Iraq - A Unique Proposal

---  Ends the War in Iraq, While Achieving Both Objectives of the Bush Administration  ---

History of the Proposal

Vincent Frank De Benedetto had written a 5.5 page, three-point proposal to address the Iraq crisis. The proposal is notable in that, incredibly, it achieves both primary goals of the Bush Administration, Blair Government, and others, disarmament and regime change--without war. The proposal was initially titled The Iraq Crisis - A New Proposal, but was appropriately re-titled Iraq - A Last Minute Proposal after President Bush announced his 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam Hussein, on Monday, March 17, 2003.  The proposal is alternately titled the Add-Subtract proposal.

The proposal was submitted to a number of major print organs for publication, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times. Most were politically centrist, one was liberal, and one was conservative. Mystifyingly, none elected to publish the proposal. It was also transmitted to a number of embassies with ambassadors or representatives on the United Nations Security Council, none of whom responded, including France and Germany, the two countries who seemed most interested in finding a way to avoid war. All this, in hope the proposal would receive serious consideration as the basis for a new U.N. resolution to avoid war.

The underlying view animating Vincent Frank De Benedetto's actions since the Bush Ultimatum has been this:  if there's time, there's hope. He continued his efforts to secure publication in a major newspaper or other media outlet, or elicit interest by a U.N. Security Council ambassador, up to Tuesday evening, March 18. His last attempt consisted of a fax transmission of the capsule version of the proposal to the French and German Ambassadors, care of their respective embassies. After this, there was only 24 hours left until the expiration of the Bush deadline, news outlets were reporting the possibility of military action starting even before that point, and there had already been a complete lack of response by every embassy and media outlet the proposal was submitted to, including and especially France and Germany. Thus, all seemed lost, and Vincent Frank De Benedetto ended his efforts. He had failed in his personal endeavor to save the Iraqi people, American service personnel, and historic structures of international alliance.

Vincent Frank De Benedetto, an American citizen, is a writer and aspiring musician; he is building a political-musical project called Message of Hope. Holding a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Seton Hall University, he is seeking an ivy league graduate program in philosophy or political science.

Update:  With about 18 hours left Vincent Frank De Benedetto decided to launch one more media salvo, to attempt to bring the proposal into the last-minute international conversation:  he transmitted the capsule version of the proposal, via email, to the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Chris Matthews of Hardball, Brian Lehrer of his self-titled NPR radio program, NOW with Bill Moyers, and Mother Jones magazine. There was no response.

Update, 03-27-03:  On Friday, March 21, 2003, there was a large anti-war demonstration in New York City, at which U.S. Representative Charles B. Rangel passionately asserted there must be a way to resolve the Iraq crisis without further bloodshed. Since the Add-Subtract proposal does exactly that, this plea inspired Vincent Frank De Benedetto to make another attempt to elicit interest in the proposal. Accordingly, he sent it to Representative Rangel's Washington office, and has discussed the plan preliminarily with the Congressman's Congressional Fellow.

Update, 03-28-03:  U.S. military planners now forecast a war lasting months. Accordingly, Vincent Frank De Benedetto has decided to renew his attempt to disseminate the proposal. Accordingly, he has created this website,, and will work principally by communicating the URL of the website, instead of faxing the proposal, itself.

Iraq - A Unique Proposal

Originally Posted 03-19-03

Note: this proposal was written just before the war began, so there may be minor incongruities in the text. The author still considers this unique plan workable, if with minor modification. For example, because conflict has now been joined, a 30-60 day cooling off period would probably be required before the proposal could be implemented. See below.


This is a draft summary of a new proposal to resolve, at this late hour, the present Iraq crisis. The plan, called the "Add-Subtract" proposal, is based on adding (i.e. holding) elections in Iraq, while simultaneously subtracting (i.e. repealing) sanctions on Iraq, and maintaining the present huge troop contingents to ensure the safe and proper execution of the election process. The proposal does not imply adherence by the author to the realization of the twin goals of disarmament and change in government ("regime change") in the manner the Bush Administration is undertaking. However, since it is apparent that the Bush Administration intends to wage war, the proposal roots itself in that element of realpolitik, then tries to transform it into a nonviolent, democratic mechanism for achieving the Bush goals.

