In the midst of all the hoopla about border control of the seven Middle East countries, among which Iraq, I want to repeat a column I wrote in September 2014 (well before Mr. Trump came on the scene). Much what I said in that column is relevant today. It occurred to me how important it was to shed light again on the “good Iraq.”
Frankly, I felt hurt that under Obama Iraq had been listed as one of the dangerous Middle East countries; and that as a consequence it became part of an immigration ban for 90 days by the Trump administration until effective immigration procedures could be assured.
Much has changed since I dealt with Iraq at the World Bank. Already during the period that I collaborated to implement a diversified project portfolio in Iraq from 2003-2009, Shiite and Sunni rifts hampered execution, and covert Iranian meddling became increasingly ostentatious. Then Sunni ISIS grew exponentially after the US allied forces left.
It broke the camel’s back. Iraq became a wholesome mess with unsavory characters threatening and terminating the life of many. Iraq’s relationship with the US changed from partial partner to full-fledged terror. I felt horrible for my good friends over there, with whom I had worked so closely to get things going in the right direction. It’s always the bad guys that spoil it for the good guys.
In 2003, after the US invasion of Iraq, the UN allotted US$450 million to the World Bank, to devise and help implement basic needs development projects (water supply, school construction, education, health facilities, administrative reforms, technical assistance and training, road rehabilitation and construction, environmental protection, etc.) This relatively small donor-led operation, subsequently enhanced by a US$500 million World Bank soft loan, lasted through 2010 when the funds were exhausted. It was a period where both the World Bank and Iraqis strived to rebuild and upgrade the country’s decades-long retardation to modernize the economy and administration. The operation started out in the most difficult circumstances of growing insurgency. Eventually, after the “surge” in 2007, it reached a stage where both sides began to see the fruits of the hard work. This was achieved through regular exchanges on project development and implementation, a mutual desire to learn how to do things better, how to succeed, and relay the lessons to local and national economic management.
When the US and allied military support disappeared in 2011, much of what had been achieved was destroyed again in the growing sectarian strife and the ISIS insurgency.
Let me repeat the blog of 2014. It shows what is possible in Iraq, in the right environment of mutual give and take by religious sects, and given a chance to succeed:
“Iraq The Beautiful – As an introduction, some photographs of Iraq sent by a close friend.
Baghdad Museum and Northern Iraq
More of northern Iraq
The Marshes, near Nasiriya, Iraq — Marsh Arab Village — Image by Nik Wheeler/CORBIS
Marshlands area in southern Iraq
Imagine you are a teacher with an economics degree, bagged with worldwide experience in economic development and project generation. You are tasked to teach a class of people not speaking your language, with a fractured background of religious strife, totalitarian rule, and years of outdated statist management with the mantra “if you don’t do it my way, there’s the door”, in a region that is entirely different from yours.
Imagine also that you can’t see your class and have to do everything by telephone and e-mail. Imagine further you are working with sometimes squabbling but very intelligent and technically capable Iraqi teams of diverse ethnicity. World Bank staff consisted mostly of capable Arab and Palestinian engineers, educationalists, health specialists, and economists, with similar diverse backgrounds and opinionated opinions about the invasion of Iraq. Imagine lastly that everything has to be done by yesterday.
That’s how I felt when I joined that team in 2005. But in spite of this list of near-paralyzing limitations, the team managed to identify, prepare and help execute a broad-based project portfolio of some 25 projects.
Underlying this effort was a strong push for capacity building and technical assistance. None of this could have been done without the support of (a) carefully selected Iraqi consultants who courageously inspected the project sites and assisted in strengthening the ministerial administrative capabilities of procurement of works, goods and supervision consultants, and (b) dedicated Iraqi counterpart teams in the ministries who were in charge of project implementation.
During the insurgency of 2005-2007, work continued, even though Shiite and Sunni participants were shooting at each other in some ministries, the Central Bank in Baghdad was bombed, and contractors and supervision consultants were threatened and even pursued on project sites. Some of the local consultants got wounded in Baghdad’s almost everyday bombing that caused long delays in just organizing one meeting at an implementing ministry on a given day that would take just a few minutes to arrange in Washington D.C. and an hour or two to finish.
