Who lost Iraq? In so many words, that is now the increasingly potent counter to years of liberal charges that America’s problems in the world can be traced to the Bush-Cheney foreign policy — specifically the invasion of 2003. The question has now taken root, with “Iraq” serving as shorthand for everything from Iraq itself to ISIS, the Syrian mess, Benghazi, and more. Graphically illustrated by the beheadings of two American journalists, a British aid worker, ISIS armies causing chaos in the once-stabilized region. Not to mention the murder of a 19-year old New Jersey college student Brendan Tevlin by a self-professed jihadist, the arrest of a Yemeni store owner in New York who sought to fund ISIS, and the news that the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan has written to the head of ISIS asking to join.
The Iraqi Sunnis who live under ISIS control may be preparing for a second "Sunni Awakening" after ISIS destroyed a treasured site of Mosul's religious heritage.
ISIS concluded a recent campaign of destruction by bombing a shrine at the tomb of the prophet Jonah. Jonah was revered by Christians, Shias, and Sunnis alike, and the tomb's public bombing has triggered a resistance campaign among Sunnis, according to the AFP. A group of students, businessmen, and young professionals have been joining Kataeb al-Mosul, the Mosul Brigades, to fight against ISIS. The group received both a new spirit and a new name with the bombing of the ancient tomb—the Nabi Yunus Army, after the prophet Jonah.
ISIS have expelled all the Christians from their territory in Mosul and commenced destroying evidence of any faith other than their own twisted brand of Sunni orthodoxy.
As predicted, the treasures of Iraq's past, which are the heritage of the three Abrahamic faiths, are being obliterated. ISIS removed the worshippers from the mosque at the tomb of the prophet Jonah and bombed it into oblivion, according to the Christian Post. The shrine is associated with the prophet Jonah, whose aquatic adventures Jews, Christians, and Muslims all know from their respective scriptures. Like many ancient holy sites, it was built atop ruins of even older churches where earlier centuries of faithful had worshipped. It was sacred to all the Abrahamic faiths and known as a symbol of the area's religious heritage.
A search for the good guys and bad guys of Iraq commenced during a hearing in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs with representatives from the Departments of State and Defense on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was the first "bad guy," in the view of Congress. A few representatives are still making thinly veiled accusations about incompetence on the part of Bush for sending troops into Iraq, or Obama for taking them out, but most seem to agree that Maliki is out of favor.
On the other hand, several congressmen expressed support for the Kurds, both in general and in their desire for an independent state. One remarked that no American troops were lost in the Kurdish territories during the Iraq war, thanks to the friendliness of the Kurds.
Warm wishes were also expressed towards Jordan, while any partnership with Iran was roundly condemned.
The cause of religious liberty galvanizes Americans of faith, yet America's foreign policy has ignored religion to the point of harming her interests and moderate allies in the Middle East.
"America is really, by virtue of its foreign policy, distanced from our natural allies," Andrew Doran, one of the founders of the group In Defense of Christians, told TAS. "They've actually been marginalized over the last several years [by our] commitment to procedural democracy."
Doran described meeting a Christian man in Lebanon who, having never visited America, asked why Americans do not act when Christians face persecution in the Middle East. Doran told him most Americans do not know that any Christians live in the Middle East.
"He was dumbfounded," Doran said. "You can tell that any sense of solidarity with the broader Christian world is gone, and they suddenly feel very alone."
The most prominent Christian landmark in Iraq was emptied of its Christians on Sunday. Mar Behnam is a Syriac Catholic church that was built by a fourth-century Assyrian king. The church was his penance for killing his son, a Christian convert. It is now under the control of Islamic extremists from ISIS, and the monks having been sent away with nothing but the clothes on their backs, according to AFP. They walked for miles before Kurdish Peshmerga forces picked them up and took them to Qaraqosh.
The monks were the last Christians to leave the plains of Iraq; a few still live in Baghdad, but the rest have fled to Kurdistan.
Anyone who obtained too much power in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had two choices: join the Ba’ath Party or die. Joseph Kassab, a medical researcher at the University of Baghdad, chose a third option—flee to the United States. Thirty-five years later, he describes his success here as “an American dream story.” But he is a Chaldean Catholic, and he worries for the fate of his people, the Christians of Iraq.
“Do we want our people to leave Iraq? The answer is no,” he told TAS. “Our ancestry in Iraq goes back 2,000 years before Christ.”
The Christian population of Iraq, which has its roots in the ancient Assyrians who embraced Christianity in biblical times, numbered 1.3 million before 2003. Over the next decade, nearly a million Christians fled to neighboring countries. Many who became refugees fled to the West if they could.
Most joined the Chaldean Christian community in Michigan, which began in the 1870s. They had helped build the automobile industry, saving factory wages to bring family members to the land of opportunity. The Detroit community of Chaldeans now numbers 200,000 and has associations for every profession from pharmaceutics to CPAs.
The Middle East is known more for its locusts than crickets, but some kind of insectile chirping could be heard after the Sunni militant group ISIS declared itself a caliphate and commanded the Muslims of the world to join them.
No rush of support greeted the ISIS—excuse me, caliphate underling—call to destroy the Kaaba, the most sacred shrine of Islam, which Muslims believe marks a place where heaven symbolically touches earth.
Even the Sunni clerics who gave bin Laden and others of his ilk the theological go-ahead are questioning ISIS's inattention to proper Islamic jurisprudence, according to the Daily Beast:
Arguably the Bible's most successful evangelizer was the prophet Jonah, whose story is told in the biblical book of the same name. Despite a brief bout of cowardice and disobedience that ended in repentance thanks to the belly of a large she-fish, Jonah preached to the wicked people of Ninevah. Every inhabitant of Ninevah heeded Jonah's warning of certain destruction within forty days, and "that great city" was spared (Jonah 3:2).
Whether the city of Ninevah, located in what we now call Iraq, will find similar salvation today is questionable.
Perhaps Americans have forgotten how much of the Cold War was fought in the Middle East, but Russia has not.
Recent events in the Middle East have offered numerous opportunities for greatness in foreign intervention, and Russia, perhaps in a bid to regain the sort of international friend network we now enjoy, has been taking advantage of them.
Syria was Russia's first move. While the chemical smoke cleared and the United States floundered among red lines, Putin benificently arrived with a diplomatic solution. Perhaps it was an atypical role for someone who had spent the last few months supporting Bashar al-Assad's murderous regime; we all know how Russia always hates to see Uncle Sam in a difficult spot. In any case, Putin's plan to remove the chemical weapons from Syria has been largely successful—last week it was hailed as an "unprecedented collaboration" and "success" by the Washington Post and others.