The author chooses to maintain a hope that with fast U.N. action, a military incursion can be averted, and we can prevent the impending catastrophe.

The proposal is contained in this document, which is segmented into six parts: Introduction; Simple Summary; Key Points; Discussion & Benefits; United States, Britain, Spain, and Others; and Ending Statement.

Simple Summary

Instead of using the present massive troop buildup for war, let's use it to compel elections in Iraq, smoothing and facilitating this process by simultaneously lifting all sanctions. This deft strategy will bloodlessly achieve both regime change and disarmament. Further, it will improve our relationship with the Iraqi people and the larger Arab world, and ameliorate or eliminate every problem that the prospect of war has recently created, nationally and internationally.

The plan comprises two carrots and a stick, both carrots intended for the Iraqi people, the stick for the present government of Iraq, headed by Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi people will receive the first carrot of democratic elections, and the second carrot of the complete lifting of sanctions. The Iraqi government will receive the stick of the threat of military force if it does not permit the elections.

Given the present situation as of 03-30-03, 12 days into the war, the proposal would suggest these approximate steps:
  1. Immediate preliminary discussion of the proposal among U.N. Security Council members and others, to discern and stimulate interest.
  2. Creation of a working draft of the proposal.
  3. Tabling or other formal presentation to the Security Council for voting.
  4. Presentation to the Iraqi government.
  5. If the Iraqi government accepts the proposal, an immediate cease-fire on all sides, and a 30-90 day "cooling-off" period, the purpose of which is to stabilize the country, and begin to reverse the effects of the war, socially, psychologically, and otherwise, as quickly as possible.
  6. At the conclusion of the cooling-off period, the formal provisions of the proposal commence:  the electoral/campaign period starts, as does the complete lifting of all sanctions against Iraq. If the Hussein government does not allow these processes to execute unhindered, the war resumes.
  7. After the internationally monitored electoral/campaign period of 3 - 9 months, elections occur. Hussein will (presumably) be voted out of office, peacefully fulfilling the 1st Bush/Blair objective:  regime change.
  8. In the new climate of relative safety, without fear of reprisal, key Iraqi scientists will reveal desired WMD information, peacefully fulfilling the 2nd Bush/Blair objective:  disarmament.
Essentially, the proposal sees an exchange:  one (or more) months of catastrophic devastation and bloodshed in Iraq, are traded for about a year (or less) of relatively peaceful, non-war activity leading to a safe and democratic Iraq.

Readers are cautioned against a premature conclusion against the proposal, based solely on reading this summary. As events change, aspects of the proposal can, as well. The two basic elements of the idea which are seen as fixed, and not subject to modification, are:  elections under threat of military force, concomitant with a complete lifting of sanctions.

Key Points

1. Instead of attempting to effect disarmament and a change in government voluntarily (desired result improbable), or militarily (desired result probable, but at terrific cost), do so electorally:  impose a timetable for democratic elections on the Hussein government. Instead of demanding disarmament under threat of war, demand high-level elections under that same threat. Available offices would include president, and one or more existing or newly created parliamentary or other ruling bodies. The only stipulation the United Nations would place on the electoral winners would be full cooperation in rooting out remaining chemical, biological, or other weapons. No other stipulations, of any kind, would be placed on the electoral winners, to ensure the perception, accurately, that the election was not merely another, or an, artifice in service of Western economic or other interests (some may read: imperialism). Anyone could seek office: separatist factions and pro-monarchy parties could run candidates espousing their interests, and Saddam Hussein could run. He has always claimed near-universal electoral support within Iraq; he may now confirm that support in the context of an internationally monitored election.

After a war, the goal of disarmament would presumably be achieved because Iraqi scientists, now relatively free from fear of reprisal, would likely reveal sought-after WMD information. Better, however, this proposal predicts a smoother, less antagonistic, and more complete fulfillment of this goal, because the desired information will have been obtained from the scientists in a civilized and bloodless manner, properly and respectfully deferential of the humanity and sovereignty of the Iraqi people and state. The desired WMD information will have been obtained without war.