The Iraqi counterpart teams met with the World Bank teams and consultants in Jordan and Lebanon (security reasons prohibited missions from meeting in Iraq) to discuss project progress, crosscutting issues, and necessary changes in design due to continuously changing circumstances. These conferences proved extremely useful, as they were the only real life contacts with Iraqi administrators as a group. It gave the Iraqis the opportunity to talk to their colleagues of other ministries and implementing agencies about common problems they faced and made them feel owners of their programs. You may notice the translation boot in the back.
Meetings with Iraqi counterparts in Lebanon and Jordan (Dead Sea) as security did not allow meetings in Baghdad.
Beirut and the Dead Sea shore
In 2007, a one man hero World Bank mission was set up in the Green Zone in Baghdad, and when security improved in 2009, it was extended to a formal resident office. Some missions took place in Baghdad and Erbil in the Kurdish area which was relatively safe.
The experience of meeting with the Iraqi counterparts, even if taking place mostly through simultaneous translation, convinced me personally that with a sustained effort over the longer term, it would be possible to turn well-educated but held-back Iraqi technocrats into modernized administrators, taking on modern rehabilitation and economic development.
The relative success of the projects, compared to sometimes overly complex design and over-estimated results, surprised many. Some projects, such as irrigation rehabilitation where farmers had a direct incentive to get better, succeeded remarkably well against all the odds and poor expectations.
But politics and religious strife took priority over rational thought. Soon we were back at square one and the spread of ISIL put everything in question. As a pilot enterprise, the hands-on effort in Iraq proved that it is possible to do it right if you give it a chance, but its future looks somber. It was a drop on a hot plate with an uncertain sustainability.
We are now at a point where the Middle East, including Iraq, has to decide how it solves its internal issues. Some Middle Eastern nations realize that ISIL is not the answer. But will they be able to stop the brutal reactionary insurgency?
Mesopotamia was rich in agriculture. Eve gave Adam the apple in Paradise in Iraq, but there was also a snake spoiling the fruits. Ominous foreboding for later Iraq? At one stage, Iraq’s Tigris and Euphrates rivers made it the grain storage of the Middle East, until oil drove the incentive to rigs, and the rivers became polluted because of environmental neglect and were drying up fast. Still, agriculture was and still is Iraq’s largest employer. Oil dependence drives out diversification as often happens in similarly endowed countries. Because of sectarian strife, politics, and tyranny, priorities get distorted, and the general population suffers.
Can a religiously divided Middle East overcome ISIL’s barbarian Sunni frame of mind? How can Iraq continue its economic development? Should we not let them fight it out among themselves? For centuries the UK, France, the Habsburgers and later the USA got their fingers burned in the Middle East. If there had not been oil, what would the Middle East have been now? But ISIS has killed in Europe and the US and operates among others from Iraq. The US and Europe cannot let that continue.
The US is not eager to get into a new war in the Middle East. The Trump Administration intends to erase ISIS, but what action can we expect?
Meanwhile, my Iraqi friends are left in the doldrums, knowing that we could have achieved a lot more if they’d been given a chance. That’s the sad realization.”
Southern and northern areas in Iraq
ISIS has occupied large slices of Iraq. The fight on Mosul is still going on. I watched Iraq reaching stabilization after six years of hard and idealistic efforts, and am saddened by the fate that many of my good Iraqi friends now suffer because of what cruel people do to them and that the US has to close its borders to make sure that those cruel people do not enter the US.
I hope the current administration finds a modus vivendi for Iraq.
We hear this constant push for the moral issue of accepting refugees to come and live in the US. In Europe, much closer to all the Middle East turmoil, refugees have become a major issue of non-assimilation, ghettos, and crime. Many of them are adhering to Muslim religion from the day they were born, and their family customs and religious way of life are intrinsically different from Western life and Christian values. The Christian value is that of the Samaritan: so we favor helping them and bringing them into our societies. But assimilation has proved difficult because of language, ingrained customs, and different beliefs. Today, this issue has grown into a major battle of Christian survival and the integrity of Western civilization. People in the US and Europe have come to realize that one cannot be the eternal “Samaritan.” Their own society is at stake.
