Kurd Pro Quo


If this BBC report is correct, what has long looked like an almost inevitable side-effect of U.S. operations in Iraq will soon come to pass. U.S. troops will engage Kurdish rebels on behalf of Turkey. Turkey, it follows, would then be more likely to commit its troops for peace-keeping duties elsewhere in Iraq.

Doesn't seem like much of a deal for the U.S., but who said remaking a region was easy?


NEXT: Mickey Mouse v. The Air Pirates

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. NCO,

    How do you know what is best for the Kurds?

  2. because, “it’s for the kids” is just one keystroke away from “it’s for the kurds”. a neat rallying cry, like “remember the maine”.

    does anybody know for real about the gassing of the kurds and the iran-iraq war? wasn’t in the shi-ites and the kurds that got gassed? what’s this “he gassed his own people”?


    these stories get discounted in other sites, but i was just wondering what resources are out there regarding this back-and-forth.

    oh, supporting the PKK to a certain level is in this administration’s interest, because the PKK is hugely anti saddam, so more juicy stories about saddam’s atrocities can be talked about.


  3. jean bart: how do you know that I don’t?

    david: not sure if he gassed them or not but even you have to admit Saddam pursued genocidal agendas in Kurdistan and talking about it isn’t just neocon “propaganda”.

  4. NCO,

    Because I am skeptical of anyone who says they know what is best for entire people – it tends to be the first step of a march to folly.

  5. “How do you know what is best for the Kurds?”

    “how do you know that I don’t?”

    Thats not an answer!

  6. NCO:

    sure. you ‘re right — i’m not disputing the point that SH was a maniac against the kurds. and that SH probably wasn’t nice to his mommy, either (although he probably didn’t hang up on her while she was in jerusalem, grin). and the squelching of the uprising after Gulf War I by GW I, gotta love that!, was awful — yet another mistake in the us policy after winning the first war.

    and yes, the kurds, shi’ites et al were persecuted. sure. no disputes there at all. i also recognize the turks’ persecution of the kurds.

    definitely not trying to make the situation seem like one of neocon propaganda and thereby discounting it. Rather, illuminating the plight of the kurdish people (most populous people sans “country” in the area, sorry palestinians) is important. and that will figure in as a component in this region building. Jean Bart’s point about doing what the brits did post WWI fits in nicely with all of this.


  7. jb – good, because I am not God. However if you are taking a counter-position your own reason applies to my skepticism.

    drf – jb is doing what he always does, wrongly assuming that history repeats itself. fyi – today is oct 3, 2003 and not post-WW1. There is no evidence that the US is using the British Empire as a model, just as there is no evidence that the US will slaughter Kurds. I agree the Kurds are important, but it isn’t wise to even consider granting them a state (as the PKK wants). So the Turks will get what they want as the US won’t support seperatism.

    A better policy would be a couple semi-autonomous provinces within a Iraqi federal struture. A kurdish state would destablize the region and would probably be run by islamists – though I am not all-knowing all-seeing God I think this would be ultimately bad for the Kurdish people.

  8. NCO,

    History does repeat itself.

  9. hey!

    13 years ago, germany was (re)united, too!

    just realized that now!

    anyhow, one useful part of looking into the mistakes in the past, especially in that region, looking at how different groups then played against each other might give some insight into how to play with them now. heeding history, or having a knowledge of it when dealing with region building is a useful tool for decision making.

    i’m not suggesting that the us is using britain as a model at all, either. rather i’m suggesting that checking out what happened might come in useful. knowing the history of a region helps greatly. (think of the use of the left hand in part of india. knowing that might change some face-to-face negotiating strategy)

    post wwII took versailles into account. the failure of the league of nations was considered in the creation of the un. the red sox for years built teams around the home run ball and the short left field fence. oh. wait. that’s NOT learning from history… ๐Ÿ™‚

    seriously, we used the experiences of the russians to kick some ass in afghanistan. we took lessons from vietnam. we don’t plan on using that as a model for future fighting, but at a tactical level, yes, there are good lessons. that’s what i meant.

