Opinion Columns & Blogs

Jerry Kiser: Terrorism comes from despair

When a man has nothing but his religion, it is his religion he relies on to give him courage, hope and faith to continue in difficult times. And these are difficult times in the tribal lands of the Sunni Arabs in western Iraq.

I am a former Wichita resident who recently returned to Wichita after working in Iraq on and off for nine years. It has affected me greatly. The violence was horrific and has become downright repugnant.

I probably see things differently from most, and I can tell a different story than what is read in the daily news stories from Iraq.

I now see the fight for Al Anbar province in western Iraq as a fight for the soul of the Arab world. Al Anbar makes up one-third of Iraq and is truly the heart of Sunni Arab tribalism in Iraq.

About half of the 43 tribes in Al Anbar are with us, and about half against us. They are a simple people with a lot of tradition and pride. They were never fundamental zealots like Islamic State fighters, but about half have become that way.

How could we have gained their trust and had them join us to fight al-Qaida in 2005-07, and then abandoned them? How could we make them such a desperate and destitute people that they would turn to terrorism?

The answer can be found in a broken U.S. foreign policy that was implemented based on fraud, deception and betrayal of the American people. It is well-known that we lied to go to war, and we keep telling ourselves our policy is sound. Well, it is not. The current administration’s policy to pull out, no matter what the cost, was the worst thing to do.

Our support of the regime of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki is the root cause of what we are seeing in Iraq today. We implemented a constitution that was not realistic, then tried to pass an oil law favorable to just the Kurds and the Shiites. By giving economic resources to only two of the three ethnic groups, we abandoned the third – the Sunni Arabs. This abandonment, lack of financial resources and marginalization of the Sunnis have led these people to desperate acts of self-destruction.

Like they say nowadays in the United States, “If there is no justice, there will be no peace.” This could not be more true than in Iraq.

Our greatest enemy is not Islam. It is poverty, illiteracy and despair.

Jerry Kiser is CEO of a petroleum land services company.