Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Tom Lassiter: Reporting on Iraq from outside the box

Tom Lassiter with Knight Ridder news services has recently issued several reports that are simply fascinating for the insight provided when reporters are able to step outside the box in reporting from Iraq. Yesterday I posted on one of these articles which detailed how the Kurdish Peshmerga had infiltrated the Iraqi national army with an eye to killing their commanders and storming the city of Kirkuk when given the command to do so by the Peshmerga. Today brings two more fascinating articles, one of which details the internal divisions in the Iraqi army based upon ethnicity, and the other on how Mr. Lassiter was able to bring us these stories. First let us consider how Kurdish and Arab men in the same unit clash regarding a possible future civil war in Iraq:
"If the Kurds want to separate from Iraq it's OK, as long as they keep their present boundaries," said Sgt. Hazim Aziz, an Arab soldier who was stubbing out a cigarette in a barracks room. "But there can be no conversation about them taking Kirkuk. ... If it becomes a matter of fighting, then we will join any force that fights to keep Kirkuk. We will die to keep it."

Kurdish soldiers in the room seethed at the words.

"These soldiers do not know anything about Kirkuk," Capt. Ismail Mahmoud, a former member of the Kurdish Peshmerga militia, said as he got up angrily and walked out of the room. "There is no other choice. If Kirkuk does not become part of Kurdistan peacefully we will fight for 100 years to take it."

Reading the article I posted about yesterday, one may wonder if the Kurdish captain would really qualify as a "former member" of the Peshmerga militia. Look at this sentiment from Col. Sabar Saleem, also a "former" Peshmerga member:
"War is just another kind of political solution," said Saleem, a former Peshmerga.

He said that while he wore an Iraqi army uniform he had a much larger mission in mind.

"I tell you that I am a part of the Iraqi army, but when it comes to the Kurdish cause I am willing to offer my life, my head, for one inch of Kurdish land," Saleem said. "Especially for Kirkuk."

This kind of reporting is simply must read and very hard to find in the American media. He is giving us raw first hand information that when considered in the overall context of the Iraqi conflict presages dire consequences for the region. I agree that Kurdistan is a worthy goal and would like to see the Kurds get their homeland without a regional blood bath. But the current American plan for Iraq does not envision a Kurdish homeland, and it is clear the Kurds are dead set intent on independence, whatever the cost may be. If we stay the course it is apparent the two visions for the region come into conflict, and Mr. Lassiter on a local level in his area has pulled the shades from a window that we would be well served to look through

It is through the reporting of Tom Lassiter that we are finally getting a feel for how this could turn from the derailment we are currently experiencing to a horrendous regional train wreck. How is it then that it seems only Mr. Lassiter is giving us this type of reporting? (Not to denigrate other reporters mind you, but these articles by Mr. Lassiter are simply one of a kind.) The answer is found in this article titled "how the story was reported". Put quite simply, Mr. Lassiter does not let the American or Iraqi military guidelines that specify he must be accompanied by an "American military assistance team" stop him from using contacts to get these stories.
For this story, I took a commercial flight from Baghdad to Irbil on Dec. 20 and, working with a Kurdish translator, contacted the Peshmerga leadership. Peshmerga leaders then opened many doors, arranging visits to Peshmerga militia units that turned out to be units of the Iraqi army.

For example, the Peshmerga arranged for Iraqi soldiers at a base in Irbil to meet me on the afternoon of Dec. 21 and take me - along with two pickup loads of soldiers with AK-47s and heavy machine guns - to the Kurdistan Democratic Party's headquarters in Mosul.

Party officials then escorted me across the street to an Iraqi army brigade headquarters, where I spent the evening conducting interviews and going on patrols. The next morning, I was taken to the division headquarters in Mosul and spent the day doing interviews. I rode back to Irbil with a brigade commander in a convoy of sport utility vehicles and pickups equipped with heavy machine guns.
There is no doubt that the job of a journalist in Iraq is hazardous in the extreme. So we who care for the truth and accuracy in the news we consume should really be appreciative of the steps taken by Mr. Lassiter to step outside the box and bring us these reports. On a very small level and for what it's worth I would like to express my gratitude to him for doing his job so well in such dangerous conditions, and wish him good luck going forward.

American naivete is so extraordinary.

Do you know that Kurds have been fighting successive Baghdad regimes since 1961. It goes back earlier than that, but I'm speaking of Barzanî's revolution. Do you think that Kurds fought for so long just to maintain US interests now? Just to maintain the territorial integrity of something in which Kurds never wanted a part?

We should do US bidding now for what? For the 1975 betrayal? Or what about Anfal? We should obey because the US installed Saddam and then stood by and did nothing when he gassed Helebce? What about 1991?

I won't even go into the longterm US support for Turkey's program of cultural genocide, ethnic cleansing, murder, etc., of the 20 million Kurds under Turkish occupation.

As long as US interests match Kurdish interests, there is a basis for cooperation. When there are no matching interests, Kurds don't need to sacrifice Kurdish interests.

For a Kurd, none of this is news. Apparently, however, it is a shock to everyone else. Welcome to politics.
I would like to ask you a couple of question mizgin... 1: Do you see any way Kurdistan can be brought into existence without a regional bloodbath? Is there any way for this to occur peacefully?

