IT JUST KEEPS GETTING WORSE... FOR KURDS
by Gerald A. Honigman
National Security Advisor, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, spoke at the U.S. Institute of Peace on August 19, 2004. Some of what she said was morally indefensible...real politik at its worst.
Thirty million Kurds, living in adjacent territories now designated as parts of other peoples' lands, remain stateless. This was not supposed to be.
With the break up of the Ottoman Turkish Empire after World War I, the Kurds--native to the region for thousands of years (Guti, Kardu, Kassites, Hurrians, Medes, etc.)--were promised independence in the Mandate of Mesopotamia. They were sacrificed, however, on the altar of British petroleum politics and Arab nationalism after Britain received a favorable decision on the Mosul Question from the League of Nations in 1925. Arab Iraq emerged instead with the oil-rich Kurdish region encompassing Mosul and Kirkuk attached to it.
Its navy having recently switched from coal to oil, the British Empire decided it was against its best interests to allow the separation of the Kurdish lands from what their oil-rich Arab friends claimed to be purely Arab patrimony. A similar problem was brewing in the Mandate of Palestine; indeed, Arabs would later claim that they would view the birth of Kurdistan as another Israel.
So, in an era in which other peoples were gaining national rights, the Kurds were told they were unworthy of such aspirations. Dr. Rice told them the very same thing not long ago. So, on this issue, there is no disagreement between the Oval Office and Foggy Bottom.
Sandwiched between two regional powerhouses, Ataturk's Turkey and Reza Shah Pahlavi's Iran, the only real option left was independence in at least part of Mesopotamia. Denied this, frustrations caused by suppression, massacres, subjugation, and such led to periodic, explosive Kurdish revolts.
Among other things, Kurds found their very language and culture outlawed in Turkey and Iraq--with similar goings on in Syria and elsewhere as well. Besides the Jews, if ever a people needed the protection of their own nation state simply for their own survival, certainly it was/is the Kurds.
Regardless, while Dr. Rice was delivering her words of wisdom regarding the necessity of creating a 22nd or 23rd state for Arabs in the region (second--not first--Arab one within the original 1920 borders Mandatory Palestine) at the Institute of Peace, she totally shot down questions relating to Kurdish fears, anxieties, and aspirations in Iraq. Here's some of what she had to say about those Arab aspirations, however:
"The President believes that the Palestinian people deserve not merely their own state, but a just and democratic state that serves their interests and fulfills their decent aspirations."
Despite the bloodshed and turmoil in the Arab areas of Iraq; despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of Kurds have been killed by Iraqi and other Arabs over the decades; despite the fact that the Kurds have been marked as traitors because of their close ties to America; despite the fact that the most stable and democratic areas in Iraq are in the Kurdish areas...indeed, despite all of this and more, Dr. Rice brushed off a question regarding a Kurdish referendum on independence (which showed that at least 80% of the Kurds wanted this) with the following disdain:
"...It's the role of leadership to convince people that they really ought to stay in the same body."
A sickening disgrace.
While all nations have to consider "reasons of State," America is strong enough to truly be a shining light and beacon of hope more often than not. And I say this not out of naivete.
Did Condy advise Yugoslavia to remain intact while Croats, Bosnians, Serbs, Albanians, Macedonians, and others were doing a number on each other?
Unless my memory fails me, not that long ago, the United States hastened the process of the dissolution of that nation by taking sides in a conflict that has been going on ever since Stephan Dushan of Serbia tried to stop the Turks centuries ago...the first Battle of Kosovo in 1389. The war was not as clear cut as, for public relations purposes, America made it out to be. Many a jihadist from the Middle East joined the fight for the further Islamization of the Balkans. Yet Condy brought the issue of Bosnia and such up at the August 19th presentation.
This is not to say that all those diverse folks should have been forced to live as one. The glue that held them together--however reluctantly--was Marshall Tito. When he died in 1980, Yugoslavia's fate was predictable.