Just as, at present, in the Blix-led weapons inspection team we have what is essentially a mobile United Nations contingent touring Iraq, so under the AS proposal would we have a mobile U.N. contingent in Iraq, similarly touring the country if necessary, remaining in ascribed positions, or both, as necessary. The point is, we have a U.N. intervention force in Iraq already, anyway. Why not use the presence of that kind of body, which the Iraqi people have already demonstrated they will accept, to avoid war, and in the process advance and achieve every goal of the U.S. administration, the Iraqi people itself, and the United Nations?

The expressed purpose of this new group within Iraq would not be weapons inspection, but the creation, or contribution to the creation, of a minimum social climate in which Iraqi individuals or parties could campaign (Iraqi-style, of course), and Iraqi citizens would experience some degree of comfort following, participating, and responding to such campaigns. This U.N. contingent would require and include U.N. troops to guard and inspire a feeling of safety in the participants, candidates and citizens alike, in this political and electoral seeding period.

Will a firmly cowed Iraqi population participate in the electoral process, especially the actual casting of a vote? This may be the most challenging part of the proposal. Some may argue it will not. Others will assert that the number of Iraqis who will best their fear and vote will shock and surprise the world. Ultimately, after the United Nations, its international coalition, and its proxies on the ground execute their roles, it will be up to the Iraqi people to respond: to come out and vote in a way that serves their interests, and vindicates the process. A time period for this seeding of the social and political ground could be set.

The present massive troop presence in the Middle East would remain during this entire period. Only its international composition would change, insofar as the resolution based on the proposal reflects a U.N. Security Council consensus. The dual bases of this threat of military action, and a singular, focused, and fully-supported U.N. resolution authorizing the work of this new "election team," would assure that its work would proceed unhindered, as the weapons inspections themselves now proceed unhindered. This project of franchise-creation will probably resuscitate moribund, repressed, or nascent political forces inside and outside of Iraq, bringing them forward "out of the woodwork," causing, or contributing to, a slow but steady momentum of interest and action among all or many Iraqis toward the U.N.-mandated election(s). The time period necessary for campaigning and voting might crudely be estimated at three months to one year. This campaign period would require close monitoring to insure integrity of process; the international community has executed such oversight before. Primary actors here could include former President Jimmy Carter, and former Senator Bob Dole or Warren Rudman, in addition to other international monitors, including Arab individuals or groups.

It is probable that a revised or rewritten Iraqi constitution would facilitate and aid the election process, but such changes would likely be impossible during this period when every organ of government is still Hussein-controlled. The proposal sees high-level elections essentially ad hoc in nature as feasible; such elections combined with extensive subsidiary or associated tasks, not. The elections specified by the proposal utilize existing Iraqi structures of franchise. Additional structures could also be created ad hoc.

Post-election constitutional modifications are more realistic; perhaps the dormant Iraq constitution of 1990 could serve as a starting point, at that time. A wholesale constitutional change, if deemed essential prior to an any election, would complicate the proposal, at least by requiring additional time before the actual campaign and election process could begin.

The introduction of non-Iraqis into Iraq causes reactions among its citizenry ranging from open skepticism to overt and substantial horror, fear, and anger, if the mission of such interlopers is military invasion, or even the task of finding apparently absent WMD, which the people of Iraq may or may not think actually exist. In contrast, however, the Iraqi people would presumably be predisposed to a strategy that finds non-Iraqis present for the purpose of creating a social climate hospitable to elections, and then brings the full moral and military force of the United Nations to help guide Iraq safely through these elections. Iraqis know they presently have no control over their own nation and little prospect of acquiring such control, yet even the most aggressively anti-Hussein Iraqis understand war as a dreaded horror, naturally recoiled from. Thus is their dilemma, and thus would Iraqis presumably welcome a process to bloodlessly reverse their impotence, even if it called for U.N. or Western intercessors.

