Whatever happened to holding your tongue on a subject you know bugger all about?
In yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald editorial, Unity government the only hope for Iraq, we get a history lesson that'd make any reputable specialist on the subject weep:
"It has taken almost 1500 years for the ME to reach the latest stage of sectarian schism."
The entire history of the Arab world... reduced to the Sunni-Shia divide.
"Recall that almost a century ago, Britain and France in effect created nation states such as Iraq and Syria."
No they didn't. They created colonies, euphemistically known as Mandates.
Indeed, far from creating nation states, they each in their own own way destroyed the first brave attempt at a united Arab nation by the Amir Faisal, who had led the Arab revolt (1916-18) against the Turks in alliance with the British, following a promise of British support for (in the words of the Hussein-McMahon Treaty of 1915) "independence of the Arabs within the territories... proposed by the Shereef of Mecca," the latter (Hussein) being Faisal's father. That is, all of the Arab Middle East, with the possible exception of Lebanon.*
Faisal's vision of a united, non-sectarian Arab nation can be found in a speech he delivered in Aleppo on 11 November 1918:
"I am an Arab and I have no superiority over any other Arab, not even by an atom... I call upon my Arab brethren irrespective of their different sects to grasp the mantle of unity and concord, to spread knowledge, and to form a government that will do us proud... The Arabs were Arabs before Moses, and Jesus and Muhammad. All religions demand that [their adherents] follow what is right and enjoin brotherhood on earth. And anyone who sows discord between Muslim, Christian and Jew is not an Arab." (Faisal I of Iraq, Ali A. Allawi, 2014, p 167)
Britain's promise of an independent Arab nation, of course, wasn't worth the paper it was written on, with the British going on to divide it, in secret, between themselves and the French (the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916). In a further act of betrayal of its wartime Arab allies, Britain then proceeded to promise Palestine to the incipient Zionist movement (the Balfour Declaration of 1917).
The French, for their part, would go on to smash the repository of Arab national hopes at the time - Faisal's Damascus-based Kingdom of Syria (1918-20) - at the Battle of Maysaloun.
"Those concocted borders... paid no heed to the ethnic or religious ties of the people who lived there."
What?! Just the opposite. In Syria, French policy was to divide and rule, in true colonial style, by pitting sect against sect, while in Palestine the British resisted all moves towards representative government by the majority non-Jewish population, intent instead on laying the foundations of "a National Home for the Jewish people," eventually to become the mother-of-all sectarian states, Israel.
Yet not a peep about any of this in the Herald editorial, just 1500 years of indigenous Arab Muslim "sectarian schism," and nonsense about "concocted borders [which] paid no heed to the ethnic or religious ties of the people who lived there."
Even when dealing with more recent history, the editorialist still can't get it right:
"Recall, too, how the West overthrew Saddam Hussein's brutal, Sunni-supported but purportedly secular dictatorship..."
"Sunni-supported but purportedly secular"? Consider this Iraqi assessment:
"When an objective study of the history of the Arab East in the 20th century is carried out, one fact should stand out irrespective of other successes and failures. It is that the Ba'ath [Party] had succeeded more than many nationalist parties in other countries in appealing to the whole society and uniting people across all divides. It was the Ba'ath nationalist ideology in Iraq and Syria which prevented tragedies like the sectarian Lebanese civil war, the continuous friction between Muslims and Christians in Egypt, and the carnage of the 1990s in Algeria taking place in either state... [When the 3 men considered to be the founders of the Ba'ath ideology and party] Zaki al-Arsouzi, an Alawi Muslim, Michel Aflaq, an Orthodox Christian, and Salah ad-Deen Al Bitar, a Sunni Muslim, got together to advocate an ideology and form a political party appealing to the entire Arab society, people from the whole of society flocked to adopt their propagated ideology and join the Party. That is the success of the Ba'ath in the Arab world if everything else failed: its ability to express and entrench the existence of the Arab nation. The disintegration of Iraq following the 2003 invasion and the overthrow of the Ba'ath is a living proof of that success and the failure of the invasion." (The Trial of Saddam Hussein, Abdul-Haq Al-Ani, 2008, p 34)**
"Indeed, for the first few years after Saddam, a Western presence in Iraq looked promising enough in keeping Sunni-Shiite divisions in check."
What utter rubbish! It was the occupying power ("Western presence" LOL) which undertook the de-Ba'athification of Iraqi society.
"None of this historical reflection serves to blame the West, including Australia, for the crisis facing Iraq now."
"Many believe a redrawing of the Middle East map into a series of ethno-nationalistic states will have to come, sooner than later."
Oh, really? Anyone without an Israeli axe to grind?
[* Excluding "portions of Syria lying to the west of... Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo," that is, today's Lebanon;** See my 18/12/08 post Life Under Saddam...]