Hardcore Dispatch readers will recall our partnership with On Day One around the 2008 elections. The idea was to solicit suggestions for what the next President should do on his or her first day in office.
One of the more forward looking ideas we received came from Wonk Room blogger Matt Duss, who suggested that the next president should support an Iraqi truth and reconciliation commission for Iraq. In a recent post, Duss revived this idea in the wake of the terrible revelations exposed in the Wikileaks documents.
Between 2003 and 2009, in addition to the more than 100,000 Iraqis killed and many more wounded and maimed, more than 4.5 million Iraqis were expelled and displaced amid Iraq’s sectarian civil war — new, grim details of which are contained in the WikiLeaks trove. Around 2.6 million remain internally displaced in Iraq, unable to return to their homes. Another 1.9 million remain refugees, mostly in neighboring Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. It has utterly changed the face not only of Iraq, but of the region. If Americans are going to learn the right lessons from Iraq, and satisfy the huge moral debt we’ve incurred, we’ve simply got to regain our sense of shock about the enormity of what we have done there: Through a combination of hubris, idealism, incompetence, and plain ignorance, the United States facilitated, sponsored, and oversaw Iraq’s Nakba.
Since taking office, President Obama has endeavored to put the political arguments surrounding Iraq behind us. In terms of American political unity, I suppose that’s admirable. But, as we know — as Obama has shown that he himself knows — the past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past. Not in America. Not in Iraq. We will be paying the costs and grappling with the consequences of the Iraq war for decades. I see nothing to be gained, and much to be lost, by refusing to squarely and publicly confront those costs and consequences.
Back in 2008, I did a video for my friend Mark Goldberg’s On Day One project, which allowed people to share what they would like the next president to do on his or her first day in office. I called for the President of the United States to announce support for, and full cooperation with, the creation of an Iraqi Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and I’d like to repeat that now:
Seems about time to give this idea some serious thought, no?