Monday, March 24, 2003

From David Pryce-Jones:

For Sunnis, Shias, Kurds and Turks, when war stops, the trouble starts

A further danger is that Iraqis will seek revenge - not on the West but on each other. Saddam's Ba'ath Party was composed of Sunni Muslims, mostly from Tikrit, the region where he was born. Sunnis from the Ba'ath Party have imprisoned, tortured, raped or murdered scores of thousands of Iraqis.

Opponents of the war in Britain, France and Germany may have forgotton the gassing at Halabja, the destruction of the Marsh Arabs, the bulldozing of villages, the mass arrests and arbitrary executions - but the Iraqis haven't. The thousands of people who have lost relatives in Saddam's blood-purges have a score to settle with the officials who did the dirty work. The Iraqis even have a word for it: farhud.

If allowed to proceed unchecked, the farhud could turn into a general massacre. That is what happened when the British imposed the Sunni King Faisal, Lawrence of Arabia's favourite desert Arab, on Iraq after the First World War. The Shias warned that they would revolt if a Sunni ruler were to be imposed. They were not listened to, and did revolt. A farhud resulted, which was only put down with great bloodshed by the British. In due course, Iraq became a military dictatorship - which it has remained ever since.