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.