Nothing is funny about a war, let alone a foreign invasion. But during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Mohammad Said al Sahhaf, Minister of Information extraordinaire, was beyond funny. In his utter denial of reality, he provided a daily dose of tragicomedic relief from the imminent fall of the regime and (little did we know it back then) of the greater tragedy of what would later become of Iraq.
Today, 11 years later, Sahhaf is long gone but the tragedy of Iraq remains, and the second fall of Baghdad seems imminent yet again.
But then again, history has not really been repeating itself because the history of the Iraqi war has been ongoing ever since. Because the Iraqi War never stopped since 2003 and Baghdad kept on falling each and every single day, with every car bomb and every market explosion and every deadly sectarian attack. Baghdad fell with every part of the country that slowly drifted apart from its core, and with an increasing number of Iraqis of all sects who decided to leave the bloody waters of the Tigris and Euphrates behind and never ever look back.
After being overshadowed by the as-of-now illusory Arab Spring, Iraq is back in the headlines. As it continues to pay the price of Bush’s and Blair’s reckless Middle Eastern adventures in 2003, it now falls prey to the repercussions of the violence in neighboring Syria, sectarian Sunni-Shia regional rivalries and the petro-dollars (Saudi) and what I like to call “neo-petro dollars” (Qatar) fueling them. At the same time, it cannot but blame its own government, which has also exploited the sectarian Sunni-Shia divide in the post-Saddam Hussein era, cuddled up to Iran at the expense of its own albeit non-Shia Iraqis to further increase tensions within the Iraqi community.
Arabs have always complained about the way the West set up artificial states in the post-WWI era, and today we complain that all the above-mentioned factors are threatening to bring these artificial creations apart. It is their fault and ours. Politics and religion. Frighteningly violent extremism with the money and determination to help them push further. The battles of world powers and the struggles of long-time neighboring rivals. Oh Baghdad, will your rivers ever be enough to wash away your tears, to put out all your flames?