The US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq has turned out to be one of the biggest blunders in history. A homogenous and fully functioning nation has become splintered. A unified people has been pitted each other. A once strong country has been rendered so vulnerable it has become the playground of foreign armies, militias, mercenaries and carpetbaggers.
And now that once proud country, that has lost so many of its sons and daughters, is in danger of becoming unglued and losing its very .
Lest we forget as we watch the disintegration of this great land unfold on our screens, Mesopotamia [Iraq] was known as the Cradle of Civilization long before the Pharaohs and thousands of years before Alexander the Great.
This is the land that gave the world mathematics, the first alphabet and laws. For 500 years Baghdad was the beating heart of the world. Later, Iraq was swallowed by the Ottoman Empire and was finally returned to rule in 1932, the year of its independence.
When Saddam Hussein took power in 1979, he suppressed the Iraqi people but under his autocratic rule the country held together, it prospered and become known for its emancipation of women, its universities and its first class medical facilities. Sunnis and Shiites regularly intermarried.
That seems hard to believe doesn’t it when today women are afraid to leave their homes, academics are being slaughtered and terrified doctors are fleeing in droves? There was once an expression. Cairo writes, Beirut publishes and Baghdad reads.
But all that seems an age ago. Eight years of war with Iran. Years of harsh UN sanctions, and four years of occupation and sectarian violence have taken a terrible toll.
Perhaps, once the occupiers and their military hardware have left, the Iraqi people can begin to rebuild and reconcile. It’s true that this will require determination and dedication but we should always bear in mind that the enemy of hope is despair.
But first Iraqis come together and reject all foreign influences. The US and its allies admit their failures and publicise an exit plan.
Iraq’s neighbours should remove themselves from the equation, foreign insurgents should go home and the Iraqi people once again think of themselves as Iraqis first and foremost.
This is no easy task but the alternative will be devastating to Iraq. Unless Iraqis take this course, Iraq may end up as just a name in the history books like Yugoslavia.
Perhaps this was America’s plan all along. Broken into three small ineffectual states, the land that was once Iraq would be reduced to impotence, its peoples forced to accept the diktats of foreigners, its rich natural resources up for grabs.
Moreover it would never again be a threat to Israel, as Oded Yinon, an Israeli journalist linked to the Foreign Ministry, realised as far back as 1982 when he wrote “to dissolve Iraq is even more important to us than dissolving Syria”.
Yinon wasn’t alone in this view. Some 21 years later, on November 25 2003, Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus on the Council of Foreign Relations wrote a column in the New York Times calling for the division of Iraq between “Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the centre and Shiites in the south”.
“This would allow America to put most of its money and troops where they would do the most good quickly – with the Kurds and the Shiites,” he wrote adding, “American officials could then wait for the troublesome and domineering Sunnis, without oil or oil revenues, to moderate their ambitions or suffer the consequences.” Those consequences are infecting and creating divisions throughout the entire region.
It’s worth noting that Mr Gelb was consulted by the authors of the recent Iraq Study Report.
One might, therefore, be forgiven for believing the US initially intended to break Iraq’s Sunni community, perhaps even punish it for the deeds of Saddam Hussein, who, by the way, did not discriminate in the brutal treatment he meted out to Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis alike.
In Iraq today, Sunnis have been marginalised. The country’s prime minister is a Shiite, whose power base consists of the Dawa Party that has long called for an independent Shiite state.
Its president is the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, described on its website as “a political party aiming to achieve self-determination for the Kurdish people of Iraq”.
Can we in all conscience believe that these senior politicians have suddenly abandoned their long-held dreams of autonomy?
As part of President George W. Bush’s much publicised and controversial surge, Kurdish Peshmurga battalions will work alongside American troops to subdue Baghdad. These are the same forces that are ethnically-cleansing the oil-rich city of Kirkuk of Arabs.
If the US wants the region to support it in its endeavours then it be seen to be even-handed. It should work towards the reintegration of Iraq and treat Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis in an impartial fashion.
At the same time, foreign energy giants and their government sponsors should stop coveting Iraqi oil, the revenues of which should be spread equally throughout the whole of Iraq for the benefit of all its peoples.
In the words of Martin Luther King Junior “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice”. Without justice for all Iraqis regardless of their beliefs or ethnicity the future looks bleak.