United States government officials reportedly have held meetings with leaders of the Iraqi insurgency. The Sunday Times of London reports
that the meetings took place earlier this month, and that the purpose was to find a way out of the bloody quaqmire that is George W. Bush's Iraq War.
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.
This, from an administration that consistently and insistently characterizes Iraq's insurgents as terrorists.
Just a few examples:
MSNBC - June 25, 2005
"The terrorists' objective is to break the will of America and of the Iraqi people before democracy can take root," Bush said.
www.whitehouse.gov - June 24, 2005
CNN - June 24, 2005
I think there will be a lot of violence, a lot of bloodshed, because I think the terrorists will do everything they can to try to dispute that process (of training security forces)," Cheney said. "But I think it is well under way. I think it's going to be accomplished."
Keep in mind that it remains official policy that the United States does not negotiate with terrorits. Consider the comments
of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in April, when asked about an American citizen who had been taken hostage in Iraq.
Well, you know, that these are always very difficult and tragic circumstances. It is our great hope that working with those who may have information, that we can resolve this in a way that is successful, and that means in protecting the life of a hostage. We are thoroughly engaged with the Iraqis and with others in trying to do this.
Obviously, the United States continues to hold to a policy that we do not negotiate with terrorists. It only encourages them. But we are working very, very hard to try and secure the safety of the American there and we are unable to confirm anything past that because, obviously, it's an ongoing situation.
As in so many other cases, the Bush administration's rhetoric is inconsistent with the actions of the president and his aides. Bush's principles, such as they are, are tossed aside as soon as they become difficult to hold. This lesson, tragically, is not lost on the leaders of the Iraqi insurgency.
Again, from the Sunday Times:
Bush acknowledged on Friday that "the way ahead is not going to be easy" and for once the Iraqi insurgent commander agreed with him.
"It looks like the Americans are in big trouble in Iraq and are desperate to find a way out," the commander said. "Why else would they have rounds of negotiations with people they label as terrorists?"