The latest events in Iraq have shined a spotlight on the unseemly role that Washington played when it threw all of its might on this defenceless nation, plunging its people into a fratricidal civil war while setting its political, social, economic and cultural development back into the middle ages. These are precisely the methods used by conquerors across all time and space who have tried in one way or another to whitewash their barbaric actions. Without going too far back, we can recall how before attacking Poland, Hitler’s Germany instigated the “attack by Polish soldiers” on a radio station in Gleiwitz. At that time, many of Hitler’s men received awards and promotions for instigating this incident. In the end, however, these warmongers also received their final “reward” in the form of the Nuremburg Trials.
Resolving to attack Vietnam, the United States also travelled down this path and instigated their own provocation in the form of an “attack” by Vietnamese boats on American warships. A widely known affair is the Gulf of Tonkin Incident where, according to the American “version” of the events, Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the destroyer USS Maddox. The incident became the pretext for the US to attack Vietnam. However, those who instigated this episode have not yet gotten what they deserve from the global community as the American monster, with its military bases in 140 countries, has scared the entire world into submission.
Washington “strategists” then followed their well-trodden path of provocation towards the events of 9/11 in 2001, quickly placing the blame on the Al-Qaeda they themselves created and its CIA agent leader Osama bin Laden. In mere moments, several different lists of those responsible were prepared, and the winner became the list of citizens from America’s best friend – Saudi Arabia. The pretext was there and the White House commenced a military takeover of the entire world under the banner of fighting terrorism.
Yet here’s the surprising part – they did not attack Saudi Arabia, whose citizens, as the Americans themselves believe, were behind the 9/11 apocalypse, they instead first attacked Afghanistan and then Iraq. The latter was blamed for all mortal sins: manufacturing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, close ties with Al-Qaeda and personally with Osama bin Laden. Washington, feeling the weakness of its arguments, which were laughed at by the entire global community, convinced everyone that another reason for attacking defenceless Iraq was to establish “American democracy” there.
Democracy is the power of the people and if this government structure is not chosen by all people, it is chosen by the majority. In the case of Iraq, “democracy” was imposed through barbaric bombings of Iraqi cities and villages, missile attacks and widespread killing of innocent civilians. This resulted in the destruction of the country’s entire infrastructure and its oil wells, oil refineries lay in ruin while farmland was poisoned due to the Pentagon shamelessly using various chemical agents, defoliants and many other poisonous substances brought over from the US.
It is enough to simply look at the bloodcurdling evidence of these criminal acts in the shape of the deformed children born in Fallujah, whose residents did not want to accept American democracy and instead rebelled against their occupiers. This was where the punishers from across the ocean brazenly used their entire arsenal of poisonous agents brought into Iraq (as it is known, these types of weapons were not found in Iraq itself). “The full force of America’s horror-inducing arsenal, including F-16 fighters, C-130 planes, Abrams tanks and Apache Helicopters were unleashed on a few thousand rebels in a civilian enclave,” stated American journalist Mike Whitney. Horrifying bombings reduced a town of 300,000 people into a wasteland. Prohibited napalm bombs, phosphorous and cluster bombs dropped by American planes did not leave a single building standing. The city was completely laid to waste as was the entire male population between the ages of 14 and 60. Over 6,000 civilians died in vain. Bodies of women and children could be seen in the mosques and on the streets. An order was given to “shoot and kill anything that moves”.
Various sources estimate that this barbaric occupation led to the death of up to 1 million Iraqis. The Americans only counted their own losses, while the murdered Iraqis, second-class citizens according to criteria set forth by American democracy, were not counted. In the end, in accordance with their own “democracy”, the military and political administration of the US – who committed numerous crimes which call for a second Nuremburg Trial – left a new dictator in Iraq who plunged the country into the chaos of civil war.
Iraq was the shining example by which the entire world saw the difference between regular democracy and “American democracy”, which has nothing in common with the will of the people actually living in Iraq. What’s more surprising is that the fairly aggressive rulers of America with its brief history of less than 300 years are trying to dictate the foundations of democracy to a nation as ancient as Iraq with a history spanning over 4,000 years.
