- Guest Opinion - Filed 6/29/04
Note: The following series by GCN's Washington correspondent and GCN's
senior contributing writer Perry Hicks was originally published in 2004 on
GCN. This series of reports is especially insightful in light of the
developments underway in the Middle East, the recent comments by the Pope
and others regarding the Clash of Civilizations. GCN reposts this series
now for GCN's readers who may have not seen this series.
The Left Bemoans It As Bush’s War. The Right Insists That It Is Vital To National Security. What Both Sides Are Loath To Tell You.
Part One of Four
By Perry Hicks -
Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking this is not the Third World War. Nor should we be so politically correct that we deny this is all about religion. Fascism, the ideology long thought moldering in the grave, has raised its boney hand and much of the world is now locked in its terror grip. Before it is over, destructive forces will be unleashed that heretofore we have only imagined.
Predictably, the Left brushes 9-11 aside as if it was insignificant. They characterize the liberation of Iraq as merely another entry in a long line of American atrocities. In their world, the war is either Bush’s revenge for the plot to assassinate his father, or is an oil company scheme to pump Iraq down to a giant sink hole. The war is never said to have value in protecting America.
To the contrary, they claim the invasion of Iraq has inflamed the passions of young Muslim men the world over. To that end America is now in mortal danger. Some would even say the invasion of Afghanistan was just as provocative.
The Left insists that the aerial attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the foiled attack on the Capitol not only could, but should, have been handled by law enforcement alone. To lead America unilaterally into this “criminal” war, Bush had to lie, lie, lie about Saddam harboring Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Democrats never mention that it was the Clinton Administration that first proclaimed Saddam Hussein was not only harboring, but continuing to develop, biological and chemical capabilities.
Indeed, much was said and written during 1990s would lead one to believe that the War On Terror should not be about Iraq or Afghanistan, but instead an entirely different strategic objective; one that is not just part of President Bush’s “Axis of Evil”, but one that rests at the very nexus of Islamo-Fascist plots to destroy America. That nexus is Iran.
In this 4 part series, we will pan over the historical backdrop to this conflict, see what analysts have said before the invasion of Iraq, and examine what is arguably the real reason the United States removed Saddam Hussein from his seat of tyrannical power.
The Birth Of Islam
Islam was born in Arabia in 609 A.D., 40 years after the birth of a man reported to be the descendant of the biblical Abraham and Hagar the Egyptian: Muhammad The Prophet of Islam. By the way, Muslims identify Abraham as a Babylonian, not as a Jew.
. At that time, Arabia was only touched at the fringes by religion, but where it touched there was also idolatry. Muhammad’s growing spirituality led him to a series of revelations and the mission to reject idolatry, protect the helpless, and to proclaim, warn, and teach. Almost immediately, Muhammad and his followers faced considerable oppression.
Following Muhammad’s successions of struggles and battles will do us little good here except to make note of a few salient points: That Muhammad and his followers were persecuted but through a combination of evangelism and warfare not only prevailed but actually flourished; that many players then are still players today: the lands of Hind (India) and Sind (Pakistan), Yemen, Persia (Iran), Byzantium (former capital of Ottoman Empire now Turkey), Syria, Egypt, and Abyssinia (Ethiopia.)
Islam, which translated means submission to the will of God, has had its history punctuated with prophets and reformers who sought to defend their faith, even by violent means. Once a foothold was made on the Arabian Peninsula, it spread rapidly west over North Africa and as far east as Indonesia.
It is interesting to note that Muslims, along with Jews and Christians, are considered to be “People Of The Book”, meaning that Muslims recognize both the Torah and Christian Gospels. The problem, as Muslims see it, is that Jews and Christians have become unfaithful and so refer to them as “infidels.” This status as People of the Book allows Jews and Christians to practice their own religions. Hindus and Buddhists, on the other hand, enjoy no such recognition.
In the area of Iraq, then called Mesopotamia, the first conflict between Muslims and the Sasanids (Persia) came in 634 A.D. Arabs had been migrating into the region for some time and were growing in population. The Muslims were defeated in 634 but came back in much stronger numbers in 637 to vanquish the main Persian army and sack the capital. By 638, Muslims were in control over most of Iraq. Basra, then a garrison city, dates from this time. After 638, Arab migration into Iraq became quite heavy.
Although Iraq was permanently in Muslim control, the population was rather diverse. Muslims, Jews, Christians coexisted surprisingly well.
Over the next 1280 years, Iraq was controlled in succession by Arabs, Mongols, Turkmen, and Ottomans. It was the British that seized Iraq from the defeated Ottoman Empire in 1918. In my opinion, our present troubles can be traced back to that time.