Don’t think the current US immigration measures are just a “Trump Idea.” Actor Schumer may shed fake tears, but he does not tackle the issue: The US AND Europe must face the onslaught on Western Civilization. Brexit broke through because of that fear. Trump’s election grew from the same fear of reckless Obama Samaritanism. Just read the reports of what Europe already did in 2015! Are you getting wiser, dumb “leftists,” who prefer to be overrun by a foreign force of medieval people knowing nothing more but Sharia law? And the following are New York Times reports!
Austria, Slovakia and the Netherlands Introduce Border Controls
By MELISSA EDDY and DAN BILEFSKY SEPT. 14, 2015
Police officers directed migrants to buses at a camp near the village of Roszke, Hungary, on Monday.
Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
BERLIN — Austria, Slovakia, and the Netherlands introduced border controls on Monday, as Germany’s decision over the weekend to set up checks began to ripple across a bloc struggling to deal with the influx of migrants coming to the Continent.
In Hungary, the authorities said that a near-record 5,353 migrants had crossed into the country from Serbia before noon on Monday — even as Budapest continued to seal off that border with the construction of a 109-mile fence made with razor wire.
Around 50 police officers, wearing riot gear and equipped with pepper spray, converged Monday afternoon on the train tracks linking the villages of Roszke, Hungary, and Horgos, Serbia, which thousands of migrants had used to cross in recent days. An official in a bright yellow jacket turned away migrants seeking to enter Hungary.
Starting Tuesday, Hungary will classify unauthorized entry into the country as a criminal offense, punishable by up to three years in prison. In response, Serbia said it would set up reception centers in the north of the country and pleaded for the European Union, of which it is not a member, to take action.
Meanwhile, Dutch authorities said that they would conduct spot checks at their country’s border with Germany. And Slovakia announced temporary controls, and the addition of 220 officers, along its borders with Hungary and Austria.
These countries are finally waking up to what their citizens want, rather than the demands of EU politicians and elite.
While Berlin said its new controls, along the German-Austrian border, were only a temporary, emergency measure, the restrictions, a response to the strain on local communities, signaled that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming stance toward the migrants was encountering domestic resistance.
Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told members of his center-left Social Democratic Party, which governs with Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, that Germany could face the arrival of even more migrants this year than the government had projected. “There are many indications that in this year we will not see 800,000 refugees, as predicted, but a million,” he said in a letter to his party.
“Germany is strong and can handle a lot,” Mr. Gabriel wrote. “Nevertheless, in the past few days we have experienced how, despite our best efforts, our abilities have reached their limits.”
Horst Seehofer, the premier of Bavaria, a deeply conservative state in the south, has criticized Ms. Merkel for her open-door policy. More than 25,000 migrants arrived in Bavaria over the weekend.
“There is no order, there is no system, and in a country governed by the rule of law, that is a cause for concern,” Mr. Seehofer told reporters on Sunday. He said that officials were straining to process and house thousands of newcomers, and that some of them were economic migrants, not people fleeing persecution.
“We need better controls in general because we have determined that in recent days, many of those on the move are really not refugees,” Joachim Herrmann, the Bavarian interior minister, told a local television station. Officials in Eastern and Central Europe, including Hungary, have made similar arguments.
It was not immediately clear how long the German measures would remain in effect, but Mr. Herrmann estimated that they would last “at least a week.”
The extraordinary restrictions to the European Union’s border-free Schengen zone by Germany — one of the most ardent proponents of greater integration — signified a departure for Ms. Merkel, who had said just last week that there was “no upper limit” on the number of refugees her country could take in.
The Schengen Agreement, which guarantees passport-free movement within much of continental Europe, has been a cornerstone of European unity, along with the euro and a single market. Countries in the Schengen zone are allowed, however, to temporarily reinstate controls at their borders for security reasons.
Such controls have been set up seven times since 2013 when the rules were clarified for participating countries — but the first time such controls have been reinstated because of pressures from migration.
Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for Ms. Merkel, said the new measures were “not a closing of the border, or a suspension of the right to asylum,” but rather an attempt to instill greater order on the chaos of the arrival and application process.
