Iraq’s Kurds Lose Again

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KurkikKids.jpg
It appears increasingly likely that the Kurdish cause will be the latest American casualty in Iraq.
Kurdistan, an autonomous region in Iraq’s northeast, is governed by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). Whether Kurdistan remains viable as an autonomous region depends on whether it can incorporate the oil-rich city of Kirkuk as its capital. The Kurds likely constitute a plurality of the city’s population, but the Arabs and Turkmen each claim the city as their own.
According to Article 140 of the 2005 Constitution, a referendum to decide Kirkuk’s status was supposed to be held by December 31, 2007. That deadline and others have passed because the city’s Arabs and Turkmen have resisted, afraid that a vote would result in a Kurdish victory.
Neither the central government in Baghdad nor the KRG can compromise on Kirkuk. The KRG needs the power base that Kirkuk provides to maintain its autonomy and the government in Baghdad “could [not] give Kirkuk to the Kurds and hope to survive, in view of broad popular opposition in Arab Iraq,” according to the International Crisis Group.
Over the past several months, Prime Minister al-Maliki has sent “support councils” (read: government militias) into Kurdish areas. The councils are clearly meant to challenge the KRGs security forces, known as the peshmerga. Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has pleaded with the United States to intervene to avoid what could become a civil war.
But despite its earlier support, the U.S. government has made clear that it will not become involved. Back in October, the military commander responsible for Kirkuk and the Kurdish regions, Brig. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, told the New York Times that If the Kurdish and Iraqi government forces fight, the American military will “step aside,” rather than “have United States servicemen get killed trying to play peacemaker.”
State Department Spokesman Robert Wood struck the same note earlier this week. He said that Iraqi citizens have to rely on the country’s democratic system to work out their differences, not the United States. “There are ways for people in Iraq to bring the concerns that they have to the levers of power. It’s a democracy, and it’s not really up to the United States to reassure anyone.”
Every occupying force chooses winners and losers on its way out. And while questions remain as to who the “winners” in Iraq will be, it is becoming clear that the Kurds, the world’s largest ethnic group without a state to call their own, will again find themselves among the losers.
–Ben Katcher

Comments

45 comments on “Iraq’s Kurds Lose Again

  1. ... says:

    wigwag, the quote is from your earlier post “Bosnia’s political leaders continue to prey on their countrymen’s ethnic prejudices and insecurities.”
    it would seem this is a technique for driving a wedge and making enemies, rather then making bridges and negating the need to go to war for a new ‘ethnic’ homeland…
    as for your question about israel and the oil in iraq, the usa was never honest in its actions in iraq.. perhaps this is a similar design israel has with it’s interest in seeing a kurdish homeland in iraq….
    looking after your self interest is fine.. it is the dishonesty or downright criminality in going after it that causes a problem for most people myself included…

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  2. WigWag says:

    “It is actually more on what happens when political leaders continue to prey on their countrymen’s ethnic prejudices and insecurities.”
    No, it’s what happens when political leaders reflect the prejudices and insecurities of the people who elected them.
    In the case of Bosnia, elections were supervised by NATO. The Carter Center actually monitored the election and concluded it was fair.
    The leaders of Bosnia’s Muslims (technically the federation of Bosnia Croats and Muslims) and Bosnia’s Serbs (Republika Srpska) are expressing the views of those they represent. And by the way, Russia, which has played a major role in stifling Ukrainian independence (see post above), is actively supporting the aspiration of Bosnia’s Serbs to have their own nation.
    As for Kathleen G.’s comment, does anyone find it surprising or inapporpriate for Israel to be pursuing its self interest by trying to obtain oil from the Kurds? Isn’t this what all nations do; pursue their self interest? Isn’t that what the US did in attacking Iraq in the first place? Isn’t it what Russia is doing in its pipeline fight with Ukraine? Isn’t it what India is doing when it forms an alliance with Iran over Afghanistan in opposition to the Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
    What nations do is pursue their self-interest; the idea that the Israelis shouldn’t is not only stupid it’s absurd.

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  3. ... says:

    it is actually more on what happens when political leaders continue to prey on their countrymen’s ethnic prejudices and insecurities.
    kathleen g, thanks for sharing that… follow the money/oil to know who is trying to screw someone else out of something…

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  4. WigWag says:

    More on what happens when different ethnic groups are forced to share the same nation against their will.
    This is from today’s (Feb. 23, 2009) New York Times,
    Editorial
    Bosnia Unraveling
    Published: February 22, 2009
    It has been a long time since the United States paid serious high-level attention to Bosnia. After the 1995 Dayton Accords ended the genocidal horrors, Washington moved on to other priorities and largely left oversight of the peace agreement to Europe. Now it’s time to seriously re-engage before the deal unravels.
    Fortunately, an immediate return to widespread violence seems unlikely. But Dennis Blair, the new director of national intelligence, warned Congress recently that Bosnia’s survival as a multi-ethnic state is seriously in doubt, with tensions at their highest levels in years. The deal that ended the war created a decentralized political system that has entrenched rather than eradicated deep divisions. Bosnia’s political leaders continue to prey on their countrymen’s ethnic prejudices and insecurities. Haris Silajdzic — the Muslim in Bosnia’s three-member presidency — has called for the Serbian Republic inside of Bosnia to be abolished. The Bosnian Serb prime minister, Milorad Dodik, who is supported by Russia, has talked about secession.
    Bosnia’s people ultimately must take responsibility for what their country is to become. But the United States, which led the Dayton negotiations, has a vested interest in making sure the peace deal does not erode further. So does the European Union, which has 2,000 peacekeepers and a special representative in Bosnia.
    The United States and its allies must craft a plan to salvage Dayton’s promise. It can use the lure of eventual E.U. membership to get Bosnians to write a new constitution that will finally create a functioning multi-ethnic state. We are reassured that President Obama’s aides are beginning to discuss Bosnia. The new president’s commitment to aggressive diplomacy could help ensure that Bosnia’s horrors are never seen again.

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  5. Kathleen G says:

    Iraq to Israel pipeline/Kurds
    http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0423/p11s01-coop.html
    An old Israel-Iraq oil line … reopening?
    By John K. Cooley
    ATHENS – Nothing could be better designed to undermine the coalition’s promise that Iraq’s oil should benefit its own people than Israel’s proclaimed wish to “reopen” a long-unused pipeline from Iraq’s Kirkuk oil fields to Israel’s Mediterranean port of Haifa.
    Israel’s National Infrastructure Minister Joseph Paritzky was quoted in a March 31 Ha’aretz article saying that Israeli and Jordanian officials would soon meet to discuss reviving the line. Built by the British in the 1940s, the line crossed west from Iraq through Jordan to British-ruled Palestine (today’s Israel). Upon the 1948 birth of Israel and the immediate eruption of war with Iraq, Jordan and other Arab neighbors forced its shutdown and the diversion of Iraqi oil through a branch line to Syria.

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  6. ... says:

    wigwag quote “One man one vote is precisely that; a theory well suited to making the American system work but not necessarily well suited or even welcomed in other societies around the world.”
    it is a fancy theory and not much else.. the american system works on money, and it isn’t working all that well at the moment, or it is a matter of perspective.. it’s a plutocracy, not a democracy in the way that many would like to think of it..

