“In the future,” many have predicted, “the Iraqis will blame their civil war on the US.”
Well, of course they will. They already do. They do in Man-on-the-street interviews, in which those men on the street explain how “everyone got along” until the bad old Americans came. In a poof, the persecution and mass-murder of the Kurds is forgotten by all the Arabs. In a poof, the persecution and mass-murder of the Shi’a by the Sunnis (the regime of Saddam Hussein being merely a disguised Sunni despotism) is forgotten — certainly by almost all the Sunnis, but also by some Shi’a when they want to blame, as they do want to blame, the Infidels for everything. Everything was wonderful.
In Pakistan Sipaha-e-Sahaba never attacked the Shi’a. In Afghanistan the Taliban never tried to wipe out every last Shi’a Hazara. In Lebanon, the Shi’a have never suffered or ever wanted to get back at the Sunnis. In Bahrain, the Shi’a who constitute 75% of the population are ruled benignly by a Sunni Arab about whom they have nothing to complain. And as for the past 1300 years of Sunni-Shi’a relations, let’s just say it has been roses, roses, roses all the way.
Of course the Americans are to blame, in Muslim eyes. Always will be.
But here’s the amusing part. The Bush Administration cannot admit to itself that the Sunni-Shi’a divide pre-dated the invasion of Iraq by some 1300 years, and that the fissures between them would inevitably widen once the iron grip of Saddam Hussein had been removed. Because to admit that this was all inevitable, would be to raise the question: if it was all inevitable, why did we not see it? For it if was inevitable, and we hadn’t — and still refuse to have — the slightest idea of its inevitability, then there must be something wrong with us. But we can’t admit that. Nor can all the commentators, for and against the war, who failed to immediately identify this inevitable outcome, and who either remained Bush loyalists, or opposed the war for all the wrong, appeasing reasons. Or they advocated some halfway measure, such as that “put in a strongman” — without, of course, asking themselves whether that “strongman” would be Sunni, in which case the Shi’a would never accept him, or Shi’a, in which case the Sunnis would never accept him.
No, those who were wrong, being unable to admit it, will persist in their obstinacy. And that obstinacy requires them to deny the depth and duration of the Sunni-Shi’a split, and thus to support the view that the “Americans caused it.”
A fantastic war, this Iraq war. Undertaken for one stated reason, continued long after for quite another, crazily messianic and polypragmonic reason. Supported by those who simply mechanically rallied around the Bush-Republican-conservative wagons, without considering what was actually going on. And even today most are still unable to see the folly of the Bush and now Gates definition of “victory,” which is the very opposite of what should be desired.
When Gates says failure to obtain “victory” — by which he means ending the Sunni-Shi’a violence and forcing the Kurds to permanently acquiesce in remaining within Arab-ruled Iraq, he has it all backwards. He speaks of “catastrophe.” But the real “catastrophe” would be if the Americans, after having squandered 3,000 lives and 22,000 wounded and a half-trillion dollars in sunk or committed future expenses, and after having done great damage to both the materiel and the morale of the armed services (not cheap to repair in one case and not easily recovered in the other), were to continue to squander men, money, and materiel in order to achieve the opposite of what would constitute a kind of victory, which would come through dividing and demoralizing and thereby weakening the Camp of Islam. Well, this would be the greatest self-inflicted defeat in American history. And it would have been entirely avoidable if Bush and Co. had had the right understanding of the instruments and full scope of the menace of Jihad.
But Jihad is not understood. Not by Bush. Not by Cheney. Not by Rice. Not by Gates. Not by the idiotic Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. Not by The New Duranty Times. Not by The Bandar Beacon. Not by the bright-eyed “insurgency experts” who keep making plans to win hearts and minds in Iraq, and who speak confidently and irrelevantly about how insurgencies “last on average ten years.” They do not consider that this “insurgency” is Islam-based. As long as Islam is there, the Infidels will always be fought, and as long as Islam is there, the ethnic and sectarian divisions within Islam will never be overcome, because the spirit of compromise, especially peaceful compromise, is contradicted by the tenets and attitudes of the belief-system of Islam.
How long will it take this learning-curve to begin to take off, as it still strains and strains and strains for lift-off?