The Yazidi wish to inform you that tomorrow they will be killed with their families. Actually, it may not be tomorrow. The 40,000 members of Iraq’s most ancient sect, who are currently huddling on the side of Mount Sinjar, might have a bit longer. If they stay there it will apparently take a few days, maybe a few weeks, before they die of thirst, malnutrition and sickness. If they don’t, their deaths at the hands of the butchers of Isis who have surrounded them will be quicker. Though not that quick.
Five hundred of their number have died in the last week alone, 40 of them children. Unfortunately the Yazidi don’t appear to have had access to iPhones, so you won’t have seen the harrowing images of their dead.
Think of the Hotel Rwanda. Or the Dutch UN compound in Srebrenica. That’s Mount Sinjar this morning.
The Iraqi army, who have the responsibility for protecting the Yazidi, are nowhere to be seen. Kurdish Peshmurga troops, regarded as a more potent fighting force, have also been forced to withdraw.
And where are we? “Everybody is retreating to their corners,” Ali Khedery, the former longest-serving US official in Baghdad, told the Guardian. “And there is no credible international actor that I can see that is trying to bring it together again. It definitely is an existential threat to the Iraqi government and I think it represents yet another manifestation of the disintegration of Iraq as we know it.”
It’s certainly an existential threat to the Yazidi. And another manifestation of the disintegration of our tattered moral authority.
“What can we do?” is the cry so often heard as we cast our eyes across these distant battlefields. And as I wrote yesterday, the answer is nothing. Because we choose to do nothing.
As we chose to nothing in Rwanda. As we chose to do nothing in Srebrenica.
Mount Sinjar is not downtown Baghdad. Or even downtown Gaza. Here is an instance – a very rare instance – where the good guys and the bad guys are very clearly defined.
Isis are out in the open. So are the Yazidi.
We can do something. Now. Today. This hour.
We can start to airdrop emergency aid. We can provide arms to the Yazidi and their defenders. We can provide air support to drive Isis form the immediate area. We could, heaven forbid, provide ground troops to construct an impromptu safe haven.
All of those things are in our power. But we chose not to do them. Why? Because we are paralysed by our perverse new morality. “We killed innocent people in Iraq,” we say to ourselves, “so to atone we must stand back and let innocent people get killed in Iraq.”
For once, just for once, can we actually do something? The UN, Nato, the US and the UK. It doesn’t really matter whose umbrella its under. For once let’s demonstrate that the billions of pounds we spend on the most powerful military forces in human history can actually stand up to a bunch of petty hoodlums with machetes, or AK47s, or Toyota 4x4s.
Just this once let’s not wait. For the book. And then the film. And then the hand-wringing and empty pledges that “we will ensure this never happens again”.
Just this once let’s actually stop them being killed with their families