|Iraq Prime Minister Maliki|
I suppose that if you ever wanted to see an example of the widely held theory that religion and politics don't mix, then you probably need look no further than the entire Middle East region, where both history and current events continue to prove beyond doubt that a belief in a single, intangible, divine "God" to help regulate people's lives, or for that matter to run a country, is often a very poor substitute for a modern, secular and inclusive democratic government.
Of course, most countries in the world have already realised that running a entire country along purely religious lines, using holy scriptures that are possibly thousands of years old and therefore completely unsuitable for the modern age, is an absurdity in itself. Those few that do, or at least come closest to being a fully fledged religious state are almost always Islamic, autocratic and some of the least successful countries when it comes to basic issues like health, education, industry, international trade and most of the other common measures that are used to judge a nation's comparative success in the 21st century.
The likes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait the UAE and other oil rich Arab states appear to have escaped the worst of the religious upheavals in the Middle East simply because of their oil wealth and their ability to use those natural riches to both insulate themselves from and regularly suppress incidents of religious fundamentalism within their own borders. The fact that the likes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE are not modern democracies, but little more than feudal kingdoms, with a strict adherence to Islamic teachings, has also helped to ensure their survival, as has their willingness to use their wealth and influence to ensure that the various religious wars are fought well away from their own population centres.
Although clearly not an expert on the intricacies of Islamic history, it seems fairly obvious to me that some followers of Islam are still fighting wars over religious arguments that first began hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, much the same as Catholics and Protestants did in Europe five centuries ago, with the same very bloody, but rather pointless outcomes. Despite the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands who died in Europe's religious conflicts over the centuries, Catholics still hold on to their faith, Protestants to theirs, Jew to theirs, Muslims to theirs. In other words, not a single death has made one iota of difference in the overall scheme of things, other than to help create decades, or centuries of hatred, intolerance and division that no single religion ever gained one single benefit from.
What is more disturbing about the current conflicts in the Middle East is the attempt by a relatively small group of religious fundamentalists to use the underlying and historic religious tensions, those that exist between Sunni and Shia Muslims, to somehow justify the wholesale extermination of other minor faith groups in the region. Whether it's the Yazidi, Christians, Shia's or other non-compliant Sunni Muslims there can surely be no justification for the genocidal campaign that's currently being launched against them by the fighters from the Sunni inspired Islamic Caliphate movement.
But of course that pre-supposes that these religious fighters are what they purport to be, Islamic warriors, waging some sort of holy war against the unbelievers, as opposed to just being a band of brigands who loot, rape, murder, torture and ransack, not for any higher purpose, but purely because they can, the usual forces of law and order having withdrawn before them. If the definition of a terrorist is simply someone who terrorises his fellow citizens, putting them in fear of their lives, then the entire Islamic State movement is little more than an out-of-control terrorist organisation, or how else would one explain the purpose of their photographs and videos depicting their victims being crucified, shot or beheaded? What religious army rapes young girls and women, robs people of their money or possessions, or tortures their prisoners? It doesn't sound very spiritual to hack someone's head off in public, especially when they're bound hand and foot, unable to offer any sort of defence. No, try as they might to justify their base and brutal actions by draping them in the flag of the Islamic religion, to even call them animals would be to insult the lowliest of creatures, the IS fighters are much, much worse than that.
Our leaders in the West though must take their fair share of responsibility for the rise of the IS plague, as it was their thoughtlessness and conceit that inadvertently led to its creation, following the allied invasion of Iraq in 2003, ostensibly to destroy Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction or WMD's, which didn't actually exist. By removing Saddam from power, along with his army and intelligence services, the allied forces essentially removed any effective counterweight to those religious fundamentalists who would have previously been suppressed by Saddam Hussein's administration. Even though he was a dictator of the worst kind, responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in his own country, Saddam was said to have operated a generally secular government, in recognition of the fact that inter-faith rivalries did indeed exist and could therefore pose a significant threat to his continued rule.
By defeating and then disbanding the standing Iraqi army after the 2003 invasion, western forces helped to create a situation where extremist groups were able to thrive, so much so that allied troops were reported to have incurred losses as the result of militant actions, which might not have been the case had the regular Iraqi army units been kept in place. In fact, it has even been suggested that numbers of these same former well trained Iraqi soldiers went on to form a core of the various religious militias that regularly attacked coalition forces in Iraq, causing additional human losses that otherwise could and should have been avoided.
