House Hears From Former Militants On Reconciliation

With all the talk of pallin' around with terrorists lately, political-image conscious Crypt readers might want to avoid 2172 Rayburn right now, considering the characters with less-than-peaceful pasts briefing the House Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight. The briefiing brings together militants who were once on the opposite sides of brutal conflicts in South African and Northern Ireland. The former enemies are working with Iraqis now going through the same process.

One of those helping the Iraqis is Mac Maharaj who, like former Weatherman William Ayers, is now a professor. Earlier in his career, however, he was Nelson Mandela's cellblock-mate during a 12 year prison stay, locked up by South Africa's apartheid regime for leading the African National Congress' underground military operations and waging a bombing campaign against the government.

Cyril Ramaphosa also spent time in prison, convicted under South Africa's Terrorism Act, before being elected secretary general of the ANC in 1991. He was the ANC's lead negotiator during peace talks.

There's Roelf Meyer, who fought against Maharaj as Minister of Defense for the apartheid regime. Meyer then led negotiations for his side during the transition from apartheid to democracy and is speaking today beside his former enemy.

Due to a death in the family, the abover erstwhile combatants are not joined by Martin McGuinness, who served time for terrorist activity on behalf of the Irish Republican Army. McGuinness, a top militant, later became a lead negotiator in peace talks.

Continuing with the theme of former enemies, protestant Jeffrey Donaldson is on hand. Donaldson, a lead negotiator of the Good Friday Accord, rejected the agreement as too leniant on the IRA, but has since reconciled.

The militants have not been gathered together to make a point about Ayers and domestic terrorism associations, but have been brought in by chairman William Delahunt (D-Mass.) to discuss their role in the Helsinki Agreement.

Professor Padraig O'Malley, also on hand today, brought 40 leaders of Iraqi factions to Helsinki earlier this year to meet with the South Africans and Irish combatants that are here today. If South Africa and the United Kingdom can reconcile, so went his thinking, then so too can the Iraqis.

Many of the Iraqi leaders represented factions that have engaged in terrorist bombings against Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers. The Iraqis hammered out a broad framework that all signed, though its vague terms mean that much progress remains to be made.