The Greeks had a name for Iraq and the surrounding areas. It literally meant “between rivers.” I was impressed, as a very young student, to learn “Mesopotamia” applied to the mysterious Middle East. In my day, the part of Asia that described Near East was mystifying to me.
But this was repealed by the time I grew up.
Arabs took over. They had the different word for the land that lies between the Tigris and Euphrates: Iraq was the triumphant label. Understand. It was called Mesopotamia all during the age of colonial powers. They wanted oil that someone in authority figured out was beneath the sands, pools of the stuff that ran the 20th century.
President Franklin Roosevelt insisted that European nations become as anti-colonial as America. Harry S Truman sat in the Oval Office when France sent in armed replacements to Vietnam – which my generation dealt with 20-years later. Hoi Chi Minh worked in a restaurant when he first heard the notion of freedom, a-la-Roosevelt. He liked it. So much so that the city known earlier as Saigon was renamed for him.
A serious miscalculation in the White House led to the U.S. armed forces becoming involved when the French pulled out. What were “advisers” graduated to “combat troops,” which happened overnight. Maybe John F. Kennedy knew all along. Lyndon B. Johnson tried to clean up the mess, but that was the reason for the president leaving office. (Richard M. Nixon moved right in.)
Now we are notified that Baghdad needs re-salvation. The problem is Sunnis invading, and the government controlled by Shiites. As you noticed, religion takes no back seat in the Middle East. In the rest of the world Protestants have it in for Catholics, but there is no blood in the streets. In that part of Asia, faith is taken most seriously.
Sunni means the majority and Shiite stands for various religions, all of whom worship Allah. But in Baghdad, the control rests in the hands of the minority. Muqtada al-Sadr particularly was known as a gang leader during the American experience. Barack Obama called all of them home. Now, they were replaced by 300 advisers. I think the president made a major mistake – at the urging of advice.
We all know the military is very competitive. They don’t want to relinquish a target once conquered. They are capable of reversing the determined White House. All to the nation’s discredit. They don’t care. I left the Army in 1952. The armed forces can be selfish.