2: How does the stay the course approach currently being taken by America fit into this goal for Kurdistan? Do you think we can continue down this road and continue to see peace in N. Iraq?

As to your characterizations of American knowlege of these happenings, I readily admit that most Americans are far more aware of local and national events than international concerns (when we even want to be aware of "news" in the 1st place). But there are those of us who do take an interest in these happenings, and I for one am sickened by the course I see our nation on. I do support an independent Kurdistan, and hope and pray this comes about without a horrendous regional conflict. If there is any way for this to occur, and for us who care about these issues to have an impact, I'd love to hear the proposal to bring this about.

It seems to me the people who really ought to know about these issues in great detail are the ones who guide our policy, and it seems to me that they lead from a sense of idealism and faith in the goals they want to reach being right than in any actual grounding in the reality on the ground. I'm not trying to lead you into bashing the administration here either. If you support them I'd like to know it, and why you feel that way. What I've just said is consistent with every other principle I've layed out in this blog regarding our leaders. It seem you have a perspective less concerned with this administration, and more concerned with Kurdistan, and I think your opinion on this would be very interesting.
Mizgîn, I doubt a seperate nation of Kurdistan will happen anytime soon. Turkey will never release disputed land. The US won't interfere with an internal Turkish affair either. The US doesn't support the ethnic cleansing instituted by Turkey. They just refuse to take action against them.

Before I suggest the best bet for a seperate Kurdish state, let me address the gassing by Saddam. That very gassing of innocent people using Mustard Gas meant to be used against Iran was one of the components used to argue for a toppling of Saddam by the US. I personally was horrified that Saddam would use gas on his own countrymen, Kurds or not. His willingness to use it that way made him too unstable a factor for the US or Israel to tolerate.

The US has a bad habit of making promises of support and then leaving a resistance left to be butchered by whatever dictator is running whatever country. At least this time, the US followed through and toppled Saddam. I am not saying that you should be grateful but, certainly the removal of Saddam is a good thing in Kurdish eyes? Is it? The US has done many wrong things including supplying Iraq with WMDs. Still, I think it unfair to blame the US for that particular gassing.

US interests include nothing more than the free flow of oil in the global oil market. That free flow means the Middle East must be stable. A war involving Arab states sworn to destroy Israel and the use of WMDs in that potential war is an example of what the US seeks to prevent. Israel already has nuclear weapons and will do ANYTHING to prevent sworn enemies from getting one. Notice how Pakistan was not a concern like Iraq and Iran. Pakistan is too worried about India to truly focus on Israel. Therefore, they basically have world permission to have nukes. It is not the same for Iraq and Iran.

The fragmentation of Iraq would also be too unstable. In the short term, Turkey would go to war over it. This is not acceptable to the US. The Sunni would never agree to release Kirkuk and I doubt the Shia would either. The US would never allow near term seperate states to be formed from Iraq because, US interests lie only with the free flow of oil. The US gets most of it's oil from Mexico and Canada. Really, with some restraint, the US could do without any Middle Eastern Oil. Unfortunately, if there was a messy war invovling nuclear weapons in the Persian Gulf region and took oil off the market for years, the rest of the world outside of the US would be immediately paralyzed. It would also make gas in the US something only the rich could buy. The US economy is heavily invested around the world. When the world economy collapses then the US economy would also be heavily damaged. Even worse, the rest of the world including China would be fighting for what oil reserves were left. A World War III would almost be a certainty.

The best hope to one day have a recognized Kurdistan is to not obey but, to cooperate with reality...for now. A new Iraq can do well divided into three sections of a greater Iraq. I would suggest continuing to build a Kurdish military but, cooperate with the Iraqi government as you are now. Insist that ALL oil benefit ALL of Iraq and that the Kurdistan region of Iraq will support that understanding of resource use. Insist that cultural differences and some difference in some laws be accepted for all three regions of Iraq. Difference in law should not contradict the Iraqi Constitution, however.

Down the road of the future, if Turkey is less worried about their issues, they will be more accepting of a Kurdish nation made of Northern Iraq. This will also relieve pressure on the US. If the Kurdistan region of Iraq continues to show cooperation in military support and in oil resource sharing in a greater Iraq, I would think it might be plausible for the rest of present day Iraq to believe a seperate Kurdistan would abide by Treaties on trade and Oil resource sharing even if they seperated as a soveriegn nation unto themselves. If this is done in a stable manner, the US would not interfere as the free flow in the global oil market is their true concern. It is a long journey but, I believe one day it could be possible. Then again, perhaps I am just illustrating more of that American naivete you speak of. I do not claim to be a perfect or all knowing man. I make mistakes in judgement just like anyone else.
bhfrik, regarding your questions:

1: Do you see any way Kurdistan can be brought into existence without a regional bloodbath? Is there any way for this to occur peacefully?

(Note that when the word "Kurdistan" is used, it means the whole thing, in all parts of its occupation. In South Kurdistan, there are around 5 million Kurds. In North Kurdistan, there are around 20 million Kurds. In West Kurdistan, there are around 2 million Kurds. In East Kurdistan, there are around 4 million Kurds. . . if one uses "Kurdistan" to refer only to South Kurdistan, then we're leaving the majority of Kurds out of the picture. But that's another long story.)

