Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Mess in Mesopotamia

It is worth noting that Mesopotamia – now Iraq did not exist prior to the end of WW I, unless you want to consider the Babylonia Empire under Nebuchadnezzar, which was absorbed into the Persian Empire. From that time Mesopotamia did not exist as an independent nation. It is important to understand that Iraq is a creation, not by Arabs, or Muslims, or any indigenous group in Iraq, but was created by the British led by that intrepid self-proclaimed genius and aristocrat – Sir Winston Churchill – aided and abetted by that other self-promoting genius Colonel T. E Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia. This was the last gasp of European Colonialism.

It is worth remembering that Queen Victoria had died only 17 years before the end of WW I so the colonial mentality that was so prevalent throughout Europe had not yet expired so the French and English felt it was totally within their right – indeed divine right – to set up the world to suit themselves. So what once had been the Ottoman Empire now became Turkey, Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, Syria, and Iraq. Persia and Egypt had always existed except they were now Iran and Egypt. At the same time that these artificial lines were being drawn Churchill upheld the controversial policy aimed at establishing a Jewish State in what was then Palestine. Palestine, like Persia had ancient roots and had always been a fractious place that had given fits to the Romans who had barely been able to maintain peace there even with massive military force. Nevertheless, Palestine has ancient roots and has long been ethnically diverse and home to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Ironically had you asked a Jew what his nationality was up to the time Israel was created he would have said he was a Palestinian. It was only after the creation of Israel and the schism between the Jews and Muslims that the Jews became Israeli’s and the Muslims became Palestinians. Today there are Muslims AND Palestinians and while to western eyes this distinction seems pretty fine, but Muslims are a very fragmented group and these distinctions are very real to them.

But it was Churchill who was the driving force – along with T.E. Lawrence – who Post WW I, set up the country then called Mesopotamia and now called Iraq. Initially this was a constitutional monarchy and independent democracy from 1925 until 1958. But the bloodletting never abated and these “democratic” governments supported pogroms against the Jews and genocide against the Assyrians. The Shi’ites in Mesopotamia rebelled and were cruelly suppressed by the Sunni’s and the British. The British had occupied the ancient territory of Mesopotamia as liberators of the Iraqi people. In British eyes they were being freed from the oppression of the Turkish Ottomans. And initially the British Army was welcomed as liberators as they determinedly set up a constitutional and democratic government. Unfortunately the people turned on their liberators and killed thousands of the British troops – so the current situation in Iraq is simply an encore of the British experience in the 1920’s. The British ultimately crushed the rebellion but at a cost, the lesson was that it required a massive military intervention applied with an iron hand. This was a lesson lost on the American Military who suffer from the American Disease – this disease is the belief that all peoples are alike, they desire freedom, and that a democratic government will bring peace. The sad reality is that not everyone in the world is prepared for a democratic government either psychologically or culturally and the Muslim World in particular is not ready for democratic government. Democracy has failed every time it has been implemented in the past and the current situation in Iraq shows every sign that it will fail once again.

The western liberals simply cannot let go of the idea that the Arab world is desperate for freedom and democracy. The only Muslim state that has come close is Turkey and that democracy was implemented by force. The Muslim World is actually fragmented by tribes, cultures, feuds, and ironically – religion. They are somewhat unified by their hatred of the West which dates back to the Crusades which is still evidenced by Osama bin Laden and others referring to Westerners and Americans in particular – as Crusaders. Currently the liberal establishment is totally convinced that the American invasion of Iraq was instigated by George Bush for the sole purpose of enriching the oil companies or even worse as a distraction to the failed domestic policies. Both of these are totally false but the truth may be even more pathetic.

Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a strategic bulwark against the Shi’ite dominated Iran but it was increasingly unstable as Saddam began to have visions of grandeur. But the US policy wonks mistakenly thought that if they toppled Hussein the people would view the US as liberators and immediately establish a stable democratic government. It was as if these highly educated people from all of those liberal elite eastern universities never read a history book. Instead of liberators the US was quickly seen as invaders and Crusaders and instead of following the historical precedent of ruthlessly crushing all dissent with overwhelming force, the Americans held an election. The real question is didn’t any of those fancy universities ever hear of Machiavelli? So instead of bringing democracy and law and order, the US managed to unleash all of the pent up hatred and feuds already present and these were exacerbated by the external influence of Al Qaeda. Worse, the stabilizing influence of Sunni Iraq is now gone and the weakened Iraq is falling under the influence of Iran and fueling their nuclear ambitions.

It seems the mess in Mesopotamia is much worse than anyone realizes. If the US exits Iraq it will be a strategic disaster because it will be seen as a defeat of the US by Al Qaeda. If the US stays it will continue to inflame Muslims worldwide as it will be seen as an invasion of Islamic lands by Crusaders determined to crush Islam. Also if and when the US does leave Iraq it almost guarantees that an enterprising General will rise to power and overthrow the democratic government which is only a sham anyway. If this General is pro-Iranian, which is likely then we will be faced with an anti-American alliance that could destabilize Saudi Arabia and threaten the World’s oil supply. It would be better if the CIA orchestrated this coup and saw to it that a pro-American General became dictator, but it is unlikely any administration would have the courage to do this and face the wrath of the liberal press. Mesopotamia is a mess and it has always been a mess.

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