    “those who fail to learn history probably aren’t doing to well in english and math, either” ha ha.



  10. Anyone know how the PKK is perceived by your average Northern Iraqi Kurd these days?

    Will this be taken to be a failure to establish the semi autonomous zone, and an attack on the Kurdish citizenry, or will the Kurds see this as an attack on a group of reactionaries?

  11. “The PKK was a victim of Saddam’s wrath”??? Where does that idea come from? The PKK is a terrorist organization. The PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party)operates in Turkey. It is a Kurdish separatist movement operating in _Turkey_. There are a few thousand members of the PKK in Iraq. They have used Iraq as a safe haven. Saddam quarreled over borders and water with the Turks for decades. Save haven for the PKK was a tool he used.
    The PKK is not represented in either of the two main Iraqi Kurdish political parties. The US has long supported Turkish efforts to eradicate the PKK (although with caveats regarding humane treatment of partisans).

  12. jb: maybe if you believe in Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence it does, but not in our (mortal) lifetimes.

    david: I agree that we should learn from history.

    Glenn: Rick has a fetish for supporting terrorist groups and/or confusing them w/genunie political movements. just ask him about Haamas.

  13. haamas… oh yeah. them. humphrey, my camel, doesn’t like them at all. he said that they aren’t even worth one hump! and are lousy drivers ed students. and even worse sex ed students!

  14. NCO,

    Historical patterns and trends are often very repetitive. Latin America’s numerous coups and such are a perfect example of this; as are the way scandals occur in the US.

  15. jb: You are confusing the map for the territory. Past human beings share the same charateristics has current and future human beings, so their behaviour will often be similar. Charts and trends are useful models for understanding behaviour, but that is not the same as “history repeating.”

  16. NCO,

    It certainly is history repeating itself. Hell, French history since 1789 is one repeating pattern that has apparently only be de-railed with the creation of the Fifth Republic in 1958. What you are confusing is the study of history with history itself; which is of course why you refer to models.

  17. jb: Well I don’t want to start a huge metaphysical or semantic debate, but continuing behavior is not the repetition of history. And I don’t believe in a Hegalian “history in itself” – all we have is models (or memories).

  18. NCO,

    I would argue that continuing behavior is a repetition of history; and also that people (meaning a “people”) have passed down historical memories. But if you don’t want to get into a huge metaphysical debate, we won’t. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. This thread is another good example of how Hit and Run can be, simultaneously, entertaining and infuriating. While I have enjoyed the tit for tat on history’s repetitive tendencies, it has nothing to do with the case at hand. In fairness to Jeff, he didn’t suggest otherwise in his original post, but if the U.S. assists in displacing the PKK bases in Iraq, that would not be a sell-out of “the Kurds,” whose interests do not lie in terrorism in Turkey or picking fights with Turkey — and whose political leaders have essentially stated as much.

    I’m still not crazy about recruit Turkish troops to augment coalition forces in central Iraq, as the Turks really were the colonial power there for centuries. But the general idea of uprooting the leftist terrorists of the PKK isn’t objectionable at all, nor anything like a betrayal of our allies. They were never our allies.

    Reading a little history never hurt anybody. Reading a little Foucault, on the other hand. . .

  20. Glenn C. is right, the PKK is the Kurdistan Workers Party – a communist group that uses terrorist methods sometimes. They also recruit among Kurdish guestworkers in Germany, and they have used Northern Iraqi Kurdistan as a safe haven.
    The US has supported the PUK – the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, different by one letter.
    The PUK and the Kurdish Democratic Party have both tried to assure Turkey they will not let their region be a haven for the PKK – but it would seem this is because of fear of Turkey – and the US – rather than political opposition to the separatist goals of the PKK.
    Kurds in Turkey have legally fewer rights than Kurds in Iraq or Iran – the Kurdish language is banned in Turkey, but not in the other countries. The Turkish government even denies existence of a “Kurdish” ethnic group, again different from Iraq and Iran.
    Libertarians certainly would oppose the PKK as communists, but supporting the Turkish government in suppressing a minority is at odds with the rhetoric of concern for human rights now being used to justify the war against the Hussein regime.