“It also serves as a clear signal to our European partners that Germany, while prepared to take on a large share of responsibilities, cannot be solely responsible for taking in all refugees,” he said.
Nonetheless, Germany’s decision appeared to have edged neighboring Austria to enact its own restrictions.”
The above just shows that Europe, already in 2015, was becoming concerned about having to assimilate thousands and thousands of refugees, infiltrated by terrorists or potential terrorist through radicalization.
So why should the US be less concerned about this after the Maraton bombings in Boston, the radical Muslim murders in San Bernardino and Orlando, and most of all, 9/11? What are those silly Schumer tears for? He said the opposite a few years back (2015). Typical negative Washington politics at its worst and the Democrats are the ones who practice it heartily.
You have to climb high to see the border, any border. It’s fascinating to see how world affairs repeat themselves in circles. This picture of mine was taken by a dear girlfriend in Switzerland when I dealt with “Border Taxes” at the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) in Geneva. How did I get there from Amsterdam? Because I was heading a Dutch delegation from the Ministry of Economic Affairs as the Netherlands’ Member of the GATT to the Border Tax Working Party.
It was a big issue around 1969/70. The GATT was established in 1947 to reduce and harmonize import tariffs to promote multilateral trade and encourage consumption. The GATT was part of the UN complex in Geneva as a Special Agency. Its meetings were held in the “Palais des Nations” which was built as of 1929 to serve as the home of the “League of Nations.” It is best known for “the Kennedy Round” (1964-1967), the sixth multilateral tariff negotiation named after President Kennedy, who was assassinated six months before the Round started in Geneva.
Photographs of the Palais des Nations from Wikipedia
Photographs of the Villa Bocage which housed the GATT Secretariat (Kris Terauds-krisageneve.wordpress.com).
From the terrace at the back, you could see the Mont Blanc, and we often had lunch outside in the spring and summer, enjoying the view. In 1975-77, the Gatt Secretariat moved to the historic building “Centre William Rappard” at the Lake of Geneva.
The Border Tax Working Party met regularly over a couple of years. Delegates from some eighty GATT Member States from all over the world descended onto Geneva to discuss the issue to abolish unfair taxes at the border to eliminate their nefarious impact on fair trade. (more…)
and Kathryn from Omaha TV
Kathryn of Omaha TV is on, Mars TV is connected, and Mars Man is with Barack Husain Obama in Honolulu in an undisclosed location under a coconut tree.
Kathryn: Go ahead, Mars Man, you are on!
Mars Man: Thank you, Kathryn. Viewers, we are here with the US President hiding in Hawai. Dear Mr. President, how does it feel to be on eternal vacation in your homeland?
BHO: I take the Fifth.
Mars Man: Excuse me, sir, but you are not in Congress. You can speak freely here, no fear. Your obedient servants in America must’ve felt that they needed that new car smell you talked about.
BHO: They’re misguided. My smell is pretty good. Just got half a gallon of aged Old Spice on sale in the drugstore. As for my eternal vacation, that’s in the eye of the beholder. Eric Holder will get me back soon.
Mars Man: But Holder has also been deposed.
BHO: He will find a subtle way, as he did with Fast and Furious. And there is still the Executive Order. And I have my pen and phone. And I still have a free Obama phone, and if they take that away, I have a few boxes of them left in my wine cellar here.
Mars Man: You must’ve heard that John Kerry went to Paris to apologize for your absence at the World Rally in Paris and that he was accompanied by a singer totally unknown in France nobody could hear.
BHO: We tried Beyoncé, but the Military blocked her from going. Joe Biden was willing, but he sings false.
Mars Man: You must feel pretty impoverished here in your new hiding space.
BHO: It’s no different from the White House. We were pretty broke, anyway. And have a lot of debt.
Mars Man: Something on the order of nineteen plus trillion, we hear. That’s a great legacy.
BHO: The same as other Presidents. Bill and Hillary were dead poor when they left. That freaky Bush had to sell his football club to pay off his. I’ll just write another book and get my money back.
Mars Man: Hillary’s publisher lost millions on hers.