Yes. The US needs to get its ally, Turkey, on a short leash and keep it there. So far the EU has been squeezing Turkey, but it isn't totally effective because the US stands behind Turkey and whispers, "No need for change." Start applying political and economic pressure on your ally.

Iran can't do anything. Syria can't do anything. The Arab countries can't (and won't) do anything. I mean, they paid Saddam to try to take care of Iran and then they paid the US to take care of their Kuwait problem. So, they aren't going to do anything. Turkey is the problem, although I think the problem is somewhat mitigated thanks to EU accession, but the US needs to do its part vis-a-vis Turkey.

Somehow, however, I don't think the US will. Check the last few weeks for news on the CIA, FBI and ATC (American Turkish Council) visits to Ankara. In fact, do some google recon on the ATC and you might get an idea of just how valuable the relationship is. Check how the US is backing Turkey against Denmark for the closure of Kurdish-language TV. And if you want to know where everything is shifting, particularly in regard to oil, you had better start watching Central Asia. The US, Turkey and Pakistan all stand to be the big winners there. . . which may be why Russia is backing Iranian nuclear efforts.

2: How does the stay the course approach currently being taken by America fit into this goal for Kurdistan? Do you think we can continue down this road and continue to see peace in N. Iraq?

What "stay the course approach?" The united Iraq thing? Well, can you put Humpty Dumpty back together again? I think that was the metaphor used by a writer at KurdishMedia not too long ago. As for peace in South Kurdistan, there will be peace in South Kurdistan because there are pêşmerge and they exist to defend Kurdistan. If you read the article here closely, and get past the innuendo, you will see that the Kurdish leadership is doing exactly as many of us have said should be done, for at least, oh, a year and a half to two years. Cooperate, play the game, see if anything can be salvaged, especially as regards Kurdish interests and security. In the meantime, get the contingency plan ready because when this thing finally cracks, it will be time to evacuate Baghdad and return to Fortress Kurdistan immediately, if not sooner.

As for the administration, this administration is no different whatsoever than any other American administration. No different at all. I did support the military operation which brought about the end of Saddam. I, and the majority of Kurds, are grateful for that and I didn't have any doubts about the combat outcome of that war. The post-war situation is a different thing. There was no plan for post-war, which is ridiculous. Wouldn't any plans for the overthrow of Saddam and post-conflict reconstruction would have been made years before and put on ice until needed? I think it's the DOS that does a lot of that post-conflict reconstruction planning and they are, obviously, incompetent--and I mean all those long-term bureaucrats to whom one administration comes and goes and the next takes its place. Administrations don't affect them. Administrations don't affect long-term strategic plans.

All I had to do was listen to Kerry and Bush in the last elections to hear their ideas on Iraq and I knew there was no difference. But, exactly, my perspective is intensely concerned with Kurdistan and not the administration. I would have supported any administration that got rid of Saddam just as I would support any administration that dealt effectively with Turkey.

I think that also speaks to your suggestion that the policymakers "lead from a sense of idealism and faith in the goals they want to reach." I don't think they have any sense of idealism or faith in anything. Questions of idealism or intense belief in some goal, like democracy, for example, don't factor into the equation. Look for the money trail. See who benefits from what. THAT is what drives policy. For every administration. I think that idealism and faith in the goal--what is it in this discussion anyway? Democracy?--are more likely to affect the American people. For that reason we get statements like, "Saddam gassed his own people" in order to promote the righteousness of the cause (he didn't gas his own people, by the way). Idealism is used to fuel the American people for the battle and there are benefits to others when something like democracy is encouraged in a tangible way. But this doesn't drive the policymakers. Not in my opinion, anyway.

Britt Howard, I think I addressed some of your remarks already. You can take what I've already written, if it's applicable.

I don't know what disputed land you are referring to. I can't comment on that unless I have clarification.

The US has supported Turkey's atrocities against Kurds because it kept it's mouth shut about it, while continuing to feed the Turkish military all the weapons systems it could ever want in order to control unarmed Kurdish civilians. To refuse to take action against Turkey is to make a choice pro-Turkey and pro-Turkish policies. This is nothing new either. If you know anything about the Armenian genocide, you know that the very same callousness that kept the US from saying anything to the Ottoman Turks about that genocide is the very same callousness that marks the US policy toward Kurds under Turkish-occupation right now.

The ME must be stable? For oil? When has the ME ever been stable since the usefulness of oil was discovered? Let's date that to 1920, because that was when Britain forced the creation of the freak monstrosity known as "Iraq" in order to create "stability" for the free flow of oil. Before that time, there WAS stability in the ME. After that time, there has been stability only for the West, but none for the people who have to live in the ME. And you know what? You just watch and see the "stabilitiy" that's going to come out of Central Asia in the future. Like MEastern stability, Central Asian stability is going to be established on the mass graves of the people who live there, just like in Iraq. Mark my words; it's already starting. See my remarks at the beginning of this and do some recon.

Your scenario about oil being withdrawn from the market reflects Western fears about the instability that the West would face, so with that in mind, let me ask you something hypothetically: If that scenario were the case, would we see a reversal of fortunes and end up with ME stability on the mass graves of Westerners? Is that a better or worse scenario than stability built on the mass graves of MEasterners? Central Asians?