  21. The PKK was the victim of Saddam’s wrath, a fact that the administration employed at the UN in its case for war. And now, the US government is going to slaughter them in order to secure a Turkish troop commitment ?? What the Hell? If any justice could possibly come out of this needless war, it would be that the Kurds get their own country. But no, just the opposite; the US government seems to be conducting the occupation with all the ethical bearing of the Maffia. For the case that scandal could bring down the Bush administration unless he jettisons the gang that (neo)conned us into war, see Raimondo’s oct.3 article (L’affaire Plame) at antiwar.com: http://www.antiwar.com/justin/justincol.html

  22. I don’t know where you people received your knowledge vis-a-vis the PKK but it is time for some education:

    1) At the beginning of the War for the Liberation of Turkish (mis)ruled Kurdistan Kurds would be routinely thrown into prison for 15+ years for heinous crime of speaking their own indigenous language, as Gene said.

    2) To say that you were a Kurd in public would give you a “short” prison term or at best simply ruin your whole life.

    3) All Kurdish language broadcasting, literature, and education is of course still illegal.

    4) Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, and several other Kurdish parliamentarians were thrown in prison for simply speaking Kurdish during their campaigns.

    “Modern” Turkey is not very far at all from its Mongol horde origins. Any nation which denies genocide (the 1915 Christian Holocaust), holds ludicrous double standards (invading Cyprus to “protect” the rights of the Turkos there but slaughtering Kurds, Armenians, and Assyrians at home) for itself, and takes our tax dollars to do this deserves whatever it gets, “terrorism” or whatnot.

  23. daily pimping of justin’s bullshit by rick (big surprise)

    don’t be paleo-conned

    anyone with sense can see the US is going to negotiate a peace between the kurds/turks, probably more in the turks favor.

    we can debate the justice of that and not insane conspiriacy theories by justin the paleotroll.

  24. Rick Barton,

    The US must be taking plays from former British imperialists.

  25. NCO wrote:
    “US is going to negotiate a peace …probably more in the turks favor.”

    Oh right; and would that be before or after the US government does to the PKK what Saddam did to tham and the Turks then reward the US with occupation troops? As far as the silly name calling goes, Raimondo’s articles are always interesting but NCO sounds like he really NEEDS to read them.

  26. …did to “Them”. Sorry about that.

  27. You are obviously narrowminded anti-american if you think the US would do that. The US is not going to slaughter Kurds. Yes they will prevent them from having a state, which is what the Turks want. But the Kurds will still be better off as part of a Federal Iraq.

    Raimondo is a fundementalist true believer. You read on column you read em all. No thinking allowed in his world.

    Here I will summarize: “The US Government is the Ultimate Evil because Murray Rothbard Said So, and Noam Chomsky agrees.” Add a few hyper links, rant about Likuds and Neocons and War Parties in every shadow and you have it.

  28. “You are obviously narrowminded anti-american if you think the US would do that. The US is not going to slaughter Kurds.”

    Did you even bother to read the cited articles for this thread? Anti-American?? More like, I love my country but I fear my government.

  29. Glenn C. wrote
    “”The PKK was a victim of Saddam’s wrath”??? Where does that idea come from?”

    Powell spoke of Iraq’s attacks on the the PKK at the UN when he was laying down the litany of Saddams crimes.

    NCO wrote:
    “Rick has a fetish for supporting terrorist groups and/or confusing them w/genunie political movements. just ask him about Haamas.”

