Islamist terrorism factories steaming in top gear
Just at the brouhaha over the US solider Bowe Bergdahl being freed by his Taliban captors was simmering, the Taliban attacked Karachi Airport. Soon after, this was followed by yet more drone attacks on Waziristan that killed women and children.
But what many tend to forget is that the Taliban were a product not only of the CIA and the ISI, but that their foot soldiers were plucked from the refugee camps created by a brutal Soviet invasion. Young men who had come of age knowing only war and devastation were easy recruits. And so it goes.
Just when it seemed things could not get worse, they did. The images on the BBC greeted us all with apocalyptic visions of ISIS. (I really think Egyptians should sue for copyright infringement here – the cheek of a nasty jihadist group’s acronym spelling the name of the goddess of motherhood, magic and fertility - oh…the irony. But only one of many.)
Here we have the nightmare scenario that many have predicted would happen after the disastrous invasion of 2003 – outright civil war along sectarian lines. But wait, that already happened from 2004 until…well very recently – did it not? Yes it did, schoolboys, yes it did.
But what’s worse now is that the conflict in Syria has added fuel to the fire. Images of ISIS literally erasing the border (with bulldozers) between the two countries abound. Facts on the ground, as the Israelis like to call it.
And who is funding these nasty ISIS types, so terrible they’ve been condemned by former ally Al-Qaeda? Well, besides the usual extortion, kidnapping, dodgy charities and supporters in the Gulf, one could say that the US support for Syrian rebels didn’t hurt. Of course they supported the Syrian Free Army, not the jihadists that got in on the game per se, against the Assad regime. That’s the same regime they used to make covert deals with and farm out torture to. Do you follow me? I know it’s a bit hard to keep up, but pay attention now.
So in spite of Saddam Hussein being ‘Son of the USA’ as many Iraqis used to call him during the sanctions regime, and waging an 8 year war with Iran that killed a generation of young men on both sides (with the US arming both enthusiastically), their alliance with the ‘Butcher of Baghdad’ was becoming increasingly untenable. ‘Our man in Baghdad’ was out and ‘regime change’ was in. Actually, you could say ‘regime change’ was the ‘new black’, as it had been test run in Afghanistan and Lord knows those corrupt warlords installed after the ‘fall’ of the Taliban, were way better at winning hearts and minds and bringing democracy to the nation than those nasties spawned by the ISI, the CIA and the refugee camps in Pakistan post-Soviet invasion.
So now Iraq has an extra half million displaced people to add to the millions of refugees spawned post invasion. More young men for nasty militias to exploit. More destabilization to thwart any attempt at ‘democracy’ or even basic public institutions.
Unfortunately, supporting dictators and then removing them, starving a sovereign nation for 12 years under a draconian UN sanctions regime and allowing a criminal class to replace a Baathist bureaucracy, empowering the Shiite fundamentalists that had once been jailed in a former secular police state to run covert prisons jailing Sunnis; not to mention say drone strikes in Peshawar and illegal invasions or allowing a civil war in Syria to go on unabated, all these things have consequences.
There are many what ifs, much blame to share and mistakes to point out. But the end result seems to be year zero for Iraq, as the new Mongols run amok. The tragedy of it all is truly staggering and it’s difficult to offer any immediate solutions in a 1,000-word op-ed.
But I would deign to suggest that in a world where refugee camps are routinely created by illegal invasions and civil wars; where uneducated young men from depressed American states are recruited to kill other young men and create more refugee camps; and where dissolution of sovereign states hardly seems to penetrate a global attention span compromised by celebrity tweets, blowback is alive and well and it’s coming to a war zone near you.
And so, as I wrote this on the night of destiny, the 14th of Shaban on the Islamic calendar, when believers must spend the night in supplication asking God for ‘protection from calamities’ and ‘to provide refuge to the refugees and give peace to those who are in fear’, I pray for a better future for the region and for the world. A future where short-term gain, the sanctity of oilfields and the international arms industry are overpowered by investments in public health and education, justice for the displaced and succor for refugees; where young men can get jobs and build schools rather than join armies or militias just to feed their families; a future where seemingly arbitrary binary divisions between ‘us’ and ‘them’ dissolve into an acknowledgement that we are all connected, and that nothing happens in a vacuum.
And remembering Iraq, land of poets where language was invented, now falling like a dying star, with a line from Rabia, the Sufi poetess from 8th-century Basra who wrote, "I am going to light a fire in paradise and pour water on to hell/so that both veils may vanish altogether."
Hadani Ditmars for RT
Hadani Ditmars is the author of Dancing in the No-Fly Zone: a Woman's Journey Through Iraq, a past editor at New Internationalist, and has been reporting from the Middle East for two decades.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.