When an Iraqi noncombatant civilian is killed in the crossfire between the U.S. military and insurgents, the victim's family can apply for a “condolence payment” of up to $2,500 as a token of condolence and sympathy. As the process currently stands, the family member is handed a sum of money by U.S. personnel and ushered out the door. In this model, money equals apology. In this article, the author argues that the efficacy and efficiency of the current condolence payment program could be greatly increased by adding Arab-Muslim mediation techniques tailored to Iraqi culture. Mediation would fill a gap in the current program to help foster a constructive, stabilizing dialogue between the U.S. military and aggrieved Iraqi civilians. The author believes that with each positive, mediated interaction — each reconciliative engagement between an aggrieved Iraqi civilian, a mediator, and a U.S. military representative — the U.S. military can prevent today's aggrieved Iraqi parent, sibling, or child from becoming tomorrow's insurgent.
This article was written with two goals. The implementation of a mediated condolence payment program, even on a limited or pilot basis, would likely increase the chances of American success in Iraq and improve the daily lives of Iraqi civilians. If it is not possible to implement such a program in Iraq before American involvement there ends, then it may still have value as an important component of the post-conflict nation-building playbook of the U.S. and other foreign forces.