Iraq is in turmoil, ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) insurgents are on the march toward Bagdad with reports of mass killings — 1,700 in one incident — and videos showing beheadings, including one claiming the head of a police captain was their World Cup soccer ball. Yes, you can see the video on the Internet.
Some of you may recall the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Pearl’s beheading on TV. It is incomprehensible to me how someone can behead another human being. To win headlines, terrorists formerly hijacked airliners, then went for car bombings, perfected suicide bombings and now beheadings as their a form of “shock and awe.”
Confused by the reports, I asked for the opinions of two Iraqi neighbors and my son, retired Col. Chris Schnaubelt, who served two tours in Iraq alongside Gen. David Petraeus, and was awarded a Bronze Star. He also served in Afghanistan as an adviser to Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
My next-door neighbor Nihad, a Chaldean from Baghdad, says the insurgents are not Iraqis but mercenaries from neighboring countries who speak a different dialect.
He prays Iraq will hold together, but it is essentially already three different countries, with the Kurdish part almost autonomous. Except in Baghdad, the Sunnis and Shiites live pretty much apart. However, in cosmopolitan Baghdad it’s hard to tell them apart.
Under the former dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, who ruled with an iron fist, there was far less strife. Nihad told me of a female carpenter whose tool belt scratched a wall poster of Saddam Hussein. Two men reported it and an hour later, the woman disappeared. Anyone who asked about her also disappeared.
Another Iraqi neighbor, Wallid, said his cousin was playing cards in a card room and casually mentioned when you’ve seen one dictator you seen them all, referring to Hussein. A couple hours later, he was arrested and his uncle found him nearly beaten to death in an alley. The family hid him in a hospital for two months until he recovered.
Speaking truth to power under Sunnis: Hussein, a Sunni, would wipe out entire families because of one outspoken dissident, and was known to have his enemies publicly decapitated. He was responsible for gassing 30,000 Kurds in 60 villages after he came to power. This is one way to maintain order in a dysfunctional society. Hussein was executed seven years ago for war crimes.
Speaking truth to power under Shiites: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, was democratically elected by the majority Shiite population. Of 13 countries in the region, only Iran, Bahrain and Iraq have Shiite majority populations: 89 percent, 70 percent and 65 percent respectively.
My son points out, that after President Barack Obama pulled out our troops, perhaps as a response to years of minority Sunni rule, al-Maliki removed many competent Sunni military officers, police and bureaucrats from the previous Sunni regime. He has divided the country rather than uniting the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish factions.
Al-Maliki crippled the Iraqi Security Forces by appointing senior officers on the basis of sectarian and political cronyism rather than competence, thereby losing the support of many who would have fought for love of country against the ISIL invaders. He has been unable to build a majority coalition since his election.
With Sunnis funded by Saudi Arabia and Shiites by Iran, it would be surprising if Baghdad were to fall as al-Maliki has been creating an Iranian client state in Iraq. Baghdad is not Tikrit.
Chris believes the recent deployment of the Aircraft Carrier George H. Bush to the Persian Gulf most likely is to evacuate Americans if the $1 billion U.S. Embassy, the largest in the world, is overrun.
Petraeus commented last week that America can’t serve as an air force for a Shiite militia, which in effect would inadvertently be supporting Iran.
You may have heard that Iraqi soldiers are stripping their uniforms and running away. If Iraqis won’t fight against foreign insurgents, to save their country, why should we?