First, it is important to recognize: There is no Iraq. Yes, there are some lines –borders– on a map of the Middle East, and inside those lines it says “IRAQ”. Those are Western lines, not Arab lines.
Those lines were put there in 1922 by the Brits –specifically drawn in by Winston Churchill and Lloyd George. (After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire this job had fallen to the British Empire. Which Empire –bear in mind– though it was hardly “in the pink” in 1922, would itself have utterly evaporated in another 30 or so years.)
In 1922 Winston Churchill was in charge of the British Navy, which happened to be switching over from coal to oil at the time. That single fact had more to do with the creation of “Iraq” than anything else. “Iraq” has always been “about” oil.
For a while the leadership of “Iraq” was approved by the west, but inevitably, Arabic urges towards independance and self-determination came into play (–just as they had in our American Revolution in 1776, just as they had in many parts of the world since.)
Self-determination! That’s where it gets tricky. Who does the determining? Who takes up arms, or puts their lives on the line to bring it about? Who takes over the reins? Who makes the rules?
(Let me insert here a number of possible candidates: The Good People. The Selfless Heroes. The Courageous. The Brave. And, certainly, The Dispossessed; the Down-trodden. Those with Nothing-to-Lose. The Patriots. The Freedom Fighters. Those who will not Flinch; those who will not be Cowed-By-Fear. Those who will stop at nothing in the Cause of Liberty. Those who will not rest until The Enemy is Defeated. Those who willingly risk Life and/or Limb to raise The Glorious Flag for the Sake of Freedom. The Unflagging.
But –The Shoppers? Probably not. )
Without going into the details of recent history, suffice it to say that in our “Iraq” Saddam Hussein eventually came on the scene. He would run Iraq, and order the lives of the different groups of people who lived within its borders –the Sunnis, the Shiites, and the Kurds. Because of their differences, there was always potential for instability and conflict. But Saddam was a fierce enforcer and as it turned out, there were very few “Iraqis” who risked opposing him, and the almost inevitable imprisonment, or torture, or death.
For decades, “Shut up and keep your head down. This too will pass” was the formula for survival for the vast majority of Iraqis. (And who can say that “This too will pass” is not the very best advice? At least in the interim.)
In my collection of Arabic proverbs –my post 9.11 contribution, if I may call it such– one proverb especially stands out. It is an ancient proverb, with many applications through the ages. To me, more than all the others, it speaks a truth, a reality, about our war in Iraq, and what we can reasonably expect to happen. It describes what has been going on; it addresses the “surge”; it tells us what to expect in the future. It has human nature on its side.
Here is that proverb:
“THREE, IF THEY UNITE AGAINST A TOWN, WILL RUIN IT.”
There is another truth, another fact about Iraq. Perhaps it is more about Iraqis. In all of the cruel tyrannical years of Saddam Hussein’s rule, there was NO rebellion against him, no revolution. No one wanted it ENOUGH to make it happen. Apparently the rule of “Shut up and keep your head down. This too will pass” was applied. (This may seem harsh, but I believe it is incontrovertible.)
About U.S. intentions in Iraq, Mr Bush likes to say of the Iraqis “We will step down as they step up.” We were training the Iraqi Army, and the Iraqi Police. This so-called training has been an absolute failure and embarrassment.. Where are the Iraqis stepping up?
It became clear to me quite some time ago that this is a question of WILL, not of TRAINING.
The foreseeable future of Iraq will be determined by these two truths:
“THREE, IF THEY UNITE AGAINST A TOWN, WILL RUIN IT”, and
“SHUT UP AND KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN. THIS TOO WILL PASS.”
The insurgents have the obsessive determination, the passion. They are no doubt motivated by another proverb: “The house of the unjust oppressor must be destroyed, even though it take until the distant future.” They will fight that fight, probably for ever.
Let me end with a modest claim: I can end the killing in Iraq. Right now I am putting together a little book, a pamphlet really (not much bigger than Thomas Paine’s “The Rights of Man”). Entitled “How to make a Successful Revolution in Iraq.” It describes our own 1776 Revolution, in twelve simple steps –note that I say Simple and not Easy.
And I’ll have a big “CAVEAT LECTOR” on the cover. It will say: “A Revolution is not an Easy Thing. It is not all Chocolates and Flowers. Do not attempt even one step unless you are committed to seeing all twelve through.”
(And considering the history of Iraq since 1922, I would say that we can expect that being a Sunni or a Shiite or a Kurd –each in their own partitioned bailiwick– might mean more to those folks than the Winston Churchill label –“Iraqi”.
Remember –there is NO IRAQ.