I caught an interview on CSPAN with Qubad Talabany, a representative from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan to the US, this morning. It was a reminder that there are some very positive results of US actions in the area. The Kurds were severely mistreated by the Baath regime, as anyone can see by reading about the Halabja genocide. It wasn’t until the US-lead coalition of forces, which included Britain AND France stepped into Iraq in 1991, that the Kurds were protected from this brutal persecution and given their own de-facto independence.
That’s right… 1991.
I think one of the reasons why it’s hard for many people like myself to join the applause as Bush takes bows is because credit is being donated without much qualification. It’s 100% true that regardless of what motivated the neo-conservatives to orchestrate an invasion in 2003, the results for the Kurds are positive… I recognize this fully. But, I think there is much more to understand.
First of all, we have to look beyond Saddam Hussein to find the cause of trouble for the Kurds. It’s not as simple as Saddam Hussein being a “mean guy”. A starting point for the problem can be located at the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 which was signed by many countries including the United States. This treaty set the modern borders between countries in the area that before WW1 was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. Kurdistan, a province of the empire, was supposed to be made a nation on it’s own just like many of the other provinces including Iraq, but it was later decided to ignore them and the province was divided with parts given to Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran.
So if we fast forward to 1987, we can see the problem that occurred when two countries, each with it’s own share of Kurdistan went to war. I certainly don’t believe this gave CIA-asset, Saddam Hussein, the right to gas those villages in northern Iraq but I can see why he may have suspected a breach in the front between Iraq and Iran and it’s just a matter of fact that even “civilized” countries take leave of decency and do some horrible things in the face of a war*.
A little later, in 1991, the US-led coalition stepped in to defend Kuwait from Iraqi invasion and consequently established military protection over the oil-rich south and the Kurdish areas of the north which contained another important resource, the land through which US oil companies were planning a pipeline from the Caspian fields to a terminal on the coast of Turkey. It’s hard not to suspect ulterior motives on our part, especially when you look at the obvious influences of the oil industry in our government, the obvious oil interests in Iraq and the sad fact that we do nothing about genocides elsewhere in the world such as central Africa where oil isn’t a factor. I think the people that deny these suspicions are really stretching.
Regardless of ulterior-motive, the contribution that Bush has made to the Kurds is a chance to upgrade their de-facto independence which relied on US and UK military support to a legitimate representation in a self-supporting democracy. So I think the US self-interests is more of a problem for US tax payers than it is for the Kurds. Bottom line for the Kurds is that it’s better to be used by the US than to be persecuted by the Iraqis, the Iranians or the Turks… at least for now.
* Americans seem appalled that Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Kurds, but there are reports that reveal that the Reagan administration supplied those chemical weapons. usatoday