and their American visitors recently sat down to tea. It looked like a pleasant social encounter far removed from the stresses of war, but the heavy US military presence around the isolated property signalled that an unusual meeting was taking place.
After weeks of delicate negotiation involving a former Iraqi minister and senior tribal leaders, a small group of insurgent commanders apparently came face to face with four American officials seeking to establish a dialogue with the men they regard as their enemies.
The talks on June 3 were followed by a second encounter 10 days later, according to an Iraqi who said that he had attended both meetings. Details provided to The Sunday Times by two Iraqi sources whose groups were involved indicate that further talks are planned in the hope of negotiating an eventual breakthrough that might reduce the violence in Iraq.
Despite months of American military assaults on supposed insurgent bases, General John Abizaid, the regional US commander, admitted to Congress last week that opposition strength was “about the same” as six months ago and that “there’s a lot of work to be done against the insurgency”.
That work now includes secret negotiations with rebel leaders, according to the Iraqi sources.
Washington seems to be gingerly probing for ways of defusing home-grown Iraqi opposition and of isolating the foreign Islamic militants who have flooded into Iraq to wage holy war against America under the command of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The talks appear to represent the first serious effort by Americans and Iraqi insurgents to find common ground since violence intensified in the spring. Earlier informal contacts were reported but produced no perceptible progress.
WTF?? I’m all for finding a way to end this war, and I hope we can bring this bloodshed to an end by any means possible, but after all the butch talk and accusations of treason from the White House about people who would rather do something other than go all Chuck Norris on Osama bin Laden, this is a little bit of a shock. After all, Bush got re-elected by suggesting — hell, he wasn’t just suggesting, he was screeching — that John Kerry and the Democrats would rather sit down and talk things over with the terrorists rather than blow them all to Kingdom Come.
Oh, wait a second…these are the “insurgents.” They’re not called terrorists. In El Salvador, these guys would have been called “freedom fighters” by the Reagan administration. They’re acutally fighting for their country…so I guess in some way it’s okay to try to negotiate with them. Is that how it works?
Either that, or the Bush administration finally knows a stalemate when they see one.