But, if America went to war to help bring about this dissolution process in Yugoslavia--allegedly because of the atrocities and ethnic cleansing occurring among different ethnic groups who were doing a number on each other (though we unfairly singled out the Serbs)--then how is it possible to look at Mesopotamia/Iraq and not see that a similar situation exists there? Besides the age-old animosity between the Arabs themselves, Shi'a and Sunni, the Kurds and others--Chaldean Christians, Jews, etc.--have been in an even more precarious situation because of an earlier forced union born of British petroleum interests. Most of Iraq's Jews, by the way, have fled to Israel, where they now number in the hundreds of thousands. And many got there with help from the Kurds.
The excuse offered that granting Kurds independence in the Kurdish areas of Iraq won't work because it will be too destabilizing in the area-- i.e. it will tick off the Turks and Arabs--is pure hypocrisy.
True, one fifth of Turkey is Kurdish...but one fifth of Israel is Arab.
Thirty eight Israels can fit into Turkey, and Turkey's population is eleven times that of Israel's. But this doesn't stop Dr. Rice, the State Department, and others from demanding that a miniscule, 9-mile wide Israel allow yet another rejectionist Arab state, dedicated to its destruction, to be created in its own very backyard. And Israel has consented to this...fool that it is...but, in all fairness, not that it has much of a choice in the matter given that its best friend insists that this must occur.
"Justice," after all, demands that Arabs have two dozen states and Kurds none...don't you know?
Regardless of America's best intentions--and we were right in going into Iraq to remove Adolph, er Saddam--the Kurds will be in for serious trouble when we leave, as we will do so sooner or later. Decades of previous history and Arab subjugating, murderous actions and attitudes forecast this. And with more Arabs--dominant Shi'a as well as Sunni--speaking out against the American occupation, the future is indeed frightening for those who supported America the most...the Kurds. Arab spokesmen have already let this be known.
At the beginning of the American war for the liberation of Iraq (or for oil, depending on how you look at all of this), there was talk about the creation of a federal system whereby the rights of the various ethnic groups would have some semblance of security. Those days are gone. The majority Shi'a, rid of Saddam and their Sunni masters, now have "other" plans. Assuming that the "moderates" emerge on top when the dust settles--which is by no means a given--this still changes little regarding the Kurds. And we may quite possibly wind up with the Islamic Republic of Iraq--like its Iranian neighbor to the east.
Think how the course of history could have been changed had Israel been reborn prior to World War II.
Must additional hundreds of thousands--or more--Kurds be gassed and slaughtered in other ways yet again?
Long before Saddam, the supporters of Arab nationalism had won over those of a multi-ethnic Iraqi nationalism in the country. Nothing has changed, except that the forced Arabization process has become even more intensified. Furthermore, America is well aware of this.
No one says that there will not be risks associated with doing, at long last, what is right for thirty million much abused, stateless people. The Foggy Folks and such don't seem to worry too much about the risks tiny Israel will be forced to take so that Arabs can get yet another state. But the birth of Kurdistan is long overdue. And it can occur in such a way that its own future is tied to not allowing some of those fears--by the Turks, in particular, regarding their own Kurdish population--to become reality. Indeed, Turkey may lose some of its own "headaches" by allowing them to move to the new Kurdish state...like diaspora Armenians moving to Armenia, Jews to Israel, Greeks to Greece, and so forth. Additionally, a formula can be worked out to share the vast oil wealth of Iraqi Kurdistan with others as well...Shi'a and Sunni Arab Iraq, but Ankara also. The latter has felt that it was robbed of the Mosul fields by the Brits in the 1925 decision by the League of Nations. The Turkmen of Iraq need their rights protected as well, but unlike the Kurdish situation, there are already a number of independent Turkish lands. Turks are not stateless.
Again, despite America's best intentions, given the fact that an autonomous Kurdistan within a united, federal Iraq is apparently no longer a real option, America must think long and hard about very possibly becoming an accomplice to to a future, even more tragic fate for its consistently loyal friends, the Kurds. We betrayed them several times already over the past century. We must do better this time.