Long ago and far away, Muhammad, Islam’s founder and author of the Koran, passed away. That year was 632 A.D. Two factions formed almost immediately. “One who follows the traditions of the Prophet” was the Sunni mantra; they wanted Muhammad’s closest friend and advisor to succeed him. The Shia or “people of the household of the Prophet,” sought a Muhammad family member to take his place. Thus the battles for supremacy began and have been waged between Sunni and Shia ever since while both want to realize conversion to Islam by everyone on earth.
The dispute between the sects is a religious war that has been underway for centuries. We got involved after Sept. 11 for reasons sold to us by the George W. Bush administration that were neither accurate nor true.
Those keeping track know we spent about 11 years in Iraq after a preemptive invasion. We suffered fatalities among our fighting men and women close to 5,000 in number with tens of thousands more suffering lasting and debilitating mental and physical wounds. We also significantly deepened our national debt and drained our national treasury, resulting there in an estimated 100,000 collateral deaths. Then we were kicked out by the new Shia government, leaving the place to the Shia in charge to rule in place of Saddam Hussein and the Sunni Baath Party.
Now the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an off-shoot of al-Qaeda from Syria’s civil war, are in Iraq and determined to establish strictly conservative Muslim rule by Sharia law not unlike the Taliban’s reign in Afghanistan. It’s said the ISIS was kicked out of al-Qaeda by that terrorist group’s regulars because they practice brutally cruel means, summarily executing anyone not kowtowing to their absolute authority.
In the immediate past weeks, Iraqi security forces have “crumbled in disarray” before the ISIS attacks in Iraq. The ISIS already had changed the course of the Syrian war: its ten-month siege of the Syrian Menagh airbase near Aleppo last year enabled ISIS to achieve what other opposition forces could not accomplish.
It was reported last year that ISIS was recognized as the most powerful single military rebel force in the entire region.Its tactical successes have been displayed by its capacity to plan and execute highly complex operations and successfully utilize social media to recruit suicide bombers and other fanatics. They are known to have access to nearly unlimited financial resources, too, through their seizure of Syrian oil and gas fields and have captured and taken over the Iraqi oil and gas fields.
U.S. neo-cons are determined to try to return us to Iraq with American military forces similar in number to those from past years. These folks want American families to once again sacrifice their offspring to take sides in an irresolvable religious war from which there never has been a total victory of one side and from which history leads us to be convinced that there never will be.
Many congressional leaders are frustrated with President Obama because he has not found a swift resolution to the conflict between the Sunnis and Shias that began in the seventh century A.D. and has raged on with death and destruction by its fanatics, ISIS trying to prevail this time around. It would seem that overwrought chants from the hill in D.C. are that even though Sunnis and Shias have been at one another’s throats for almost 1,500 years, President Obama has had ample time after six years in office to fix things between the relentlessly-warring factions.
U.S. involvement with a military force sufficient to help what amounts to defeating one sect over the other means the majority Sunnis throughout the Middle East and the world will heap more blame on us and plot our ruin. President Obama apparently believes it’s possible to bring Sunni, Shia and Kurd together in a viable democracy even though it did not happen when they had the chance to make it work. Then, too, there’s the “mission creep” syndrome where we first send, a few hundred “advisers,” predictably followed by thousands more. Meanwhile, the people of the United States (three out of every four are against more warring overseas) get ignored.
It would seem most wise and relevantly preventive for us to keep our military at home this time and prepare for the inevitable by way of more al-Qaeda-inspired efforts to attack us, this time by the notoriously violent ISIS. Remember: these folks want the whole world, not just Iraq and Syria. When we know enough to keep ourselves safe maybe we can help others overseas but until then its mindless to try to stop age-old determined religious zealots halfway around the world when we don’t hunker down to better help ourselves.
(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)