Bombs Away! US to the Rescue – But Only of Certain Minorities, Not Muslims
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA, 11 Aug 2014
Obama’s air strikes on Isis in northern Iraq are hypocritical, and a sense of déjà vu is understandable.
He wouldn’t bomb Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s bloody caliphate when it was butchering the majority Shia Muslims of Iraq. But Barak Obama is riding to the rescue of the Christian refugees – and the Yazidis – because of “a potential act of genocide”. Bombs away. And thank heavens that the refugees in question are not Palestinian.
This hypocrisy almost takes the breath away, not least because the US President is still too frightened – in case he upsets the Turks – to use the “G” word about the 1915 Turkish genocide of a million and a half Armenian Christians, a mass slaughter on a scale which even Abu Bakr’s thugs have not yet attempted. We’ll have to wait another year to see how Obama wriggles out of the 100th anniversary commemorations of that particular Muslim massacre of Christians.
But for now, “America is coming to help” in Iraq with air strikes on “convoys” of Isis fighters. But isn’t that what the Americans staged against the Taliban in Afghanistan, often mistaking innocent wedding parties for Islamist “convoys”? Dropping food parcels to minority refugees in fear of their lives on the bare mountainsides of northern Iraq – also under way – is exactly the same operation US forces performed for the Kurds almost a quarter of a century ago; and in the end, they had to put American and British soldiers on the ground to create a “safe haven” for the Kurds.
Nor has Obama said anything about his friendly ally Saudi Arabia, whose Salafists are the inspiration and fund-raisers for the Sunni militias of Iraq and Syria, just as they were for the Taliban in Afghanistan. The wall between the Saudis and the monsters they create – and which America now bombs – must be kept as high as it must be invisible. That is the measure of American dissimulation in this latest act of duplicity. Obama is bombing the friends of his Saudi allies – and the enemies of the Assad regime in Syria, by the way – but won’t say so. And just for good measure, he believes that America must act in defence of its consulate in Erbil and embassy in Baghdad.
That’s the same excuse the US used when it fired its naval guns into the Chouf mountains of Lebanon 30 years ago: that Lebanon’s pro-Syrian warlords were endangering the US embassy in Beirut. That the Islamists are as unlikely to seize Irbil as they are to capture Baghdad is neither here nor there. Obama says he has a “mandate” to bomb from the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki, the elected but dictatorial Shia who now runs Iraq as a broken and sectarian state. How we Westerners love “mandates”, ever since the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, which drew the borders of the Middle East for our “mandates” – the very frontiers which Abu Bakr’s caliphate has now sworn to destroy. There is not much doubt about the awfulness of the equally sectarian Isis which Abu Bakr is creating.
His threat to the Christians of Iraq – convert, pay tax or die – has now been turned against the Yazidis, the harmless and tiny sect whose Persian-Assyrian roots, Christian-Islamo rituals and forgiving God have doomed them as assuredly as the Christians. Ethnic Kurds, the poor old Yazidis believe that God, whose seven angels supposedly govern the Earth, pardoned Satan: so inevitably, this ancient people came to be regarded as devil-worshippers. Hence their 130,000 refugees – at least 40,000 of them living on mountain rocks in at least nine locations around Mount Sinjar – tell stories of rape, murder and child-killing at the hands of Abu Bakr’s men. Alas, they may all be true.
The Yazidis are probably descended from supporters of the second Umayyad Caliph, Yazid the First; his suppression of Hussein, the son of Ali – whose followers are now the Shia of the Middle East – might theoretically have commended the Yazidis to Abu Bakr’s Sunni Muslim army. But their mixed rituals and their denial of evil were never going to find favour with a group which – like Saudi Arabia and the Taliban – believes in “the suppression of vice and the propagation of virtue”. In the fault lines that lie across ancient Kurdistan, Armenia and what was Mesopotamia, history has dealt the Yazidis a bad hand.
But for them and the Nestorians and other Christian groups, Obama has gone to war. The French, their old Crusader spirits reawakened, called the Security Council to reflect upon this Christian pogrom. But the question remains: would America have done the same if the wretched minority refugees of northern Iraq had been Palestinians? Or will Obama’s latest bombing campaign merely provide a welcome distraction from the killing fields of Gaza?
Robert Fisk, based in Beirut, is a multiple award-winning journalist on the Middle East and a correspondent for The Independent, a UK newspaper. He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.
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