Monday, July 09, 2007

AIR POWER, RACISM, AND THE PKK

"Since the guerrilla units in the War of Resistance (and in all other revolutionary wars) generally grow out of nothing and expand from a small to a large force, they must preserve themselves and, moreover, they must expand."
~ Mao Tse Tung, Selected Works, Volume 2.


There's a really good article at Mother Jones today, by Tom Engelhardt, on American air power. After a brief history of the effects of air power in Indochina, the article recounts some of the recent "mistakes" suffered by Afghanis, thanks to the application of air power, which "have, in fact, become so commonplace that, in the news, they begin to blur into what looks, more and more, like a single, ongoing airborne slaughter of civilians." In case you missed the news on any of that, a partial list of some of the more recent "mistakes" is given, including some that have taken place in Iraq, along with a short rundown of the air wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The only problem with the article in all this counting and recounting is the absence of any mention of last December's American air war in Somalia. But in the case of Somalia, after thousands of civilians fled toward Kenya from the American-backed Ethiopian invasion, US Özel Timler were flown into the area with the orders, as reported at the link, "Kill anyone still alive and leave no unidentified bodies behind."

American intelligence had said that somewhere in all the civilian carnage were three--count 'em, three--al-Qaeda types. I guess this is supposed to be an illustration of the saying, "Kill them all; Let god sort them out."

Finally, Englehardt, back at Mother Jones, comes to his conclusion:


This [civilian dead "including women and children"] is not an aberrant side effect of air war but its heart and soul. The airplane is a weapon of war, but it is also a weapon of terror -- and it is meant to be. From the beginning, it was used not to "win over" enemy populations -- after all, how could that be done from the distant skies? -- but to crush or terrorize them into submission. (It has seldom worked that way.)

[ . . . ]

We in the U.S. recognize butchery when we see it -- the atrocity of the car bomb, the chlorine-gas truck bomb, the beheading. These acts are obviously barbaric in nature. But our favored way of war -- war from a distance -- has, for us, been pre-cleansed of barbarism. Or rather its essential barbarism has been turned into a set of "errant incidents," of "accidents," of "mistakes" repeatedly made over more than six decades. Air power is, in the military itself, little short of a religion of force, impermeable to reason, to history, to examples of what it does (and what it is incapable of doing). It is in our interest not to see air war as a -- possibly the -- modern form of barbarism.


Let's not forget that there have been a number of "friendly fire" incidents as a result of the American use of air power in Iraq, including that of pêşmerge special forces and a British army convoy in 2003, and that of PUK pêşmerge earlier this year who were taken to be al-Qaeda by American pilots . . . even though the US military was well aware of the PUK checkpoint near Mûsil, where the slaughter took place.

As a dutiful lapdog, Turkey follows the US lead, including the use of air power. Everyone knows that American aircraft in the service of the Paşas was used to bomb South Kurdistani civilians ("including women and children") throughout the years of the very ironically named "safe haven." In fact, the Paşas were running the entire Operation Northern Watch show, and whenever they felt like bombing more Kurdish civilians ("including women and children"), British and American pilots obligingly followed orders to vacate air space for incoming Turkish missions.

The pretext for Turkey's slaughter of Kurds was its obsession with "crushing" PKK . . . as if such a thing could ever happen. But, as Engelhardt so correctly points out at Mother Jones, quoting a British officer who had served in Afghanistan, "Every civilian dead means five new Taliban." We might also say, "Every civilian dead means five new gerîlas," and we might begin to say so now that we have a new OHAL and new bombing. As reported in Zaman:


A soldier was killed in a mine attack by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists in Uludere district of Şırnak province -- in response fighter jets are aiding increased operations with aerial support.

[ . . . ]

Fighter jets from Second Tactical Air Command are supporting the operations from the air, bombing nonstop the points where the terrorists are thought to be located.


Are those really terrorists? Or are they civilians?

No doubt they are using the same kind of American aircraft that Lockheed Martin's PKK coordinator recently sold to Turkey. No doubt, too, in any invasion of South Kurdistan--in yet another vain attempt to "crush" the PKK--the Ankara regime will continue to behave like a good lapdog and follow the "American attitude towards air power" air war,yet again resulting in the slaughter of Kurdish civilians ("including women and children").

It might be argued by these "civilized" warmongers that they use the tools of "distant war" (aircraft, artillery, missiles, etc.) because they want to keep their own kind safe, thus reducing their casualties. However, I tend to think that Engelhardt hit the nail squarely on the head when he raises the issue of racism in connection with air war:


Since 1945, American air power has regularly been used to police the imperial borders of the planet. (Serbia in 1999 was the sole exception to this rule.) As Afghan President Karzai put the matter in response to recent reports of civilian casualties in his country: "We want to cooperate with the international community. It has, that is, been released against people of color, against what used to be called the Third World.We are thankful for their help to Afghanistan, but that does not mean that Afghan lives have no value. Afghan life is not cheap and it should not be treated as such." (His bitter comment eerily reflects another from the Vietnam era, more than thirty years gone. "The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient" -- so said former commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam General William Westmoreland in 1974.)

It may be that American administrations would have been no less willing to release their bombs and missiles on white noncombatant populations (as was the case with Germany in World War II); but it can at least be said that, for the last half-century-plus, air power has functionally acted as an armed form of racism, that the sense of "their lives" as cheaper, even if seldom spoken aloud, has made it easier to use the helicopter, the bomber, the Hellfire-missile-armed Predator drone. The fact is that air war always cheapens human life. After all, from the heights, if seen at all, people must have something of the appearance of scurrying insects. It is the nature of such war, and an ingrained racism, seldom mentioned any more, only adds to it.


Certainly, the Ankara regime is well qualified to be called a racist regime. It has been official Turkish state racism that has attempted to deny and wipe out the existence of Kurds for the last 84 years. It was official Turkish state racism that prompted Erdoğan to state just a few years ago that he would oppose an independent Kurdistan even if it were in Argentina. It is official Turkish state racism that has refused to extend an official invitation to the president of Iraq--a Kurd. It is official Turkish state racism that fuels Ankara regime officials to refer to South Kurdistani leaders as "tribal chiefs."

And it is this same racism that the US, NATO, and the international community have actively supported for decades, with no chance of change in sight.

The real barbarians have not gotten it through their fat heads that the blood of Kurdish şehîds--including gerîla and civilian, including young and old, including women and children--is the seed of coming generations of Kurdish freedom fighters.

1 comment:

Cizîrê Botan said...

Ocalan also called Barzani/Talabani tribal leaders/feudal leaders.