The US is doing the right thing in trying to stop the brutal mass murder of the Yazidi by ISIL. The ‘take-home’ message is that ISIL is far from alone.
The past week in ever-bloody Iraq has given us — to use a popular catch-phrase — a number of teachable moments.
On the most basic level, we have learned something of the Yazidi, an obscure population whom, it’s safe to say, very few Westerners knew anything about until very recently.
Descended from the Kurdish people with a religion that draws from Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and even Judaism, tens of thousands of them are, as of press time, stranded on a remote mountaintop in the Kurdistan region, surrounded by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levan, also known as ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) terrorists who consider them heretics. The death-peddlers of ISIL have already murdered a great many Yazidi and would very much like to finish the job.
Which provides another teachable moment, one which we probably don’t really need after the litany of Islamist atrocities in recent years, but which remains vitally important considering the gravity of the big picture.
That Islamists hate and wish to kill everybody but themselves is something they have demonstrated exceedingly well since 9/11, but the level of genocide aspired to by ISIL concerning the Yazidi demonstrates the level of sheer brutality to which they are willing to go.
Equally detested by the Sunni ISIL are Shiite Muslims, Kurds, Christians and — if there are any left in Iraq or Syria — Jews. Sunni ISIL cannot even tolerate their own fellow Sunnis who don’t share their extremist hatred or subscribe to the same Shariah-inspired Islam they do.
ISIL’s solution for their inability to tolerate others is clear and simple: Kill them.
The so-called “take home” message here is that ISIL is far from alone. If anybody wants to know how things would go if the Muslim Brotherhood again ruled Egypt, if Hezbollah gained complete control of Lebanon, if al-Qaida toppled the royal family in Saudi Arabia, if Hamas ever gained the upper hand in Israel, just examine the track record of ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
In other words, just ask the Yazidi. Those who survive their present peril, we believe, will be only too willing to tell their stories.
Yet another valuable lesson — and perhaps a ray of hope — is provided by how the West, particularly the US, is reacting to the mountaintop siege in Iraq.
It might well be correctly and convincingly argued that the Obama administration’s role in the horrific breakdown of Syria has been unfocused and exceedingly hesitant, as many critics (recently including likely 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton) have charged.
Recent American actions in Kurdistan, however, are hinting that at least some of those lessons have been learned. Food and water drops to the stranded Yazidi, not to mention airstrikes against the besieging ISIL, suggest that the US is beginning to put its money where its mouth is.
We are not suggesting that the US role in Iraq should revert to the titanic levels of a few years ago — nor that the American ground war strategy was the right one — but we do believe that President Obama is right to engage in the current actions against ISIL and that he should be encouraged, we hope, in a bipartisan way.
What is taking place in Iraq at this moment is but one theater in a much larger conflict, one involving many countries, ethnic groups and religions. It will be surely be a long and bloody confrontation, but it’s extremely important that the West, and the US in particular, commit to it with strength and clarity.
The stakes are as high as they can be, reminiscent of the great 20th-century struggles between freedom and totalitarianism. This is nothing less than civilization versus barbarism. Genocide should be an idea strictly of historical interest. On this, the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Armenan genocide, let not Yazidi join the terrible list.
Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News