Karen Dabrowska

Tripoli Post Article

Originally published: 11th May 2013

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Lessons from the Iraq War

The past month, April 2013 marked the tenth anniversary of the occupation of Iraq following a three-week war. Despite hopes of peace, stability and democracy the country is still a killing field where there are few days without bloodshed and and loss of life.

On April 26th Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki warned of a return to sectarian civil war with 169 people killed in three days violence and unidentified gunmen seized Sulaiman Bek a provincial town in Salaheddin province.

In London the anniversary was marked with discussions, lectures, reflections on the war and an exhibition of Iraqi war which has been influenced by the war.

Dr Hassan Al Sadr, a spokesman of the Sadrist Movement in UK, pointed out that the lessons of the war have not been learned. He was speaking at the monthly meeting of London’s Gulf Cultural Club: Iraq’s decade of hope and agony.

A physician by training, Al Sadr was active within the student movement and advocate of personal and political change. He descends from the Al Sadr family with three senior martyrs; Sayyed Mohammad Baqir Al Sadr who was tortured to death by Saddam Hussain on April 9, 1980, Sayyed Mohammad Sadiq Al Sadr, assassinated by the Ba'thist regime in 1999 and Sayyed Musa Al Sadr who was abducted by Colonel Gaddafi’s regime on an official trip in 1978.

Al Sadr said that the first lesson to be drawn from the war is that Iraq is a Muslim country - 98 percent of the population are Muslims. There is a common concept in Iraq and in Muslim countries that the people do not fear anyone but God. “When the largest army in the world invades your country do not fear anyone but God.

“The people on March 20, 2003 knew that what America was doing was wrong, illegal, unethical and unacceptable. But many people were a bit fearful of the American super power and that is why some citizens, social and political leaders were silent.

“I remember the anti-war march at the beginning of 2003 in London. Some Iraqis were whispering ‘don’t go out against the American invasion, we are too weak to say anything now, let us just remain quiet and wait,” Al Sadr recalled. “The reminder is that thank God the Iraqis did not need to import courage from us. The youth did come out from day one to call for an end to the illegal occupation of their country.

“And I will remind you of the youngest leader. Saeed Muqtada Al Sadr was only 28 at that time. He came out with the youth of Iraq. His ideas were not imported from outside, he was not educated in the West. Many much older leaderships said ‘hush hush this is too early, you can’t do it, you are just being radical and fanatic, you are dreaming, you can’t force this army out. We agree with you that they shouldn’t be there, yes they have come to destroy your land but be quiet and wait.’

“One of the main reminders is that that youth did not fear anyone but their lord. They spoke out continuously for nine years until the American forces were forced to withdraw without leaving a single permanent base in their country - an achievement unmatched in modern history, except for Vietnam.”

According to Al Sadr the second lesson to be learned from the war is that the Iraqi people will not accept choices forced on them. The two choices were, you are either with the war or you are with Saddam. Mr Bush said that and with him was his dear colleague Tony Blair.

“I have a third choice - to be against you, the invader, and against Saddam at the same time and I can chose my own path. I will not be forced either into joining you and the tanks and hence you will allow me to into the political process.”

Saeed Muqtada Al Sadr decided to confront the American invasion publicly through Friday prayers, through participation in local media, through getting the people aware that Iraq is a nation that deserves liberty. It should not submit to the American will. Unfortunately that was seen by the Iraqi elites as street talk from groups of young enthusiasts. They can’t be part of the political process because usually the youth are pushed to the side as they are perceived as young and immature.

Saeed Muqtada Al Sadr and the youth of Iraq participated in politics from 2005: they managed to combine the two odds of resisting the American invasion and participating in politics without American approval.

In fact the Saderists managed to get the largest number of members of parliament in two elections, and the largest number of ministers in the cabinet without American approval. They did not have a single meeting with an American official either inside or outside Iraq.

Al Sadr concluded that the third lesson to learn from the war is not to fall for the sectarian card that has been played many times in Iraq. “To start with, some politicians used it to gain political support: I am Shia vote for me, he is a Sunni vote for him, he is Kurdish vote for him. This was based on ethnicity or religious affiliation. It was used again by Al Qaeda and the jihadi salafists. They also used the sectarian card to mobilise the streets against the Shia and against the Kurds.”

The meeting was also addressed by Stephen Sizer the incumbent of the Anglican parish of Christ Church, Virginia Water, in Surrey, England. In addition to his parish ministry, he is an author, theologian and evangelist with controversial views on Christian Zionism who has visited most countries in the Middle East, including Iraq.

Sizer pointed out that Iraq is the one country that almost single-handedly opened the door to modern civilisation, when most Europeans were still living in caves.

“They gave us the wheel and the plough, the first written alphabet, split a circle into 360 degrees, created food surpluses, developed fair trade practices and became the first accountants and bankers. That country was also the birthplace of Abraham the Father of three monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

“The cradle of civilisation is not Greece or Rome or Egypt - but Iraq. And it is deeply lamentable what one of the newest and undoubtedly the most powerful country in the world has done to show its respect and appreciation.

“It is deeply lamentable that a consequence of the invasion and destruction of civil society has been the inevitable rise of extremism fuelled by sectarianism.

“There has been wanton destruction of places of worship, both mosques and churches, and the targeting of religious minorities. This must be resolved if Iraq is to have a future. Iraq has given so much to the world.

Continued ....