I recently got my hands on Susan Meiselas’ remarkable book, “Kurdistan, in the Shadow of History.” This morning, over breakfast, I started the section that talks about Iraq in the 1930s and came across a clipping from the British magazine, “The Sphere” published October 1, 1932. It reads:
“By the end of this month, or at any rate in the first days of October, Iraq will have been elected a member of the League of Nations and the British mandatory regime in that country will have come to an end.
To the mass of the British people this consummation seems to have been too long in materializing. For the opinion, derived in the main from the ‘popular’ Press, still prevails that in Mesopotamia we have spent millions of pounds and have sacrificed hundreds of lives–and all to no purpose. The feeling is that we ought to have concentrated on interests nearer to the heart of the Empire and to have evacuated Iraq once we had beaten the Ottoman Empire there, years and years ago.”
Almost exactly 80 years later America is pulling its troops out of Iraq. In the last 8 years the US has spent billions (if not trillions) of dollars and sacrificed thousands of lives. Many Americans are asking, “To what purpose?” With a crippling financial crisis at home, many also feel it would have been better to “concentrate on interests near to the heart” of America.
Reading this clipping sends shivers down my spine because it holds up the mirror of history. We see that we are living out George Stanayana’s terrifying prediction: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
By the end of December the US will have withdrawn its military from Iraq, but who is to say that in 2090 they won’t be doing the same again?