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  7. WigWag says:

    Arun, thank you for the information. It’s always very interesting to get the perspective of someone who knows what he’s talking about from first hand experience not just from reading about it (which is where most of the rest of us get our knowledge about South Asia).
    As you know, the concept of “one man one vote” is a uniquely American concept and it’s a concept of comparatively recent vintage. In fact, it was enshrined into law in the United States only in the 1964 Supreme Court decision, Reynold v Simms. The concept of one man one vote is mostly honored in the breach, even in the United States. In fact, a good part of the structure of government in the United States is constructed with the intention of ameliorating what are considered the unattractive features of one man, one vote. The two most prominent of these governmental institutions are federalism and the United States Senate.
    There’s not a multiethnic state anywhere in the world that operates on the basis of one man one vote. Switzerland doesn’t; most political power in Switzerland is held by local authority in the many Swiss ethnically homogeneous cantons. The Swiss presidency (which is a largely powerless position) rotates.
    In Lebanon the constitution assigns various leadership roles based on ethnicity to the Sunnis, Shiites and Maronite Christians. In Canada the French are awarded extra rights for Quebec and the central government has been made weak and the provincial governments strong; all so French sensibilities can be accommodated.
    In most countries of the world, the concept of one man one vote would be considered foreign and off-putting. President Bush and his neoconservative fellow travelers believed that the American conception of democracy is universal and that America had a divine right to export that conception to the rest of the world.
    One man one vote is precisely that; a theory well suited to making the American system work but not necessarily well suited or even welcomed in other societies around the world.
    You say,
    “If the history of Pakistan can be summarized in one sentence, it is “the consequences of trying to avoid the consequence of one man-one vote”.
    That may even understate the case. After all, the partition of India and Pakistan occurred because the Muslims (but also the Hindus) could not live with the consequences on one man, one vote.
    One man, one vote is a virtue in the United States but it is nothing but cultural imperialism to suggest that other societies have to adopt our conception of civic virtue.

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  8. Arun says:

    Wigwag:
    A good solution for Sri Lanka would be a federal state with two or more provinces, one of them with the Tamil-speaking majority. The minute you put international borders in between the peoples you are set for a post-Tito Yugoslavia type situation, and ethnic cleansing and/or genocide will follow, which would dwarf the current troubles.
    -Arun

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  9. Arun says:

    Wigwag:
    If the history of Pakistan can be summarized in one sentence, it is “the consequences of trying to avoid the consequence of one man-one vote”.
    That more than ethnicity or language is at the root of Pakistan’s troubles. It is the root of why Pakistan is the epicenter of world terrorism.
    -Arun

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  10. ... says:

    if the kurds had some type of religious or political fanaticism to their culture they might stand a better chance.. that seems to be an important ingredient to inflict pain and suffering on others in the name of getting ones own ‘homeland’… having your own homeland while murdering others to get it seems a bit archaic but then the only rationalization presented here has been ‘that’s history’, as if that was some valid reason for anything other then moving backward instead of forward.. those who are unable to learn anything from history are bound to repeat it..

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  11. Dan Kervick says:

    The Iraqi Kurds are well on the way to achieving the military superiority they will need to achieve their national aspirations. To my way of thinking; that’s unambiguously good.
    When any group acquires military power and uses that power to fight their way to the achievement of aspirations of any kind, the result is hardly and unambiguous good. It usually involves a fair amount of sheer butchery.
    National aspirations don’t make my heart go pitter-patter. Most national aspirations are the concocted dreamwork of fanatics and demagogues, who use tall tales and legends, and appeals to vanity, to fire up impressionable young men with zealous patriotism. Young men often have too much time on their hands, and are typically anxious to blow something up or kill someone in the name of some cause or other. These nationalists try to lord it over ordinary folk, who mostly have personal aspirations, not national ones, and would prefer to be left along to go about their business.
    Look at the national aspirations of the US leadership class: a bunch of crazed and dangerous crap about cities on a hill and global Americanist revolutions. Most national aspirations are variations on the same. Thanks, but no thanks.

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  12. Dan Kervick says:

    “You sound like a neocon, Dan.”
    The neocons wanted to use a criminal war in Iraq to catalyze a regional pro-American and pro-Israel transformation, and set up a more or less permanent presence in Iraq as a launching pad for further action against Iran. They also had a thoroughly ludicrous scheme to install the “secular Shiites” – people like Chalabi and his friends – in power in Baghdad. Well they got religious Shiities insterad, all of whom have distinctily better relations with Iran than did the previous government. Hah! And good, I say. It’s about time we begin working with the most significant state in that region.
    I thought, and think, that the war was illegal and immoral and should never have been fought, and that the neocon plan was daft. I have wanted to get out of that country from the day we entered it, and deeply oppose a permanent US presence there. So I am delighted by signs that Iraq’s government is changing from the phony and weak government in name only that it once was into something much more potent, that is increasingly feared and respected in the country of Iraq. I am delighted that the government is increasingly standing up to the US government, and may succeed in throwing us out with too much more delay.
    Sadr’s power is a shadow of what it once was, and the turnaround started with the assault on Basra, which the Iraqis launched without waiting for a US green light, and which succeeded in sweeping through Mahdi army positions.
    http://www.iiss.org/whats-new/iiss-in-the-press/september-2008/iraqs-mehdi-army-at-crossroads-as-us-scales-down/
    Maliki subsequently scuttled a US and Petraeus scam to blame Iran for meddling in Iraq, in part through a staged US public relations stunt aimed at showing off weapons that supposedly came from Iran, but which embarrassingly turned out not to be from Iran at all.
    The government’s power continues to grow. The more radical and rejectionist parties in Anbar province did poorly in the election. Most Iraqis, it turns out, want a functioning government. And the Sunni Arab minority in Iraq is increasingly reconciling itself to the fact that their relative power will no longer exceed their portion of the population, as it did under Saddam.

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  13. WigWag says:

    Dan Kervick says,
    “And in Iraq, the Maliki government has been growing in power and prestige ever since it took decisive action against the Mahdi Army last year, and then negotiated the US withdrawal from the country. Both the Sadrists and ISCI have both seen their power substantially diminished. Iraq seems on the way to reconstituting a strong central state under its current government, which is good news for just about all of us.”
    You sound like a neocon, Dan.
    I think your analysis of Iraq is incorrect. The Iraqi army was militarily defeated by Sadr and other militias in Basra and elsewhere in Iraq in March of last year. Maliki was humiliated and had to beg the Iranians to use their influence with the militias to let the army escape. Sadr unilaterally withdrew his armed forces from Sadr city waiting for the Americans to leave. When the Americans do leave, Sadr will almost certainly have his say.
    You point to the victory of the Malaki government as evidence that Iraqis support a strong central government. This is entirely incorrect. What is correct is that the Malaki government defeated the other Shiite parties in the election. Malaki has united the Shiite population around a strong central government. There’s nothing surprising about that at all; Shiites comprise the majority in Iraq; of course they want a strong central government. But Malaki’s party got virtually no Sunni votes and no Kurdish votes. The voting in Iraq was entirely along sectarian lines. Malaki’s support amongst the Sunni community is virtually non-existent and his marriage of convenience with the Kurdish parties is disintegrating. Iraq is, if anything, more divided than ever.
    There is no consensus in Iraq for a strong central government; there is merely a consensus amongst Shiites for a strong central government that they will dominate. If they get the chance, there is every reason to believe that they will oppress the Sunnis and Kurds every bit as assertively as the Sunnis oppressed the Shiites and the Kurds when they had the upper hand.
    If a strong central government is to be achieved in Iraq it will only be achieved through force and against the will of the vast majority of Sunnis and Kurds. Without the military intervention of Americans the likelihood that there will be a strong central government is vanishingly small.
    Fortunately the Peshmerga is stronger than the Iraqi army controlled by Malaki. They are more than able to defend themselves. By the way, so are the Sunni militias that were armed by the Americans.
    In all likelihood, the George Bush dream that the surge worked is a pipe dream. A civil war is still coming in Iraq; the recent elections provide no reason to believe otherwise.
    Hopefully the good guys (the Kurds) will win.

