The Mongols have taken Baghdad!

I read an excellent op-ed in The Daily Star, (an english language daily newspaper from Bangladesh).

The writer, MJ Akbar is Chief Editor of the Asian Age and in this article, “The conflict has just begun”, draws historical parallels between the Mongol invasion of Iraq in 1258 and Dubya’s [current] great adventure. (I love this sort of thing!)

He begins by restating the question asked by the victorious Mongol conquerer of the Iraqi ulema.

“Which man is better as a sovereign? An unbeliever who is just, or a Muslim who is unjust?”

to which one of them eventually replied,

“The unbeliever who is just should be preferred to the unjust believer.”

Of course, there’s a lot more to this article but as if it were a message directed towards me, with my habit of citing history as precedent, Akbar says at one point:

History, of course does not repeat itself. There may be parallels, but nothing is ever a replica.

Even so, he writes,

The consequences are familiar to those who read history. A crisis has eliminated the pretender, and the future waits to see who will fill this vacuum.

The Americans want this space to be occupied by a favourite like Ahmad Chalabi. But all they will succeed in doing is setting up an administration. There is a difference between administration and control. A figurehead may sit in Baghdad, but George Bush will be in power. This was precisely the situation after the First World War, when a British-Indian army ‘liberated’ Iraq from the Ottomans and imposed first direct, and then indirect rule. The British foreign secretary in 1918, Sir Arthur Balfour, was not concerned about niceties. He said: “I do not care under what system we keep the oil. But I am quite clear that it is all-important for us that this oil should be available.”

Iraqi nationalism, supported by Arab anger, will also seek to fill that vacuum.

Now I know it’s been pointed out many many times, (to the point where it’s mantra-like invocation threatens to hide the essential fact), but it’s worth restating who stands to derive financial gains from this adventure. And Terry Jones, (he of Monty Python fame), does just that in his article, Welcome aboard the Iraqi gravy train in today’s Observer. This is the grist to the [Iraqi nationalism] mill.

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