Encroachment By The West
Although the British East India Company was allowed to establish an agency in Basra in 1763, the British, along with the Dutch and Portuguese, had been actively trading is the area since the 1600s. By 1798, the British had the permission to appoint a permanent agent in Baghdad. This increasing level of European involvement with Iraq continued on into the 1800s. The Western Powers routinely interfered with local affairs.
Da’ud Pasha, the last Mamluk governor of Iraq, looked to Europe for modern weapons, military advisors to train his army, and commercial trade. While Egypt was doing the same thing with regard to France, it was Iraq who came increasingly under British influence.
Da’ud, like all of the Mamluks, was never able to rule independently from his local sheiks, bureaucrats, merchants, Muslim holy men, and even certain groups associated with the garrisons. Ultimately he was removed by force in 1837 and by 1850 Iraq had fallen under direct Ottoman rule.
The Ottomans continued to modernize Iraq in most every way from land reform to transportation and commerce to education. Indeed, the number of nomads in Iraq declined from about 35% in 1867 to half that number by 1918.
Although there were few Christians by this time in Iraq, many schools were opened by Protestants and Roman Catholics as well as Jews. In fact, Jews founded the prestigious Alliance Israélite Universelle in 1865. The government also opened schools. Despite these efforts, much of the general population remained illiterate.
As the Ottomans continued to secularize Iraqi society, both Muslim religious leaders and office holders lost power, status, and wealth. The Shia lost the most but the civil and military officers, who were almost exclusively Sunnites, were able to consolidate their positions into political elite that would carry over into modern Iraq.
World War I
And The Discovery Of Oil
While Iraq, as had many states in the Middle East, enjoyed long periods of greatness, the encroachment by the West was possible only because their fortunes were at low ebb. Particularly in the arena of technology, the Islamic states continued to fall behind the great European powers.
This is decline came because the Middle East and Gulf States had originally been the conduit for trade between Europe and the Far East. Arabs were superb land and sea navigators. With the development of European sea power, Arabs as the middle-man become increasingly irrelevant to Western commerce. However, the coming of oil would change all of that.
Toward the latter half of the 18th Century, the Ottomans increasingly came under the influence of Germany going as far in 1899 as granting a concession for a Berlin to Baghdad railroad line. When the Germans not got the right of way they also got mineral rights on either side of the proposed line.
Oil had been discovered in southern Russia in 1870 so there was a great hope of finding oil throughout the Middle East. Thus, the British considered Germany’s entry into Iraq a threat to their interests, particularly after the 1908 Iranian oil discovery by the forerunner to British Petroleum (BP), The Anglo-Persian Oil Company. This threat was strategic in that the Royal Navy had recently announced the intent to convert from coal to oil powered ships. Britain made contingency plans to move troops from India to Iraq should British oil interests be threatened.
These plans were executed when the Ottomans allied themselves with Germany during World War I. The British landed an expeditionary force at Basra in 1914. They advanced up the Tigris and Euphrates finding very little opposition from Arab units until they reached Ctesiphon at the outskirts of Baghdad. There, Ottoman regular army units halted the advance and quickly besieged the exhausted and sickly British troops at Kut.
A year later, the British came back with better organization and by 1917 had fought all the way to Baghdad. At the war’s end, Britain had control over the 3 Ottoman Vilayets of Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul. These three would form the basis for the modern Iraq.
We can see from even this severely abbreviated account of history that Iraq had taken a long time to pass from a state of relative civilized greatness into deep decline. The Ottoman Empire, as did the Middle East, needed the trade interaction with the technologically and militarily superior west. At the same time, the west meddled with internal affairs causing a growing level of discord. The defeat of the Ottoman Empire did not dissipate this sense of tension with the Christian West but only heightened it.
In Part 2, we will examine the British dominance of the Middle East and western Asia after 1918 and the debate over repatriating Jews into Palestine prior to World War II.
Related: The Coming Conflict - It Has Finally Dawned On The Liberal Press That The Incursion Into Iraq Was More About Iran Than Saddam Hussein. The Real Question Is Can Establishing Western-style Democracies Alone Contain Iranian Mullahs?
About the Author.....
Perry Hicks is the senior writer for GCN. He is a former Mississippi Coast resident and was a correspondent for the old Gulfport Star Journal. He has appeared on Fox News Channel. Perry has also hosted his own radio talk show on the auto industry with a mix of politics. Perry is a former college professor and a frequent contributor to GCN writing on stories of national importance with local interests. His articles can be found in the GCN Archive.
Contact the Author: firstname.lastname@example.org