Barbarians at the Gates

ISIS deals with prisoner of war issues in Iraq - AFP Photo

ISIS deals with prisoner of war issues in Iraq – AFP Photo

To comprehend events, one must be willing to descend into the faint mists of time and history to possibly understand the here and now.  The boundaries that define the modern country of Iraq are artificial drawings on a map that simplify a maelstrom of historical peoples, events, and passions that are the basest contributors to the whole known human story.  The fertile crescent of land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has been the birthplace of great empires and religions, and perhaps the most contested real estate on the planet.  At the northern edge is noted to be the birthplace of man as a creature of record. Some three thousand years before Christ the tribes of the region founded the worlds first recognized governmental structure, the Semitic kingdom of Semites and Sumerians known as Akkadia, soon divided into Assyria and Babylonia. It is said that the Assyrian Semite Abraham traveled out of Assyria around 1800 BC to eventually become the father to the Hebrew peoples. By the tenth century BC, Assyria may have comprised the largest empire in then known world and provided the legacy of one of the great core language structures, Aramaic, influencing people from northeast Africa to central Asia.  The Assyrian people became  important contributors to the expansionist Greek empire culture and subsequently were influenced to assume many of the philosophic constants of the Greeks, in many cases becoming early Christians as did their Greek counterparts in the first through third centuries AD.

With the arab Islamic conquest of Mesopotamia in the seventh century, the centuries long process of this ancient culture having to subordinate and assimilate while trying to preserve its identity began.  Through Islamic pogroms and Mongol invasions, Ottoman overseers, British protectorates and Baathist dictators, the identity of the ancient Assyrian culture managed to survive.

Until now.

The city of Bakhdida, also known as Qaraqosh, is the home of the Assyrian Christian population of Iraq and the gateway to Kurdistan.  With a population of 50,000, it represents one of the last congregations of Christian influence in Mesopotamia and its existence as such is an anathema to a virulent strain of Islamic puritans known as ISIS.  On friday, August 8th, Bakhdida became the latest city to be overrun by the ISIS horde and the consequences to an entire people who profess a different fate are dire.  With tens of thousands of Christians fleeing the genocidal sickness that is the ISIS modus operandi, President Obama finally determined to take action in some form to address his administration’s developing Rwanda event. It was not the fate of the Christians or their Kurdish or Shia muslim brethren that stirred him so much as the plight of the Yazidis, a small sect connected to the ancient Zoroastrian faith of monotheism that precedes Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.  ISIS forces have forced them into the mountains with the intent of starving them to death, or killing them in place, whatever opportunity presents.  For the ISIS  adherents, this is the holy work that should have been done centuries ago.

The western world has always struggled to get too upset about genocidal outrages against Jews and Yazidis, but Christians?  That used to be another matter.  There is no Richard the Lionheart to lead a Crusade, likely not even a George Bush the Earnest.  The post-Christian western world does not connect well with the outrages committed by Islamic extremists, whether it is the lunatic fringe Boko Haram in Nigeria slaughtering entire villages of Christians and trafficking in human slavery, or ISIS with its religious cleansing fury in Iraq. Christian outrage and responding to attacks is so Seventeenth century.

But ISIS is working in the seventh century and doesn’t give a flip to modern mores.  Having stunned most of Iraq, conquering oil fields and water supplies, drowning in money from bank robberies and sympathetic fat cat Wahabiast poseurs from the Arabian peninsula, and in possession of millions of dollars of sophisticated weapons abandoned by the Potemkin Village Iraqi national army as it fled,  ISIS is a Tamerlane disciple of the twenty-first century, with the will to kill who doesn’t submit.  The map shows an effective reality on the ground that suggests they are succeeding in their vision:

ISIS in Mesopotamia - CNN maps

ISIS in Mesopotamia – CNN maps

So the President of the United States finally acted. Not to save Christians or Iraqis.  That would have required previous strategic thinkings and actions.  No, the action is to prevent current genocide against the Yazidis, certainly deserving, but no more deserving than any of the other hundreds of thousands already crushed under the foot of the marauding 7th century jihadists.  President Obama thinks he can pick and choose his genocides he determines to intervene upon.  I suspect ISIS and Boko Haram will give him plenty of choices from which to choose.

What is there to do in this inevitable world calamity approaching?  It is frankly too late to recognize what would have been the easiest solution in Iraq.   President Obama’s political trump card was the withdrawal from Iraq no matter what the consequences, when twenty-thousand in country troops would have likely prevented this travesty.  Imagine you are the warden of a prison filled with 500 dangerous characters and innocents alike.  With just 20 guards providing organized control, you can maintain the security of the prison and keep the most dangerous inmates from killing you, or each other.  The previous warden gave you after much effort a stable place, with effective control.  But you are a much smarter warden, who believes the previous warden was a doofus, and should not have been allowed to have made warden decisions in the first place that did not sit with your world gestalt.  You therefore instead announce you are pulling all the guards, opening all the prison cell doors, and putting the kitchen staff in charge of negotiating with the prisoners.  Its pretty easy to predict what will happen, unless apparently you are President Obama.  Now, if you want to contain the violence, restore the security, and protect the innocent,  it’s going to take a hell of a lot more than twenty guards to achieve a renewed stability and civility.  And a lot of people are going to pay a very grave penalty for your naiveté.

What to do with a modern world that would like to believe we have grown beyond the barbarians that defined our human past-the Tamerlanes, Attilas, Genghis Khans, and Hitlers – that would create a single vision of humanity on the slaughter of nonbelievers? The Assyrians of Bakhdida would like to know soon, and hope its more than a few food packages and pinpricks.  But if the western world cannot decide this is serious business, don’t worry.  We may soon get first hand knowledge of what the Assyrians of Bakhdida are up against, at a location much closer to home.

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