Monday, June 21, 2004

On May 1, Ryan called a meeting of all the tribal and religious sheiks at a milk-bottling plant.

The first two hours saw a relentless tongue-lashing from the sheiks, a litany of perceived injustices by U.S. troops. Ryan said it was hard to take at times.

Then for six hours, Ryan did some things U.S. officers say is ``outside the box.''

First, he told the sheiks both sides had made mistakes.

``Just saying we've made mistakes - we've been afraid to say it because people will blow it out of proportion - makes a huge difference,'' Ryan said. ``... Their faces light up and they are ready to talk.''

Then he offered a clean slate, or as they say in Arabic, a white page. If the sheiks took responsibility for security, Ryan told them, he promised that his soldiers would not raid their homes. Further, he said, if the sheiks promised that members of their tribes sought by U.S. forces would stop carrying out attacks, the troops would stop hunting them.

All the sheiks agreed, and the deal has become known as ``The White Page Truce.''

``This is the best move the Americans have made yet,'' said Sheik Sadi al-Khinani, a senior tribal leader. ``The people will see that the Americans have come here to help them, not what others have said, which is that the Americans have come here to abuse them.''

Ryan said that in the six weeks from March 1 to April 12, 28 U.S. soldiers were wounded and two killed. In the six weeks since the truce, there have been no casualties...

Higher officials have sent people to study Ryan's methods. In many ways, he has done on a small scale what the United States will do on June 30: give Iraqis their sovereignty.

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