    NCO seems not to let accuracy get in the way of what ever he wants to write. Of course, I’m opposed to terrorism and I have never even posted about Hammas. Hammas certainly engages in terrorism (murderous attacks on innocent civilians) and so does the Israeli military (not only murder, but destruction of homes and theft of land, wells, orchards and other property.) Our government gives the Israeli government several billion dollars a year for military use, with the proviso that two thirds or three fourths (can’t remember which) is spent with American firms. This money serves to maintain (and now expand) the brutal occupation and fuel the tragic
    cycle of violence. The most extreme haters on both sides such Hammas on the one side and dominant elements of the Sharon regime on the other are emboldened and nourished by this flow of US tax dollars.
    A growing movement in Israel is trying to make the case that the US government money is hurting the common people there. (see: “Tikkun” magazine for coverage of this) The Palestinian people want to know why the government of a land thats known as “Freedom” would finance their horrid occupation. I want to say to both groups “Remember, its not us it’s our stupid government”

  30. Rick Barton,

    “9/11 probably would not have happened if it were not for our government’s hyper-interventionist foreign policy”.

    This has to be one of the most ignorant things i’ve heard here.
    Tell me – Do you think that the US was right to prosecute the cold war the way it did ?

  31. SM,

    I believe “prosecuting the cold war the way it did” included deliberately destabilizing a pro-Soviet Afghan regime in the late ’70s for the sake of luring the Russians into their own Vietnam, and then arming tens of thousands of Islamic maniacs (including the predecessors of the Taliban). It also included overthrowing the Mossadegh regime in Iran, which resulted eventually in an Islamic revolution and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism as a major force in the world. So I’d have to say, no, they weren’t right to do it.

    Governments–all governments–tend to do things for reasons a lot more venal than the pretexts they claim. And that’s just as true in foreign policy as in anything else. So our evaluation of the U.S. government’s foreign policy should be based on two rules: 1) never trust them when their lips are moving; and 2) the law of unintended consequences (aka blowback).

  32. Kevin,

    I agree with some of what you say. Yes, there were several unforseen consequences to our cold war strategy – but it succeded in defeating the Soviets who, as i recall, were considered a bit of a problem back when. I brought it up as an example of “our government’s hyper-interventionist foreign policy”. Was the US supposed to sit back and countenance the spread of communism ie hyper-interventionism on the USSR’s part ? That was my question to Rick.

    But to pretend that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the only thing al-qaeda holds against us is to be incredibley ignorant of the nature of their beliefs. I dont think it was any more than remotely on Bin Laden’s radar on 9/11. Rick can glibly countenance a liberal democracy in the middle-east going down, all actors there being exactly equal to his “impartial” eyes, but quite a few of us have a problem with that. And it’s our government too, if you dont mind.

  33. Kevin,

    One more thing about Rick’s impartiality. Head over to his mentor Justin Raimundo’s antiwar.com. It’s very entertaining, really. It’s great fun to watch him giving the neo-cons what for. The man is an isolationist who despises Israel. Fair enough. But then there are fantastic references to our allies, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which make me wonder whether he has an alternate list of monsters to destroy.

  34. I wonder what justification there even remains for continued military assistance to Israel. Is there really any realistic military threat to Israel anymore from the surrounding Arab nations? Seems all our aid does is draw us into the confilct and make us look resonsible for actions carried out by others. That said, I don’t exactly relish the idea that cutting off aid at this time might look like a capitulation to a victorious al-Qaeda!

  35. Fyodor:
    The level of military threat to Israel depends primarily on the level of competence of their Arab neighbors’ military leadership. Assuming the US withdrew completely from both Israel and Egypt, and assumed a stance of neutrality, the IDF would be heavily outnumbered. The greatest problem for Israel would be defending against missile attack. Missile flight time to any point in Isreal is only a few minutes. A well-coordinated surprise attack could very well wipe out the Israeli Air Force, giving the Arabs air supremacy. With air supremacy, a well-lead Arab force should be able to defeat the IDF, which would leave Israel only the option of using their nuclear weapons.
    The Israelis have good intelligence, so a successful surprise attack would be very unlikely (but not impossible). Additionally, the Arabs haven’t fielded a well-lead army in centuries.
    To the best of my knowledge Sec Powell never mentioned the PKK to the UNSC in reference to Iraq. Unless you can provide a citation, I have to say you are incorrect.

