Wednesday, August 29, 2007

We are not fighting for a "free Kurdistan"

In his latest defense of the war in Iraq, Christopher Hitchens makes the astonishing argument that we are fighting in part to enable the Kurdish minority to "defend and consolidate its regional government in the north".

An American family that lost a son or a daughter in the defense of free Kurdistan or in the struggle against AQM could console itself that the death was in a worthwhile cause.

This may come as a surprise to most Americans who thought we went to Iraq to eliminate Saddam's WMD stockpile.

[W]e can point to Kurdistan as the most outstanding success of the past four years, with its economically flourishing provinces run along broadly secular lines, and with the old Kurd-on-Kurd civil war now in real abeyance for almost a decade (which shows that people can and do come to their senses). The Kurds are also active in the center of the country; their ministers of foreign affairs and water are universally regarded as the most capable and intelligent, and they have also been secure enough to lend units of their own peshmerga forces to the coalition's efforts in Baghdad, Fallujah, and elsewhere.
The Kurds were certainly the group in Iraq happiest to see the American forces arrive. However, when Hitchens talks of the Kurds "consolidating" their hold on the north, that includes some very brutal fighting. The peshmerga have been accused of driving ethnic Arabs and Turkmen from their homes in Kirkuk and have battled in Mosul and Irbil as each attempts to lay claim to a wide swath of the oil rich northern portion of the country. The peshmerga are one of the many factions in Iraq. They aren't loyal to the central government and they aren't selflessly working for the common good.

Hitchens is apparently focusing on the freedom and independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, but his choice of the phrase "free Kurdistan" is hardly accidental. Free Kurdistan, sometimes referred to as Greater Kurdistan, usually refers to the idea of a unified Kurdish state. Maps of Free Kurdistan vary, but (like the one above) typically encompass large portions of Iran, Iraq, Syria and America's close NATO ally, Turkey.

It's the reason 40,000 turkish troops recently threatened to invade northern Iraq.

Fighting in defense of a free Kurdistan would set the entire Middle East on fire.

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