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A Brief History of the Current War... posted 23 Jun 2007, 18:06 by Enkidu, Commoner

There are a lot of reasons for this war. Sticking to the historical basis for it however, and going back to the original posters questions of the Sunnis and Shiites, I'll give you a brief overview that I hope does some justice to the various sources, old and modern, that I have accumulated in my brain over the years... For the Sunnis and Shiites specifically...After the death of Mohammed, the founder of Islam(actually, the guy who grafted an amalgated Judeo-Christian belief system onto Middle Eastern area tradtions dating back to hundreds of years B.C.), at about 900 A.D., there was a question of succession. The people that would become the Sunnis accepted his legitimate son. The Shiites went with another, not so legitimate son, named Ali. As with many other religions, a conflict for the hearts of Believers, which we can translate as temporal and political power, began. The Sunnis were always far more numerous, and most of the Caliphates thereafter, mostly based in Baghdad, were Sunni, including the famous Abbusids, that Saladin was a member of. The Shiites were less numerous, but had welded themselves into several older esoteric systems of the region, resulting in some very ritualistic, hard-core followers. Foremost among these were the Ismaili, a very fundamentalist and "mystic" sect. Probably the best example of the dedication and fervor of the Shiites and Ismaili is the birth of the Assassins, an Ismaili off shoot. The Sunni Caliphates ruled pretty much all of the important areas of the Middle East. The Shiiites then had to resort to guerilla warfare. The Assassins would insinuate themsleves into a Sunni city, or the entourage of an important Sunni figure, lie in wait, sometimes for months, and then strike, usually assassinating the target with a dagger, and at the expense of their own life. They were proto-suicide bombers. The effect of course was to give the illusion of a far larger and more shadowy organization than they actually were. The word "Assassin" that we use today actually derives from this group, and the legend they created about them. There are a lot of outlandish stories about them, and their original founder, Hassan-i-Sabbah, but this is only testament to the effectiveness of their mountain-based(mountains have always been a good place to hide) terror campaigns. As the initial power of the Shiites was waning, in came a new factor. Crusades of European Christians that decided that they were going to take back the Holy Land(Ironically, as white Europeans only inherited the Middle Eastern Christianity through the hegemony of Rome, the majority of Europe was not really taking anything back, but stealing in reality what they had already stolen in metaphor and belief). Thus we get the Crusades, a centuries long struggle too complex to get fully into, that involved European powers, Sunni powers, and the small, but still there Shiites playing both sides in an effort to claim, what else, resources(although the religious fervor should not be discounted either. Since I'm running a bit long, it turned out that it wasn't such an easy go for the Europeans, especially when Western Roman Catholics began also crusading against Eastern Byzantine Christians. Eventually, Europe lost interest, and failed to get the Holy Land "back", although they did succeed in taking practically all of Spain from the far more advanced and civilized Muslim Moors, who ruled in relative peace for a long time beforehand. Fast forward to the time of Imperialism, and we find that every attempt by European powers to get into the Middle East, either for resource or religious purposes were not exactly sterling victories. Usually, they were either disasters or temporary holding postures(For a fun read sometime, check out the story of the first Marines in America, and what Thomas Jefferson sent them to do..."the shores of Tripoli"...even though that's technically Africa). Here we are now, and the major change of the last couple of centuries is not only the emergence of America as the dominant "European" power(sorry for those folks that have a problem with that assertion-we can talk about it more at another time-or you can go visit a Native American reservation), but also the discovery of the wonderful usages of the resource of oil, obviously existing in great quantity in the Middle East. Our friends the Sunnis are still there. Our friends the Shiites are still kicking. Our friends the Europeans still want to take it all "back". There are a gaggle of other factors that go into this war, and the current socio-political-economic struggles in the region, but surprisingly, if anyone wants to read some on the period of the Crusades, you're going to get a boatload of very pointed parallels and questions to which the current war is the answer. The Middle East used to be far advanced compared to the brutal Europeans. After a couple of centuries of warfare fought on their home-turf, however, they fell behind, while their advances brought back to Europe, especially in technology, medical science and astronomy, fueled by banks full of looted money, put Europe ahead.(The Knights Templar were probably not mystic code-breakers, but they were the progenitors of branch banking---Which is why at the end of the war, Philip the Fair of France leveled the charges against them that stick in myth and people's minds even today, all because he was a little short on cash, and the Templars were relatively loaded.) Okay, I've gotten off on some tangents, but here's the point. Bush and company represent big business. They want oil, and power, and by all accounts, don't really like that wierd Muslim religion. A lot of folks nowadays also don't proclaim to be Christians, but goddamned if they don't idealogically think and act like one. Iraq is a country full of people whose home just got invaded, and who have experienced their families and friends killed, and their way of life not only shattered, but worse told that that's because it wasn't up to someone else's standards. They find the Christian mind-set alittle weird. Add to that the fact that Iraq is one of the most ancient seats of civilization, and also experienced the brunt of the last time the "West" came knocking at the door. Add to that the fact that the Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting now for over a thousand years, and just as it did in the Crusades, when the West throws an instability into the mix born of warfare, both sides see a chance to get dominion over the other and then make more conflict. This is real simplified for space, but I hope it comes through that in addition to some of the other matters related by other posters, you also have all of this going on. Basically, this is a mess that is a hell of a lot older than just the events since 2001, which is its own can of worms, although you're going to find some of the same worms in both cans. We, as Americans have forgotten or just plain ignored too much history, both what others have done and endured, and what we have done and endured, and as a result, we keep fighting the same conflicts for slightly different, and very temporal reasons. The Big Reasons, I would argue, haven't changed much. Okay, I have this urge to keep going, because I feel like I haven't really explained myself or gotten fully into this, but I have a feeling, with an inexperience to forum posts, that I've run on too long. Okay, y'all take care of each other. view post

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