Iraq, its frontiers inscribed by British colonialism, had not known democracy since the dawn of civilization. Now it offers a second home to ISIS. Was this, too, inevitable?

Cockburn’s narrative suggests otherwise. As a somnambulist march toward disaster, America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq was a tour de force. After the ill-conceived initial conflict, the by now familiar drama unfolded with America’s dismemberment of the country’s overwhelmingly Sunni army and Baath party, paving the way for a Sunni rebellion. The White House, as if cued by Iran, organized elections won by the Shiite majority, installing in power an incompetent if ruthlessly sectarian Shiite government, aided by Shiite militias allied with Tehran. America’s “surge” only delayed the looming catastrophe. Then came U.S. military withdrawal in 2011, by which time ISIS was on its way. Given the repression by militias and the U.S.-backed government, Sunnis, as Cockburn notes, “have no alternative but to stick with ISIS or flee, if they want to survive.”

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