Note: This week, I examined each of the eighteen benchmarks which document the effectiveness of The Surge. I then wrote an overview (part I) of the July Benchmark Report.  This post covers Six Benchmarks: numbers 1 and 2; 4 through 6; and 16.  Links for fast access to this Iraq Primer (should open in new window for reference):  Benchmarks 1-6Benchmarks 13-18

What follows is a look at July’s status on Amnesty and Political Benchmarks, and what I believe we should consider progress in September, based upon close reading and constant attention to the subject.  Quotes by Lec are from a man who lived through World War II, and are only meant to leaven this heavy dough that we are working with. 

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible. 
                                                       –Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

Amnesty (Benchmarks 2 and 6):
Goals are ambitious and amorphous–and have not progressed
As noted in the JBR, de-Baathification reform (B. 2) represents a significant challenge that has not yet been met. The JBR has also noted that conditions for amnesty arrangements (B. 6) cannot be concluded in the Iraq’s presently violent domestic environment.  Neither of these benchmarks were considered to have progressed.  In my judgment, we should not fairly expect “Benchmark 6: Amnesty” to have made any headway in September either.  This benchmark has an over-arching and controversial symbolism to contend with, as well as a poor security climate.  Nor should the goal be changed, but its steps could be better elucidated.

The emotional and moral issues regarding amnesty and atrocity cannot be solved by any benchmark process, but some practical details can be addressed.  Differentiating between these two aspects of amnesty would go a long way toward completion.  In effect, Benchmark 2, de-Ba’athification reform, is one of the practical steps to a more general amnesty.  The best comparison of constructive behavior for de-Ba’athification reform is European: the post-World War II rehabilitation of Nazi officials.  In this kind of reform, the law weighs the following factors:

1. that the harsh environment of Mr. Hussein’s regime caused many of its citizens to self-censor their political and moral beliefs due to fear or anxiety, consciously or unconsciously, and therefore they chose to affiliate with the Ba’ath party;
2. that on lower levels of Ba’ath Party membership, the decisions to commit atrocities and crimes against humanity were also punitively enforced on their perpetrators as well as on their victims;
3. that in order to meet the economic demands of the present, former Ba’ath party members below a certain leadership level are necessary to society as a whole;
4. and that below that leadership level, individual liability for economic and political prejudices, and for crimes against humanity, should be lifted. 

The moral question is in fact aspect 2 in the above; the reason for implementing de-Ba’athification reform is contained in aspect 3.  Iraq needs infrastructure development, economic rebirth, and a reduction in sectarian violence.  Once the level of liability is assigned, everyone beneath that level has a clear chance at buying into the new social fabric of the country.  Therefore, de-Ba’athification reform could be a step process that involves the lowest agreed to amnesty in the legislature, and then work its way up–or–the law should be written and the dispute contained to that which decides the level of responsibility.  Benchmark 2, de-Ba’athification reform, should be expected, on some level, to have reached at least minimally greater progress by September.  If not, then it should be pressed.  It is a necessary step to security and reconstruction goals.

He who limps is still walking.  –Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

Political Organization: (Benchmarks 1, 16, 4,  and 5):
Goals are perhaps the most well-advanced of the Benchmarks:

Benchmarks 1 and 16:
Iraq formed its Constitutional Review Committee in November 2006, (B. 1a), and under this committee the rights of minorities has been at least partly addressed (B. 16).  However, completing the constitutional review has not yet occurred.  More meetings are scheduled in August.  It’s better to get these right than to be expeditious, but: If this part of the process is not complete by the September report, it’s going to go hard with Mr. Bush and General Petraeus in September.  Both Benchmarks 1 and 16 got a passing grade in the JBR, and indeed they seem the close to fruition.  ‘Significant progress’ in September should only be defined as Completion of the Constitutional Review, with adequate provision for minority representation and rights.

Benchmark 4:
The legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions (B. 4) has already been enacted, and so the JBR has marked this as satisfactory progress.  However, the law does not take effect until April, 2008, which delays governance, social services, and other features.  U.S. efforts to shorten the lag time have not met with success.  ‘Significant progress’ should only be defined in September as a shortened window to the law’s implementation, preferably this year.  Consequences of failure in this regard are less important in itself, but tends to add to controversy if Benchmark 5, for provincial governance, is not far further down the road to completion.

Benchmark 5:
Benchmark 5 comprises four different sub-steps:  According to the JBR, only a. has been completed.  The legislation that enacts the Independent High Electoral Commission was completed around April 29, 2007. (B. 5-a).  The provincial elections law (B 5-b.) and law on provinicial council authorities (B. 5-c.) has been read in parliament, but not voted on yet.  These need to be pushed through before a date for provincial elections (B 5-d.) can be accomplished.  Therefore, B.5-a has made ‘satisfactory progress’, but overall this goal has not been met.  In September, in order for ‘satisfactory progress’ to be asserted, provinicial elections law and provinicial council authority needs to have been voted on in full, and a date for elections set, hopefully a date this year.

Other political benchmarks, or rather, political-economic benchmarks such as the Oil Law (Benchmark 3) and Reconstruction (Benchmark 17) will be greatly assisted by Regional and Provincial Advocacy, the formation of provinicial and regional budgets, and so forth. 

Next: The Oil Law, reconstruction, and beyond