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April 3, 2003

When you see photos like

Daniel Radosh

When you see photos like this, it's easy to understand why people are protesting the war. Of course, most Americans don't see these photos, or even hear accounts like this or this (scroll to end). Instead they hear stories like this, and rarely parsed this way (scroll to April 2).

That explains why I'm so torn, because I haven't been protesting since the war started. Not because I think it's more important to "support the troops" (or that the two are mutually exclusive). And not because I don't share the protesters rage and sorrow. I am still very much AGAINST the war, but I just don't know that I stand FOR anything that can be achieved by marching right now. Before the war started, preventing it would have been a victory for peace and international law. Stopping now -- pulling out troops -- would be a victory for the Iraqi regime, and a death sentence for thousands of Iraqis. I think the invasion has already messed up the world situation irrevocably, and withdrawing now won't make matters better and will likely make them worse.

For the most part, I've been among those saying that the left should focus now on winning the peace, as argued eloquently by Peter Gomes, for example.

But as the battle for Baghdad looms, I'd like to find some way, at least to stop that from becoming the military and humanitarian nightmare of Basra/Nasirya/Najaf/Umm Qasar on a vastly greater scale. So I'm thinking, the U.S. should declare victory now. We won't take Baghdad or any other cities not already "secured," but we won't leave the country either. In exchange for keeping his presidency and his life, Saddam Hussein agrees to a few conditions:

-- Withdraw fighters from southern Iraq entirely, where the UN creates another free zone, like the one in the north. With the threat of violence removed, we allow the immediate flow of humanitarian aid and rebuild the infrastructure that we promised not to destroy in the first place.

-- Allow aggressive inspections

-- Allow international human rights monitors to operate freely throughout the country, including Baghdad

For its part, the US can sign onto the International Criminal Court and agree that any Iraqi war criminals should be prosecuted there.

None of this would be pretty, of course, but it would save countless lives both from short term fighting and postwar illnesses. And, if the international community steps in to help out and legitimizes this cease fire/occupation lite, Saddam would be completely isolated and the regime would likely collapse on its own in a few years. Like a house of cards.

So, um, I was going to write up something about this for Slate, but this rambling, poorly sourced blog version was all I had time for. Now that I think about it, a version of this plan was floated before the war began.

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