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  14. WigWag says:

    “WigWag, it seems to me you’re the one defending the American Way here: Wilsonian, American style notions of self-determination for “peoples”, as defined by genetic stock, religion or language.”
    Not exactly. I do wish that America would live up to American values. To my way of thinking (but I understand not to everyone’s)that means open borders, a willingness to accept far more immigration than we have now, a willingness to consider a multilingual society and the elimination of INS detention camps for people whose only crime is wanting a better life for their family.
    But I also understand that those are American values and may not reflect the values of other people in different nations around the world.
    Why was Israel able to take the West Bank by force whether the Palestinians liked it or not? Because they had the military capability to do it. Why could the Turks steal Kurdish territory and incorporate it into Turkey? Because they had the military power to do it. Why were the Kosovar Albanians able to form their own nation in what had previously been Serbian territory? Because the United States and Western Europe put their military prowess at the disposal of Kosovar aspirations.
    Why was the United State able to incorporate tens of thousands of square miles of Mexican land into its territory? Because they had the military power to do it.
    The only difference between national groups that get their own nation states and those that don’t are that some muster the military power to achieve their aspirations and some don’t. The Iraqi Kurds are well on the way to achieving the military superiority they will need to achieve their national aspirations. To my way of thinking; that’s unambiguously good; if the Turkish Kurds achieve the same thing, it will serve the brutish Turkish government right.
    As for the Turks, they butchered the Armenians, they stole what is now Western Turkey from the Kurds and they oppress the Kurds in a brutal fashion. The Turks are no more entitled to the southeastern part of what is now Turkey than the Israelis are to the West Bank. Kurds have their own language, their own history and their own culture that is as old as the Turks.
    What’s more, the Turks “stole” Kurdish land little more than 42 years before you think the Israelis “stole” Palestinian territory.
    As far as I know, the Israelis never outlawed the speaking of Arabic in the territories they occupied in 1967. The Turks did outlaw the speaking of Kurdish in the land they stole from Kurdistan in 1915. And to this day they are trying to suppress the Kurdish language. Their behavior is monstrous; but unlike your sympathy for the Palestinians, oppression of the Kurds barely inspires you to yawn. Why?
    It is intellectually inconsistent to support the national aspirations of the Palestinians and not support the national aspirations of the Kurds. In fact, the circumstances faced by Palestinians and Kurds are remarkably similar. By the way, so are the circumstances faced by Palestinians and Kosovar Albanians.

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  15. Dan Kervick says:

    One potential solution for the Sri Lankan Civil War is a two state solution; one for the Sinhalese (and various other ethnic groups) and one for the Tamils.
    Really? The civil war in Sri Lanka is just about over. The Tigers have apparently been routed:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7867743.stm
    Why would any responsible person propose a separate Tamil state at this point?
    And in Iraq, the Maliki government has been growing in power and prestige ever since it took decisive action against the Mahdi Army last year, and then negotiated the US withdrawal from the country. Both the Sadrists and ISCI have both seen their power substantially diminished. Iraq seems on the way to reconstituting a strong central state under its current government, which is good news for just about all of us. Some sort of federalism or limited autonomy may still be in the cards for the Kurds, or maybe not. But maximalist Kurdish aspirations and rebelliousness have been foolishly encouraged by outside US and Israeli meddling. These two countries were actively promoting division, violence and discord in Iraq during the Bush era as part of their anti-Iran games. If he US and Iran get their acts together and begin to cooperate more effectively on their common interest in a strong and stable Iraqi state, and if the Kurds are given a clearer message that they need to find their way within the countries in which they currently live, separatist enthusiasms will be dampened. And that will be a good thing.
    And there is no way the Turks are going to relinquish such a large part of their country. They would be foolish and suicidal to do so. And any effort to force such a fracture will not end conflict, but accelerate it.
    Of course two states in the Israeli-Palestine conflict are called for. But that isn’t an example of the need for separatist movement, since the Palestinians fighting Israel are not inside Israel trying to form a breakaway republic. They are outside Israel trying to resist foreign aggression, and trying to remove an occupying army and foreign colonists from their land. But maybe you support the goals of Yisrael Beiteinu, who want to break off parts of Israel, in the are called the “triangle”, and deposit them with the Palestinians in the name of ethic segregation?
    WigWag, you say that “creating separate states for the belligerents in these disputes would, over time, undoubtedly save hundreds of thousands of lives.” I don’t see that. Almost every place where there is some self-styled people’s liberation army struggling for national liberation, there is a broader population that does not want their state fragmented, and will fight to preserve it. Did the attempted secession of the American south save lives?
    We shouldn’t be encouraging these separatist movements. Every time violent separatists succeed, that encourages the resort to force elsewhere in the world. Every aspiring rebel leader says, “Look what the Americans did in Kosovo, and Kurdistan, and everywhere else they supported a national liberation movement. It looks like if we make a big enough fuss, and blow up a enough things, some liberal US NGO will come along preaching liberation for our people.” The belief in the permanent American Revolution with its romance of revolutionary independence and “dissolving the bands” which have connected some people with others, is a deep ideological strain in the US cultural establishment, and is behind decades of nitwit US meddling abroad.
    WigWag, it seems to me you’re the one defending the American Way here: Wilsonian, American style notions of self-determination for “peoples”, as defined by genetic stock, religion or language. I am not very sentimental about peoples, and tend to support the preservation of central states, and the promotion of the monopoly of force of central states wherever they exist. Mine is not really a liberal impulse to promote ethnic harmony and multicultural pluralism. It’s more of a Hobbesian impulse to promote peace and security by opposing the forces of anarchy and fragmentation.
    But I do think the peace of the world would be enhanced by downplaying appeals to tribal, linguistic and religious identification, and looking more to reasoned cooperation, politics, common projects and economic intercourse as sources of human organization. Internationalism was once a very vibrant global international movement, but was bound up with socialist internationalism, including in its extreme communist form. The failures and abuses of that political movement are well-known, but I do think it is a bit of a tragedy that full-blown internationalism was thrown out with the communist bathwater when the Soviet Union collapsed. That collapse unfortunately occurred during a reactionary era, and ushered in a rebirth of romantic nationalism and religious sectarianism. A more humane and less doctrinaire and authoritarian internationalist movement, one that can energize the efforts of people around the world as did the socialist internationalism of the past century, and draw people away from provincial, tribal and sectarian identification, is now called for.
    There is an interesting article by Jeffrey Gettleman in Foreign Policy. It’s about Somalia, and contains the following interesting passage:
    “Somalia is a political paradox—unified on the surface, poisonously divided beneath. It is one of the world’s most homogeneous nation-states, with nearly all of its estimated 9 to 10 million people sharing the same language (Somali), the same religion (Sunni Islam), the same culture, and the same ethnicity. But in Somalia, it’s all about clan. Somalis divide themselves into a dizzying number of clans, subclans, sub-subclans, and so on, with shifting allegiances and knotty backstories that have bedeviled outsiders for years.”
    What’s the solution? Should every clan in Somalia have a “province” to call their own? It’s an illusion to think ethnic disaggregation is the route to peace. That’s because there is no limit to how far the disaggregation process can go.

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  16. ... says:

    seems to me britian had a something to do with why india went the way it did… perhaps someone would like to comment who has more ”historical understanding” on this…

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  17. WigWag says:

    Dan Kervick says,
    “And returning to the original topic, while ethnic or sectarian struggle may be a component in many of these conflicts, none of them stand out as cases where there is a feasible solution through ethnic disaggregation and segregation.”
    I beg to differ. At least 4 of the 9 conflicts that I mentioned in my comment of 9:59 pm could be ameliorated or completely solved by creating separate states for the combatants:
    A permanent solution to Iraq may end up with separate states for the Sunnis, Shiites and especially the Kurds; even if it doesn’t (and despite the results of the recent Iraqi elections) highly autonomous regional governments will have so much authority that they will be defacto separate governments.
    One potential solution for the Sri Lankan Civil War is a two state solution; one for the Sinhalese (and various other ethnic groups) and one for the Tamils.
    Southeastern Turkey could be removed from Turkish control (which is what the Treaty of Lausanne originally contemplated) and given to the Kurdish majority in the region. The capital of the new State could be Diyarbakir. The new state carved out of Turkish territory for the Kurds might or might not join later with the newly independent Iraqi Kurdistan.
    The Israeli-Palestinian dispute will only be solved (if it is to be solved at all) with two States living side by side with a border policed by a heavily armed third party like NATO.
    In addition to solving these 4 disputes, creative two state solutions can also be contemplated for Congolese conflict and the War in Darfur.
    Creating separate states for the belligerents in these disputes would, over time, undoubtedly save hundreds of thousands of lives.
    Ask yourself which is preferable; arguing for a “liberal” uniquely American view of how the world should be governed or arriving at solutions which prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths and potentially millions of injuries?
    And ask yourself, if Europe hadn’t sorted itself into relatively ethnically, linguistically and religiously homogeneous nations that exist today, wouldn’t the millennium long European tradition of butchery still be taking place? In fact, isn’t European integration now conceivable only because the European process of sorting itself is now largely complete?

