“The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [ISIS] has vowed to establish a caliphate — a unified Islamic government ruled by a caliph, someone considered to be a successor to Muhammad’s political authority — stretching from western Syria across Iraq to the eastern border with Iran.”
– attr. to Jessica Lewis, Institute for the Study of War, 6/13/14
“Iraq’s three-state solution [Kurdistan; Sunnis; Shiites] could lead to the country’s dissolution. There will be no reason to mourn Iraq’s passing…Almost certainly, Kurdistan’s full independence is just a matter of time. As a moral matter, Iraq’s Kurds are no less entitled to independence than are Lithuanians, Croatians, or Palestinians. And if Iraq’s Shiites want to run their own affairs, or even have their own state, on what democratic principle should they be denied? If the price of a unified Iraq is another dictatorship, it is too high a price to pay.”
– Peter Galbraith, 2006
“The degree of freedom of the press…is often overrated. Technically there is great freedom, but the fact that most of the press is owned by a few people operates in much the same way as a state censorship.”
– George Orwell
Failed States invite faulty foreign policy for an American people, who, when we bother to think about it, all too often wish the world be like our non-sectarian selves, as envisaged by our Founding Fathers. Many States on earth, however, want nothing to do with our model. They prefer to nurse their historical hatreds, with religion and ethnicity serving as national badges.
The experts at our State Department know these sorrowful realities, but they report to a Congress and President, answering to a populace who, all too often regard peoples around the world the way that Professor Henry Higgins of “My Fair Lady” regarded women: “Why can’t a woman be like Me?!?
Unfortunately, the editorial boards of our major media have soft peddled American ignorance about Islam and the Middle East, rather than instruct their White House and Congressional Correspondents to challenge this refusal to face the grimmer realities of sectarian hatreds in lands which hold minerals valuable to the economies of the Western World.
That Iraq was a failed nation upon its inception at the end of World War I is still only beginning to seep through the lurid and disturbing details pouring forth from the news, but at least the editorial board of the New York Times, and its dutiful followers around the United States, have finally decided that it is finally news “that’s fit to print,” or at least “safe to print.” And now they have a new President to blame, instead of looking in the mirror to see how badly they have failed to inform the American people as to the historical context of Middle Eastern and Western civilization confronted with a religious fanaticism that has been the bane of Islam, as well as Judaism and Christianity.
By 2014, thousands of American soldiers and no few civilians have lost their lives, and close to a trillion dollars have been spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in the care of wounded back here at home. Americans have changed their loyalties from “Iraqing” to “Fracking” as a source for their petroleum. Now, our politicians and news barons, who put their wet fingers into the air to test the winds of public opinion in order to tell us what to think, sense a strong breeze of skepticism, fear, anger and a sense of betrayal.
It is no surprise to me that some of the wisest words on the subject of America’s role in the Middle East are rather inelegant: “Don’t Do Stupid Sh*t” – attributed in one way or another to President Barack Obama’s administration.
But what is the “stupid sh*t” being alluded to here? The editorial boards of our major journals don’t give us a clue, but historians, and reporters who embed their stories in an historical context, do. These reporters often risk their lives to obtain precious details about a particular horror taking place in the fertile crescent, and their stories appear on television, or as newspaper bylines.
Then there are the fear mongers. Among them is Senator Lindsey Graham (R- S.C.): “If he [Obama] does not go on the offensive against ISIS/ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) – whatever you want to call these guys – they are coming here.”
One book, published in 2006, which sheds a great deal more light on this subject than Senator Graham, is by Peter Galbraith: “The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created A War Without End.” It is a tough read for Democrats as well as Republicans. Galbraith highlights the incompetence of the George W. Bush administration in trying to build national institutions in Iraq when there was in fact no nation, using models of Germany and Japan, where there were nations before and after World War II. Galbraith also devotes other chapters to illustrating sins of omission and commission by administrations going back to Woodrow Wilson.
Ambassador Galbraith [Croatia, 1993-1998] is both an expert on and eyewitness to contemporary horrors unfolding in Iraq from the late-1980’s, when, as a U.S. Senate aide, he went to northern Iraq and smuggled out documents that proved Saddam Hussein’s responsibility for the gassing of Kurdish civilians. A reading of his book sheds considerable light on the reasons why ISIS/ISIL remains a seedbed for world wide terrorism as well as an immediate threat to its neighbors in Lebanon,Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel, not to mention the stability of some of the world’s largest oil producing areas.
ISIS/ISIL is a twenty first century anachronism, based on a caliphate model from the 7th Century AD, but which, nevertheless, achieved military success recently, owing to the weakness of its local adversaries, and its tactical skills in urban enclaves.
Bi-partisan understanding of foreign policy issues like Iraq in October of 2014, however, is momentarily lost in our own domestic “family feuds.” Despite calls for action from many quarters, Congress may well hold off serious voting about the President’s actions until after early November. The congressional break mantra seems to be: “don’t vote on any controversial legislation before the fall election.”
Nevertheless, there is little doubt that Yezidis, and many other minorities like Iraqi Christians, non-ISIS/ISIL Sunnis, Shia and Kurds, rescued from the genocidal terrorism of ISIS/ISIL by U.S. military action before November 4, 2014, are quite grateful that American leadership has responded as if they had read Ambassador Galbraith’s book.
[Note: This column was filed on October 5, 2014]