Having recently passed my half century as a journalist I think I know a little about the pressures the profession places on my colleagues; how often they are under the gun to produce instant analysis when a little reflection would have brought a better outcome.
I'm usually prepared to cut them a bit of slack if the facts don't quite match with reality and the argument has a few holes.
However, this view was severely tested while reading a recent comment piece by Greg Sheridan in The Australian.
Even allowing for the fact that Greg has a certain view of the world, it was hard to accept he could actually believe a word of what he had written in maintaining that the rise of the Islamic State could in no way be linked to the 2003 American invasion of Iraq.
After taking his usual swipe at the ABC, Greens and professional anti-Americans, Sheridan launched into the "myth" the US-led invasion could be linked to the current actions of the terrorist group. His grounds being that it originated in Syria, a country which the US did not invade.
"The two factors that immediately caused the upsurge of the Islamic State were the civil war in Syria and the anti-Shia [he meant anti-Sunni but let's cut him that slack] policies of the [Nouri al-] Maliki Government," Sheridan wrote.
To put forward such an argument sadly means that despite something like a quarter of a century as The Australian's Foreign Editor, Sheridan has little understanding of the Middle East and the Arab mindset.
The terms 'Iraq' and 'Syria' are not recognised by IS, and indeed by many other Muslims. They are lines drawn on a map by Western nations after World War I, carving up the Ottoman Empire to suit their own interests, installing puppet kings, emirs and potentates who quickly acquired a taste for the good life and saw it was in their interests to cooperate in this imposed status quo.
Many Arabs – and not just the radical ones – see themselves as one nation; Arab unity has been a consistent theme running down the years. Just as centuries ago, Christians also thought of themselves as one people. 'Christendom' is a rarely-used word these days, but in the distant past it had real meaning.
So when an Arab country is attacked – and despite what some of their leaders might profess – the entire Arab Street is outraged. Sheridan might have noticed a very recent example: The murder of French tourist Herve Gourdel by the Algerian Jund al-Khilafa group was not committed for anything the French were doing in Algeria, but because Paris was participating in military operations in Iraq.
Any incursions by the infidel West onto the sacred soils of Islam, and especially Arab Islam, are going to have consequences. The US-led invasion of Iraq, committed amid a welter of lies and deceptions over Saddam Hussein's supposed stockpile of WMDs was botched from start to finish.
Any hope that it could be passed off as liberation from an evil tyrant ended amid the massed civilian casualties from 'precision' bombing and the miseries that befell the population in the first few days of the occupation.
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About the Author
Graham Cooke has been a journalist for more than four decades, having lived in England, Northern Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, for a lengthy period covering the diplomatic round for The Canberra Times.
He has travelled to and reported on events in more than 20 countries, including an extended stay in the Middle East. Based in Canberra, where he obtains casual employment as a speech writer in the Australian Public Service, he continues to find occasional assignments overseas, supporting the coverage of international news organisations.