Monday, April 14, 2003

This would make a great board game
I happen to have my old school atlas at work. I took it there once, years ago, I forget why, and it's been languishing in the cluttered closet with the old files ever since. It's had quite a few uses over the years, the most notable being a not very efficient footstep. Of course, it's horribly out of date. Looking at it is like stepping back in time. Israel still includes Sinai, if you can believe it, and most of Israel's newer villages and towns are not to be found. Everywhere else has changed too. Europe is unrecognizable; in Africa quite a few states have changed names (and back again). Some pages are adorned with doodles I must have indulged in as a way of escaping particularly sleep inducing geography lessons way back when. And I was highly amused to find, on the last page of the index, carefully written in tiny pencil handwriting, a list of different types of fertile soil. I've always been fascinated by maps, but geography lessons in my day were not very thrilling. As for the list of soil types - I vaguely remember having difficulty memorizing some of the less exciting details that were listed in the study requirements of an exam, which allowed the luxury of open atlases, and that was therefore expected to be that much more difficult. So now you know that I wasn't very studious in my youth. Downright lazy would be more accurate. And you are now in possession of some damaging evidence of my juvenile delinquency.

Fast forward to the present day - when the war in Iraq commenced, the disgraced atlas came out of the closet and it has spent the last fortnight commanding a place of honor on my desk, open on the page romantically named "Countries of the Fertile Crescent". Visitors to my little office have looked at me with compassion and sympathy and have then rushed off to share with relish the sad news of the latest manifestation of Imshin's eccentricity.

This morning before work I read in Yediot Aharonot about Uday Hussein's letters that were uncovered in one of his Baghdad homes. In a letter from 1990, he discusses Saddam’s plans for the creation of a greater Iraq including Kuwait, Arabstan (apparently a part of Iran) and Palestine; Palestine apparently meaning the historical Transjordan including today’s Jordan and the whole of the land of Israel - thus proving what Israel had suspected all along. Hmm, interesting, I thought to myself and hurried off to work, late as usual.

It was only after lunch, which was an uninspiring sandwich eaten hurriedly in my office, because the kitchen and dining room are closed in preparation for Passover, that I remembered Uday's letter and had another peek at the "Fertile Crescent" on the map. These plans of Saddam are not really a new discovery, but I personally hadn't really thought about them much, especially not from Iraq's point of view, before. I was impressed.

The idea of a greater Iraq is a really good one. Not only does it give Iraq far wider access to the Persian Gulf, not to mention the oil, it also gives it access to the Mediterranean Sea. The most fascinating aspect of it, though, is that it effectually cuts up the Arab world into two pieces with Iraq being the sole controller of overland passage between the northern countries and the southern countries. This would give Iraq complete control over most of the commerce in the region, for a start. And there are a lot more advantages I can’t be bothered to organize in my head for writing down (still lazy). It’s a brilliant idea. It’s an exciting vision. If you’re Saddam Hussein that is.

Thank God (and the U.S.A.) that he didn't get around to doing it. I wonder what would have happened if they had timed the invasion of Kuwait better and the U.S. hadn't been available to do something about it.

And I wonder what Israel would have done had Iraq got around to taking over Jordan. He apparently was well on his way to doing just that in 1990. We couldn't have allowed that to happen. We would have had to attack, amidst fierce global condemnation, of course.

The world we live in is a crazy place.