Religious War in the Middle East – Blog No. 13.


Islam’s Civil War

wogsAt the end of WWI, the victorious Entente Powers re-ordered the Middle East. Out of the allies’ total of six million military deaths, seventeen thousand (0.28%) were New Zealanders. Unsurprisingly, given the sacrificial ratios, New Zealand had little say in their decision making. Thus New Zealand is hardly responsible for the hundred years of disastrous outcomes that have ensued. The current civil war in the Middle East is emphatically not a New Zealand responsibility.

Prior to the end of the war, Britain’s Lord Balfour, mainly in an attempt to persuade the group of Jewish revolutionaries clustered around Lenin to continue Imperial Russia’s state of hostilities with Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany, secretly promised that a Jewish homeland would be carved out of Islamic Palestine.

The Arabs, who had fought alongside Allenby’s army on the assurance that they would be liberated from the Ottoman Empire and left free to conduct their own affairs, were betrayed – but not only by Lord Balfour’s promise. By the end of the war, oil had become the main fuel for Western battle fleets. Under the umbrella of the League of Nations, the British and French divided the Middle Eastern spoils of war between them.

They created new states, irrespective of traditional and cultural boundaries. In these, wherever possible, they installed puppets to rule on their behalf. To keep all the oil conveniently in the same Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later to become BP) portfolio, Churchill drew the boundaries of Arab Iraq to include a large chunk of Kurdistan. The Kurds, an Indo-European nation of around thirty million, were left without a state, but were instead, without any attempt at consultation, dealt out among Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. At the same time, France, having seized control over the Lebanon and Syria, arbitrarily moved the Lebanese boundary eastwards into Syria, thereby crucially upsetting long-established ethnic and religious balances.

And so it went on and on, with control of the Suez Canal and Middle Eastern oil incentivising repeated Western interventions in the Islamic world of the Middle East. At one stage, Moslems were possessors of a civilisation far more advanced than anything that existed in the West. Today, as a result of its exercise of the principles of divide and rule and its immense military superiority expressed through coups and the unwelcome installation of obeisant-governments, the West has inspired in large numbers of Muslims a feeling of humiliation and resentment.

The recent Western interventions in the Islamic world might not have created, but have certainly brought forward, the current crisis. IS and al Qaeda and the sectarian hostility between Shia and Sunni, which in recent times have been so enthusiastically encouraged by the USA and Israel, are not a problem for the West: they are a problem for the Islamic world. Religious tradition is being forced to come to terms with modernity and the process is understandably painful.

Sixteen hundred years after the death of Jesus, the Christian world fought a thirty years, sectarian war between Catholics and Protestants. At the end of the war, together with the end of the lives of up to thirty per cent of the European population, the Treaty of Westphalia paved the way for the Enlightenment and the ultimate separation of state and religion in much of Christendom.

Now, fourteen hundred years after the death of Mohammed and four hundred years after the Treaty of Westphalia, the Islamic world is on the cusp of a similar violent gunsreligious upheaval. It is not for Christians to dictate theology to Islam. The Christian world, which has acted as midwife to the conflict, should stand back and ensure it does nothing to add to the bloodshed it has set in train. In short; it should leave Islam to sort itself out. All that the West should do, if it is in any way as Christian as it pretends to be, is whatever it can, to ease the massive suffering of the millions of individual lives that will be caught and crushed between the grindstones of those unhappy societies as they fall victim to excessive religious enthusiasm.

Under the above circumstances, it would be a crime both of ignorance and against humanity, for New Zealand to send troops to Iraq. Training one party in a religious civil war between Islamic sects to become more effective at shedding the blood of the other party, should be none of a predominantly Christian nation’s business.

What benefits could such an intervention bring to New Zealand? There is considerable evidence that the US, which has found good use in the past for Islamist fanatics, does not really want IS to be defeated; only that its excesses should be muted. The degree of pleasure New Zealand can give to its ally, by joining the fray against IS, is therefore limited. It would certainly be insufficient to compensate for the unnecessary grief caused to the fifty thousand or so Muslim New Zealanders, whose representatives have pleaded with the Key government to keep out of the fray.

It says much about the unhealthy state of New Zealand’s democracy to reflect on how the story of the crisis in Syria and Iraq has unfolded in the context of New Zealand politics. Before the September election, New Zealanders were assured that no troops were to be sent to intervene in the sectarian civil war in Iraq and Syria. A week after a credulous NZ electorate had re-elected the Key government, Mr Key’s story had changed.

Now, the public were informed that the NZ military might just be sent to Iraq (“on a purely training mission, but nothing decided yet.”) This move would demonstrate support for our ‘natural allies’, the USA and UK, in their doomed attempt to clean up the chaos for which they jointly bear the most immediate responsibility. A week or so further down the track, New Zealanders were told that their putative non-combatant mission might just need a parallel SAS involvement. This, ostensibly, was to be for no other purpose than to protect the training mission from its most immediate danger – that of being assassinated by the Iraqi troops they were training.

And so it goes from bad to worse. On the side-lines of the recent G-20 meeting in Canberra our leader met the Australian leader and wannabe Putin nemesis. Tony Abbott, a former Jesuit seminarian and John Key, of Jewish extraction, had a brainstorm from which a sweet idea emerged. Why not celebrate the centenary of the first time our two Christian nations got together in attacking a Muslim country?

The Australian and New Zealand publics are now being prepped to accept the idea that the historic camaraderie-in-arms of ANZAC, the WWI, Australia New Zealand Army Corps, should be resurrected. This would find expression in the form of an historic re-enactment: a joint expeditionary force to be dispatched to Baghdad. Not only do the two nations mourn the ANZAC dead at the Cenotaph, but now it is proposed that they should celebrate their sacrifice by gratuitously committing their descendants to another war.

hatPerhaps Mr Key believes that this quaint and inappropriate idea should make for great photo-ops. After all, Putin’s ratings have gone up to 85% since he became involved in the Ukrainian crisis. Possibly Mr Key’s National Party colleagues would appreciate a timely piece of nostalgic distraction from the on-going furore created by Nicky Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics.’

On such a whimsical notion, New Zealand is now headed for an open-ended commitment to the USA’s eternal War on Terror: the gift, which, while giving vast riches to America’s (not New Zealand’s) arms manufacturers, gives to Paradise, a never-ending parade of dead Muslims.






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