By Laksiri Fernando –
The US supposed to have left Iraq three years ago. Now they are again bombing Iraq, supposedly the ISIS targets. It would be very hard for the discerning American citizens to digest the logic. Their emotions, with bitter memories, might be very high both for and against Obama’s actions. The logic in fact started in 2003 when the US invaded Iraq and then eventually lost over 4,500 soldiers.
The US undoubtedly is a democratic country with considerable admirable features that any country should emulate or admire, but not the foreign policy or what they do in other countries. There is an obvious dichotomy between internal governance and external policy or behaviour, most probably the latter emerging out of the multinational corporate interests (oil), the size and the position of the country, or a mistaken world ideology. It is also true in politics, whether internal or external, that when one step is erroneously taken then most likely that is followed by bigger and bigger mistakes.
The US has not yet taken correct lessons from their Vietnamese experience. How dare they think that they could control the whole world? The US was completely correct in putting their weight behind the European nations, although reluctantly at the beginning, in the Second World War, when German Fascism was playing havoc in Europe massacring Jews and suppressing many other nations. Even their nuclear bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki might be excused considering the Japanese threat not only for their interests but also for the independent existence of Asian countries. However, the number of civilians killed in those bombings at least exceeded 200,000.
The US has made a bigger mess in the Middle East than in Vietnam or any other region. Their proxy interventions in Eastern Europe (i.e. former Yugoslavia) after the collapse of the Soviet Union, luckily prevented a major disaster thanks to the strength of the social institutions in place in that region. But this is not the case in Iraq or in the Middle East in general. Social institutions are quite fragile and archaic marked by traditional tribal hierarchies and sectarian religious conflicts. Saddam Hussein regime perhaps was the best one could expect in Iraq before the US invasion in 2003. It was up to the Iraqi people to change it.
No doubt, that Iraqi invasion of Kuwait could not be tolerated. But that was a decade earlier. The containment of the regime should have been stopped at the borders. What else an outsider could do? The Afghan civil war didn’t have much to do with Iraq. It was largely a making of the US. I may be exaggerating a little, but it is closer to the truth. Even if the intervention in Afghanistan was imperative after the horrendous 9/11 al-Qaeda attacks, that should have been stopped then and there. The Expansion of the intervention into Iraq was completely unwarranted. The reason given for the invasion, ‘weapons of mass destruction,’ were never found. Now the whole world can see the mess created. Instead of al-Qaeda directly, now a bigger monster, ISIS, is created. ISIS means Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (Syria).
There is no much reliable research done on the ISIS yet. However, according to Anthony Cordesman and Sam Khazi (Iraq Crisis, 2014), it is of recent origin, not very much going beyond late 2011. Led by Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi (Cleric), it originated as an Iraqi group of al-Qaeda, but quite distinct with a clear objective of creating its own state. This could be its both strength and weakness. Its strength might rely on the fact it represents the Sunni resistance to the Shite minority domination in Iraq. As far as it is a territory and a state, its targets are clear at least to the US, but not distinct from the civilians. It is quite confusing to know that Edward Snowdon claimed that Baghdadi was initially trained by Israeli Mossad with the backing of US and British intelligence.[i] I am giving the reference since the claim can be controversial.
There is no question that what the ISIS do is horrible and intolerable. Their march from chaotic Syrian (northern) borders into Iraq reminds us how Khmer Rouge marched to Phnom Penh in 1975. When they captured Mosul in early June, they executed selected Turkmen, Shabak, Yazidis and Christian minorities as a warning. They forced the Christians to convert into Islam. Then the Christians and others fled to Sinjar Mountains and now the ISIS control those areas or have encircled them. They are also in Samara not very far from Baghdad, to the north. There are several provinces in Syria now controlled by the ISIS including Homs. They also control some oil fields on both sides.
According to Human Right Watch and other reports executions and other atrocities are rising daily. There is no question that some intervention is warranted, but it is questionable whether the US bombing is the right reaction.
It may be true that after ISIS converted itself into Islamic State (IS) and declared Caliphate, dissention within and outside has emerged which might mark a certain disintegration but not without enormous chaos and humanitarian disaster.
In these columns we have often debated the merits or validity of international influence/pressure in contrast to international intervention. Of course the demarcation between them could be quite thin in certain circumstances. However, here the difference is quite clear. International influence or pressure is quite necessary and useful in certain circumstances for democratic development. But the failure of international pressure should not warrant intervention or interference so easily.
The rise of the ISIS is directly linked to the form of government that the US allowed or created in Iraq, on the one hand, and the crisis in Syria on the other. How far the US assisted several insurgencies in Syria, perhaps including ISIS, in the name of ‘Arab Spring’ is not clear. However, what is obvious is that the form of government that was created in Iraq very clearly discriminated and marginalized the Sunni Muslims. That is very clear although the whole blame should not go to the US. This is a lesson that any country should learn. Especially when the discriminated minorities are ‘true believers,’ the situation could become out of control. The ideological blame or castigation of ‘Jihadism’ is not a solution.
The Middle East crisis and the US culpability in it goes deeper and longer. No one can say, he or she knows all the aspects of the crisis. It is so complicated. But there are clearer aspects. There has been a considerable turmoil and instability created since the inauguration of Israel as a Jewish state in 1948. Of course the Jewish community was one of the most persecuted communities in the world particularly before Israel’s inception not only in Germany but in many of the Western countries. Perhaps the creation was performed to appease the guilt, if not to fulfil a mistaken biblical prophecy.
More than its creation, the way it was created was problematic. It was also a mistake trying to appease one community, Jews, at the expense of another community, Palestinians. Israel is one of the most militarized states in the world today. There is no question that Hamas and even Fatah have been extremely intransigence and violent. So does Israel. Both sides are in a catch 22 situation. Israel has refused to participate in ‘peace talks’ scheduled to take place today in Cairo demanding that Hamas stop attacks. But they continue the same.
If there is any power that can stop the fighting in Israel-Palestine that is the US. The UN has (appear to have) done its best even exposing its incapacity. As far as this conflict continues, the whole Middle East region would remain in flames. The US has done some efforts under Obama or even before but not enough to deescalate the conflict or resolve the contentious issues. Perhaps they are ingrained in their own biases.
The US is the biggest democratic country in the world. People look for inspirations from its independence declaration, bill of rights or various democratic structures of governance. However, their foreign policy imbedded still in the Bush Doctrine or neoconservatism deeply depresses these aspirations. The US should not think that they could control every event in the world. With their newest bombings in Iraq they undoubtedly must be committing ‘war crimes’ of the worst type. The US duplicity in foreign policy gives credence to worst violators of human rights and humanitarian laws in the world. The Sri Lankan regime is already exploiting the situation for their advantage.