The heroic resistance of Iraqis against the most powerful military coalition in human history is nothing short of extraordinary — and completely unexpected on the part of those who began this immoral campaign. Given the vastly unequal resources involved, two weeks of unremitting resistance is a long time, an object of awe and inspiration to small, oppressed nations everywhere.
But with or without strongmen of dubious character like Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s history is full of heroic resistance fuelled by national pride.
In 1256 AD, a Mogul leader called Hulagu — the George W. Bush of his day — laid siege to Baghdad. After a time it was suggested to the embattled ruling Khalif that he could “save” the city by surrendering himself and his sons to Hulagu’s forces (sound familiar?). So he did.
But this did not save Baghdad, or its people; quite the opposite. Hulagu summarily put the Khalif and his sons to death, then spent the next forty days sacking the city, during which more than one million of its inhabitants were massacred.
Hulagu, proud of his victory, then turned the tide of conquest upon Syria (has anyone been listening to the words of Donald Rumsfeld recently?). But Hulagu, like so many military bullies, finally over-reached himself and in 1260 AD, the Moguls were defeated at Ein Gelat in Palestine by the Egyptians.
When Britain, the super-power of its day, occupied the southern Iraqi city of Basra in 1914 it declared that its army had come not to occupy more colonial territory but to “liberate” the population from its Turkish occupiers (again, does this sound familiar?). However, British forces went on to occupy Baghdad in 1917 and Moussel in 1918.
To give its occupation international legitimacy, Britain then asked the League of Nations to appoint it as Iraq’s administrator. This opportunistic scenario is very likely the future U.S. tactic as well; ask the UN to give it a leading role in “rebuilding” Iraq (same thing, different name) when the current war is over. After all, the U.S. will claim, it “liberated” Iraq without UN help (not to mention without UN endorsement or approval of any kind!).
When Iraqis rose up against foreign occupation in 1920, Britain shamelessly reneged on its promises to conduct democratic elections, fearing quite rightly that the people would elect a nationalistic government in opposition to British rule. Instead, on August 23, 1921, Faisal was proclaimed king by “remote control” from London. (This might also be a likely “solution” from the American-British coalition.) But Iraqi resistance against the British continued for nearly four more decades, until the puppet monarchy ended in 1958.
British historian Arnold Toynbee once said, “It is rare to find a barbarian conqueror of an imperial province boasting simply that has seized his prize by force and is holding it by right of conquest alone.”
It is a well known, if depressing, fact that just as domestic politics in any country are run on a lower moral level than private family affairs, so in international politics the standards are lower still. In today’s world, which still largely operates on “the law of the jungle,” countries get what they can, however and whenever they can. So the justifications given for George W. Bush’s war against Iraq are hardly new and certainly not original.
Wars of aggression have always been described by their perpetrators as necessary to preserve “Civilization,” to “make the world safe for democracy,” to “destroy Nazism, dictatorship, etc.,” to “stop future attacks upon peaceful nations,” or — despite overwhelming historical evidence to the contrary — to “end future wars.”
But the inescapable truth is that seeking political dominance makes war, while seeking reason together can confirm peace.
In only a few short weeks, George W. Bush and his warmongers have hurled Iraq and the Middle East back to the state of the tragic 1920s — to a renewal of foreign occupation, foreign-controlled dictatorships, submissive puppet monarchies, and western exploitation of natural resources, along with the festering “by-product” of persistent popular uprisings, violent liberation movements and endemic guerilla warfare.
With their invasion of Iraq the Americans have not only lost their international credibility in the diplomatic community. They have also lost the grassroots trust that once allowed any U.S. citizen traveling abroad to be received immediately as a fellow human being, not as a suspect foreigner.
Only one kind of morality can repair the damage now; that of truth and reason. But sadly, both are conspicuously absent in Washington DC these days. America’s “might is right” syndrome has ruled so long it has become a psychological and political addiction. And addictions are notoriously hard to break. That is the ongoing tragedy of America’s national and international rule. For everyone’s safety, that rule must be ended.
Prof. Mohamed Elmasry is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Waterloo and national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress.