Mesopotamia: where it all began. And, ends?
Remember in grade school when Mrs. McMillan showed you a map of Mesopotamia and explained how civilization began between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers? Well, Mesopotamia is still there. But now, the map shows it as Iraq.
Ironically, the place where the Sumerians created the first civilization is where civilization, as we know it, might end. If so, our demise would be brought about by Saddam Hussein, the neo-Hitler of the Middle East.
Modern Iraq stretches from the Tigris/Euphrates delta in the south to the southern border of Turkey in the north. The northern third of Iraq is occupied by the Kurds who dislike Saddam Hussein and who are feared by the Turks. The southern third of Iraq is occupied by the Shi’ites who dislike Saddam Hussein and, in turn, are feared by the Iranians. The middle third of Iraq, which includes Baghdad, is under the firm control of Saddam Hussein.
Just based on geography, one would think that the southern one-third and the northern one-third could march against the middle third and eliminate Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, Saddam practices gun control. He not only has all the guns; he also has weapons of mass destruction such as poison gases which he has already used against the Iraqi Kurds.
In 1991, Saddam got his rear end kicked by a coalition of U.S., European and Arab forces that coalesced behind the goal of ejecting Saddam from occupied Kuwait and the restoration of the status quo ante. While 20/20 hindsight says Operation Desert Storm should have been extended to Baghdad to eliminate Saddam, that was just not possible under the agreements that formed the coalition. Then, just as now, the U.S. would have had to go to Baghdad almost all alone.
Now, the western world finds itself in a race against the time when Saddam has operational nuclear weapons. Once that happens, and whether or not Saddam actually uses those nuclear weapons, Saddam will become what he has always wanted to be: the major power in the Middle East. He will dictate how the oil riches of the Middle East are allocated. And, he who controls the oil of the Middle East has the power to send the ailing economies of the post-9/11 western world into a tailspin.
Even if we started yesterday to develop the oil resources of Alaska, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and other oil-producing states, it is too late for us to produce enough oil to keep our economy out of the dumpster. Ironically, we have always had the oil and coal and natural gas resources to be energy independent of other countries. But the enviro-nuts with their wishful thinking about solar- and wind-energy have placed us at the mercy of a madman like Saddam Hussein.
If Saddam is to be eliminated, massive air attacks followed by foot troops will be needed. The foot troop part, however, is capable of several variations. We could arm the Kurds and the Shi’ites and turn them toward the middle third of Iraq in a new form of proxy warfare. We could bomb Baghdad back into the Bronze Age and follow that by a direct assault by U.S./U.K. paratroopers and air-mobile forces. But how we would keep our occupying forces supplied in the midst of non-supportive and even hostile Arab nations remains to be seen.
In any event, a cornered Saddam will unleash whatever weapons of mass destruction he has on hand. He will attack Israel and be applauded by the Arab world for doing so.
But let’s assume we do remove Saddam without the end of Western Civilization, as we know it. Who follows Saddam in power? Iraq needs a leader who can pull the Kurds, Shi’ites and other Muslim factions together into a peace-loving nation. Surely, the Sumerians, who invented writing, invented the wheel, invented mathematics, invented bronze and, unfortunately, warfare, have some descendents with a legitimate claim to power.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy by William Penn – a novel about a terrorist attack on the central United States.