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The End of Iraq?



I’m sitting in my living room with my daughter in Boulder, Colorado watching the news about Iraq. The images on the screen roll out like a dark cloud descending on us. Masked men holding guns, pointed at other men, who are bound and helpless. I felt a familiar sorrow as I watched. My daughter, who will turn 3 at the end of August, asks about what she is looking at. I tell her: this is where your father is from. These are her first images of Iraq.

Ten years ago I returned to Baghdad with my wife and my father. I wanted to make an intimate documentary about returning to war-torn Iraq after being away for over 25 years. The United States had recently invaded Iraq under the order of George W. Bush and the support of his war thirsty gangbangers: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. These guys knowingly used fake evidence to support the invasion of Iraq. It was all a spectacle and we knew it.

Here is an excerpt from my documentary Nice Bombs. The conversation I had with my cousin 9 years ago resonates eerily today.

Earlier this summer my cousin called me from Baghdad and we talked about the madness that was unfolding. It’s been a rough summer for Iraq. Gangs of violent militants are taking over parts of Syria and Iraq through bloodshed and rape.  They have called themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or just Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Most people call them ISIS or just Islamic State, and what they want is to set up a barbaric religious state with a self-appointed Caliphate. This so called Caliphate-dude is named Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdad, and dresses exactly what I imagine a cartoonish Caliphate would dress.

I asked my cousin if I could transcribe our phone conversation that I recorded. He said it was okay.

Here is the transcript. My questions or responses are in italics.

How is Baghdad?

Well the explosions are less.

What do you mean by that?

Usually we have three to five explosions each week, inside Baghdad, now since the attacks (by the Islamic State), there are no explosions.

So in a way you are saying Baghdad is quieter?

Yes there is nothing.  No change… in Baghdad.


Nothing is going worse I mean.

There is a lot of talk that Iraq is splitting into three parts. How accurate is that?

I think so. First of all I don’t think ISIS is just suddenly working alone, with the strategy and tactics with the attacks, I don’t believe they are operating alone. Maliki (Iraqi’s prime minister) does not need that much honor to leave his position. So it’s bigger than this. I think the issue is splitting Iraq.

And so how would it be split?

It’s common… we can debate it… but they will put a map up for this splitting of Iraq.

When we are talking about splitting Iraq up, would it still be Iraq? Or would it be three different countries?

How do you see Kurdistan? Do you see it as a different country or part of Iraq?

Kurdistan seems like a country inside a country.

It will be like this. The same.

So you are saying Kurdistan is already there? It is already established?


But wasn’t that established many years ago?

No, not enough money. Now they (the Kurds) got Kirkuk, so everything is fine for them.


Yeah because, in these wars, after the armies have been defeated, day by day. In the name of saving the government of Kirkuk, they went inside and set everything up: the army, the government and borders and everything. Now they are saying: no more turning back anymore, that is the new border called Kurdistan.

So I understand,  and so what is the middle region of Iraq going to be?

There is no middle region. North, South and West.

Oh. So you are saying the Shia would be in the South?

Yeah. Sure.

And Baghdad? What happens to Baghdad?

I think Baghdad will be the federal capital.

And you think this is a good plan for everybody?

That’s what we have. You know there is no ‘everybody’. Each religious party and non-religious party has its own plan. So I don’t know, there is nothing that is good or bad. Things like this are natural. If this is going to save things, better go for it. Either way, I’m not very optimistic about it.


Because it will not save anything, there will be the local government and that local government in the South will be the ally of Iran and the local of the West will be the ally of Saudi, Kurdistan has its own plan. And everybody that wants to push inside Iraq, he will push it through the ally, nothing will change.

What’s your plan now? Are you going to stay put in your house and see what happens?

No. We are going to work everyday. We are living our normal lives in Baghdad. And I have about three years before getting my retirement. I will stay three more years, and then I’ll have my retirement and head out.

And when you get your retirement are you going to leave?


Where are you going to go?

I have an initial idea to go to Malaysia.

With your family?

Well my son is 22 and not a kid. So no he’s not coming with me. My daughter if she is not married yet, she can come if she wants. But three years is a long time in Iraq.

These people. The Islamic State or ISIS. Who are they? Do you know any of them?

Personally? No. But we saw their… do you remember that deck of cards, the Americans deck of cards? So we have 20 people involved in the leadership of ISIS. And we know some stories about them, and some people know some of them. So they are criminals and old officers in the (Baathi) Army, that were near Saddam. And there was that prison near Basrah, camp Bucca, where they … (lost contact)


Each one of them must have had a file when he went inside and when he was released.

And these guys, that you are saying were released, are now leading these ISIS terror groups?


So these guys are ex-Baathis? Saddam’s dudes?

It’s a combination of people that lost their position. Mixed with others who are crazy religious people. But that’s not the issue. The issue is they are fighters, criminals, experts, they have money and lots of it, they have weapons and lots of support.