BHO: Sure, but she kept the ten million dollar advance. I can write and speak a lot about my legacy, and they’re willing to pay me high fees in the millions, dwarfing Hillary’s extra fees for nonsense speeches about how poor she was. I grew up in the ghettos of Nairobi and Jakarta. I can talk about my birth certificate. Best hoax ever.
Mars Man: What legacy would you speak of?
BHO: I have many. Take Obamacare. Carries my name. Historical. Fast and Furious. To rub that silly nose of Arizona Sherriff Joe Arpaio in it. IRS Audits of those wealthy Republicans that yielded a lot of money from unlawful Cayman tax shelters, and stopped those subversive Tea Party extremists. Worth at least ten speeches at a million a pop.
Mars Man: But your Democrat party lost the elections.
BHO: You’re wrong. We won. Two-thirds didn’t vote because they supported my policies.
Mars Man: But the Republicans have the majority in Congress thanks to voters not supporting your policies.
BHO: All rubbish. What Republicans? They always cave when I raise my finger or call on Sharpton to blackmail them. Why do we need a Republican party anyway? One party, the Democrats, is good enough. Would save the taxpayers a lot of money.
Mars Man: What are the many other legacies?
BHO: Stopping the Keystone pipeline. After all, I have a lot of shares in Buffett’s railcars transporting oil. Solar energy, called Obamasun. Millions of acres covered with solar panels. All made in China. Biofuels. Windmill farms.
Mars Man: But we are told Solyndra went bankrupt with five hundred million taxpayer money gone down the drain, the electrical car got busted, and wind farms kill the American Eagle, your treasured national symbol.
BHO: In any war, be it drones or fossil fuels, we face collateral damage. An unintended consequence we shall have to accept as the cost of doing business. As for the national symbol, too bad for the bird, but Obama’s face would be good enough, especially because it’s black. And black is beautiful.
Mars Man: Benghazi was a major failure of your Administration. Four brave Americans dead among which your Ambassador. Why was that poopoed by your underlings?
BHO: I’ve said many times before that Benghazi was Hillary’s Department. I can’t help her three o’clock phone was off the hook. I tried my best to help her out by sending Susan around the Sunday shows and because Susan loves me she did a fabulous job. Everyone believed she told the truth, as we always do.
Mars Man: But you said you could keep your doctor, your insurance plan and pay much less premium, and none of that proved true.
BHO: That’s old hat. We’ve explained all that. Sometimes the truth is better not told.
Mars Man: What is your view on Trumps’s take-over of your Government?
BHO: It’s illegitimate. They won’t get away with it. My underlings have launched an appeal to the High Court.
Mars Man: Judge Roberts may not be as friendly to you this time as he was with Obamacare. Both of you seem to have peculiar views on what is legitimate. But the way we see it on Mars, things will be a lot better in the USA, even the world. Your trillion foreign debts are going to be paid off; demonstrations will stop, and Russia and China will shut up. The IRS will be abolished, and taxes will be greatly reduced. Americans believe in themselves again. People say they’re relieved not to see you on TV anymore with your hands wobbling while you’re running down the steps of Air Force One.
BHO: Don’t ridicule my daily exercise. I can’t play golf all the time. As for Russia, we made rubble of it. China needs our money for our Solyndra panels. Iran will get their bomb regardless, so why bother. Not even the military can do anything about that. It will put the Shiites and the Sunni Muslims on a level playing field. Israel has the bomb already, so why not Saudi Arabia, too.
Mars Man: People on Mars are glad we are away far enough when it all blows up.
BHO: That’s how it is said in the Scripts: doomsday is here. I said I would fundamentally transform America and I did. Even the world. You can’t take that away from me. That’s my greatest legacy. I have to go back to Michelle now. She promised me a dinner of suckling pig if I voted for her Senate seat.
Mars Man: Fair enough, Mr. President. Greetings from Mars…..
The TV screen goes blank because a bomb went off somewhere. We are trying to fix the connection.
