By Robert Fisk
Britain invaded Iraq in 2003 without history books, ignorant of the insurgency against the British in 1920, unaware of TE Lawrence's warnings about the old Mesopotamia. The British believed their own propaganda – the cheering crowds, the rose petals that would greet them – and forgot the Iraqi sanctions that they supported for 12 years and which killed half a million Iraqi children.
And today – as their creature Nouri al-Maliki pleads for help against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) – Britain has resumed its ignorance.
While "tut-tutting" at the ruthless and corrupt Shia government which Maliki represents, we have persuaded ourselves that we must maintain Iraq's "sovereignty" in the interests of democracy – a concept no Arab revolution has ever demanded – in order to destroy our latest "enemy" in the "war on terror", the Sunni Islamist "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria.
If we join the war, we are taking the side of Iraqi Shia against the Sunnis, just as in Syria we have taken the side of Syrian Sunni rebels against the Alawite (and therefore Shia) government of Bashar al-Assad. The frontier between these two Sykes-Picot states is being physically bulldozed away while we prepare for our next role in this tragic farce. Yet we still pretend that the conflicts in these two countries are separate.
When we arrived in Baghdad in 2003, we donated to the Iraqis two poisonous gifts. First, we gave them freedom and anarchy – as opposed to the dictatorship and security they enjoyed before – and then we created one of those oh-so-perfect governments in which each sectarian group was represented according to their size in the population.
Thus we replaced a minority Sunni government (Saddam's) with a majority Shia government (currently Maliki's hopeless administration) which immediately alienated the Sunnis and ignored the demands of its Kurdish people. Hence when the Sunni revolt hardened into rebellion, the Maliki army of ill-paid conscripts and corrupt officers collapsed.
After 2011, we Westerners were delighted when Assad's ruthless army appeared to be collapsing in the face of the very same rebels who now threaten Maliki. And just as the unscrupulous Russians were prepared to support the ghastly Assad, now the fearful Obama is ready to commit his air force to defend the corrupt Maliki, even bowing to Iran as a potential ally.
But most important of all, let's remember the two subjects we must not discuss: our dear friend Saudi Arabia's support for both Syrian and Iraqi rebels and the degree to which the US Middle East policy is in thrall to Israel. (© Independent News Service)