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  18. WigWag says:

    Arun, is it not true that the Pakistan and Bangladeshi (formerly East Pakistan) divorce had its roots in language and ethnic divisions? While they shared a common religion, didn’t the Pakistanis insist that Urdu become the national language while the residents of what was then East Pakistan wanted Bangla to be the state language (or at least one of the state languages)?
    And wasn’t the fight between East and West Pakistan based primarily on ethnicity; with Punjabis controlling the Pakistani government much to the chagrin of the Bengalis? I’ve also been under the impression (or perhaps it’s a misimpression) that the Kashmir issue (which is an enduring obsession of large parts of the Pakistani elite) always had less resonance with the leadership of Bangladesh.
    The same fight over language that tore Pakistan apart and literally ripped it into two parts also affects the Kurds and the Turks. Since the time of Ataturk the Kurds have been persecuted for speaking their own language in Turkey. Between 1925 and 1991 it was against the law to perform or record songs in Kurdish and it is still illegal to teach Kurdish children their native language in schools. For 90 years successive Turkish governments have pursued a program of forced assimilation and “Turkification” but the Kurds have never expressed a willingness to assimilate. The Kurds never voluntarily joined Turkey; they were guaranteed a state of their own by the Treaty of Lausanne; but the provision pertaining to the Kurds were quickly abrogated by Ataturk when he invaded Kurdish lands by force and incorporated them into Turkey. The comparisons between Israel’s invasion of the West Bank and Turkey’s invasion of Kurdistan are striking.
    The EU and various human rights groups have been unambiguous in their criticism of the Turks terrible treatment of the Kurds. And relations between the Kurds and Turks is bound to deteriorate still further; as the Turks move away from the secular traditions of modern Turkey and adopt a more Islamist direction, the fiercely secular Kurds are sure to feel less welcome in Turkey than they already do.
    My guess is that the eventual creation of Iraqi Kurdistan (whether as an independent state or autonomous entity within Iraq) will inspire even greater efforts by Turkish Kurds to get their freedom.
    Who could blame them? The Kurds are amongst the most oppressed people in the world and the Turks are amongst the worst oppressors.
    And Americans shouldn’t get too sanctimonious when discussing all of this. The English as the national language movement is growing in strength in the United States. And the debate over immigration reform in the United States has hardly been conducted in a manner that Americans can feel proud of. And when we find “undocumented” people here what do we do? We either unceremoniously ship them out or we separate them from their families and lock them away in detention centers for weeks or months on end. The thought that an undocumented worker might toil away at some minimum wage job is so infuriating to some Americans that we actually make it illegal to hire them.
    Emma Lazarus must be turning over in her grave. This is what she had to say in 1883:
    Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
    “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
    The die seems cast; ethnic conflict rules the world just like it always has and there is nothing to suggest that it will abate. The world will not be becoming more like the America of Emma Lazurus’ vision; instead America seems to be becoming more like the rest of the world; a cauldron of ethnic anger (at least when the subject is Mexicans.)

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  19. Arun says:

    …the Kurds, the world’s largest ethnic group without a state to call their own,….
    Curious, what does that mean? If language marks an ethnic group, then India has the largest set of ethnic groups without a state to call their own.
    Indian states are linguistically organized, I don’t see why Iraq and Turkey cannot be organized that way.
    But coming to “state of their own”, largest ethnic group, etc.:
    E.g., Bengali speakers are split across India and Bangladesh. There are of the order of 150 million Bangladeshis, and 80 million in West Bengal.
    Punjabi speakers are split across India and Pakistan. There are about 15 million in Indian Punjab, and of the order of 80 million in Pakistan.
    Then there are speakers of various Indian languages (Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil,….) Each numbers in the high 10s of millions.
    By comparison, the Kurds number 16 million or so.
    Both my homes, India and the US, are multi-ethnic, multi-religious states. India much more than the US, is multi-lingual as well. The US will no doubt end up, practically speaking, bi-lingual.
    So I don’t have much sympathy for the unitary nations that Iraq, Iran, Turkey, (and in South Asia, Sri Lanka) are trying to construct. We can all get along. Don’t try to redraw borders, but let each language group teach its language and culture.

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  20. Dan Kervick says:

    Some of these conflicts are more globally significant than others, but few could be said to be driving world affairs. The Secretary of State, for example, is in east Asia this week, not Africa where the three most violent conflicts are located. Iraq and Afghanistan are globally very significant, but mainly because the world’s largest military is involved and the conflicts have strategic import, not because of the ethnic dimension of the conflict.
    Violent death is always horrifying and shocking to us, especially when a lot of it occurs in one place. We notice fifty people dying in a single plane crash more than the 100-200 people who died the same day on the nation’s highways. But the total annual numbers involved are not huge compared to the other technological and biological scourges of human beings in the world.
    And returning to the original topic, while ethnic or sectarian struggle may be a component in many of these conflicts, none of them stand out as cases where there is a feasible solution through ethnic disaggregation and segregation. The attempted separation process would cause just as much strife as the violence of the separatists. I would say there is also a collective global interest in not allowing separatist movements to succeed, since their success encourages would-be rebels in other countries.

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  21. WigWag says:

    “Sectarian strife is certainly an important proximate cause of violence and security disruptions around the globe, but it is hard to make the case that it is *the driving force* in world affairs.”
    According to the International Crisis Group, these are the nine most persistent and deadly world conflicts each still producing 1,000 deaths per year or more. Each crisis is ongoing:
    1)Kivu Conflict (Congo)Cumulative Deaths:4,000,000
    2)War in Darfur, Cumulative Deaths: 500,000
    3)Somali Civil War, Cumulative Deaths, 300,000
    4)Iraq War, Cumulative Deaths, 103,359
    5)Sri Lankan Civil War, Cumulative Deaths, 80,000
    6)Turkey/PKK Conflict, Cumulative Deaths, 37,000
    7)Afghanistan War, Cumulative Deaths, 35,000
    8)Mexican Drug War, Cumulative Deaths, 8,400
    9)Ongoing Second Intafada Cumulative Deaths, 7,315
    Of these world’s worst conflicts, every single one except for the Mexican Drug War is either rooted in ethnic, religious or linguistic conflict or has a substantial ethnic, religious or lingusitic component.

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  22. Dan Kervick says:

    Sectarian strife is certainly an important proximate cause of violence and security disruptions around the globe, but it is hard to make the case that it is *the driving force* in world affairs. That’s like saying that commuter plane crashes are the driving force in commercial aviation.
    People’s attention is certainly drawn to flash and disaster. We are a race of rubberneckers. But most of the important events that happen around the world are not nearly so flashy and noisy as an eruption of ethnic or sectarian rage. And more importantly, the driving forces of change are not primarily localizable events at all, but are continuing processes that work more quietly and less saliently.
    The huge, tectonic forces that work in the earth don’t always cause earthquakes and volcanoes, but they do from time to time. Similarly the ethnic and sectarian flash points are the releases of local stresses from the grinding, twisting and flowing movements of human knowledge, governance, technology and commerce around the globe. Some of those human tectonics involve the collisions of nations or sects. But there are many other forces at work too. There are kinds of striving other than ethnic and sectarian striving. And some of the crucial forces at work in the world are not kinds of striving at all. As the ancient Greeks noted, among others, both “love” and “strife” are constantly at work.
    Is is a commonplace of human psychology that we are drawn to emergencies and what is unusual. We don’t pay attention to news stories like:
    *Millions of Europeans Enjoy Continuing Benefits on Friday from EU Cooperation – Film at 11!*
    But the driving forces world affairs today are the flows of money, labor and products in the contemporary global economy, which happens to be in crisis. Those processes – like the Industrial Revolution – are the forces that historians of the future will most likely call the most attention to, not the local fights of this or that tribe or sect. The decisions of a few US Treasury officials and Chinese bureaucrats over the next few weeks and months may well have more profound and long-lasting effects than all the Salafists in Pakistan.