I still remember sitting in front of the TV looking at the “Shock-in-Awe” images in 2003, seeing explosions like you see in movies or now on your tablet playing one of those silly war games. Then we saw how the US implemented the invasion thereafter. In my long-time project management experience at the World Bank, my immediate impression was, as it so often happened with well-intentioned projects in my Institution, it is very easy to start something on paper, but getting it implemented well is a wholly different ball game. And so it went: very bad. It had not been thought through. Though I was on the fence on the rationale for invading Iraq, after the surge in 2007 a noticeable improvement occurred in our project management (this will be a repeat of a previous post next time). Perhaps in hindsight, it was a strategic mistake to go after Sadam Hussain, but once that was done, it was even a greater mistake to withdraw from Iraq all together in 2011, without leaving any protection on site. And so, my deepest frustration was that with American foreign policy management, national politics and partisan ideology often screw up world affairs. The hearings brought this out.
That’s why I posted this blog in 2014 and I consider it still very relevant today.
“With respectful reference to Tom Rice’s lyrics and Andrew Webber’s fabulous musical, Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina, I just wonder how it would look like if Saddam Hussein rose from his grave and gave a speech to the Iraqi populace from the statue from which he was toppled, “Don’t Cry For Me, Iraq.” Saddam would sing it with his heavy baritone (he could surely not sing it like Madonna, www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Spy3Nd2D6w):
Wikipedia on Saddam Hussain
“And as for fortune, and as for fame I never invited them in” (meaning the Allied forces…)
“Though it seemed to the world they were all I desired” (to show them how he had “no WMD”, just to ridicule “Bush”)
“They are illusions” (Western propaganda about his cruel rule)
“They are not the solutions they promised to be” (my hanging on the gallows)
“The answer was here all the time”(I could do much better than they)
“I love you and hope you love me” (Don’t I look much better now?)
“Don’t cry for me, Iraq.”
Well, with medieval ISIS on the attack, Nouri al-Maliki letting it all happen, and the brave Kurds squeezed, we are all in tears, crying for Saddam, the “good old days”.
Sure, Saddam was a ruthless tyrant. Iraq suffered huge crimes under his reign. Shiites and Kurds got emaciated on various occasions.
Wikipedia on Saddam Hussain
Iraqis were hard-pressed and frequently mistreated. But is Sunni ISIS not infinitely worse? At least under Saddam, Christians could live relatively undisturbed, though forced to pay the minority taxes. Even Jews originally lived relatively well among the Iraqi Arabs until Palestinian partition occurred in 1948, when some 150,000 Jews lived in Iraq. From then on, they suffered harshly and left, and in the seventies, the UN forced Iraq to let the remaining Jews emigrate. Saddam tried to make Mosul more Arab by moving Arabs into Kurdish areas and chasing out the Kurds. Now ISIS is beheading, killing, and torturing infidels on a large scale.
However, there seems some similarity with Eva Peron’s love for Argentina and Saddam’s love for Iraq: he wanted to keep Iraq wholesome with his despicable mixture of Marxism and Nazism that his Baath party emulated, and he felt he had to do so with an iron fist because of Iraq’s multiple religious scissions and millennia-old tribal differences.
Despite the fact that Iran provoked him into it, fighting an eight-year long war with Iran did not achieve anything.
Still, it might have proven to the West that having Iraq doing the fighting was better than having the West to confront Iran. Then the allies came in to punish Sadam for attacking Kuwait and Israel, and later because he was developing and hiding WMD. He had used them against Iran and the Kurds, and to hide them stored them in bunkers, or shipped them to Sunni tribes in Syria or back to Russia where they came from using unseated commercial airplanes (with the help of “Chemical Ali”; remember that weird general jumping on TV?). This in anticipation of UN-resolution 1441 that sent UN “Inspectors” to Iraq as of 2002 but who could not find them anymore. (Remember also the desperate Hans Blix, who was accused of being “pro-Saddam”, finding only empty warehouses?). Proof: Syria used them in their current war with their rebels (or the rebels found them and used them to terrorize Syrians).
Recently, after ISIS metastasized, ISIS occupies the Al Muthanna Chemicals Weapons Complex, Saddam’s ultimate chemical weapons facility, located less than 50 miles from Baghdad. Apparently, a lot of that material is still left in spite of what leftist pundits and commentators wanted us to believe that they did not exist during the Bush presidency. And what about Saddam’s nuclear program that was “dismantled”? All that uranium, bought from Niger, which was said to have been shipped to the USA?
