Iraq has been more or less a disaster since it was artificially created in the aftermath of World War I. From the outset, Iraq has tried to contain ethnic/religious groups that hate each other and in some cases carry grudges against each other tracing back for centuries. If all of that wasn't bad enough. like fundamentalist Christianity, Islam has seen an upsurge in extremism and a desire by so-called conservatives who have nothing but contempt for the religious freedom of others. Instead, they want to inflict their beliefs on all and, if one doesn't convert to their belief system, their solution is to eliminate you. It is a pattern that we have seen over and over again throughout history. A piece in Slate looks at the case of ISIS and the terrifying approach it seeks to take toward those who do not convert to its belief system. Here are excerpts:
The war that is now unfolding in Iraq is something different, and something much scarier. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria steals with the best of them, and I don’t doubt that some of the fighters who’ve attached themselves to its cause are thrill-seeking psychopaths like those you’ll find in any lawless hellhole. On the whole, however, you get the impression that its fighters aren’t killing for fun and profit, and they’re certainly not killing to protect themselves from other crazies. Instead, they are killing because they are utopians. They want to live in a world that is quite literally cleansed of those who do not share their deranged beliefs, and by killing Yazidis and Christians and members of other religious minorities, they believe that they are serving a noble and just cause.
The Taliban are awful, but given their willingness to cut deals with the Afghan government and the United States and its allies, they aren’t quite so insane. Even al-Qaida is more tolerant of religious minorities than the lunatics of ISIS. Now, with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of stolen loot, ISIS is on the march, closing in on stranded pockets of women and men they see as pagans and slowly starving them to death. The Kurdish peshmerga, the only Iraqi fighting force capable of holding ISIS at bay, has put up a brave resistance, yet they are starting to buckle.
And now, without a moment to spare, President Obama has decided to do something. For months, the president has resisted committing U.S. military forces to the fight against ISIS. But ISIS’s campaign of extermination against Iraq’s religious minorities has stirred him to action. In a nationally televised address on Thursday night, the president announced that he had authorized a limited bombing campaign against ISIS as well as a humanitarian effort on behalf of the stranded Yazidis.Though I’ve criticized the Obama administration for withdrawing from Iraq at the tail end of 2011, I recognize that the decision to intervene militarily now is a thorny one. ISIS has succeeded in no small part because Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government has failed to win the confidence of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs, who’ve suffered mightily from his sectarian chauvinism. Coming to the Iraqi government’s rescue looks a little too much like forgiving Maliki for his sins.
But the prospect of genocide changes things. What President Obama understands, I hope, is that if ISIS succeeds in routing the Kurds and collapsing the fragile Iraqi state, there will be no end to the killing. American military power cannot make Iraq whole again. It can, however, help give the Kurds a fighting chance to beat back ISIS, and to establish a safe haven for the members of religious minorities fleeing from ISIS-held territory. And in doing so, it can buy time for Maliki to think hard about his legacy: whether to avoid sharing power he is truly willing to let Iraq once again become a slaughterhouse.
We need to start thinking about the Yazidis and the Christians and the other persecuted Iraqis who will need to find shelter somewhere other than Iraq. The United States welcomed as many as 130,000 refugees from South Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975. We might have to welcome just as many from Iraq in the years to come.