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  23. WigWag says:

    For, Dan Kervick, … and others who don’t think sectarian strife is the driving force in world affairs, here are two headlines from today’s New York Times,
    Pakistan Bombing Kills More Than 30
    Published: February 20, 2009
    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The police on Friday blamed a suicide bomber for a powerful explosion that killed more than 30 people and wounded at least 50 in the Pakistani city of Dera Ismail Khan, according to residents and Pakistani television reports.
    The bombing, which targeted the funeral of a Shiite man who had been shot in the city a day earlier, set off a chain reaction of chaos in the city of about a million people on the edge of Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas…
    In recent years, Dera Ismail Khan has witnessed persistent strife between Shiites and Sunnis, with six suicide attacks in recent months.
    Terik-e-Taliban, the umbrella group of the Pakistani Taliban, has deployed suicide bombers against Shiites in North-West Frontier Province and in the Kurram region of the tribal belt.
    The last suicide attack, on Jan. 4, killed seven people.
    Rebels Raid Sri Lankan Capital
    Published: February 20, 2009
    The Sri Lankan military said Friday that two rebel planes had attacked the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, one dropping a bomb on a government office in the heart of the city, injuring at least 27 people, wire services reported.
    A bomb from one of the Tamil Tiger planes struck a tax office, setting it on fire, said a spokesman for the Defense Ministry told Reuters. A military spokesman, Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara, told The Associated Press that the Sri Lanka air force gave chase to two rebel aircraft and shot one of them down.
    If confirmed, the attack appears to be the first Tamil Tiger airstrike to hit the center of Colombo. In April 2008, Tamil Tiger aircraft bombed two fuel storage faculties outside Colombo, with no reported casualties. In October 2007, its planes carried out a surprise predawn attack on the government’s air base at Anuradhapura, north of Colombo, and deep inside government-controlled territory.
    The attacks come as the United Nations’ top humanitarian official at the United Nations, John Holmes, arrived in Sri Lanka to tour displacement camps near the war zone. The last six weeks have seen a surge in civilian casualties, with up to 2,000 killed and 5,000 wounded as the government attempts to rout the rebels.

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  24. WigWag says:

    Ken says, “I was stationed in Turkish Kurdistan at Diyarbakir in 1982-1983. I interacted with these people on our base and downtown Diyarbakir and found them to be a kind and proud people. These people are more apt to provide a democracy in the region than are the Arabs. Support the Kurds!”
    That is very interesting! I would love to know more about his insights into Turkish-Kurdish relations. My impression is that there is no love lost between Kurds and Turks and that at least a substantial minority of Kurds support the PKK. I wonder if my impression is correct.
    Captain Dan says, “We should not get involved in any more civil wars in Iraq. Besides, the Kurds will prevail militarily.”
    I think the good Captain is right. Every indication is that the Iraqi army is a paper tiger. It is divided along sectarian lines and its history of effectiveness is virtually non-existent. Less than a year ago (March, 2008) the Iraqi army, in an operation personally supervised by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, tried to rest control of Basra and other Southern cites from Shiite militias; the army was surrounded, embarrassed and routed Maliki had to beg Iran to get the militias to allow the Iraqi army to retreat in an orderly fashion. Without American support, the Iraqi army was similarly unsuccessful in its attempt to attack the Medhi Army in Baghdad’s Sadr City.
    If the army can’t take on militias close to home on territory it is familiar with and where at least some significant proportion of the population supports it, how is it supposed to take on the Peshmerga? The Peshmerga after all are highly disciplined, highly motivated and very well equipped. (An interesting side note is that the Peshmerga is the only army in the Middle East outside of Israel that has large numbers of women recruits. It will be especially humiliating for the Iraqi army when their troops are defeated by brigades made up in part of Kurdish women.)
    The size of the Peshmerga force has been variously estimated between 180,000 and 375,000.
    My guess is that they will rout any force that Maliki sends at them. The real losers will be the Turkmen and Arabs who could easily find themselves expelled from Iraqi Kurdistan. Kirkuk will end up as part of Iraqi Kurdistan and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mosul did either.
    For a change, it looks like the good guys might win one.
    It seems that when Ben Karcher penned this sentence,
    “Every occupying force chooses winners and losers on its way out. And while questions remain as to who the “winners” in Iraq will be, it is becoming clear that the Kurds, the world’s largest ethnic group without a state to call their own, will again find themselves among the losers.”
    Karcher wasn’t thinking to clearly.

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  25. ... says:

    wigwag quote “I’ve sited numerous examples; do you think my history is incorrect?”
    “The vast majority of wars and major conflicts in the world today are either based completely on ethnicity, language and religion or have a substantial ethnic or religious or linguistic component. Bemoaning it, (as I do) doesn’t change it.”
    using the past as the only guideline for the future is very uncreative… human beings are much more inventive and imaginative then that! and, i think people are interested in cooperating with one another more then war suggests… if today is a guideline, the amount of money spent on the arms race is more of a reason we have conflict then the reasons you cite – ethics, religious differences and etc… the big difference is some believe in making war and they have a huge industry that thrives off of it, while others believe in giving peace a chance… using history as an excuse to remain in the ditch seems very retro, but i am not into it…

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  26. captain dan says:

    One can only surmise that this person “jonst” believes that the desert lice in the south of Iraq have a greater claim to the city of Kirkuk that the Kurds though Kirkuk is in traditional Kurdish territory. As far as Turkey/Ottoman Empire what have they done except destroy Constantinople?

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  27. captain dan says:

    One can only surmise that this person “jonst” believes that the desert lice in the south of Iraq have a greater claim to the city of Kirkuk that the Kurds though Kirkuk is in traditional Kurdish territory. As far as Turkey/Ottoman Empire what have they done except destroy Constantinople?

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  28. captain dan says:

    If we had provided arms and money to the Kurds in 2001, the Kurds would have removed Saddam at a much cheaper cost in American lives and money. But it was all about Fratboy trying to prove to his daddy that he was no titty baby!

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  29. captain dan says:

    We should not get involved in any more civil wars in Iraq. Besides, the Kurds will prevail militarily.

    Reply

  30. Ken says:

    The United States supported the Kurds when we needed them to overthrow Sadaam. We sold Sadaam the gas to allow genocide by Sadaam against them. The Kurds have been in the mountains of this area for centuries. The Turks have been trying to exterminate them for years. I was stationed in Turkish Kurdistan at Diyarbakir in 1982-1983. I interacted with these people on our base and downtown Diyarbakir and found them to be a kind and proud people. These people are more apt to provide a democracy in the region than are the Arabs. Support the Kurds!

