Know your enemy: a brief history or Iraq

Sun Tzu wrote that “not only must we have worthy goals to be successful, but our methods, the last of his five factors, must be honorable as well. … Sun Tzu teaches that leaders must be honest.” Source: Frugal

How honest was America’s political leaders when it came to starting the war in Iraq?

“Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the Bush White House’s case on Iraq’s alleged biological-and chemical-weapon stockpile in a dramatic Feb. 5, 2003, speech to the U.N. Security Council.” Source: USA

More than a decade after President George W. Bush started the war in Iraq, those weapons of mass destruction have not been found and no one is looking for them because they didn’t exist.

Instead of going into detail starting with 3500 BC when Mesopotamia became the world’s first known civilization in South Eastern Iraq, I want to focus on several elements that are eerily similar to Afghanistan.

332 BC: Alexander the Great conquers the Persians and the area we know of as Iraq becomes part of his empire.

In 633 AD, Muslims conquer the region that is Iraq today.

Mongol invaders led by the grandson of Genghis Khan destroy the Muslim Arab Empire that includes Iraq in 1258 AD.

The British—militarily and politically—become involved in the region in the 19th century to protect their trade routes with India and the East. In 1917, British troops occupy Baghdad and in 1920, the League of Nations gives Great Britain a mandate to rule over Mesopotamia. The British then set up King Faisal the 1st as the monarch of Iraq.

Then in 1932, Iraq becomes Independent and during World War II—wanting to get rid of British influence in the region—allies with Germany, Italy and Japan.

Great Britain defeats Iraq in 1941. In 1945, Iraq helps form the Arab League that declares war on the newly formed nation of Israel.

King Faisal the 2nd becomes Iraq’s leader in 1953. But in 1958, there is a military coup and the monarchy is destroyed. In 1979, Saddam Hussein becomes the Iraqi President and in 1980, Iraq invades Iran starting the Iran-Iraq war. In 1990, Iraq invades Kuwait. In 1991, a coalition of 39 countries starts the First Persian Gulf War and liberates Kuwait. Iraq accepts a ceasefire. Source: Dates and Iraq-Timeline

In July 2012, Con Coughlin writing for the Uk’s Telegraph reported, “The modern-day states of Iraq and Syria once formed the ancient kingdom of Mesopotamia. They share the same tribal culture, heritage and a lengthy border.”

What does that tribal culture look like?

The Council on Foreign Relations says, “There is … a consensus among experts that tribal traditions remain culturally important to many Iraqis. … Tribes are regional power-holders, and tribal sheiks are often respected members of Iraqi communities.

“Among Iraq’s Shiite majority, [Islamic} religious leaders appear to be a more potent political force, … That said, religious leaders … appear to derive some of their strength from tribal connections. …

“Some tribes pre-date Mohammed, the prophet of Islam … For centuries, the tribes were the primary form of social organization through much of the region. While their influence has diminished through the years, the Ottoman Turks, the British, the British-backed monarchy, and the Baathists all sought their cooperation.”

Do you see the similarities between Iraq and Afghanistan? Both regions were conquered by Alexander the Great and ruled over by the Greeks. Both have tribal influences that have been around for centuries.

The Islamic religion swept over both regions about the same time. The Mongols rolled over both regions. Then the British arrived followed by the American military.

You may have noticed that there has been no mention of Russia yet, but starting July of 1979, Saddam Hussein “used the Soviets to support his program of military expansion and to strengthen his regime. Baghdad acquired arms and advisors from the USSR; the KGB and East German Stasi also trained the Baathist secret police apparatus.”  After Saddam argued with the Soviets, France became Iraq’s second biggest source of military aid after the USSR as Iraq’s dictator-for-life played the West off against the Communists in Russia. Source: History in Focus: The Cold War

Remember how the Mujahedeen were supported by the United States and some of her allies as they fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Later, the same Islamic, Mujahedeen warriors that the US trained and supplied with weapons become the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Do you think it is possible to build a democratic nation in Iraq where all of the different religious, political and tribal factions will learn to cooperate sort of like the very honest and moral [tongue-in-cheek] Republican and Democratic Parties do in the United States?

Continued on August 16, 2013 in A brief history of Vietnam or start with Know your enemy: a brief history or Afghanistan


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

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