So where are they getting that money and support?

Of course the money is coming from the Saudis. But don’t tell me the Saudis would even wipe their nose without the permission of the United States.

What would be the motivation for the United States to do that?

Let me tell you the United States is not losing a penny on this current war in Iraq. It’s Saudi money. The other investment comes from ISIS and other criminals. Lets say 50% from Saudi and 50% from Iraq.

I mean the banks are robbed the weapons are stolen.

Right, they just fund themselves.

There are stories about all these European Muslims that are part of this. Guys born in Europe but joined this group ISIS.

Yes of course we know about this. (sigh)
Man, its been a while. You know, we’ve been in a war-zone for a long time. And I know lots of people. Want to go as refugees and settle down outside. And I know many people that want to leave Iraq and go as refugees to Europe or the USA. Most of the accepted Iraqi people have had a criminal file, and some crazy religious ones. These people are preferred than others.

Why is that?

I don’t know?! Ask the stupid embassies of Europe and USA. Each one of them, these ISIS fighters, has either a Jordanian passport or Pakistani and then another one from England or France, I don’t know, Sweden, even the USA. I think this is their job. They go do their dirty job and then head back home to Europe. Who knows?

Iraq has become the playground for war.

It’s a different place for a war-zone, for USA, because there is lots of money flowing through here. The USA does not need to spend any of its own money on this.

Do you think the United States is going to try and negotiate something with ISIS? They already have some agreement with Kurdistan, but do you believe they would actually negotiate something?

Do you remember how Osama bin Laden get killed?


He was killed in the most stupid miserable way, not respecting the whole world. What does it mean? We caught him? He was on that ship when they buried him in sea? No video, no nothing. No evidence. It’s bullshit. They will run this in the way they do all things, with no morals.

(long pause)

So how’s your Mom?

Mom is okay, she was planning on going to Turkey for several weeks, but now she’s changed her mind.



Yeah… Are you pissed off about all of this?

This situation will stay like this as long as there is a big country like Iran that have ambitions in Iraq. And a country like Saudi Arabia wants to sit on its chair with the backing of the USA. And as long as the USA has this stupid budget and they want to save the money on their people, on the health insurance and the social insurance. So they are stealing and killing people and we are in the middle of it: here is Iran, here is Syria and then Turkey. So this is what we have.

(end of transcript)

We continued talking about our family and my father who is in Irbil. Since our conversation ISIS has been executing people based on their religion and imposing a strict Islamic code on all women and society.  They have taken over Mosul, and burned down a 1,600 year old church and are executing and expelling the Christian population. I’ve also watched videos of ISIS men chasing down civilian cars in the streets and gunning down everyone inside. I’ve seen videos of hundreds of young and old men being crudely executed and dumped into the river. These guys are heartless cold-blooded killers with a black flag above them that says Allah and Muhammad. No drinking, no smoking and women cannot wear bright colors and must be completely covered from head to toe. Like a bad dream, ISIS was able to spread in Iraq as the consequence of a badly managed United States invasion.

The question now is what can be done? Since a large percentage of the Islamic State has foreign fighters, this could unite the Sunni and Shia Iraqis against them. It could also be a tipping point to unite all of Iraqis in driving out the Islamic State. But the problem is that there is also a very violent Shia militia operating on its own. Just recently they went into a local brothel and killed 30 sex workers. This is not ISIS, but at this point, what‘s the difference?

I don’t want to see my country fall under these murderers. The hope is that Iraqis will be fed up with all the bloodshed. Already there is a protest movement, by Iraqis showing solidarity with the Christian population, in reaction to the expulsion of Christians all over Iraq by ISIS. The hope is that all Iraqis will refuse to give ISIS any more power. Slowly and with time, I believe Iraq will regain control of Mosul and drive ISIS out. But there will be more bloodshed in order for something hopeful to emerge. The movement to stand with the Christians of Iraq is gaining support. The Islamic State is also targeting the minority Yazidi community of Iraq. The stories that are coming out are horrific. The Islamic State is enslaving young women for sex and murdering children. Lets hope there is support for them as well.

There are certainly many questions and speculations about the origins and training of the Islamic State. One being that ISIS is a covert intelligence operation by the United States. The theory goes that Abu Bakr Baghdadi spent 5 years in an American detention center where he was trained with other commanders by the CIA. It certainly is worth investigating. But let’s be clear, many Muslims in the Arab world are saying these guys ISIS are not Muslims. They certainly are Muslims. Even though they take the religion to a violent level, the oppression of women, cutting off hands and heads, and the taxing of non-Muslims, are part of an Islamic culture that goes on in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

I weep for my homeland but I believe in the resilience and humanity of the Iraqi people.  If Iraq can pull itself together, there can be hope. The country needs to unite. The old ways need to go and Iraq needs to embrace the diversity that makes it a unique place for all people, no matter their religion or rejection of religion.

By Usama Alshaibi, August 2014