    Reply

  31. WigWag says:

    “Perhaps you’d like to comment on Palestinian rights to a homeland in an area where Israel has done what you critic Saddam on…”
    Yes I believe in a two state solution and I regret that the Israelis and Palestinians have elected their most recalcitrant political parties. I think the Palestinians are entitled to a homeland. I also think the Kurds are entitled to a homeland and I think the Kosavar Albanians are entitled to a homeland.
    “The only reason there are any Arabs in Kirkuk at all is because Saddam Hussein moved them there as a power grab.’ you’re familiar with the process!! Perhaps you have similar thoughts on Aztlan, the Mexican homeland in southwestern USA, or that the black people of the USA need a homeland to call there own as well…”
    The Arabs in Kirkuk really do resemble the Israeli settlers. The only difference is that the Arabs in Kirkuk have been there for less than 20 years and the Israeli settlements have been in place for closer to 40 years. If the Israeli settlers can be moved out, Arabs in Kurdish territory can certainly be moved out.
    As for Aztlan, I have great sympathy for the movement that advocates for it. At the very least I think there should be open borders and that all Mexican undocumented workers in the United States should be “legalized” immediately and allowed full benefits of American citizenship. I think the way the US government treats “illegal” Mexican immigrants is in many ways reminiscent of the way that the Israeli government treats Palestinians. Of course there are also big differences, but they are in degree not kind.
    As for a homeland for African Americans, I am sure you know that was tried once; Liberia was set up for that very purpose. Whether African Americans should have a homeland on North America, I’ve never been under the impression that a substantial number of African Americans support that; are you? I do however support reparations for slavery.
    “I find the rationale you’re using for what you’d like to see regressive… race/ethics seems paramount in your considerations.. Correct me if I am wrong…”
    It’s not a question of what I support or don’t support. I’m merely pointing out that the process of ethnic sorting has been going on since at least the 1850s. In some cases it is imposed by force but in most cases it is actually voluntary. Religious, ethnic and linguistic groups chose to live in communion with each other but not with other religious, ethnic and linguistic groups. I’ve sited numerous examples; do you think my history is incorrect?
    The vast majority of wars and major conflicts in the world today are either based completely on ethnicity, language and religion or have a substantial ethnic or religious or linguistic component. Bemoaning it, (as I do) doesn’t change it.
    Dan Kervick says, “Every state in the world is multiethnic…”
    This is true only in the narrowest sense. Every state in the world does have ethnic minorities; but hardly any nation tolerates more than one large and dominant ethnic group. African states made up of Hutu and Tutsi proves this. South Asia in particular is riven by this type of ethnic crisis. In Afghanistan the primary fault line is between Pashtun and all the others (Tajik, Uzbek, Turkmen, Hazara). In Pakistan, ethnicity trumps religion. The conflict in the Tribal region has a significant ethnic component (Pashtuns versus the Sindhis) as does the conflict in the breakaway republic of Balochistan (the ethnic Balochs want their own State.) In Sri Lanka the fight between the government (primarily Sinhalese) and the Tamil Tigers (Tamil) is entirely based on ethnicity.
    Virtually every war or violent confrontation in the world today has a strong ethnic component. Even in peaceful Canada, three of the major national political parties (Progressive Conservatives, Liberals and NDP) have vowed to never form a coalition in Parliament with the Parti Quebecois because the PQ advocates separatism for French Canadians. In Bolivia the seeds of violence have clearly been planted as the Aymara and Quechua Indians have taken power away from the formerly dominant power base of Spanish ancestry.
    Other than the United States and Switzerland, I would be interested to hear the names of any other nations with more than one dominant ethnic, religious or linguistic group that are prosperous, peaceful and without serious internal conflict.
    Perhaps Dan Kervick or … can site even one recent example of states being formed by ethnic aggregation in juxtaposition to the scores of examples I’ve sited of states being formed by ethnic desegregation.
    Do I like it? Of course not. I don’t like poverty, ignorance, intolerence, disease or natural disasters either.
    But not liking it, doesn’t make it any less true.

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  32. jonst says:

    I love the phrase in the article “it can incorporate the oil-rich city of Kirkuk as its capital”. “incorporate”!! Yeah, that is one way to put it.

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  33. Dan Kervick says:

    “The more general problem with Dan Kervick’s assertion is that there is almost no historical evidence that he’s right. Other than in North America there is virtually no evidence that multiethnic, multireligous, multilinguistic, multinational states can exist anywhere for a substantial period of time and remain peaceful.”
    Every state in the world is multiethnic. Everything we currently think of as an ethnic group is a result of branching and fusing of still more ancient groups. Fortunately, this is the way of the world. If it weren’t, and human beings were all sticklers for relentless ethnic sorting, group preservation and self-segregation, then we would all still be living nasty, brutish and short lives in small clans and bands. We would also die out fairly rapidly without all that eager exchanging of genes.
    Both ethnic segregation and ethnic mingling are ubiquitous, but the mingling always wins out over time, which is why most of the tribes we hear mention of in the history books no longer exist. It seems most people can’t resist the allure of intercourse with others – commercial, cultural and biological intercourse. We are driven to it. For every frustrated nationalist trying to preserve the separate identity of his people, there are ten of his fellows eagerly and unselfconsciously fusing their linguistic habits, cultural mores, and bodily fluids with others in a process as natural as breathing.
    Ethnic mingling is certainly a source of tension, but it is just as much a source of pacification and progress, as over time the lines of cultural and economic interdependence and biological interrelation make it a practical impossibility to segregate people into the formerly separable aboriginal groups, even if some are still inclined to do so. People instinctively understand the role of biological unification in the promotion of peace, which is why families, clans, tribes, and nations have long promoted intermarriage as a method of conflict resolution.
    The Kurds are a mix of numerous indo-European tribes from time immemorial. The Turks are accounted an ethnic group because nobody can count the central Asian peoples who were rolled into the vast process that formed what we now think of as the Turks. But these modern peoples will be similarly rolled up into processes that are under way now. The agglomerating processes are occurring in contemporary world that are every bit as culturally, linguistically and biologically dynamic as those earlier processes.
    None of these observations can tell us, of course, whether at any given time and place, in some particular instance, a movement of separation or an embrace of continued unification is going to be more conducive to peace. But they do let us see that over long enough time spans, almost all separatist movements are losing battles.

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  34. ... says:

    wigwag, you mention israel in 3 of your 4 posts… i find that interesting…if your criticisms of israel were anywhere to be seen next to your views on turkey, i missed them in this thread… perhaps you’d like to comment on palestinian rights to a homeland in an area where israel has done what you critic saddam on ‘The only reason there are any Arabs in Kirkuk at all is because Saddam Hussein moved them there as a power grab.’ you’re familiar with the process!! perhaps you have similar thoughts on aztlan, the mexican homeland in southwestern usa, or that the black people of the usa need a homeland to call there own as well…
    i find the rationale you’re using for what you’d like to see regressive… race/ethics seems paramount in your considerations.. correct me if i am wrong on this, but that is how i read your thoughts.. i have a very different view of this, diametrically opposite to yours…

    Reply

  35. WigWag says:

    “Turkey vehemently opposes an independent state for Iraqi Kurds because they fear it will set a precedent for their own restive Kurdish minority.”
    That strikes me as a thoroughly excellent reason to oppose an independent state for Iraqi Kurds.”
    Of course that’s easy for Dan Kervick to say living in his comfortable New Hampshire home he might feel differently if he lived in Erbil or Kirkuk or in Western Turkey.
    The history of Turkish racism towards Kurds is long and bitter. It’s based not only on culture and language, it’s based on the fact that Kurds tend to have darker skin.
    And let’s not forget that Turkey committed the second most heinous genocide of the 20th century. In 1915 they slaughtered 1.5 million Armenians and exiled another 500 thousand. Far from facing up to their history like the Germans have, the Turks run away from their history.
    When Congressman Adam Schiff of California introduced a resolution condemning the genocide last year, it passed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs but never came up for a vote in the full House. Prime Minister Erdogan and President Gul deny that the Ottoman Empire committed genocide and they threatened to withdraw their Ambassador if Congress passed the resolution. President Bush practically begged Nancy Pelosi not to let it come up for a vote and Bush requested AIPAC to lobby against the resolution. To its eternal shame AIPAC asked House members not to let the resolution come up for a vote in the full House and it never did.
    AIPAC may have felt that they owed Bush that favor but their behavior was terrible. And what about Erdogan, Gul and the rest of the Turkish political establishment? They’re genocide deniers which makes them no better than holocaust deniers.
    Congressman Schiff reintroduced the genocide resolution on February 9th, 2009 and during the presidential campaign Obama said he supported it. Will it pass? Who knows; but one thing you can be sure of, AIPAC won’t be opposed this time.
    In light of Turkish fanaticism who can blame the Kurds for not wanting to be part of that State? The truth is that Kurds are every bit as much entitled to a state of their own as the Turks are; they may be more entitled.
    The more general problem with Dan Kervick’s assertion is that there is almost no historical evidence that he’s right. Other than in North America there is virtually no evidence that multiethnic, multireligous, multilinguistic, multinational states can exist anywhere for a substantial period of time and remain peaceful.
    These states are a recipe for violence and hatred and where they have existed, they persevered only because they were held together by military force. When the military force disappears the States decompose. Of course the decomposition isn’t always violent; the Czechs and Slovaks divorced peacefully and presumably the Flemish speaking, French speaking and German speaking Belgians will find a way to split up peacefully too.
    Africa? Asia? The Middle East? Where exactly is the precedent for successful states organized along the lines Dan Kervick suggests?
    Even Europe was only able to work towards integration in the late 20th century after it finished its ethnic sorting enterprise. After a thousand years of war, the EU became possible only after Europe organized itself into relatively homogeneous nation states.
    We may not like it and it may offend our peculiarly American sense of how the world should work, but the prerequisite to peaceful internal and international relations seems to be ethnic sorting.
    Wishing it wasn’t true doesn’t make it not true.