No doubt hoping that a completely reformed Iraqi national army with very little experience and a new civilian government would help resolve such issues after western forces had withdrawn from the country, almost inevitably the problem has got worse rather than improving. Iraq has not only found itself saddled with a national army that is incapable of confronting the IS militia, but one that finds it easier to run away without even firing a shot at the religious insurgents. With an officer corps lacking both quality and experience, who are generally reported to be the first ones to flee the scene of an impending battle with IS, it is perhaps little wonder that the regular troops are inclined to follow their officer's lead and abandon their uniforms and weapons, rather than confront the heavily armed and mobile enemy which is approaching them.
Added to this is the national government of Prime Minister Maliki, who has thus far failed to bring the country together under his leadership, preferring instead to exacerbate the tribal and religious differences that even Saddam Hussein would regard as a disastrous approach. Having ignored and isolated both the Kurds and the mainstream Sunni Muslims within the country. Prime Minister Maliki is only now, albeit late in the day, coming to realise that an inclusive military and political approach must be employed if he is to rescue Iraq from the real threat posed by the Islamic terrorist groups that now hold power in huge swathes of the country. Even though many thousands of Iraqis have died thus far, as a result of the IS invasion of the country, in the event that the Kurdish peshmerga forces were to fail through no fault of their own, or the remaining Iraqi military forces were to refuse to stand their ground, it is almost certain that a humanitarian disaster will eventually occur, of the sort previously witnessed in the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda and in Cambodia; even though the international community has since dedicated itself to preventing such events from happening, yet again!
The point being of course, why has it taken this long for the international community to finally wake up to the looming disaster that is taking place in Iraq, bearing in mind that it was this same international community and principally the United States and the United Kingdom who were the chief architects of the disaster, in the shape of President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Although no-one could doubt that Prime Minister Maliki has been instrumental in creating the basic conditions for the worsening ethnic and religious divides in Iraq that has added to the situation, ultimately it was the Americans and the British administrations that chose the framework for a post Saddam Iraq, with no effective army, no effective intelligence services, no inclusive government and who between them allowed the Kurdish peshmerga forces to be marginalised and under resourced in terms of military arms and equipment, with which they could help protect the wider country. It is utter madness that the most effective fighting units in Iraq at present were and continue to be denied the sort of logistical support that the overrated and totally outclassed Iraqi national army were more than happy to abandon; that subsequently fell into the hands of the IS militias and is now being used to attack what is left of Iraq.
For their part at least the United States is trying to offer some sort of military support to the Iraqi government, if only by attacking the IS militias from the air and by targeting equipment that has fallen into the hands of the Islamic terrorists. It is astonishing though that for its part the UK administration of David Cameron doesn't seem to accept that our country has at least a moral responsibility to try and rectify a situation that a previous British Prime Minister helped to create. Food parcels, water, tents and groundsheets for Iraqi refugees are all very well, but ultimately they provide little or no protection from the bombs and the bullets that the Islamic militias have at their disposal and that they will almost inevitably use against the refugees at the earliest opportunity. We helped to create the problem of ISIS and it is only right and proper that we should use our armed forces and our logistical muscle to help in resolving the problem, ideally by using strike aircraft to both undermine and degrade the IS military forces.
Although no-one is suggesting that the UK should put men on the ground in Iraq, there can be no good reason why Britain cannot arm and re-supply the Kurdish peshmerga forces who are more than capable of taking on and defeating the Islamic militias provided that they're are given adequate military materials to do the job. I find it truly astonishing that Mr Cameron was more than happy to involve our country's armed forces in Syria, despite the fact that it had nothing to do with us. He was more than happy to involve our armed forces in Libya, even though it had nothing to do with us. Yet when it comes to Iraq, where we do bear some degree of responsibility for the current situation, he refuses to take any sort of meaningful action! Regardless of the fact that both Iraq and Afghanistan have turned out to be the most wasteful sort of adventurism for our country; and especially for members of our Armed Forces, if we ever hope to regain our reputation for being a guardian of international law and protecting the weak from the powerful, then surely we must be prepared to clean up the mess that we have helped to create, beginning with Iraq?