Archive for June, 2014

First published in the The Rutland Herald




By Haviland Smith


Make no mistake about it, what we are watching in Iraq today is the direct result of our invasion of that country in 2003, an invasion that was conceived and carried out either because the Bush administration did not understand realities in that country and region, or because it chose to overlook them for its own political reasons.


Either way, uninformed or arrogant, the result we are watching today was a foregone conclusion from the start.


The net effect was that we liberated Iraq’s inherent violence.


Iraq, like so many other countries that languished under the boot of European imperialism in the 19th and 20th centuries, was never a real country. In fact, Iraq, with its populations of Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis jammed into one country without their consent, is about as hopeless a choice for a country as exists anywhere. Over the centuries, since 6,000 B.C., what is now called Iraq has been a part of 18 empires, most of them foreign.


Since 1920, when its modern boundaries were established, Iraq has been ruled by the British Empire, by its own monarchy and then from 1968-2003, by the Baath Party dictatorship under Saddam Hussien. From 2003 until 2011, the United States was the effective ruler of Iraq through our own military establishment.


Iraqis have virtually no experience with self-rule. For roughly 8,000 years, they have been ruled by their own monarchies and dictators or by foreigners. That might be hopeful if they shared any real harmony in their ethnic and religious makeup with their Muslim neighbors. But they do not.


Iraqi Kurds total about 4 million of the 30 million Kurds who are spread out through the Middle East. Having settled in what is now northeastern Iraq over 4,000 years ago, and as an Indo-European people, they are hardly unfamiliar with the realities of living within Islam.


In fact, despite the fact that they have kept their language, most Kurds have been converted to some form of Islam by their Muslim neighbors. Further, the geographic reality of Iraqi Kurdistan, which is mountainous and defensible, added to their foreign ethnicity, has never made true Kurdish integration into Arab Iraq possible. The Kurds are tough, independent and perpetually in search of a greater Kurdistan. They have remained part of Iraq because they were forced to.


The other major impediment to Iraqi self-rule was the split between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the early 7th century. Their differences are sufficiently profound to guarantee a lack of any harmony between them. This has most recently been seen in the absolute rule of the Baath Party (Sunni) over the Shia. Even though the Sunnis were and are in the minority of the Iraqi population and the Shia were and are the majority.


Sunni rule over Iraq since 1968 can only be described as brutal and repressive. The differences between them generated from the 7th century have been sharply exacerbated by the brutal rule of Saddam Hussien.


And, of course, the U.S. military replaced Saddam Hussein as the repressive rulers of Iraq, thus earning the animosity of the great majority of the Iraq people.


So, there you have it. Iraq is a “country” at war with itself. Its diverse residents have long been waiting for the opportunity to unify into independent Kurd, Shia and Sunni groups. It is an almost perfect candidate for partition and reassembly into three or more parts. The problem clearly is that they all want to rule, and none of them wants to be ruled — the perfect circumstances for the creation of new countries in what was Iraq.


It is unreasonable to believe there is a future for self-government in a single Iraq. The extraordinary current performance of the Iraq army in deserting en toto in the face of a vastly inferior attacking force tells the story, the outcome and the future. The Sunni private will not take orders from the Shia lieutenant.


There will be no peace between these Iraqi factions until all of them can get some sort of satisfaction — most probably in the partition of the “country.” Any attempt by any entity, particularly one which is not indigenous to the region, such as the United States, to thwart or influence such an outcome by force, is only going to make the situation longer lasting and worse than it already is.


If there ever was a fight that wasn’t ours, this is it, even though our invasion started it.




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