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Commentary Last Updated: Apr 29th, 2008 - 00:52:26

At the court of the caliph in Washington
By Abbas J. Ali, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Apr 29, 2008, 00:21

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Middle East experts argue that history repeats itself in Iraq. In fact, the ongoing blood bath in Iraq resembles, although on a larger scale, the scene in 680 AD when the Caliph in Damascus, Yazid, ordered the slaughter of members of the Prophet Mohamed�s family, including his immediate grandson, Hussein, in Karbala. The tragedy in Karbala has been forever engraved in the collective mind of Iraqis and has become a symbol uniting the masses against tyranny, political deception, corruption and brutality.

At the time, Caliph Yazid saw the presence of the Prophet Mohamed�s family as a threat to his power and a too public reminder of his illegitimate authority. Killing them was thought to send a powerful message to friends and foes that any attempt to confront his authority would be dealt with swiftly and brutally. His governor in Iraq, Abiedullah Ibn Ziyad and two of his military commanders, Omer Ibn Saad and Shimr Ibn Dhil-Jaushen, made sure that his command to eliminate the irritation was carried out.

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 has turned the corner -- even in the minds of those most hopeful -- from liberation to occupation. Increasingly the majority of Iraqis are mining their nation�s history in search of parallels to explain their current calamity. Indeed, for the majority of Iraqis, there has been a growing reference to the commander-in-chief of the invading army and his appointed prime minister and government in Iraq as the modern incarnation of Caliph Yazid, and his brutal commanders respectively.

In the deep psyche of many people in Iraq, Yazid represents illegitimacy, immorality, and tyranny in their ugliest forms. Those Iraqis who are associated with him are viewed as deceivers, corrupt, brutal and unprincipled. It is for this very reason that patriotic Iraqis, especially those in the growing ranks of the poor and disempowered, mistrust the present Bush-installed government in Baghdad and display strong resentment to Washington�s policies for the subjugation of Iraqis and the destruction of their culture and way of life.

As mistrust grows at home, the current incarnations of Ibn Ziyad, Ibn Saad, and Shimr recently have had no choice but to visit the caliph�s court in Washington. Though their visit's official objective is to reaffirm their allegiance to the caliph and seek his blessing, they appear to consult and request specific instructions as to how to deal with the anger and resentments of a disgruntled populace. In particular, help has been sought to crush those who reject the occupation and who demand Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems. Imam Hussein, Prophet Mohamed�s grandson, and his legacy is frequently referenced by the opposition because it makes it obligatory to resist oppression, especially when, as he stated, �the country is in the hands of a faithless tyrant and the ruler of the believers is one who has no mercy for them.�

Caliph Yazid was appointed by his father, Muawiyah, despite his reputation as being ignorant, arrogant, and lacking his father�s cunning and diplomatic skills. As a caliph, Yazid valued loyalty over professionalism and submission over decency. As in today�s Iraq, Yazid appointed individuals, which included those with no attachment to the land or its people, to govern Iraq.

As of now, there is no access to the official record of the conversation which took place between the caliph in Washington and his hand chosen Iraqi lieutenants. The conversations were not reported in the media. However, after the normal greetings, the following scenario of the conversation, between the caliph in Washington and modern Ibn Saad, is likely to have occurred:

"Your Excellency, the Caliph, I would like to thank you for your full confidence in me and I beg your forgiveness for any shortcomings. As you know very well, the populace, especially in the center and southern parts of Iraq, has grown restless despite lucrative inducements to be quiet and let us control their land and reward our militias and organizations. They have been persistently unthankful and inexplicably continue to demand freedom, transparency, and the removal of your troops from Iraqi soil. As per the instructions of your envoy, we have decided to ensure their submission and we will soon start coordinated military assaults on their villages and cities.

"These thankless, defiant Iraqis have a history of trouble dating back to their first uprising against the Caliph of Damascus in 680. For many centuries they have been the source of trouble for all those who seek to control them. In 1920, they started a popular uprising against the British army and in 1958 they joined progressive organizations to get rid of the British presence in Iraq. During the years of 1958-1963 they sacrificed their lives to protect the Qassem regime but with God's blessing they and Qassem were defeated in February 1963. Later, during 1968-2003, Saddam did not spare any opportunity to annihilate them. In 1991, they ignited an uprising against Saddam and almost took over power in Iraq but your father, with keen foresight, withdrew promised support and permitted Saddam to again suppress the popular revolt. Twice, in 2004, we attempted to finish them but without success. They are the same people who sabotaged your proposal for a caucus system in Iraq and instead insisted on open and direct general elections. We have infiltrated them to divert their focus away from patriotism and national agenda toward religious extremism and engagement in criminal activity without avail. When Al-Qaeda targeted them, we looked the other way hoping they would be vanquished. Unfortunately, they have been multiplying and are surprisingly adaptive to changing circumstances. My Caliph, force must be used to obliterate them forever. Otherwise, they will dominate the street and leave us without power; God forbid we might live in exile again.

"My comrades in the leadership, especially Ibn Ziyad and the black-turbaned Shimr have agreed, along with others, to merge their militias in the security and the armed forces. The members of Pesh Merga militias are included as Special Forces while that of Badr and Awakening militias are incorporated in or presented as regular police. Furthermore, the Shimr and Ibn Ziyad have secured the full support of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kuwait for our contemplated military assault. With your blessing, victory is achievable."

The caliph listened attentively and complimented Ibn Saad stating, �I would say this is a defining moment in the history of a free Iraq . . . The decision to move troops, Iraqi troops, into Basra reflects on . . . [your] leadership." The Caliph then asked about the progress in the attack on Sadr City. Ibn Saad indicated that the city of about 3 million has been surrounded; basic services have been cut off; there were daily bombardments; and it would soon be divided into four caged communities with the erection of concrete walls. The caliph was told that the city was once called Al-Thawra, the Revolution, and its people hated Saddam and defied successive dictators, except their loved leader Qassem who ended the British occupation of Iraq, abolished the monarchy and helped the poor.

The caliph instructed Ibn Saad to be tough and promised him that he would not scale his troops down for the remainder of his term and that he would do everything in his power to bind the hands of his successor. In turn, Ibn Saad thanked the caliph indicating that defeating the populace in Iraq would strengthen Arab and Muslim dictators, put an end to popular demand for democracy and resistance forces across the region, and eventually facilitate the implementation of the program to empty Islam from its spiritual humanistic message and transform it into illogical rituals and a set of extremist beliefs.

Applying force to silence Iraqis and cornering them to show total submission did not work during Caliph Yazid�s reign. And there is no reason to believe that it will work this time. The best course of action for the modern caliph is to admit that his policies of invading other countries is disastrous and a menace to civilization, immediately withdraw his forces from the country, compensate Iraqis for their suffering and the destruction inflicted upon them, and allow them to have open and free elections under the supervision of the UN.

Abbas J. Ali, Ph.D., is a professor and director in the School of International Management, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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