How eager were the “mainstream media” in the USA and Europe at the time to fall into the trap of the “non-wmd” propaganda! Only to pummel “Bush” who defeated their favorite global warming enthusiast Gore, as eager as they are now to support Hamas in its attacks on Israel. But “mainstream media” pundits are known to disregard history if they ever studied it, or facts when they don’t like them. They go by the emotions of their equally uninformed audience. What a carnival of animals (apologies to Camille Saint-Saens).
These were the last words in Saddam’s letter to his people, issued by his lawyers upon his execution: “Dear faithful people, I say goodbye to you, but I will be with the merciful God who helps those who take refuge in him and who will never disappoint any faithful, honest believer … God is Great … God is great … Long live our nation … Long live our great struggling people … Long live Iraq, long live Iraq … Long live Palestine … Long live jihad and the mujahedeen.”
It’s doubtful that Saddam’s merciful God is helping much in current Iraq or what Saddam thought should be Palestine in spite of UN resolution 181 of 1948. For Arab dictators, it is difficult to accept a majority vote in the UN if they don’t agree. (Today, UN-membership has changed totally and, with it, its political colors. Anti-Israel majority votes are happily agreed.) But it’s also doubtful that Saddam’s “long live jihad and the mujahedeen” would have welcomed ISIS.
Truth be told, the Bush Administration could have found out that most of the WMD had been removed but they did not: they, the allies and Congress wanted to get rid of Saddam as he was a pest in the region. In hindsight, Saddam could possibly have been contained at that time, leaving it to him to deal with the Iranians. The West could have continued protecting Israel with overwhelming military aid while maintaining tough sanctions on Iraq. Too bad hindsight never catches up with actuality. It would have saved many lives, including Iraqis, as well as so many soldiers maimed for life, and trillions of dollars gone up in smoke.
The name “Iraq” was drawn from ancient Sumerian history dating back to the Sumerian civilization in the “Uruk” (“Ur” meaning ” city” in Sumerian) period that reigned that area some 4000 years BC! The 600-year Ottoman Empire (“caliphate”) which supported Germany and included millennia-old Mesopotamia, was dismantled upon Germany’s defeat in 1918 after World War I. The then League of Nations, established under the aegis of Woodrow Wilson, turned Palestine, Transjordan and the three Mesopotamian Ottoman provinces (Mosul, Baghdad, Basra) into British protectorates.
Churchill and his “40 Thieves” (see Churchill’s Folly by historian Christopher Catherwood, 2004, Carrol & Graff) drew up “Iraq”, ignoring tribal regions. In fact, at the time of the British protectorate, the southern Shiites near Basra tried to form their own regional sovereignty as they were suspicious of the Shiites in the north. For a well-researched article on the creation of Iraq in 1922, read Don Chapman’s interesting 2007 piece on http://archives.midweek.com/content/columns/Print_Story/following_churchills_folly_in_iraq/
Past caliphates show the surface they occupied.
Under the Ottoman empire, “Iraq” comprised three provinces Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra.
Several upheavals occurred in the Iraqi part, forcing the British to send troops in 1943. Sixty years later American and allied troops, including the British, invaded once more. The never ending story of the Middle-East.
In Iraq’s new Constitution, under American pressure, Iraq was divided into 18 “States”. Federalism, let alone democracy, is an unknown form of Government in the Middle-East and it never worked in Iraq or anywhere else (except for democratic Israel). A unified Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish government is a pipe dream. Now we are dealing with an Iraq shattering back into several pieces, mostly according to religious and tribal adhesion, amidst ruthless intolerance and genocide of religious minorities.
