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Monday, March 06, 2006

US Diary: an immodest proposal, but quite the sanest thing I've read in years

Maybe it's Time to Negotiate With the Enemy -- by Glen Moyer

Dear President Bush,
I'd like to ask you to reconsider our diplomatic position with the extremist Islamic group al-Qaida.

First, I'm not a flaming liberal. Second, I'm not a flaming conservative. Third, I'm not a flaming idiot - at least I don't think so. I'm just a dude who has come to the conclusion that we can go in a better direction.

Our current policy says: “We do not negotiate with terrorists.” I understand this position in situations such as when the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked several planes and passengers in 1970, or the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979-1981, or even in recent situations such as when Islamic extremists in Iraq kidnapped American construction worker Nicholas Berg in 2004 and beheaded him.

Giving in to unreasonable demands of radical groups in situations like these would only create more copycat acts of violence.

However, our current posture with al-Qaida is not the same as one of those isolated, stand-off, lose-lose situations. We are, as you've stated in so many words, engaged in a long, difficult battle with Islamic extremists like al-Qaida on a global basis.

That said, neither is our posture with al-Qaida equivalent to our long global battles with Japan, Italy and Germany during World War II. Those were overt land battles where our enemies blatantly invaded nations with the goal of destroying the government and assuming control of the land and people.

Though I don't doubt for one second that radical factions such as al-Qaida would invade and conquer “infidel” nations if they only had the resources, the fact is they don't and can't. As a result they are waging the only war they can, a war of ideology, perpetuated by frequent and random acts of violence.

As a result, far from disappearing from the radar, al-Qaida is every bit the enemy they were before we declared war against them and more. They are achieving advances because our current diplomatic position plays perfectly into their strategy. As long as we continue as we are, so will al-Qaida.

Thus, my suggestion that we adopt a different diplomatic approach.

As you recall, in a November 2005 tape which the CIA confirmed was the voice of Osama bin Laden, he said, “We do not mind offering you a truce that is fair and long-term ... so we can build Iraq and Afghanistan ... there is no shame in this solution because it prevents wasting of billions of dollars.”

Immediately, your press secretary said, I assume on your behalf, “We do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business.” Vice President Cheney said to Fox news, “I don't think anybody would believe him ... It sounds to me like it's some kind of a ploy ... .”

In a war of words we let bin Laden have the last word, again. We also ensured that this current spiral of violence continues. And finally, we made it look to the Muslim world like it's our entire fault.

Why not come to the table with al-Qaida? Could anything be more empowering to our cause than to engage them with their own weapons - words? And what if bin Laden does want peace? Such changes can happen to people. After all, we are the same nation that oversaw the genocide of our own Native peoples and sanctioned the slavery of blacks for two centuries. Who are we to say that people like Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida can't change?

Finally, as a man of faith, I'm sure you know that Jesus modeled humility and forgiveness. Jesus refused to embrace the logic of, “If someone hits you, hit back! If anyone takes your coat, burn down his house!” No, Jesus said turn the other cheek, never stop forgiving and love your enemies.

He then laid down his innocent life out of love for his enemies, us. Even as he was being executed, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; they don't know what they're doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus knew that love and forgiveness are the ultimate weapons of war; that they are the only way to stop the endless cycle of vengeance and violence.

Again, I'm not saying that there is never a time to take up the sword. However, in the battle of words and ideology with al-Qaida, someone has to take the high road. Why not us? Why not negotiate with terrorists? Indeed, why not forgive terrorists?

Just as you and I have been transformed from enemies to friends with God, perhaps by loving and forgiving, or at the very least, talking with al-Qaida we may one day become friends with them. Nothing is impossible with God.

Thank you Mr. President for your consideration and may God give you wisdom and strength to carry out the difficult job you have before you each and every day.


(This letter was mailed to President Bush on Feb. 28, 2006. Glen Moyer is pastor of High Point Adventures. Contact him at


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