I am thinking of what my friends in Dohuk went through in '91 and in the years that followed and it was BAD. Really bad. For everyone there. And I'm thinking of what many Kurds in the "Southeast of Turkey" are going through now, and it is really BAD, too. So I'm curious to know why it's okay for Kurds or other MEasterners to suffer like that, even to death, but it is so unacceptable for Westerners to suffer in the same way, so that there has to be a status quo created (in 1920) and maintained which feeds off of those mass graves. I'm not trying to be nasty about this; I just want someone else to think about it too. Or be haunted by it. . . whichever.

South Kurdistan is cooperating as it has been cooperating, in spite of the hints of betrayal that we've had in the last two, almost three, years. But if things get worse, Kurds are not going to make a noble sacrifice for the rest of Iraq. As for Iraqi law, have you read the constitution? What about the Turkish constitution? If you haven't, these are good reads. Another hypothetical: What if Iraqi law changes to Shari'a? Do Kurds have to change Kurdish law to reflect Shari'a? Do we have to go around cutting off hands, ears, putting out eyes, stoning women, whipping children to death with metal cables for eating during Ramadan, etc? Or are we allowed to have civilized law instead? Even if it were to conflict with Iraqi law? Something else to think about.
Mizgîn, this is certainly interesting. I couldn't agree more on your particular views regarding the US State Department and their roles with the various administrations. That their reconstruction planning is incompetent and that there isn't that much difference between Kerry and Bush. There may be some small differences domestically but, on an international scale the differences are mostly just posturing for the American voters.

As far as the Middle East being stable, you are right. This is not from the perspective of the ME. Its the perspective from the West and indeed the rest of the world. The Far East is more than ever dependent on oil due to recent economic progressions in China for example. Oil consumption by more and more consumers there is partly viewed as a good thing and partly a worry of competition over limited resources. The oil market is not a US thing or a ME thing. The oil market is a Global Oil Market. And no, the taking away of ME oil due to a devastating war between Arabs and Israelis both using Weapons of Mass Destruction would not bring a reversal of fortunes. The ME would possibly be a radioactive dead zone. A World War III coming from that would likely lead to Nuclear devastation in the West and East as well. It would be bad for everyone.

As far as gassing goes, I guess it's a matter of perspective. I was referring to Halabja-March 1988. They are Kurds and not Sunni, I guess from your perspective, Saddam did not gas his own people. Saddam has frequently butchered the Shiite to the south. Mass graves have been found there as well. Perhaps since they were not Sunni, he was not killing his own people there. From my perspective, ALL people living in Iraq be they Kurd, Sunni, or Shiite were "his own people". I am white, of european ancestry, and I guess religiously I'd be a Protestant. However, if a US administration gassed only Hispanic Catholics, I would say we are gassing our own people as I view them all as Americans. Here we view that all people are entitled to certain rights no matter your ancestral origin or religion. Here murder is murder. What group does the killing to what group does not matter. Thus lives of Americans are precious. We have some control over what happens in the US. We have no ability to force this view on others outside the US. That's part of what you talk about when it comes to us being so concerned with American lives. Most religions here hold that suicide is against the wishes of God. The idea of suicide bombing is contradictary to our view of God and of life. Facing odds likely to kill you in order to save others is viewed as heroic, however. In that case though, there is that small chance that you might still live and fight again. A suicide bomber does not have that chance.
This view of life is also why the idea of mass murder of Kurds to the North and Shiite to the South were used to partly justify the invasion. For many here, viewing far into the future is not possible. They will see a global devastation as unlikely or at least happening way after they have lived their own natural lives. For these people we point to recent atrocities to help make the case.

As powerful as the US is, we are not "All Powerful". We can not stop all atrocities. We even have to struggle to avoid them in our own country at times. The World Trade Centers that cost around 3,000 American lives. People forget that those buildings were so huge that they had their own postal zip code. We have tasted mass murder and don't like it either.

There is only so much the US can do. Sometimes some atrocities are blocked by what might lead to other worse ones. Some are blocked by money interests. Sad to say, money is a cause for some to ignore the plight of others. As advanced as the US is, we are still made of people. There is indeed corruption here that must be fought on a constant basis. We have the bad along with the good. All we could do is attempt at better.

So to answer your question Mizgîn, no it is not acceptable for M.Easterners to suffer or die. So many Americans tried to help after the Tsunami in the Far East and the earthquake in Pakistan. The loss of life is not acceptable. Unfortunately, preventing further death in those two regions after a natural disaster is much easier than acting in political volital situations. Sometimes there is also a lack of will to suffer so, that you can give relief to others.

The disputed land I spoke of is land in Turkey that the Turkish will not hand over to Kurds. I may be mistaken but, I thought that the Kurd view of a Kurdish state meant the taking of that land as well as northern Iraq. Most Kurds live in Turkey right? I don't see that ever happening. The US wouldn't help there either. What I do see as possible is Kurdish region in Iraq that contiues to build militia, economic, cultural, and political self-sufficiency that cooperates with a greater Iraq. One day that cooperation but, obvious difference could lead to a seperate Kurdish state that still shares economic and trade ties with what remains of Iraq. I see a possible migration of Kurds from Turkey to Kurdish Iraq and the development of that area. If Turkey does not feel threatened they might even be accepting of the idea of a Kurdish state that once was N.Iraq, and a region of Turkey that is predominantly settled by Kurds but, still ultimately under Turkish authority. That might be hard to for a Kurd to accept. I don't know. Still, having Turkey as a positive trading partner as well as trade with the rest of Iraq, having a Kurdish state although not perfect, and stifling the oppression and death you spoke of sounds like a good deal. It would also bring about stability in the long term. The trick would be for the Kurdish region of Iraq to become independent but, non-threatening to the interests of Turkey and the remainder of Iraq.
I'm gonna have to take issue in part with both of you on the whole oil driven war thing.