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  36. Dan Kervick says:

    “Turkey vehemently opposes an independent state for Iraqi Kurds because they fear it will set a precedent for their own restive Kurdish minority.”
    That strikes me as a thoroughly excellent reason to oppose an independent state for Iraqi Kurds. The whole world is criss-croseed and cross-pollinated by ancient boundaries and ancient ethnicities. They don’t all get to have their own states, and indulging these separatist dreams is a recipe for chaos.
    There is really nothing more “natural” about these ancient national groupings than the contemporary political groupings shown on the geopolitical map. A nation or ethnicity is usually just a faded and distorted cultural memory of a geographically-based political community that no longer exists. The members of the nation share a language because at some point in the past their ancestors – themselves coming from a variety of subjugated and now-forgotten ethnic stocks – were all shoved together into a single polity, probably under the rule of some aggressive conqueror. There is nothing purer or less artificial about that ancient grouping than the contemporary one, nothing that should privilege it over contemporary groupings.
    A lot of the nationalistic mischief in the contemporary world is the fault of the United States, where descendants of the tired and poor refugees from all the old nations have long harbored romantic nationalistic longings which they feed and indulge in their endless festivals and insecure enclaves. Every congressperson who has some ethnic enclave in his district probably buys votes by contributing to global rabble-rousing and ethnic divisiveness. And the reactionary zeal to eradicate every vestige of international socialism has promoted ethnic and religious division around the world. Perhaps the problem in the former Yugoslavia is not that the separation isn’t yet “finished:, but that it shouldn’t have been started?
    Are people sometimes required to live with others “against their will”. Sure. Every country is made of of various groups who chafe each other. And when we are not feeling chafed by some conceptualized “out group”, we feel chafed as individuals forced to be part of some group against our will. Tough luck. We all want to be liberated from something. That’s part of the human condition. If the Boroblovians want to be liberated from some country which they currently share, you can bet that if they are liberated then before long the North Boroblovians will want to be liberated from the South Boroblovians.
    Political life is stressful and takes hard work. Living with other human beings is stressful and takes hard work. And when people are stressed they reach back cling to something old and familiar – some old identity, some old friends, some old language, some old foods and music. Most of these identities are fantastic psychological constructions based on myths, fictions and ignorance.
    Our descendants will probably have to deal with people who believe they are “ancient Soviets”, and want to reconstitute the Soviet nation, and all those old communists songs and displays of pride and unity.
    The world has felt the pain and fanaticism of these nationalistic aspirations before. For example, it once happened that some people decided they were “Aryans” and wanted to form a political community by reunifying the scattered Aryan nation”. Turned out great, huh?

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  37. WigWag says:

    One very interesting aspect of the fight for Kurdish independence in Iraq is the reaction of the Turks. Turkey vehemently opposes an independent state for Iraqi Kurds because they fear it will set a precedent for their own restive Kurdish minority. Turkey’s treatment of its Kurds is racist at best and brutal at worst. Turkey’s criticism of Israel’s Gaza Campaign was loud and at times eloquent. It may even have been right, but it was always hypocritical.
    Despite the similarities between the PKK and Hamas, Turkey thinks Israel should negotiate with Hamas while it refuses to negotiate with the PKK. Like Israel and Hamas, the Turks have hunted down, arrested and in some cases assassinated PKK leaders. Hamas conducted an unrelenting campaign of suicide bombing in the early part of this decade, the PKK did precisely the same thing. Accusations of Israel’s mistreatment of its own Arab population (and of the mistreatment of Palestinians in occupied lands) are very similar to accusations of mistreatment of Kurds by the Turkish government. And Turkey’s 2007 attacks against PKK targets in Northern Iraq relied on many of the same tactics as Israelis utilized in the attack on Gaza.
    The Kurds are not only the world’s largest ethnic group without a State; they are one of the very ethic groups left who don’t have a State. When they finally get one in Iraq it will be time to cheer.
    Wouldn’t it also be wonderful to see the Kurdish regions of Turkey also gain their independence? Living under the Turkish yoke certainly hasn’t been any better for the Kurds then living under the Israeli yoke has been for the Palestinians.

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  38. Kathleen G says:

    A letter from Peggy about the elections in Iraq
    2 February 2009
    No Voting for Thousands of Iraqi Kurds
    By Peggy Gish
    The mood was one of celebration. Iraqis in the northern Diyala province city of Khanaqin crowded into polling centers on, provincial election day, 31 January 2009. Many dressed in their best Kurdish or Arab traditional clothing or wrapped in flags. “We are happy to express our democracy,” several told us after voting, showing their purple tipped fingers.
    As international independent election observers, Iraq team members visited three polling sites. At each place, voting procedures seemed efficient, and workers seemed helpful and fair. We saw no threatening behavior on the part of Khanaqin police who guarded the sites and searched people going in. But not everyone walked out happy or with purple fingers.
    Farid Zhian, with his wife and adult son told us, “We won’t leave until we can vote, even if we have to stay all day!” Saddam’s regime forced their family to leave Khanaqin and move to Fallujah in the 1970’s. After they returned to the Khanaqin area (called “returnees”), they applied to transfer their food ration card, which would allow them to vote here. Today, however, their names weren’t on the voting list. Family after family came to us with similar stories and complaints.
    Yusef Ahmad Mustafa, member of the Iraqi Parliament expressed frustration that 16,000 Kurdish returnees, just from Khanaqeen, have been refused the right to vote. “I tried to fix this problem so many times. This is the responsibility of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC.) In name they are independent, but they don’t like Kurds.”
    Outside the (IHEC) office, we saw a crowd of about 300 Kurdish returnees protesting and demanding the right to vote.
    “We have a choice: to vote, or to set the poling place on fire,” an angry man told us. “I had a family member killed by Saddam. It is very important that I can vote now!”
    Another man told us Saddam removed his family to Ramadi in 1975, but now they returned to this area. “This is not democracy!” he said, “I am Iraqi and I want to vote in Khanaqin. Why can’t I vote?” Clamoring to be heard, other men and women crowded around us with their ID’s and ration papers in their hands.
    Our conclusion at the end of the day was that even though the physical voting process at the sites seemed fair, the IHEC’s implementation of its internal electoral registration rules, led to a flawed outcome disfavoring the Kurds.
    Later, electoral officials confirmed a report that about a million Arab internally displaced people in southern Diyala province and northern Baghdad province had the same difficulties voting as the Kurdish returnees in Khanaqin and other northern Kurdish disputed areas. After protesting on the streets, however the Arab IDP’s were allowed to vote. The difference in treatment of Arab and Kurd voters fuels the belief of many Kurds, that the IHEC intentionally used its internal voting regulations to reduce the number of Kurdish voters. Unfortunately, this is will only increase the animosity and mistrust between Iraqi’s ethnic groups.