I am sure that Saddam would not have let ISIS cross his border. Nouri al-Maliki and the Iraqi army seemed totally impotent and, like the White House – although warned by its intelligence services that knew of ISIS in Syria -, it was taken by surprise. Maliki being a Shiite politician with strong Iranian ties – after all, he lived in exile in Iran for some eight years during Saddam Hussein’s regime – was unable or perhaps unwilling to form a unified Shiite-Sunni-Kurd government, which created deep Sunni resentment. The USA having withdrawn its troops left a terrible vacuum. Again it shows that short-sighted local American politics based on polls only bring havoc. With some greater effort in trying to convince Maliki, the USA could have left troops to support fledgling Iraq, but Iran told their ally to keep the USA out, and Obama (happily) caved. Saying now that keeping troops would not have prevented ISIS from entering Iraq is trying to justify irresponsible inaction, surely on the side of Maliki but also the USA.
What remains to be seen is what local Iraqi Shiite politicians and activists like Mukthadar Al-Sadar with his Mahdi army and the Grand Ayatolla Ali-al-Sistani will do when ISIS approaches Baghdad, and if Iran will intervene when the Shiites are threatened.
Sources say the Iranian Qud is already there, assisting Nouri al-Maliki. Sadar, a Sunni Imam, is against US forces propping up Maliki to protect Baghdad, so is Iran. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar are the main Sunni states in the Middle East. Sunnis are 90 % of the Islamic population, Shiites only 10 percent (mostly in Iran, Iraq and Oman). Egypt’s role has substantially strengthened politically in its mediation between Israel, the Palestinians, and Hamas. How will they react to Sunni ISIS?
Inaction in Syria helped create ISIS and allowed it to grow from a small force to some 10,000 fighters (many more now in 2017), many of whom are radicalized Islamists from Western nations. It is being said polls reveal Americans are sick of fighting other people’s wars. But don’t they realize that rats take vacant territory? Is it not lack of leadership to hide behind that so-called sickness of the American people and do nothing? Should the leadership not point out the dangers of not willing to fight? And that, if you don’t, these rats may finally end up in New York port? Individual Islamists in the US may already have contact with ISIS through cell phones and e-mail and can rapidly be radicalized. Remember the Fort Hood shooting, the Boston bombing.
Why did Hamas come to power in Gaza? Because the Palestinian Authority was unable to manage Gaza after Arafat was gone. What ISIS is doing in Iraq is worse than what Hamas is doing to the Palestinians in Gaza. Hamas and ISIS are both Sunnis. The danger of them connecting is clear. ISIS wants all, and “Levant” includes Jordan and Lebanon, both bordering Palestine and Israel, the reason why ISIS calls itself ISIL, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. A dire prospect.
Unfortunately, for Western countries, they must defend their comfort at the cost of losing it, but tell that to the comfortable TV-looking beer drinking Westerners who imported millions of Islamic people to do work for them they don’t want to do, and who are now protesting in their streets. It takes good leaders to wake up their citizens, and good leaders are rare today. Beware whom you invite into your house!
The origins of World War II stemmed for a good deal from wishful pacifism, cowardice, procrastination, and collaborators (!), in the hope that it would not be all that bad as some were convincingly predicting. Suddenly Europe was run over and America and Canada had to help to protect themselves. Now America and Canada have large Islamic populations with no sense of assimilation with the history of their hosts, and the pride that goes with it, and, with their open borders, the potential for terrorist attacks is plenty, even more than was the case with 9/11.
As long as the West has been involved in the Middle-East, it has been unable to implant its “rational renaissance” thinking that began in the Renaissance and overtook Islamic reactionary thinking, despite its past wealth of scientific, medical, and artistic creativity. Oil made it worse. Many different peoples in the Greater Middle East, including Iran, are ruled by religious mantras, outdated historical principles, and an unstoppable array of new masters of intolerance and cruelty, such as ISIS.
My fear is that ISIS is just one more ugly Middle Eastern sore but the most vicious so far that will run its course causing many deaths and suffering, until its dreadful barbarity is eradicated by the Middle East itself, when it finally realizes that the 21st century has arrived and they must adapt to modernity rather than creating outdated caliphates, yelling with rockets to throw the Jews into the sea, screaming fatwas about planting Allah’s flag on the White House, and propagating that Islam is the only true religion.
No US and European pacifism will help. Peace through strength will. It had better start now.”
Next time: a soft-pedaled effort by the UN and World Bank to steer Iraq toward economic development.