(In this fascinating piece, UK journalist, Dr. Shahid Qureshi, compares the Neo-cons and Zionist invaders of Iraq to the Mongol hordes before them, who ended up triggering more than they expected from their wholesale slaughter of Muslims in the Middle East.)
Writing around 1377 the celebrated historian Ibn Khaldun (1332 – 1406) noted that ‘the coming of the Mongols was, in fact a blessing for the [Muslim] world, because it gave them new strength and vigour at a time of weakness and thus enabled them to meet and overcome the great dangers that threatened them.’
This view of the destruction of Baghdad in 1258 by the Mongol army commanded by the Halgu Khan (1217-65), the cruel grandson of Ganges Khan (1162-1227) is borne out by subsequent Muslim history. Within a century of the fall of Baghdad the large but weak Abbasid state was replaced by three powerful empires: the Safavi, the Ottoman, and the Indian Mughal. This transformation was achieved the unthinkable.
This transformation was achieved by the tremendous efforts by all sections of the Muslim society. Religious Scholars, historians, military generals, artisans, poets, scholars and scientists all contributed to achieve the unthinkable. This renewal produced the golden age of Islamic astronomy.
None of this was foreseeable in the wake of the capitulation of Baghdad on 10th February 1258 – a surrender that was accompanied by the execution of the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mutasim and killings of 80,000 residents civilians as well as nearly complete destruction the famed city founded by Abu al Jafar in 762 at the site of an old village.
Abu aljafar wanted to move his capital to a safer place. He had himself gone out to look for a suitable site. When he arrived in the old village called Baghdad, located at intersection of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, a cool breeze welcomed him; the place looked so serene, calm, and safe that he immediately decided it to be desired location for his new capital. He called [it] Madinutal Islam, the city of peace.
The city was planned as circular city with 16 gates. A Persian astrologer and engineer, Al Naubakht and an Egyptian Jew Manasseh (known as Mashallah in Muslim sources), made the necessary measurements prior to the construction and Khalid ibn Barmak of the famous Persian family supervised the work.
From its remote origin in the eight century until 1258, Baghdad remained the intellectual capital of the world. Scholars flocked to its Madrasas and mosques, scientists arrive with their instruments, philosophers thronged to debate, discuss, and resolve fundamental human dilemmas and poets, artistes and artisans came here to find a highly cultured populace eager to patronise.
This fibulas city of peace, where other times Scheherazade weaved her stories to give us that imaginative narrative, Thousand and one Nights- is once again under siege and that by an army no less savage than that of Hulgu Khan. The military occupation of Iraq has brought unspeakable misery to the people of Baghdad. Iraqis have surprised the world by their relentless defiance of occupation.
On 20th November 2006, I told Tizpi Livni vice Prime Minister/ Foreign Minister of Israel at International Institute of Strategic Studies that, ‘the occupation is the real cause of violence. The phenomena of suicide bombings never existed in Iraq and Afghanistan, now we have seen more than 120 in Occupied areas in Palestine, 700 in Iraq and dozens in Afghanistan. Both suicide bombing and occupation are not moral issues and have nothing to do with religion. Obviously no body want to be occupied including people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Kashmir.
Those who have made Iraq a living hell for the occupation forces seem almost on their own. There is not a single Muslim country that has come to their aid; there are collaborators inside Iraq, and there are no apparent source of arms and ammunition. Yet Baghdad refuses to submit to the dictates of the new Mongol hordes.
Night after night the soldiers of the world’s most highly equipped and technologically advanced army go out of their barracks thinking: Will we return safely or would this be the last night in this city of endless nights?
On 16th November 2006, I asked Sheikh Dr Muhammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kuwait at International Institute of Strategic Studies London to comment ‘why there was huge gap between the public opinion in the Middle East and response of the Muslim Governments on Israeli attacks on Lebanon in July 2006”. He replied very wisely that ‘do not under estimate the people’.
But who will tell or bell the leaders of the occupiers, listen to the people get out of Iraq and Afghanistan because people in Afghanistan and Iraq would [remain] defiant. Despite the concealment of the true extent of the desperation of its soldiers and despite a steady stream of body bags arriving back in the US, the Bush administration is still not willing to admit its failure; instead it keeps on portraying a rosy picture to the world. But the alternative press is full of a different aspect of ground realities: We are tired and exhausted, writes one soldier in an email to her family.
With the disappearance of the alleged cause for attack the mythical Weapons of Mass Destruction, the US and Britain are left with no justification for maintaining their occupation of Iraq and for the brutalisation of its people. They are now looking for a way-out of the mess they have created, but before their departure they want to leave behind a mechanism that would ensure to occupy Iraq through other means.
The mechanism to ensure this envisages the establishment of client government that would act as a proxy to the occupation authority. The first steps forward this end were already taken were before invasion. On 4 March 2004, 15 days before the attack, the US Agency for international development invited three US firms to bid for a contract to set up 180 local and provincial town councils in Iraq; their work was supposed to begin after the fall of Baghdad.
The contract was awarded to Research Triangle Institute (RTI), as supposedly private non-profit making best known for its drug research. RTI ‘won’ the contract as the other two invitees decided not to apply. This ‘local government’, worth $167.9 million in the first year and up to $466 million in total, is one of the linchpins of a mechanism that the neo-conservatives invented their ‘permanent’ occupation, RTI has been quietly setting up the so called town councils in Iraq.
This body of RTI appointed Iraqis will then determine the future design of a ‘sovereign’ Iraq. [Though,] this titular sovereignty may have to be ‘outsourced’ to the UN. A team of UN officials has already visited the country which was invaded without its approval and which it had hurriedly abandoned after an attack at its offices. Given the history of its subservience to the US, no one should expect that the UN will not collaborate with [Washington] in its attempt to rob Iraqi people of their legitimate right to determine their own future.
This attempt to reduce Iraq to a client state is however, bound to fall. Once again Baghdad shall rise from its rubble, as it has done so many times in the past. The present may look bleak and bloody, the future is a new commonwealth of Islamic people. If the people of the region ready to change, history too shall.