If you look at the PNAC, and the stated goals of the neoconservative movement for the past 15 years, it is quite clear that the overthrow of Saddam was seen as a test case for establishing a democracy in the Middle East. If it were just all about oil, we could have lifted the sanctions years ago and had the oil flowing in abundance (more than oil for food allowed anyway) from Iraq.

This war is definitely idealogical in nature. There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that had Al Gore won the Supreme Court selection process in 2000, America would NOT have invaded Iraq in 2003. I'm not certain that Saddam would still be in power mind you. But the notion that all administrations approach these issues unformly is off base in my opinion. Sheesh... I've come out and said that RALPH NADER is indirectly responsible for the Iraq war by taking votes away from Gore. But the point remains. The Iraqi situation is uniquely a neocon experiment and if what both of the other commenters on this thread seem to argue is that any administration would have proceeded like the Bushies have, I believe they make an error in reasoning.

We are where we are and believe me you Mizgin, I am interested in seeing an independent Kurdistan. I'm certainly not as involved or familiar with the various permutations of the issue as you are. I understand your sense of outrage and indignation at the plight of the Kurds. All I ask is that we find a way to reach the goal without a regional trainwreck. When I ask if you can see this happening without a conflagration, for you to say yes, if the Kurds are given everything they want peacefully is basically to say no. I mean if independent Kurdistan were to be based upon what you consider to be South Kurdistan and this were established peacefully, would it be possible for the Kurds to be accept that? Can THIS goal be reached peacefully? If Kurdistan MUST include a large chunk of modern day Turkey and there is no satisfactory solution that does not include this, then we have a major dilema. Whatever happens leads to a regional trainwreck. Is there any way besides Turkey giving up their claim this can be settled peacefully?
Bhfrik, please keep in mind that not all Republicans are "NeoCons". When I was a Republican before turning Libertarian, I certainly was not.

Furthermore, why do you think Democratization of Iraq was ever a goal of Neocons? The oil! That and the free flow of it. Do you really believe the majority of our elected officials would give a crap about the Democratization of Iraq if they were located in South America and had no oil?

You said,"If it were just all about oil, we could have lifted the sanctions years ago and had the oil flowing in abundance (more than oil for food allowed anyway) from Iraq. " This is an over simplification. When it comes to producing oil Iraq is in the stone age in comparison to Saudi Arabia. Iraq has never produced anywhere near their gargantuan oil reserve capacity. Again the issue is NOT Iraq's oil. It is the general free flow of oil in the Middle East. Would we like to refine Iraq's means of production and thus add to world production? Absolutely. Without advancements in production, the world is fine without Iraq's oil. For now.

Remember, Iraq is right next to Israel and geographically the heart of the Middle East. Remember that prior to the first and elder Pres. Bush invading, Israel had their jets bomb Iraqi nuclear research facilities. They threaten to do the same to Iran and Iran is building them underground to try and prevent this from being as effective an option. Keep in mind the recent rhetoric regarding Israel that is coming out of Tehran.

This was never about Iraq's oil really. When Bush senior invaded everyone said we wanted Iraqi oil. How ignorant was that? If we wanted the Iraqi oil, why didn't Bush Sr. take it? NOBODY could stop the US or greedy oil man Bush from doing it either. Instead, we drove them out of Kuwait and back to Baghdad and then went home. Flies in the face of the oil stealing thing doesn't it. Why didn't we Democratize them then if Bush Sr. the Neocon, wanted to Democratize them at any cost? Groups would like to Democratize Iraq and we're trying now but, let's face it. We won't get American style democracy from them anytime soon. 1776- took us a long time to give everyone equal rights. It is self-delusionment to think that we can achieve but so much in a even a lifetime. Mizgîn's point even about the Iraqi Constitution as is and how it might be changed for the worse later was well put.

The US is taking on this "Mission almost Impossible" not for Democratization or the experiment thereof's sake. It is all about keeping the region stable enough to give the world it's daily oil fix. We can handle a wartime reduction scenario but, a nuclear or other WMD mass catastrophe is not an option.

Saddam used Mustard Gas on Kurds in his own land. This is far scarier to the world than the wholesale butchering and torture of the Shiites. WMDs were not used on them. Fears of Saddam, who financed suicide bombers in Palistine, using WMDs vs. Israel were high. That is one reason Israel bombed Iraqi facilities. A WMD attack on Israel would almost certainly be met with nuclear retaliation on some scale. Israel is so small in land mass. Imagine what a successful WMD attack on it would do. They would nuke in return. Trust me. The world can't have that.

Would we like a Democracy there? Of course. Would we "experiment" by implementing it by force in such volatile area that fed the world oil without a dire necessity? Absolutely not! We had to go in so, they're making the most of it. A Democracy would stabilize things by taking ultimate authority away from a single potential madman. So that is a bonus.

