What’s Good For The Goose…
by Gerald A. Honigman
ain’t good for the gander.I just found out from one of my Middle East sources that the United States and Britain recently made a joint call for Iraq to take immediate steps to halt cross-border attacks by the Iraqi-based Kurdish PKK into Turkey.
The Voice of America’s David Gollust reported from the State Department that the issue dominated a Washington meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. While both welcomed statements by the Iraqi government condemning attacks by the PKK, they say it’s now time for more tangible action to be taken by the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Authority if a large-scale Turkish invasion is to be avoided.
I agree…and have told my Kurdish friends the same. No nation should be expected to tolerate such attacks.
But, here’s my problem…the typical State Department double standards and hypocrisy so readily practiced.
Let’s back up a bit. And before I proceed, please understand that there is much about the Turkish Republic that I admire. That does not mean, however, that a cover-up is in order.
After World War I, Mustafa Kemal--Ataturk--saved what was left of the Ottoman Empire and saw to the birth of the modern Turkish Republic.
Now minus most of its former European and Near Eastern territories, Turkey drew its lines in the sand beyond which no further territorial losses would be tolerated. The Armenians and Kurds especially got caught up in this bloody turmoil.
Forming about one-fifth of Turkey’s population (the same percentage of Arabs who live in an Israel about one-fortieth Turkey‘s size), the Kurds are found mostly in the southeastern region. They’ve lived in the particular area for millennia…long before an Arab or Turk ever set foot there.
During the age of the spread of the Dar ul-Islam especially via various Arab and Turkish empires, the Kurds jumped on the Islamic bandwagon. Salah-al-Din was the Kurdish nightmare of Christendom during the Crusades.
But, by the 19th century, emerging ethno-nationalist revolts for independence had already begun. During the era of World War I, a common saying among Western diplomats regarding the war’s aftermath and the collapse of the Turks’ empire went something like this… Arabia for the Arabians, Armenia for the Armenians, Judea for the Judeans.
Along these same lines, one of President Woodrow Wilson’s famous 14 Points addressed Kurdish independence as well. The British held out such hopes to the Kurds until they received a favorable decision from the League of Nations in 1925 tying the oil of the Kurdish north to the new British Mandate of Mesopotamia in the Mosul decision. From then on, British petroleum politics aligned with Arab nationalism to squash the one best chance Kurds ever had to achieve independence in the new nationalist era. Over thirty million Kurds remain stateless to date as a result of that abortion. And when we read or hear about them today, they’re more often than not simply referred to as rebels, separatists, and so forth. Frustrated in seeing others achieve independence, and often subjugated (or worse) by Turks, Arabs, and Iranians now ruling most of the lands they lived in for millennia, revolt they did…
To deal with the fear of further geographical loss, the Turks decided that only one culture would fit all in the land. So, for example, Kurds were henceforth recreated as “Mountain Turks”--with even their language outlawed. Ismet Cherif Vanly’s book, The Syrian Mein Kampf Against The Kurds (Amsterdam 1968), showed Arabs following the same game plan. An Arab Saddam would do likewise in Iraq, and so forth, with similar nightmares to be found in multi-ethnic Iran as well.
Into this state of subjugation, the Kurdish PKK was born in Turkey.
Unlike Israel (where Arabic was made the second official language of the State, where Arabs who side with Hamas, Fatah, and others dedicated to Israel’s destruction serve in Parliament, and so forth), Kurds were simply expected to deny their own identity for the sake of Turkish nationalism. Keep in mind that twenty-one Arab states already surround Israel--before the creation of their proposed 22nd.
So now we come to the current mess…
A multi-ethnic Iraq which was artificially put together for largely others’ interests the same way another “nation “ --Yugoslavia--was upon the breakup of empires in the early 20th century, will probably not survive an American withdrawal…and this might not necessarily be a bad development. I’ve written about this often elsewhere, so won’t expand upon this now.
Compared to the tragic situation in the Arab areas, Iraqi Kurdistan--with its imperfections--is still a shining light. Arabs and others have fled to there to escape the barbarism.
Amid the mountain strongholds of the Kurdish north, however, PKK Kurdish fighters from Turkey have taken refuge. In so doing, they may very well set back the progress Kurds have finally made towards full autonomy--and perhaps, later on, even independence.
Having long felt cheated by the 1925 Mosul decision, Turkey is very likely considering a move on the oil of Iraqi Kurdistan if conditions permit. A breakup of Iraq might be the ticket later on…as Iran also eyes the Iraqi Shi’a south (once part of an earlier Iranian empire).
For now, with American forces still engaged, the Turks’ limited goal will remain focused as it has been…keep what’s happening among Iraqi Kurds from spreading northwest.
A Turkey which lectures Israel about the need to create a second state for Arabs (Jordan being the first) within the original 1920 borders of that other British Mandate, Palestine, threatens war if some thirty million stateless Kurds finally get a slice of justice in the nationalist age…and in Iraq--not Turkey!
For their part, Kurds in Turkey must understand that they will never achieve what the PKK supposedly is fighting for there. As stated above, Turks have drawn their lines.
Having said this, if Turkey wants to be seen as something better than the racist despotisms which are also in the region--like those which gas Kurds, engage in genocide in the Sudan, and so forth--then it will have to vastly improve the lives of its Kurdish citizens. Again, think about the comparison with an Israel which, in many ways, is far more endangered by its potential fifth column than Turkey is.
Currently, as seen above, Condi and the Foggy Folks expect the KRG and Baghdad to produce what all the support the American State Department has given towards the creation of Arab state # 22 has yet to.
While it is in the KRG’s own interest to bring an end to PKK attacks from Iraqi Kurdistan, the hypocrisy is still sickening.
The State Department expects an Israel about one-fortieth the size of Turkey to give away the store at the arm-twisting party it’s planning at the upcoming summit, knowing full well that with all of the support it has given to Abbas and his fellow latter day Arafatians, the leopards haven’t changed their spots. They’re just smirking as they see their well-known destruction-in-stages plans for Israel unfold nicely due to Washington. Arafat, Abbas, and all of their comrades never lifted a finger--with tens of thousands of armed military and police at their disposal--to stop the constant barbarism against Jews in restaurants, buses, teen nightclubs, pizzerias, shopping malls, homes, and so forth. In fact, they funded it and were often a part of it.
Yet, with American interests now directly at stake in Iraq, that same State Department expects Iraqi Kurds to simply ignore the very real grievances of their people in Turkey when dealing with the PKK.
While it’s true that this situation cannot continue as it is and PKK attacks from Iraq must stop, I must also end this with a question…
Why is it that the State Department feels free to bully Israel into suicidal concessions regarding creating Arab State # 22, but mere talk of improving the plight of subjugated “Mountain Turks” or creating State # 1 for Kurds is still unspeakable?