2. Exactly concomitant with the start of the election process, rescind all international sanctions on Iraq. This will begin attenuating much of the suffering of the Iraqi population, and start to work the anti-American thorn out of the paw of the Arab community. The lifting of sanctions will illustrate the sincerity of the U.N. coalition, and predispose the Iraqi people toward the proposed electoral solution. If the mandated elections comprise the forward-charging shock troops of the army of democratic change in Iraq, the elimination of sanctions constitutes its rear guard: supplementing, complementing, smoothing, and bolstering the first process. Calls for the lifting of these sanctions have been passionate, often, and many-their abolishment can only provide a propitious and potent underscore to the execution of elections.

Discussion and Benefits

These two steps in combination, adding elections and subtracting sanctions, will constitute a gift to the Iraqi people that they will not soon forget: an immediate improvement in their lives as desperately-needed goods and services to begin to flow in, and a profound, transformative, longer-term improvement in the form of a government to their liking, working for their interests. And, this strategy will find greater favor in the larger Arab world than the present provincial war strategy. In fact, the single step of full sanctions repeal will throw the United States yards down the field toward Arab reconciliation, with a probable attendant and vitally-needed diminution in terrorism, and fodder for terrorist recruiting. In short-everybody wins.

Of course, as all democratic plans, this is a lengthier and messier course, and requires a leap of faith by the United States which a war strategy does not--assuming a Western victory, the latter specifies a direct Western influence on the shaping of Iraqi democracy, and the insertion, more or less, of political entities presumed to act in Western favor. In contrast, allowing Iraqi social forces to shape that country's own democratic process and outcomes directly, with far less, if any, direct Western influence, suggests a political outcome potentially less favorable to the United States.

But such an allowance, consistent with America's oft-stated respect for the sovereignty of every nation, also suggests a momentous, sweeping, and powerfully consequential array of beneficial outcomes: it produces an Iraq election process of greater political integrity and credibility than that of a similar post-war process, as explained above; preserves NATO and other indispensable alliances forged in the crucible of modern history; maintains the honor, efficacy, and power of the United Nations; deflates an emerging general worldwide antipathy to the United States, potentially massive and resilient from a disparate but increasingly focused multiplicity of populations; is prevented from contributing to the increasing and worrying softness in the American economy; avoids a lengthy and resource-intensive post-war cleanup; obviates a U.S. expenditure of titanic proportion to finance the war and the aforementioned cleanup; diffuses an increasing overall level of general global chaos and anger; and, crucially, forestalls gathering new waves of global terrorism pointedly targeting the United States, Americans everywhere, and all Western and other nations and interests affiliated with us.

In fact, if the Iraqi people are as anxious to rid themselves of the Hussein government and the totalitarianism it represents as the West asserts, and if they are as fundamentally friendly to the United States as we understand, and if they are as intelligent and sophisticated a population as we believe, we can remain confident that the winners of the election will be actors of a radically different, and better, stripe than the Hussein regime, and the Iraqi people will have begun their own heartening, dramatic, and permanent transformation.

Additionally, each element of this tripartite proposal corresponds to, and is based on, a value fundamental to America (but possessing resonance in Europe and elsewhere, as well): elections ordered by the U.N. are rooted in the fundamental American value of democracy; the rescinding of sanctions is consistent with an American compassion; the presence of American and coalition troops is consonant with the staid and tested American belief in the judicious use of force, especially when a mere gentle or simple persuasion is required. This proposal, in toto, stands solidly as an edifice of remedy that will endure the scrutiny of history.

It also addresses the concern raised over the maintenance of U.S. troops in the Middle East for what is increasingly seen as an inordinate period, without engagement: the election seeding period will, in fact, require use of these troops, or a portion thereof, in some manner, either as an intimidation force to compel the Hussein government to permit the election process to occur unimpeded, under threat of war, or, as also mentioned above, as part of a U.N. military force stationed on the ground in Iraq for that same purpose, as well as to guard election participants, both candidate and citizen. The even happier reverse side of this particular troop employment is that, assuming full U.N. Security Council support for implementation of this proposal, the United States would move decisively away from a near-unilateral posture and the composition of the intimidation force stationed overseas would accordingly change, reflecting an ingress of troops from other U.N. nations. Such a multilateral force would permit some percentage of American forces, perhaps substantial, to go home. We would be assured that remaining U.S. forces would, in fact, be serving an active mission.

