17 June 2014

From Iraq, visions of belief

"The filthy Shiites are killed in the hundreds", boast the Sunni extremists of ISIS, and they've got photos to prove it, after their recent victories in northwestern Iraq:

Remember, these and the many others like them are not pictures smuggled out by someone else trying to expose ISIS.  They were taken and posted by ISIS itself.  These men are proud of what they are doing.  They claim to have massacred 1,700 captured Shiite soldiers so far, aside from other reported large-scale killing of civilians.  And they are now threatening to march on Baghdad and on the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbalâ'.  Volunteers throughout Shiite southeastern Iraq are signing up to fight; as I suggested last week, many who will not fight for a meaningless failed state will fight for their religion and their own community.  Iraq seems to be heading toward a full-blown religious war.

This is not about Bush.  Bush was grossly incompetent, but he threw a match into a tinder-box; the tinder was already there.  Bush's stupidity is a matter for American domestic politics.  This is about Iraq and Islam and belief.  This is what happens when people believe in things, fervently.  It's not even about Islam being worse than Christianity.  Back when people actually believed in Christianity, there were the Albigensian Crusade and the Thirty Years War, with scenes far worse than the above, had there been any photographers to record them.

It's not even that most Iraqis are fanatics.  The great majority of Sunnis in Iraq would probably be utterly repulsed at the massacres ISIS is committing.  There's a reason why extremists are called extremists.  It takes only a determined and well-armed minority of fanatics, driven by hatred of some other group, in the absence of a state strong enough to enforce order, to launch a conflict which can then engulf everyone, moderates included -- because fanatics target everyone in the group they hate, not just its own fanatics.


Blogger Ahab said...

Iraq's future looks grim. I would imagine that neighboring countries would have an incentive to step in and stabilize the situation, but will they?

17 June, 2014 08:49  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

"It's not even about Islam being worse than Christianity. Back when people actually believed in Christianity, there were the Albigensian Crusade and the Thirty Years War, with scenes far worse than the above, had there been any photographers to record them."

And let's not forget the bloody conflicts between the Protestants and the Catholics during the 17th century's endless beheadings over which religion would prevail in securing the throne after Charles II. And then again, bloody conflicts between Christian sects in Northern Ireland in the 20th century.

Islam, like many religions, split into sects that eventually end up hating and slaughtering each other in the name of some god.

17 June, 2014 10:24  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ahab: Iran is already stepping in to protect fellow Shiites, and considering what could be at stake -- influence over southeastern Iraq with 60% of the population and most of the oil -- I think they'll have a lot more staying power than the US will.

Shaw: The Thirty Years War was the main 17th-century conflict between Catholics and Protestants, but yes, there were plenty of others.

There used to be a third major Islamic sect, the Kharijites, but they were mostly wiped out during the early Middle Ages -- which at least prevents these problems today from being even more complicated.

17 June, 2014 19:53  
Blogger Grung_e_Gene said...

Destabilizing the Region has been the only outcome of the W(orst POTUS Ever) Regime.

The question is now do we stand aside and let the neighboring Nation-States and ethnic groups work through the problems as Iraq goes the way of Yugoslavia, do we provide assistance to keep "Iraq" somewhat cobbled together or do we go full bore back in.

I think President Obama is going to choose the middlepath which might be the worst of the 3 or the best.

I don't know, but it will be bloody.

19 June, 2014 10:57  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Since nothing short of another full-scale invasion can "keep Iraq cobbled together", Obama's limited (thank goodness) intervention will wind up meaning we help the Iranians to keep ISIS out of the Shiite areas, thus collaborating in the partition of the country while plausibly claiming to be trying to prevent it. That's how I see things working out, anyway.

19 June, 2014 19:42  
Blogger Woody said...

Hi Infidel753,
because I am lacking in knowledge of the religious, racial, clannish and historical facts contributing to public life in the mid-east, which you seem to know so much more about, what the hell am I supposed to think?
Like me you might think that personal knowledge on a subject depends upon ones own experience, bolstered with information they have gained through research into subjects that they would like to know more about.
A part of me does not at all envy the leader of a nation who must decide what, if anything, we will do about the situation in foreign, religion-soaked countries. And if such a leader does anything, can favorable references hope to be gained from any of it?
See my confusion?
I want what's best for everyone, but is there a point when obvious religion-fueled hate in another land must be left to seek its own future, while my country is taxed in dollars, refugees and military support constantly, as the clock ticks?
I'm still not sure not on the exact basis of my confusion on the matter, any ideas?

All the best,

21 June, 2014 01:06  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Well, I've been to the Middle East, but I know it largely through long study. Yes, it's a complex region, but like the West or any other place, its modern character is the product of its history and can be understood if one is willing to learn enough. It does take work.

Intervention by outside powers is usually counterproductive because the outside power winds up being out-maneuvered by more savvy local powers, especially when the intervention is led by someone like Bush who had little interest in understanding the country he was trying to change.

21 June, 2014 05:57  

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