  36. “Seems all our aid does is draw us into the confilct and make us look resonsible for actions carried out by others.”

    Good point. 9/11 probably would not have happened if it were not for our government’s hyper-interventionist foreign policy. As for al-Qaeda, our military should spend it’s time and our money doing what their supposed to; Hunt down and kill the responsible parties so they can’t do it again.

  37. Glenn C:
    (If the US)”assumed a stance of neutrality, the IDF would be heavily outnumbered.”

    But not outgunned, not even close. The several billion our government gives Israel for military use represents a small fraction of their GDP (they should pay for it themselves) and much (perhaps most) goes to maintaining the occupation, and not for defence agianst Arab states any way. In addition, if they had to pay for it themselves it would no dought be used more judiciously.

    “To the best of my knowledge Sec Powell never mentioned the PKK to the UNSC”

    I’m not sure it was a security council meeting but it was the at UN. I’m sure he did because when he did, I remember wodering who the PKK were.

  38. SM,
    When I said that 9/11 probably would not have happened if it were not for our government’s hyper-interventionist foreign policy, I was referring to our governments more current foreign policy, not back to the cold war. Sorry, I should have been more clear.

    “Tell me – Do you think that the US was right to prosecute the cold war the way it did ?”

    The Soviet empire was a real threat to us. The threat was made more palpable by the fact that they murdered and enslaved millions. As Kevin pointed out some of what the government did to confront this threat has had blowback ramifications for us today. On occasions they used the Soviet menace for pretext. Also, while simultaneously opposing the Soviets, the US government made them more of a menace by giving lending them key support. Even, with loan guarantees for military equipment! And, key economic aid such as loans to purchase grain.
    (See: “National suicide: military aid to the Soviet Union” and “The Best Enemy Money Can Buy” by Antony Sutton.) This insanity largely came to a halt under Reagan.(See:Reagans War by Peter Schweizer)

    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the not only thing al-qaeda holds against us but it is one of the three major ones, the other two being the stationing of troops in Mecca (gone now,I think) and the Iraq embargo. Just read their Fatwas. And don’t buy the nonsense about them hating us because we are free, prosperous and licentious. If that were it they could have gone after Switzerland(for the freedom and prosperity) or Denmark if was loose morals that really cranked them. Hell, we know why they hit us. They told us.

    “Rick can glibly countenance a liberal democracy in the middle-east going down”

    What?? No I can’t. It would be a tragedy if Israel went “down” But, what the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is also a
    tragedy. I don’t think the term “liberal” can be applied to Israel’s democracy with the way the government treats it’s Arab citizens, not the Palestinians, but the 20% Arab Israeli?s. (Sharon’s “Jews only” housing law on government land etc.) I think the the chances of curtailing the tragic cycle there would much better if there
    were an end to Sharon’s insane policies.

    “The man (Raimondo) is an isolationist who despises Israel.”

    Raimondo is a foreign policy non-interventionist, a position, which our government would do very well by us to move toward. The founders of our republic might then slow down their spinning a bit as well.

    Raimondo might be said to despise the Israeli government but thats a much different thing then despising Israel. As you probably know, there are Israeli writers at antiwar.com who are also conerned with the actions of the Sharon regime.

  39. many Refugee are at risk in Turkey they are at look for help
    please read this petition and sing that


    best regards

  40. many Refugee are at risk in Turkey they are at look for help
    please read this petition and sing that


    best regards

  41. ima a kurd. i want my own country.

  42. EMAIL: pamela_woodlake@yahoo.com
    URL: http://digital-photo.online-photo-print.com
    DATE: 01/20/2004 07:37:00
    He who wishes to secure the good of others has already secured his own.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.