And there are two final advantages, each of crucial importance: the proposal maintains the full integrity, in composition and commitment, of the absolutely critical anti-terrorism coalition constructed after 9-11, and, provides our best opportunity to stand down from war with Iraq. The latter based not on positions which are sincere but ignorant of realpolitik, but occurring because in embracing the proposal, America, in concert with the United Nations, will do two things she does best: fashions solutions based squarely on her values, and invents a better mousetrap.

United States, Britain, Spain, and Others

The obvious fact that war with Iraq is not necessary to create democracy in Iraq has escaped the president.

The Add-Subtract proposal is strong in its ability to answer this question: why wage war to achieve disarmament and regime change, littering the geopolitical landscape with the detritus of strained international alliances and other broken political artifacts, when we can wage democracy and get better results? This, while improving our relationship with the Iraqi people and the larger Arab world, and ameliorating or eliminating every problem that the prospect of war has created, nationally and internationally, in recent months.

The Bush Administration and Blair Government might note that, incredibly, the proposal permits a deft and complete sidestep of all unpleasant implications and ramifications of the failure to obtain a second U.N. resolution. This, because the prospect of obtaining a workable majority of Security Council votes in favor of compelling elections in Iraq, a key part of the proposal, is arguably excellent-and since such elections will likely ensure the realization of the desired twin goals of disarmament and regime change, war is obviated (as the AS Proposal specifies, from elections will come regime change, and a subsequent WMD information flow leading to disarmament).

Given the apparent and impeding alternative, it is unlikely the civilized world, in the form of the collectivity of nations comprising the Security Council, can or will easily reject a serious U.S. impulse toward transformation of strategy from outright catastrophic war in Iraq, to simple implementation of a democratic process there, a salient elevating change in strategy pregnant with auspicious practical benefit and effects. When the locomotive engineer seeks to apply his brakes to effect a slowdown in the worrying speed of his train, neither his passengers nor the other engineers will likely disagree.

Thus, notwithstanding the storied but stillborn second resolution, the Add-Subtract Proposal provides the Bush Administration, Blair Government, and others, with a surprising and almost magical continuing conduit to full realization of both their goals in Iraq--in a manner which, incredibly and unexpectedly, enhances the moral authority of both governments and both nations (and any other political entity that advocates the proposal), and pleases the world community. Manna from Heaven, indeed.

Ending Statement

Is the proposal realistic? In life and politics what is realistic is a moving target. It is always a function of time, place, actors, commitment, imagination, and alternatives. Politics, especially, has always reserved the right to manipulate its building blocks in a willful manner, specific and most obedient to the goal or aspiration, at hand.

This proposal is realistic. When a human is in mortal danger they will do anything to escape it, easily including the learning of new skills. Indeed, in life it is often the speedy acquisition of new skills which does allow humans to avoid danger or death. If the Iraqi populace must take a crash course in democracy and electoral politics to avoid the catastrophic annihilation of themselves, their property, and their nation, they will do it (especially under the imposing international safeguards required by this proposal, and the near-certainty that such an election will completely oust Hussein and his government). Actually, the democratic impulse may reside more deeply in the bosom of Iraqis than is popularly argued, as seen, for example, in the longing for a democratic Iraq consistently professed by Iraqi expats, and perhaps exemplified most cogently by the existence of the Iraq Institute for Democracy in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil, headed by Hussain Sinjari.

As United Nations mandated elections, ensured by the presence of 300,000 or more nearby troops, remove Saddam and his intimates from power, and as the lifting of sanctions restores normal economic intercourse with the world and begins to soften the many burdens of the Iraqi people, the proposal proves not a carrot-and-stick for Iraqis, but two sumptuous carrots--a feast which all the world can enjoy, in celebration, together.

Serious Governmental, Diplomatic, or Media Inquiries are Accepted Here.
Citizens:  Please Call Your Government Representatives and the Media About This Proposal.
-- copyright © 2003 Vincent Frank De Benedetto --