Over the last few days the news was full of the advance of the ISIS / IS, its fighters had pushed east and overrun a number of towns towards the eastern part of Iraq and closer to the Kurdish region.
The Kurdish army, the Peshmoga, has been pushed back by a combination of being spread across too large and area and being significantly out gunned by ISIS whose troops are armed with modern weapons and vehicles taken from Assad’s armouries or from fleeing Iraqi army units.
The towns were left defenceless and with ISIS advancing toward them the inhabitants fled.
The horror stories of what is happening in this region are widespread, ISIS / IS forces have not only been reported as committing atrocities but widely boast of it. Putting out their own videos and pictures of beheadings, mutilations and mass executions. Anyone who fails to convert must flee of suffer torture and death.
Google for sites which show the images, I’m not putting them here.
These Islamic fanatics have been systematically driving off or wiping out anyone who does not follow their own extreme version of Islam, this has led them to forcibly converting or brutally mistreating those who follow the Shia version of their shared faith.
For non Muslims it is convert or die, Christians have a third option which is to pay a traditional tax to allow them to continue to follow their faith but as has been demonstrated time and again paying this tax which is often set ruinously high is no guarantee of protection.
Until this week the vast majority of the victims of ISIS barbarity have been other Muslims, Christians have had their houses marked to identify them but the largely Christian towns had not yet been attacked. Christians had been attacked and killed but not in large numbers.
The Iraqi government sits to the south, now mostly defended by Shia volunteers and what remains of its own army that has not fled. These forces are willing to fight to protect Shia lands and towns but not those other religions and show no willingness to push the forces of ISIS back.
News of these events barely makes the news, generally nothing more than brief mentions in the breaks in the constant coverage of the Pistoriuos trial.
With this recent attack and advance ISIS has not just been forcing out Christians but also a minority called Yazidis who following an interesting mix of faiths involving Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism.
An attempt by the one Yazidi MP in the Iraqi parliament to secure help for the region met with little more than an embarrassed silence as Shia MPs and leaders who have been doing nothing to protect the bulk of the country looked away.
For weeks now these attacks have been ongoing. ISIS or as it now calls itself the Islamic State has expanded to control or threaten a vast area of the Middle East. The death toll has mounted steadily and apart from a steady drip of news nothing else has been going on.
The US has been building Hellfire missiles for the Iraqi armed forces in an attempt to give them a chance to deal with all of the Russian and American armoured vehicles the Islamic State current has. The wording of these reports has changed this week, they are now talking about providing these missiles to both the Iraqi government AND the Kurds.
Still we have had repeated refusals to get involved, Obama agreed to sent 275 special forces soldiers and advisers but that was it, time and again we were told there would be no boots on the ground and no military action.
Hundreds of thousands of deaths and the West has done no more than tut as they read the morning news over their cornflakes.
Now suddenly we have the US navy launching carrier born fighters to bomb IS positions and vehicles, we have transport aircraft air dropping supplies to the refugees that have been driven out by the relentless advance of the fanatics and barbarians of the Islamic State.
The word Genocide is suddenly being used and with that as justification aid is being mustered, bombs are falling and resources are being made available.
As welcome as this aid and support is, I find myself asking, Why Now?
What is different this time. After all there are millions of refugees all across the Middle East, fleeing the steady expansion of the chaos, death and destruction that seems to flow from the West’s interventions in the region.
Millions who have fled their own countries or who are now refugees within their own countries, millions from Libya, Syria, Iraq to name but a few. Aid agencies have been struggling to deal with the numbers, nations like Jordan now find a significant portion of the people inside their borders are refugees.
Looking further afield the death toll across Africa has run to many millions over the last few years but aside from special forces units and the French the apparent view of the West is that it’s just Africa and not something to be concerned about.
So what has changed.
Stories and pictures of Yazidi refugees fleeing to the nearby mountains and hills where they face death from thirst and hunger instead of staying to be tortured, mutilated and murdered by the forces of the Islamic State have been in the news for several days. Mostly hidden behind the Pistorious trial but if you looked hard enough you could find them.
So unless it has taken several days for the news to sink in it probably isn’t that.
What could possibly have created this sudden change of heart and created a response now that has been absent for months.
Could it possibly be the fact that a series of Christian towns around Qaraqosh have now fallen?