If you want to understand Mizgîn's point about the State Department, go ask a Republican about that department. The DOS is not run by Bush robots. Bush wishes that were true.

Saddam uses Mustard Gas inside his own borders, invades Kuwait and positions troops on Kuwait's border with Saudi Arabia. Remember all this? Iraq's military was formidable by ME standards. Iran would be a tough fight as shown before. Saudi Arabia would have been overrun if Saddam attacked.

At this point even Carter would have invaded Iraq. Do you think differently? Gore as President would have likely waited longer the second time but, keep in mind that sanctions were NOT working and it was only the Iraqi people that were suffering. The oil for food thing was being made a farce. Saddam was selling oil illegally and padding pockets everywhere. We were likely wrong about WMDs although there is a small chance they were just moved to Syria,. Still, it was not just the US that had faulty intelligence on that point. It was the world as well. Biological and Chemical agents have a shelf life and it looks like they didn't reconstitute their program as thought. The nuclear program wasn't rebuilt but, there was the fear of smuggling and the missing material from the old Soviet Union. I can't say the timeline would be the same but, yes....rhetoric aside, I believe a Democrat would have invaded eventually as well.

How else are Democrats like Republicans? From a cost of American lives perspective it would have been more efficient to capture Saddam and then leave. The Democrats would not have the arguement over throwing away American lives or an occupation that could never go well even if handled competently. However, then they would nail Bush by saying, "you cut off Iraqi oil and now they don't have the capacity to restart for years. How dare you shatter the country of Iraq and not help them rebuild what you have broken. Iraq should have been Democratized and now you have Civil War! Bush, you evil Bastard!"

The Democrats would viciously attack Bush. It doesn't matter what he does. Here's a confession: the Republicans would have done the same thing to a Democrat president in this position. From Bush's perspective, if he's gonna pay a price regardless, he might as well go for the ultimate prize. That being a democracy in Iraq that brings undreamt of stabilty to the people of Iraq and fosters other ME nations to a more positive change.

Yes. It IS about the free flow of oil.
Britt Howard, I do not see the consistency in your comment relating global devastation to mass graves in the ME. I am suspicious that this nuclear scenario is an evasion tactic, the same one that was used during the Cold War to justify all the policies that have shaped the world situation today. There is no nuclear threat on the ground in Kurdistan (and when I use that term, I mean ALL of Kurdistan, not just the one that the US acknowledges) but there are other SERIOUS realities that we must face. The same goes for the attempted equation of natural disasters to foreign policy disasters--it is not consistent.

Yes, Helebce was attacked in March, 1988. If this proved Saddam's serious threat to US stability--because we are really only talking about US stability here--why did the US leave Saddam in power for another fifteen years, even when it had the perfect opportunity to remove him in 1991? By the way, approximately 85% of Kurds are Sunni. at least in name.

I am aware of the the entitlement of rights in the US not based on ethnicity. I am also extremely aware of the fact that this is not the reality in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. If Americans really believe that murder is murder, and that it doesn't matter which group commits murder, why do Americans support a foreign policy that is the opposite? You are worried about 3,000 murdered in the WTC. I am worried about the foreign policy that permitted 30,000 to be murdered by the Turkish state in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan--and that is only an estimate of war victims, provided courtesy of the Turkish Republic. Or the 200,000 murdered by Saddam. Or the millions who continue to suffer gross violations of human rights in all of Kurdistan.

Yes, there is only so much the US can do, but the fact remains that in certain situations, the "so much" equals nothing.

As for Turkish-occupied Kurdistan, there would have been no separatism question if there had been no official ideology that denied Kurdish existence and attempted to force assimilation. It is US and Turkish policy that engage in this oppression and then turn around an label those of us who fight against it as terrorists. Were you aware of the many unilateral ceasefires called by the "terrorists," ceasefires purposely created to open a way for political negotiation? Were you aware that the "terrorists" gave up the idea of "separatism" years ago? So a peaceful approach has not worked, but a violent one has. What does that tell us? If one approach works and one is totally fruitless, where should we expend our efforts?

I do not believe US activity in the ME is a simple question of oil. It is a question of regional power and control. Besides, there is another resource in Kurdistan which is even more valuable to the region than oil. Iraqi oil production is in the stone age because of the Ba'athi. I guess no one realizes that Iraq was the most progressive and cosmopolitan Arab country until the Ba'athi took power, light-years ahead of the regional US darling, Saudi Arabia. The state of Iraqi infrastructure today has more to do with Ba'athi rape and pillage of the country than anything else, because even under sanctions, much could have been done for the Iraqis. South Kurdistan suffered under double sanctions, the one the world placed on Iraq AND the one Saddam placed on Kurds. Yet, in that time, Kurdish infant mortality rates DECREASED. This also proves that Kurds are the only ones who will effectively insure Kurdish survival in the future.

bhfrik, do you realize that the Straussian (neo-con) approach to political philosophy regards the ideology of the American Founding Fathers as a myth? That the founding ideology is useful only as an illusion for the masses, but that the decisions of a "real" democracy should lie only in the hands of an "elite" because they are the only ones capable of determining true value-relativism, thereby preventing all of us from slipping into nihilism and anarchy? How is that consistent with the idea of democracy? Therefore, I stand by my previous statements that the elite is not concerned with democracy per se.

