Thursday, May 22, 2008


"Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth."
~ Albert Einstein.

First of all, Gordon Taylor's book, Fever and Thirst: An American Doctor in Iraq, 1835-1844, is coming out in paperback and is available for pre-order from The introduction to the paperback edition is currently available online at History News Network. Here's a taste:

Everything seems so different now. From my room here in Sulaimani, in Kurdish Iraq, I can look down the street to the dilapidated green domed Shiite mosque and, from there, to the more prosperous Sunni mosque not too far behind it. Up the street is Kurdish Cultural Center next to the Chaldean Catholic church, next to the headquarters of the Communist Party. Overlooking it all is a heavily treed compound that everyone says is the CIA headquarters. No one seems to think twice about any of this; religion, tribe, sect, nationality, this part of Kurdistan they all seem to coexist peacefully, even happily, together.

Compared to the world described in this extraordinary book, things seem different, things are different. The Kurds of Iraq, once surely one of the most ferocious people anywhere, have calmed down a good bit. Getting a job, owning a Nissan dealership, visiting Europe, flirting and being flirted with...all these are more important these days than cutting off your neighbor's ear. Commerce, trade, and money-making have worked their wonders on this part of the world, and turned peoples' attention to less sanguinary pursuits. Islam - never as fanatical here as in other parts of the Middle East - remains a mildly cohesive rather than a divisive element. And nationalism, Kurdish nationalism, exercises an attractive force that erodes, dissolves , many of the petty differences that only recently separated tribe and village and family.

So maybe everything is different now, and maybe Gordon Taylor's book is simply a beautifully written, impeccably researched, compellingly told historical curiosity. But... why do I have this odd feeling this book is more than that?

Does anyone remember the Kurdistan Referendum Movement or the fact that not too long ago, 98% of the population of South Kurdistan voted for independence? If you do, you may want to take a look at a well-deserved rant over at KurdishMedia:

As Kurds we missed a unique opportunity to declare our independence in South Kurdistan. Establishment and independence of the Kurdish state should have been the sole Kurdish goal in any negotiations with the US before the war, and we had all the legal and moral rights for that. Nothing less should have been accepted by the Kurdish leaders and by the fighting Peshmerga. Could anything less be reasonable or even possible after all the sufferings and losses under Saddam’s satanic dictatorship; can anything else guarantee the security of our people today? The Kurdish people answered this question in the referendum unequivocally: 98% want independence, want free and sovereign Kurdistan!

[ . . . ]

We now see how South Kurdistan is turned into another of Washington’s puppet regimes in the region. But unlike other client states, the KRG has no sovereignty or authority at all. It is not even in the second class of the American slave system. The Kurdish territory is referred to as “North Iraq”, the Kurds are “Iraqis” in the political and diplomatic language of the “international community”. They are there just to implement Washington’s instructions, and must do it without protest.

The status of Kerkuk and other Kurdish territories should have been clarified at the end of last year according to the constitution, but it is still unresolved. Everything is done to keep the Kurds under constant threat that their achievement can be taken away from them any time. See the instructions of Arab and Oil lobbyists in “The Way Forward” for Iraq, and the reports from institutes established and run by oil companies that shape Washington’s Middle East policies. The 6-month postponement of the Kerkuk-referendum is one example. It is coming to an end soon, but where is the evidence that it will be actually carried out? Americans, Turks, and Arabs are doing everything in front and behind the scenes that the Kurdish city will stay excluded from Kurdish jurisdiction because of the oil.

History is important to understand how states behave today. History teaches that a benevolent Uncle Sam has never existed. The USA is a predatory global empire, as were Great Britain, France, Germany and others previously. The historical record of Americans, Turks, and Arabs is the same: They are all conquerors and occupiers of lands belonging to others; they are destroyers of indigenous cultures and societies; for territory and resources they have murdered and carried out genocides. No wonder to see them act so similar, to see them cooperate so eagerly when the issues are of strategic and material interest.

However as the predatory core state of the white race, the USA seeks benefits for itself and its European kin only. Washington’s interest in the Middle East has nothing to do with democracy, freedom, or justice. These values are valid, valued, and protected only within Western “civilisation” for the benefit of Western societies. Outside the Western sphere, in places where there is oil and other essential raw materials to exploit, democracy and freedom are treated as enemies of the West. In free and sovereign societies, the beneficiaries of the countries’ natural resources are the indigenous people, and not foreign corporations thousands of miles away.

[ . . . ]

The Kurdish leaders need to see the bigger picture and take actions accordingly. Becoming slaves and servants of a different master cannot be the option. They must implement the people’s will, which is the will for self-determination and independence from all foreign rule, all efforts must be directed towards that goal. Make no mistake, there are no friends around. We are surrounded by aggressive wolves waiting for the opportunity to attack. What measures have been taken to protect the people? What will we do when the Turks decide to invade? Are there any weapons to stop them? Constructing more shopping centres, hotels, villas will not stop the invasion. These buildings can be destroyed by air in one day. Military aggression is not a threat anymore, it is real and bloody.