Could it possibly be the fact that our media suddenly reported that hundreds of thousands of Christians were now facing death for the crime of being Christian?
The timing is interesting.
Now this isn't the first time that Christians are faced with attacks because of their faith, the predominantly Christian South Sudan has weekly attacks and a steadily growing Christian death count as they fight the predominantly Islamic North Sudan.
Oh wait, that’s Africa, sorry, nothing to see there, please move along.
Well how about the persecution of Christians in Egypt, oops no, can’t use that as an example since the West put the Muslim Brotherhood in power and it was them doing the persecution. You cannot criticise a US puppet Regime just because it happens to be a little bit barbaric or tyrannical.
Anyway if you discount those Christians who happen to live in a part of the world where their skin colour is a bit too dark to be noticed by the west or those being persecuted and murdered by US sponsored regimes you basically end up with one group that the west and the US would notice.
Those in northern Iraq.
Now we have politicians using the G word, Genocide, mass death, extermination. We cannot allow that, we must act, send in the bombers to deal with these mad dogs of the Islamic state. Only the Imperial powers of the West are allowed to wipe out people like that. How dare these dirty savages try to wipe out a whole Christian population, Americans were choking over their breakfasts as the news broke.
You could almost hear the indignation. Kill Christians, commit genocide against Christians. We cannot sit idle while this is happening.
Those fanatics of the Islamic state can kill other Muslims, they can kill that bunch of angel worshippers who follow a religion based on something pre-Christian (Zoroastrianism, Google it). After all they are fighting Assad so they are not that bad, having been trained and armed for just that purpose over the last year or two, but let’s not mention that ISIS was initially supported by the West as an anti Assad force or I will end up covering the long history of the West’s efforts to use local forces in its proxy wars and how this fails over and over and over.
But Christians, unacceptable. All those priests and bishops and believers in the US frothing with indignation as they glance at the headlines. Christians. Nope, cannot be seen to be doing nothing while genocide is committed against Christians.
So now we see transport aircraft in the skies, we see videos of parachutes carrying desperately needed food and water as they float down. We see more video of US airstrikes, the usual blurry light vision images where blobs on the ground are destroyed in bright white flashes.
This is welcome, much needed, many lives will be saved by the food and water. If the airstrikes can drive back the fighters of the Islamic State then many more lives will be saved.
But being the sort of person I am, I fear that this will cause yet more problems. I worry that this is a knee jerk reaction to media headlines of Christians being slaughtered, that there will be no long term effort once the Christians are safe. That there will be no long term plans to bring about stability in the region.
I fear that this will be yet another in a long history of short term Western / US interventions that deal with an immediate problem without regard for the consequences in the medium and long term.
Politicians think in blocks of time, after the next election is something to worry about another day. Obama is in his last term, so he has long since given up caring and now is in a continuous round of golf and election campaigns. He has sent in the bombers but I strongly doubt he has any concerns for the region in the future; it won’t be his problem after all.
Short term meddling has created vast problems across the Middle East, chaos and suffering, death and destruction.
Much of this is the result of the West overthrowing regimes it didn't like, the result has been far more suffering than the previous regimes could ever cause. The leaders of the West say they will not send in troops again, that the solution is not Western military intervention. Well that is what created the mess in the first place. Western ground troops are not the answer, arming one group with modern Western weapons is not the solution, not in the long term. Those hellfire missiles are going to end up being captured or sold to the Islamic State fairly quickly and that just makes the problems worse.
What we can do is try to limit the fighting, stop it spreading. We cannot stop men with rifles but we can see columns of armed vehicles.
What we can do is provide food and water, tents and medical support to those who have fled the fighting.
There is a lot we can do to help with the human cost of these terrible events, to reduce the suffering, proved some sort of shelter, food and water to those in need.
But we need to stop this constant intervention in tribal or national events, we need to stop toppling regimes just because we can, WE need to stop creating the chaos that we are now trying to reduce.
Had the West along with the likes of Qatar and the Saudi’s taken a long term look at the situation and NOT trained and armed the extremist Islamic groups to fight Assad that then combined to become ISIS perhaps hundreds of thousands of people would not now be dead or homeless. But that is history, nothing we can do now to correct the mistakes of last year.
Instead we can help, Human beings helping Human beings, a simple Humanitarian desire to help those in need.
It’s just a shame it took a threat to the Christians of the region before our leaders could be bothered to act.