For both of you, why will an independent South Kurdistan threaten Turkey?
Mizgîn, I am totally consistent in arguement. Perhaps I wasn't clear in relaying my message. You took some things in a way that was not meant.

Firstly, you are correct that there is no nuclear threat in Kurdistan. The Nuclear threat comes from Israel. I am not blaming any instability or WMD threat on the Kurds. The nuclear threat comes to bear if a Saddam or Iranian leader is willing to use WMDs on Isreal because, Israel would retaliate with nuclear arms against a WMD attack. Their land mass is so small that a WMD attack could nearly cripple them. Saddam showed a propensity to use WMDs when he gassed the Kurds. It is one thing to use it vs. Iran which was an even match but, to use WMDs inside your own borders is insane.

There has always been Arab nations that are sworn to eliminate Israel from the map. Listen to the threatening rhetoric from Iran. The chances that Israel will make a preemptive strike vs. Iran becomes increasingly higher. This will be one similar to the one they made on Iraq only it won't be as effective on underground sites.

The reason that Saddam was not removed the first time is that it was hoped he would behave afterward and that the search and seizure of WMDs after the first war would suffice. The toppling of Saddam was seen as unstabilizing because, it would and does give power to the Shiite to the south and a collaboration with Iran is a distabilizing factor. The US at the 2nd invasion decided that sanctions and attempted weapons inspections were not going well enough to ensure stability. Intelligence on their WMD rebuilding was likely to be wrong.

Yes, I understand that most Kurds are Sunni. The ethnic difference only points to the fact that Saddam was a racist or at least regarded the Kurds as a political threat and had to be dealt with his usual Iron Fist that he uses against all opposition.

I meant no analogy between global devastation and mass graves in the ME. I was pointing out that if there was a use of Nuclear arms in response to nuclear/chemical/biologicals from Iran or a untouched Saddam in Iraq, that there would be no "reversal of fortune" because the use of nukes by Israel would make the ME uninhabitable. The loss of oil from a nuclear devastated ME would also lead to a global war.

I meant no comparison between a possible global devastation and already existing mass graves among the Kurdish or Shiite.

Yes, "power" and "control" is sought by the West in the ME. You are right there. However, the reason for that desire is to make sure that there is a stable free flow of oil. If there was no unrest, or if there was no oil there, or if Israel did not have nuclear weapons and their homeland was located on another continent, the US and the rest of the global powers would not seek power or control in the ME.

You are right when you state that the limited means to save lives and freedom amounts to nothing in some if not many cases. The Kurdish region of Turkey is such an example. Turkish prisons have a reputation. I would wish that on no person.

If a Kurdish state located in N.Iraq is all that is wanted, then I think over time that is very possible. Long term.

As I tried to mention before, the only US interest to look away from the plight of the Kurds is the non-seperation concerns of Turkey and stabilty in the region.

If it is plainly shown in the future that the Kurds are not interested in taking any present day Turkish land and, Kurds living still in Turkey will either accept Turkish rule or migrate to N. Iraq, then the US will not see the logic of their ally opposing that. Despite what has been said, I think Turkey feels a Kurdish state in N.Iraq will lead to a land grab of Turkish land as a part of Greater Kurdistan. What must be done is to insist that Turkish soil is not sought as a part of a new Kurdish state. Invite the US to help garauntee that will never happen and then Turkey has a lot less to be threatened about. At that point a continued cooperation with the rest of Iraq must be maintained. The Sunni are concerned about oil access. An ally can be found in them and opposition to Federalization can be dropped if Kurds and Sunni jointly insist oil benefit ALL of Iraq. It will also provide a greater chance that each region can be governed as each side has more of a taste for. I agree that a Kurdish state that consists of only N.Iraq and shares resources with a seperate Iraqi government can be more stable than what we had before. The key is the process needs to be based in removing logical fears of Turkey and the rest of Iraq. If this is done, I see no reason that there can not be world wide support and insistance for a Kurdish state.

You are partly correct in your comparison to the Cold War. The Cold War is over but, there is a bit of analogy there. The threat of Iraq has been removed. The big problem now is Iran. If Iran truly wants only nuclear energy for power plants and has no design on destroying Israel, then this "Cold war" aspect to the ME disappears. Since the Iraqi WMD threat is certifiably removed, anything short of civil war would probably be acceptable to the US. Iran's present day rhetoric and non-cooperation on the nuclear issue is a problem. Notice how we did not try to stop Pakistan or India from keeping nuclear weapons. If the world feels those nations won't use them except in response to full attack this is not seen as destablitizing enough to interfere. Pakistan is too preoccupied with India to bother threatening Israel. The problem is with local nuclear capable Arab nations wishing to war with Israel. At this point Iran is the only problem left. Let's hope Iran becomes reasonable. Keep watching the news on this.

To be clear:
I would personally support a Kurdish state that consists only of N.Iraq as long as there is an oil resource agreement that Oil production benefits all 3 regions of present day Iraq after the seperation.
As to how familiar I am with Straussian theory, feel free to check an earlier post of mine here:

As to how an independent Kurdistan threatens Turkey: In a slightly more perfect world it would not. However in my way of thinking, if this administration is truly dead set on 'stay the course' then it is clear an independent Kurdistan threatens not just Turkey, but American allied Iraq. I would love to have the U.S. sit down at the table with Turkish and Kurdish representatives and get this worked out peacefully. I just don't think that will happen with this administration at the reins. If I am correct in this, and the Kurds are (justifiably) intent on an independent Kurdistan... you can see where my concern lies.

