HE wouldn’t bomb the bloody caliphate of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi (the chief of Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham) when it was butchering the majority Shias of Iraq. But Barack Obama is riding to the rescue of the Christian refugees — and the Yazidis — because of “a potential act of genocide”. Thank heavens that the refugees in question are not Palestinian.
This hypocrisy almost takes the breath away. “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.
know more: US launches airstrikes in Iraq
Nor has Obama said anything about 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 Arbil 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 Arbil 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.
LOVE OF ‘MANDATES’: 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. The poor old Yazidis (ethnic Kurds) 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 Imam Hussein, whose followers are now the Shia of the Middle East — might theoretically have commended the Yazidis to Abu Bakr’s Sunni 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?
By arrangement with The Independent
Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2014