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  39. Kathleen G says:

    Peggy Gish was kidnapped while in Iraq. Watch this and you will hear and see the depth and belief in Peace that resides in our dear and beloved friend Peggy Gish
    http://bop.nppa.org/2008/web_sites/winners/index.php?cat=DWV&smc=INDE&place=2nd

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  40. Kathleen G says:

    Our dear friend Peggy Gish’s latest letter from Iraq. Peggy has been to Iraq up teen times over the last eight years. She was there with the Christian Peace Maker Team in the winter of 2003 before the invasion. She was there when we invaded. Has gone back many times.
    Here is her latest letter from Iraq
    February 11, 2009
    Dear Family and Friends,
    Greetings on a cool, rainy (much needed and appreciated rain), winter day! A lot has happened here since I last wrote and I’m sure a lot has happened in your lives as well.
    Many of you have read my reflection about our observing the provincial election in Khanaqeen, in northern Diyala province. It took us out of the KRG and gave us more of a taste of the current struggles going on between the different ethnic groups in all of Iraq. As I wrote, there were thousands of Kurdish returnees who were not allowed to vote because, even though they went through proper procedures to change their food rations card (which determines your eligibility and place of voting), election officials did not see that they were put on the proper voting lists. Most people believe that was intentional, to decrease the influence of the Kurdish voters and increase the Arab influence in the outcome. There were demonstrations protesting this in Khanaqeen before the election. We went to Khanaqeen a day early and talked to some of the families involved. Others we talked to at the polls or the demonstration in front of the election commission office on election day.
    Both days we saw a convoy of three U.S. armored personnel vehicles in the city. The soldiers seemed to be around in case there were acts of violence. Iraqi soldiers stayed on the edge of the city, and allowed Khanaqeen police to handle security in an unthreatening manner. We went to the city, knowing of the possibility of violence, and were thankful there was none that day. Many of you may of heard, however, that a few days later there was a suicide bombing at a large restaurant in Khanaqeen with many deaths and injuries. The person was identified as an Arab and people believe it was related to the Arab/Kurdish competition for seats on the provincial council.
    When we talked to angry people in the group protesting not being able to vote on election day, our driver-translater was nervous, but also questioned us about the value of taking the time to listen to these people since we weren’t able to make it possible for them to vote that day. We felt that there was a role for listening to their pain and anger, that it lessened their sense of being alone, helpless, and uncared about, and helped to diffuse their anger and direct it away from violent responses.
    On our most recent visit to one of the border areas to talk with villagers about accompanying them to their villages, we shared with them a written plan to facilitate a deeper discussion about it. We were clear with them, that we want this not just to be the plan of our team, but our joint plan. Even though they said it was a good plan, they are taking time to share it with other villagers and think about it more. A next step will probably be to go with some of them to the office of UN officials in Erbil to share this plan, and for the villagers to tell about their problems with the bombings. At one point we all agreed that even with letting various authorities know we were in the village areas, there was no guarantee that we would be protected. One villager said, “God will bless this plan, because it is for the good of our people. It is a holy plan.” I responded that, “God will be our protector,” and then added, “We may have differences of culture and faith, but we do this for God/Allah, and because Allah/God wants all people to live in peace and with justice.” They nodded in agreement.
    One of our former translators from Baghdad recently visited us. He confirmed much of what others there have told us, that even though there is less crime, kidnappings, or bombings, and people can travel around more freely, there is a heavy sense of despair. He described people as being more hopeless and still very fearful and suspicious, having been traumatized by all the violence People are not sure this sense of safety is temporary, or stable and real.
    In the midst of the problems and pain that surround us here, I regularly look for places and situations of beauty and joy that help counterbalance this. The beauty in the mountains and areas we visit certainly feed our spirits, but also times with families and children where we meet on a level of human connection and love. Recently we were visiting with a family and after we ran out of our ability to go further in communicating in Kurdish, we got out balloons and started batting them around the room with the children. It was irresistible for the adults, too. Soon everyone joined in and had fun beyond cultural differences or words.
    I hope, too, that in the midst of the problems you face and struggles of daily life, you will also find times to have fun with those around you, especially with those who are in pain, and that together you will share love and joy that will replenish your tired spirits!
    With much love, Peggy
    2 February 2009
    No Voting for Thousands of Iraqi Kurds

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  41. WigWag says:

    “Maybe what the world needs now is fewer states, not more.”
    Yes, “what the world needs now is love sweet love; that’s the only thing there’s just too little of.”
    Would fewer States really be better? Theoretically perhaps, but history argues against it. A peaceful Europe was only achieved after a thousand years of war when Europe completed the task of sorting itself into countries defined by nationality, religion and language. The process accelerated with the break-up of the Hapsburg Empire, it continued with the unification of the German and Italian States. It picked up steam at the end of World War I and was largely completed by the end of World War II. Of course to eliminate its Jews, Europeans extinguished them; those few that remained where shipped off to Israel and the United States.
    Europe has virtually no multiethnic/multilinguistic/multireligious states left except for Belgium (which is breaking apart) and Switzerland (which has a highly structured government and ethnically homogeneous regions.)
    Europe’s adventure in ethnic sorting truly concluded at the end of the Cold War with the peaceful break-up of the Czech Republic and Slovakia and the peaceful re-creation of the Baltic Republics.
    The few trouble spots left in Europe are the places where ethnic sorting remains to be finished; Bosnia, Serbia/Kosovo and Macedonia. And of course the process is still unfolding in the States that comprised the former Soviet Union.
    Almost every major trouble spot left in the world today from Africa, to Asia to the Middle East and even in South America (Bolivia specifically)is the result of ethnic and religious groups living under the same polity against their will.
    As for the Kurds; they will almost certainly be victorious in their fight for a new State. The idea that the Iraqi army (which hasn’t defeated a militia yet) will defeat the Peshmerga just doesn’t make sense.
    The Kurds are actually worthy of praise. While the Sunnis were ethnically cleansing Shiites from the regions of Baghdad under their control and while the Shiites were ethnically cleansing Sunnis from areas of Baghdad and the South under their control; the Kurds allowed the Arabs and Turkmen (as well as thousands of Arab Christians) to remain unmolested in the Kurdish part of Iraq. Although they want their nation and they are willing to fight to get it; the Kurds are far less sectarian and far more “liberal” than any of the Arab communities that surround them.
    The Kurds will get their State. That might be the only good thing to come out of George Bushes Iraqi adventure.

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  42. ... says:

    spelling error in my initial post -carving, not craving..

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  43. Dan Kervick says:

    ” … it is becoming clear that the Kurds, the world’s largest ethnic group without a state to call their own, will again find themselves among the losers.”
    This notion that every large ethnic group needs a state to call their own is behind much of the world’s mischief over the past couple of centuries, and one of the least welcome effects of the end of the Cold War has been a revival of 19th century-style nationalism. Maybe what the world needs now is fewer states, not more.

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  44. WigWag says:

    Every occupying force chooses winners and losers on its way out. And while questions remain as to who the “winners” in Iraq will be, it is becoming clear that the Kurds, the world’s largest ethnic group without a state to call their own, will again find themselves among the losers.”
    I wouldn’t be so sure that the Kurds will find themselves amongst the losers. Kirkuk is historically a Kurdish city, it has a Kurdish majority and it is proximate to Kurdish territory. The only reason there are any Arabs in Kirkuk at all is because Saddam Hussein moved them there as a power grab. Expect that the Kurds will not only fight for Kirkuk but also for Mosul which is also in what was historically Kurdish territory. Mosul may or may not have an Arab majority. Whether or not it does, Mosul is historically Kurdish territory.
    As the Americans pull out there is sure to be a civil war for the control of Kirkuk and Mosul. A poorly trained Iraqi army (after all, they were trained by the Americans) will be fighting in hostile territory hundreds of miles from home. The Perhmerga is well trained and well armed; they can expect outside help from a world wide Kurdish community and the Israelis will provide the Kurds with tremendous assistance. It’s hard for me to see how a largely Shiite force fighting in a part of Iraq where they have no history will acquit themselves well. Remember when the army fought Shiite militias in their own territory in the South of Iraq last year? The army was defeated by the militias.
    My guess is that unless the Americans or the Turks intervene, the Peshmerga will defeat any army of invasion sent by the Iraqi central government.
    George Bush’s pigeons are about to come home to roost.

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