We trusted in the benevolence of Uncle Sam, we simply believed his promises of freedom and security. What is the result? Turkish military aggression permitted and supported by the USA! The borders to South Kurdistan are now, as before, open to the Turkish fascists called TSK to murder and destroy. And they are making use of it. The Turkish air force is launching raids as a routine now. The criminal and racist rulers in Ankara are unpredictable and could, under the pretext of combating “terrorists” or “protecting” their Turkmen brethrens, invade any time. They do not recognize the Kurdistan Regional Government; they cannot accept Kurds as Kurds with a political position and will. They refer to the Kurdish representatives as “tribe chiefs”, to the Kurds as mountain tribes without identity. The Kemalist and Islamist Turks have not changed their racist attitudes as if Saddam was still in power and the political reality the same as before. Consequently they only regard Baghdad and the Arab leaders, the representatives of Arab Iraq, as political equals. The Kurdish territory, “northern Iraq” according to Ankara, is seen and described only as “security risk” for the Turkish state, and continuously warned and threatened. The only success story of post-invasion Iraq is looked at with envious and evil eyes. For a master race as Turks believe themselves to be, there simply cannot be an independent and successful Kurdish society. There can only be Kurdish slaves in service of the Turkish people and state. That had been the theological and imperial understanding of Ottoman Turks, and today it is the view of the Kemalists and the ruling Islamists. And let us not deceive ourselves – that is not just the view of the rulers, but of most Turks!


Don't miss Dr. Kristiina Koivunen's first post on her recent trip to Hewlêr. In this post, she visits the textile museum and describes her impressions:

I have very many things to tell about my journey to South Kurdistan. Instead of writing long reports I will put here pictures. I start with Hawler Textil Museum which is located in the Citadel and is open every day.

Iraqi Kurds love everything what is new - and made in factories (which are of course in other countries and do not produce things according the Kurdish style).

I do not want to be unpolite towards Iraqi Kurds but they seem to lack such knowledge and respect of their own culture than people in North Kurdistan have. There Kurdish kelims and handicrafts can be seen every where - in South Kurdistan I saw traditional Kurdish carpets during three weeks only in the museum. The long years of isolation and economical hardship have taken its toll also in this sense: 25 000 old Kurdish rugs were exported to Iran during early 90s (also other second hand things are usually sold to Iran).

Now this hundreds years knowledge of carpet weaving is not passed to next generation in the Iraqi part of Kurdistan. I really hope that people there understand what they will lose if this thing does not change quikly. Kilims are the traditional art of Kurdish women.

But why bother to preserve the art of the beautiful Kurdish kilim when you can import new, cheap shit from Turkey, Iran, or even China? Stay tuned; Dr. Kristiina is sure to have more reports in the coming days, and don't miss her photos.

Hevallo has a recent column written by Mehmet Ali Birand. Take a look at it and then compare it with the attitude of the TSK towards its own soldiers.


Gordon Taylor said...

First of all, I would be less than gracious if I didn't thank Mizgin for plugging F&T, even though (let's face it) the book's sales are of interest to me alone.

Second, regarding the very interesting rant from Kurdish Media, I would say of course--no person, no nation, no political movement, is entirely altruistic or entirely predatory. Karl Marx was wrong about a lot of things, but he certainly got it right when he said that human beings proclaim their values and ideals but in the end primarily act from economic motives. Certainly Americans are no different.

Personally, I take a tragic view of history: the view that even the best of us are half blind, groping our way through the cave of life. Collisions are inevitable; misunderstandings rule the day; no good deeds will go unpunished. Plato's cave is the popular metaphor, but I especially remember a car that I saw in SW Turkey in 1966. This happened near the Aci Gol, on the road between Dinar and Denizli: a desolate rainy day in a desolate landscape. The car coming at us was a Chevrolet station wagon. All of the windshield was broken out, and in its place the driver had put wooden boards. The entire windshield was boarded up--except for a tiny slit for the driver to peer out of. In this he was driving about 100km/hour or more, in a pelting rain. For me, that is my metaphor, not only for Turkey but for the entire human race.

I will not defend the b.s. of Nechirvan Barzani or Mr. Talabani; however, I know that they have no easy row to hoe. In the end it all comes down to the brass hats who lead the TSK. As long as the U.S. government continues to value their hunger for American arms over the hunger of Anatolian people for decency, nothing will be resolved. Personally, I think the pashas are schoolyard bullies with more bluster than real might. Sure, they could cause mayhem in So. Kurdistan, but anybody who looks objectively at their capabilities, coupled with the Kurds' (incl. the peshmergas' newly-gained knowledge of what an IED can do), knows that any Turkish invasion would be an absolute fiasco. I mean, everybody talks about the formidable Turkish Army, but the vast majority of them are draftees who are just counting the days until they get out. If I were a So. Kurdish politician I wouldn't push them too far, but I wouldn't be afraid of them either.

dengbej said...

I'm not sure why you think that Dr. Kristiina Koivunen can give a definitive word on the people and culture of southern Kurdistan. Just because she has not seen shops selling the right carpets during the course of her thusfar short, choreographed tourist visit, it does not mean that such shops do not exist, does it? I don't see why she is so quick to pass judgment or why you are so quick to agree and criticize the Kurds of the south.