It’s All George W. Bush’s Fault

Just when Obama — and with him, everybody in America — hoped that Iraq had settled down, the fallen paradise along the Euphrates and Tigris checks in with very bad news, as usual. “People, this is the era of the Islamic state,”* ISIL announced, along with showing a video of what that means: In the middle of the night, men knock on the door of a police officer’s house in the Saladin governorate, and when he opens the door, they cuff him and lead him to his bedroom, where they decapitate him.

This is the face of the battle between Sunnis and Shiites, akin to the battles fought in the years 2006 to 2007 when militias attacked each other with chainsaws in Baghdad. But that is not all; the same battle is being fought in Syria, instigated by Saudi Arabia and Iran, the big agitators in the fight for dominance in the Islamic world.

Welcome to the new Middle East that George W. Bush envisioned when in 2003 he invaded Iraq. His vision of peace reached as far as Israel and Palestine: “The road to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad” (a quote by Raymond Tanter of the Bush administration). But what did the road bring? Nothing but misery.

Dismantling of the State

“Every time some part of Iraq becomes destabilized, we’re going to come parachute in and undo it?” sighed Democratic Rep. Jerry Connolly. “It was not Barack Obama who created this mess. It was George W. Bush.” I think the local leaders are also to blame, but it is certainly true that Bush’s approach formed the basis for the current situation: not only because of the invasion, but also because of the consequence — the dismantling of the Iraqi state. By simply getting rid of the Sunni government apparatus, which was Saddam’s apparatus, the Americans launched a battle for power that is still ongoing.

But unlike Connolly, Obama cannot brush it aside by pointing at Bush. The president has to act, or at least make up his mind: Not taking action is also an option. He already dismissed the idea of sending ground troops. Air support for the Iraqi army is an option, but Obama will do everything in his power to prevent the U.S. from being sucked into a new war. “Don’t do stupid things,” says his self-selected guidebook.


As a president who inherited two cumbersome wars from his predecessor, Obama has little appetite for large-scale military operations. One can argue whether or not that is favorable in all cases, but it is clear that the Americans lost so much credit in Iraq that it would be better if they stayed away. Only under strict conditions can acting against rebels be successful, concludes Max Boot in “Invisible Armies,” his book about the history of guerrilla warfare. One of the conditions is legitimacy in the eyes of the people. [It is] unnecessary to say that in Iraq, the Americans lack that entirely. And it’s tragic that the same is true for the Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki.

Among his Shiite compatriots, al-Maliki has support, as was proven once again during last April’s elections, but he is the type of ruler who considers the mandate of the majority as an excuse for the suppression of the minority — in this case the Sunnis. As long as that does not change, ISIL can act as their patron.

That point is something that the United States and the rest of the world have to make crystal clear to al-Maliki.

If it is not already too late.

*Editor’s note: The original quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.

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