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Iraq-Three Nations

August 15, 2005

By the time this is published, the deadline for the new Iraqi government to have produced a constitution will have come and gone. It is doubtful that they will meet the deadline. And in one important sense, it doesn't matter whether they do or not. Because Iraq is not one nation - it is three. And no document the three factions produce can ever change that fact. The British made a huge mistake when they forced three groups that hated one another to become one "nation." Today the US is perpetuating that mistake by insisting that this make believe "nation" remain one.

I won't bore you with the details of the three groups that are struggling to produce a constitution. You hear about them on the news every night, and the Internet Links below provide an abundance of background information. The Sunni Kurds, the Sunni Arabs and the Shi'a Arabs all hate and fear one another.

Left to their own devices, once Saddam was deposed, I believe the Shi'a Arabs and the Sunni Kurds would have separated themselves from the Sunni Arabs, and we would have seen three nations living peacefully side by side. The Sunni Arabs would have been against separation, because under the Ottoman Empire, then the British Mandate, and finally under Saddam's dicatatorship, they were given control and used it to brutalize the Kurds and the Shi'a. But regardless of the wishes of the Sunni Arabs, the Shi'a Arabs and the Sunni Kurds would have withdrawn were it not for the interference of the West.


Remember that it was the Sunni Arabs that used poison gas on hundreds of thousands of Sunni Kurds. In 1988 Sunni Arabs massacred 182,000 Kurdish men, women and children. It is doubtful that the Kurds have forgotten this. Sunni Arabs have used their power in brutal ways against Shi'a Arabs as well. Today most of the attacks of the Sunni Arab terrorists are directed not against the well-armed US military, but rather against defenseless Shi'a Arabs.

The truth is that both the US and the UN bowed to pressures from surrounding nations, each of which had their own agenda that had nothing to do with what was best for the Iraqis. And thus we are faced with a farce in which we are forcing the Iraqis to create a pretend government that can only be held together by outside forces.

At the conclusion of World War I in 1918, the British drew up a new map for the area and created Iraq. They had little or no understanding of the religious and ethnic divisions in the area. They assumed that locals, whom they considered ignorant savages, would do the bidding of the "superior" colonial power and get with the program. This arrogance has resulted in much of the turmoil that plagues the area to this day.

According to the Encarta online encyclopedia (see LINK below), "After a brief period as a British mandate, Iraq was established as a monarchy in 1921. The new king, Faisal I, faced a fractious society, which divisions among tribes, classes, and religious and ethnic groups threatened to tear asunder. Every Iraqi government since, including the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, has confronted the difficulties of holding together a nation whose population is so riven by differences."

The description above is accurate, except in one sense. Iraq is not a nation. It is a mass of land where many people have been forced to live together under one government. They did not choose to live together. They have never chosen their own government. And even today, when they appear to be forming a government, it is only because of the arrogance of our own government, which has told them that they must remain one nation.

Have we, the United States, become the new colonialists? Have we learned nothing from the humiliation of the British Empire? We got rid of Saddam. Good for us. Now let us assist the Iraqis in finding a safe and orderly way to live with one another. But let us not dictate to them how they must do so. If we continue on this path, some form of government will emerge. But we will either have to prop it up forever, or it will fall apart when and if we leave.

The Iraqis depend on us for security and finances to rebuild their infrastructure, so they do as we say. But I am reminded of the little boy whose kindergarten teacher forced him to sit down against his will. He told her, "I'm sitting down on the outside, but I'm standing up on the inside."


ENCARTA: Iraq: Religious and Ethnic Divisions


Iraqi Religious Structures


Clashing Interests Between Iraq's Shi'a Arabs and Sunni Kurds


Suni Islam in Iraq


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Copyright ©2005 Tom Barrett

Dr. Tom Barrett is a pastor, teacher, author, conference keynote speaker, professor, certified executive coach, and marketplace minister. His teaching and coaching have blessed both church and business leaders. He has been ordained for over 40 years, and has pastored in seven churches over that time. Today he “pastors pastors” as he oversees ordained and licensed ministers in Florida for his ministerial fellowship.

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