Christian families streamed out of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Saturday after Islamist fighters said they would be killed if they did not pay a protection tax or convert to Islam.The United States is complicit in the destruction of the earliest Christian communities in the history of Christianity in Iraq as a result of sanctions and the invasion of the country. As well, the US is complicit in the rise to power of IS (Islamic State) radical fundamentalists in northern Iraq.
“For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” Patriarch Louis Sako lamented as hundreds of families fled ahead of a noon deadline set by Islamic State for them to submit or leave.
The warning was read out in Mosul’s mosques on Friday afternoon, and broadcast throughout the city on loudspeakers.
Mosul’s Christian community, one of the oldest in the world, has shrunk rapidly in the years since US-led forces pushed Saddam Hussein from power. Before 2003 the city’s Christians numbered some 60,000 people, but that dropped to some 35,000 by June this year, Mr Sako told AFP.
The 1987 census gave 1.4 million Iraqi Christians out of a then population, probably, of 19 million. By 2003 the Christians were estimated at 800,000, with over half a million having emigrated during the years of harsh US/ UN sanctions, or having not been able to afford to have children. The US military occupation of Iraq gave Christianity a bad name and Iraqi Christians were most unfairly targeted as somehow American clients. Over half of the remaining Christians were said to have left by 2008, leaving about 300,000 or so. Now it appears that the remaining 300,000 are being ethnically cleansed in the north of Iraq, where most Christians had lived.Wars always produce unintended consequences, but the mindless rush to invade Iraq on the basis of lies and deception resulted in the destruction of Iraqi society, along with most of its institutions. We see the results in the violence in Iraq today. How ironic that the cruel dictator, Saddam Hussein, protected Christians in Iraq, even as the violent intervention by the US enabled the rise of cruel and violent Islamic fundamentalists who completed the destruction of the Christian communities.
Republicans and right-wingers can rave on from now till kingdom come blaming President Obama for the chaos in Iraq, but the facts of history show that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of Cheney/Rumsfeld/Bush and their enablers in Congress, including, I'm sad to say, Democrats in both houses.