From the actions undertaken by Washington, it would seem that its rulers, a significant part of whom would have trouble finding Iraq on a map, are unaware that the fertile lands of Mesopotamia, the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates, were the cradle for several ancient civilisations like the Acadians, Babylonians and Assyrians. The first Mesopotamian nations appeared in 4,000 BC. This land is home to widely known city-states like Ur, Uruk, Lagash and Babylon, which have made significant contributions to the history of humanity. Hammurabi’s code of laws (the Code of Hammurabi), created by Hammurabi at the end of his reign (around 1,750 BC), is one of oldest legal documents which was the prototype for modern legal canons in many countries around the world, including the US. The dominant position on Iraqi territory was then taken by the Bedouins, who united into tribes.
What’s interesting is that despite the existence of a government structure, the role of tribes and sheikhs has greatly increased in our time and the Bedouin structure of power has started to play an increasingly greater role. It seems that core Bedouin values are playing an important role here: a code of honour, a tradition of virtue, the values of hospitality and mutual assistance and a democratically-elected sheikh who is equally responsible for every member of the tribe, to whom he is somehow related by blood and whom he knows personally. There were no outwardly signs of a sheikh’s power within the tribe. Bedouin researcher Sibruk notes that “they do not wear fancy clothing or any other distinguishing marks that would differentiate their ranks”. In some tribes, a new sheikh would generally inherit the tent, its décor and appliances, as well as the horse of his predecessor. There weren’t even any special titulary or ceremonies in addressing a sheikh. In speaking about the most important sheikh in the northern shammar in Iraq, Sufuk, British scholar Laird noted that “even when he was at his greatest power, the lowliest Arab looked at him like an equal, called him ‘Sufuk’ and easily sat in his place”.
It should be noted that the head of the tribe exercised the power afforded to him in the best interests of all his tribesmen. Any Bedouin could at any time bring any issue to the sheikh and he was obligated to resolve the issue in the best interests of his tribesman while also assisting him, whether the issue was of a legal or financial nature. The sheikh regulated the seasonal migration of the tribe and its main subsections, divided up the pastures and wells and monitored adherence to the established order and customs within the tribe. His rights with respect to the latter matter were fairly broad. He would resolve all of the main issues related to blood revenge and paying restitution for spilled blood, he would interfere in the conclusion of illegal or simply unwanted marriages, approve divorces, keep stray cattle, find stolen items and monitor adherence to the rules of hospitality.
As a rule, a sheikh represented the tribe in all of its activities and its relations with neighbouring tribes, local and centralised authorities. The sheikh acted as a mediator between his tribesmen and camel traders, he ensured the safety of wandering merchants and craftsmen, and if the need arose, he collected any outstanding debts from his tribe. The sheikh was also the religious leader of the tribe and as such he monitored adherence to certain Islamic norms which spread among the nomads and supported ancestor worship. It was common for the sheikh to act as a judge, especially on issues that did not necessitate the participation of professional experts in customary law.
The democracy of Bedouin and, in a broader sense, Arab society is clearly showcased through the very character of sheikh power. A majority of scholars generally emphasise the lack of any coerced power in Bedouin tribes. It is considered that “tribes obey their sheikhs only due to their respect for their personal qualities” and “even a powerful sheikh rules only through the power of justice and a personal superiority over his subjects; he has no right to give orders”. In a majority of tribes, the power of the elected sheikh is generally founded on the so-called agreement between him and the other Bedouins.
Comparing so-called American democracy and tribal democracy through Iraq’s example, many scholars and journalists give their preference to the Bedouins and their way of life. Bedouin society does not even have any basic coercion and all issues are resolved together for the good of all members of the tribe.
All of this brutally clashes with western democracy where one person, the president or the prime minister, makes decisions on important issues like war and peace and where a regular citizen has no chance to influence the course of public affairs. American aggression against defenceless Iraq that led to the complete destruction of its statehood is a clear example of that.
Victor Mikhin, member and correspondent for the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.