The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday July 7th

Historical context often missing

Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies of our age is that while the Middle East is the primary theater in which the United States’ military is actively engaged, we as a people know little about the historical context of the wars we are waging in that region.

“Experts” tell the American people that the conflict between Western civilization and Islamic civilization, as if the two are completely separate entities with no overlap, have been in conflict with one another for more than a millennium.

Scholars write of the upcoming “clash of civilizations” and of the imminent culture war.

Politicians speak of how al-Qaida and other Islamic terrorist organizations “hate us for our freedoms.” None of the assertions made by these men and women could be further from the truth.

For one, al-Qaida has explicitly stated what it wants from the United States: the removal of all U.S. military bases and influence in that region of the world.

Additionally, those who see the Western world and the Islamic world as entities unto themselves ignore the ways in which the current landscape of the Middle East has been shaped by the activities, proclivities and schemes of the West long ago, back during the golden era of colonialism.

Let us take the country of Iraq, for example. First, it’s worth mentioning that there was no state resembling Iraq in the Middle East prior to 1920, when the British Mandate of Mesopotamia was created, in part with the backing of the League of Nations. Few people know that it was the British who created the lines that would become the borders of Iraq today.

Is this perhaps why the Kurds suffer so?

While ostensibly created for the pseudo-benign purpose of teaching the Iraqis how to maintain good government, the British Mandate was nothing more than a protectorate, in which self-governance was simply wishful thinking. Faisal I, the “national leader” and later king of Iraq, was given that throne by the British in exchange for orchestrating an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire.

In 1930, the Kingdom of Iraq was granted “independence,” on the condition that British bases would still be allowed, and the British would continue to play a part in how the country was run. Is this truly independence? Hardly, as every time a coup took place in Iraq and the Iraqis showed some form of self-determination, the British would quickly put down the rebellion.

Eventually, King Faisal’s son, Faisal II, would find himself deposed by a military coup and in a decade, the secular Ba’athist Party to which Saddam Hussein belonged, would come to power.

Despite what history tells us, we as a people are baffled and confused as to why we are vehemently disliked in the Middle East, Iraq in particular — not greeted as liberators, but instead as destroyers.

Perhaps the Iraqis simply have a better grasp of their own history than we do. Perhaps they are terrified that they will become, once again, the protectorate for a Western nation. Perhaps they fear that we will manipulate their free elections, much like they suspect we have done with Afghanistan.

Perhaps we should know the history of a nation before we choose to invade it. Perhaps the people should know the history of a nation before they choose to condemn it.



Jaron is a junior history major from Thomasville

Contact Jaron at

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