Britt... to really argue that ANY administration would have gone into Iraq is just silly in my humble, and sometimes wrong opinion. The Iraq quagmire truly is a neocon experiment, and I find it difficult to imagine how a Gore administration would have brought us to this pass. You really believe Iraq was brought to us out of some sort of necessity or that it really HAD to be done? There is plenty of evidence this invasion was planned well before 9/11 by the Bushovichs, and they were intent after 9/11 to use that tragedy to justify Iraq. It was the stated policy of Clinton, even incorrectly convinced though he was that Iraq still had wmd, of long term containment of Saddam. To honestly believe that the Iraq quagmire would have been launched by any administration possibly elected in 2000 is simply not credible.

"Britt... to really argue that ANY administration would have gone into Iraq is just silly in my humble, and sometimes wrong opinion."-Bhfrik

Ok, I'm silly.

"There is plenty of evidence this invasion was planned well before 9/11 by the Bushovichs, and they were intent after 9/11 to use that tragedy to justify Iraq."-Bhfrik

Also correct but, my silly response would be, "Um...Duh!".The planning would occur after reviewing the results of the last war and alongside reviewing "containment" strategies ie. weapons inspections & seizures, sanctions, and political pressures. So yes, most if not all of that was pre-9/11.

"It was the stated policy of Clinton, even incorrectly convinced though he was that Iraq still had wmd, of long term containment of Saddam." -Bhfrik

WMD Intelligence failure by Clinton is a 2 pt. score for Bush. The containment strategy of Clinton which was also pre-911, is still consistent with my view. Bush Sr. initiated containment instead of regime change. How not the Republican conquerer of him there, btw. Containment was continued through Clinton and reconsidered by Bush JR. likely before he even took office. To think that there was not alternative planning under Clinton for invasion is a mistake. Alternatives to containment were likely envisioned by Bush Sr. after initializing search and contain.

"To honestly believe that the Iraq quagmire would have been launched by any administration possibly elected in 2000 is simply not credible."- Bhfrik

That's like Cheney stating that anyone "honestly believing" in liberalism is not "credible". Perhaps it may seem unlikely given your perspective but, I do believe that. I will grant that Gore would not have acted as quickly. I also believe Clinton(who warred in Yugoslavia and fired missles into Iraq, etc) would have acted faster than Gore. I bolster the credibility of my believing this by mentioning the following:

1) Pre- first war, Iraq had already committed atrocities, had Israel bomb it's nuclear research facilities, invaded Kuwait, not only punished Kuwait for alledged off angle oil drilling but, poised military positions on the Saudi border having already claimed Kuwait as the "long lost state of Iraq". Hitler's justification for invading Austria and Czechloslavakia come to mind. Add the fact a very nervous Israel has nukes.
I state that Carter,Clinton, or Gore would have invaded at that point regardless of rhetoric given from the position of being in the opposition party. I agree that this instance is more clear cut at this point than the second invasion. I do allow for a difference in speed but, not result.

2)Of course 9/11 was used to partly justify the 2nd invasion. The mass graves were also. The violations of UN resolutions, Saddam financing suicide bombers in Israel, the possibility of leaking WMDs to terrorist organizations in Israel and al Qaeda were all mentioned at one point. 9/11 and WMDs were the points that had traction in the public. Bush went with that.

3) A scary situation with Iran is looming. Iran has threatened Israel and Israel is planning air strikes on Iran's nuclear sites. Iran does not yet have nukes but, does have nerve agents. Israel can not as easily take out Iranian sites as they are underground and "militarily hardened" with such strikes in mind. Iran has recently bought a very viable air defense system from Russia as well. Another complication is that Iraq's oil production was never enough to be vital. Iran's however, is much needed not by the US but, the rest of the world. Israel is in a bad spot. They wish they had the luxuary of a Cold War like the US had with the USSR and Pakistan has had with India. The problem is Iran is sworn to destroy Israel. Israel has the position of attack now and face a messy war with Nerve agents or wait unitl Iran has Nuclear warheads. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

4)If Gore won and merely toppled Saddam and left, we would have had almost no US casulties but, there would have been civil war and the people of Iraq would have suffered. Gore would fall victim of "why don't you care about Iraqi people? Now they produce no oil! You Dems blamed Bush Sr. for not finishing the job and look at you. You should have rebuilt Iraq and made for a stable Democratic Iraq in the ME."
Of course if Gore did as Bush Jr. did, he would be victim of the same rhetoric that Bush Jr. faces today.

Lastly, the whole thing with the Kurds to the North. I just love how you just painted the Dems as the friends of the Kurds but, the Repubs as the enemy. *sarcasm* I know it is common pratice for each party to demonize the mantras of the other. "Stay the Course" I can only imagine what you were doing during the whole "1,000 points of light" thing. The demonization of the Republican mantra has become a mantra unto itself. I think both uses of "stay the course" turn to use ad hominem......silly. I maintain my positive view of a free Kurdish state in N.Iraq into the future. Although, I must qualify by saying I am no longer Republican. As a Libertarian, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of defending Bush on this blog for some reason. At least on this topic.
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