Monday, June 19, 2006


"Borders are scratched across the hearts of men, by strangers with a calm, judicial pen, and when the borders bleed we watch with dread the lines of ink along the map turn red."
~ Marya Mannes.

Some of you who watch the Kurdish issue around the world, may remember an American named Ralph Peters. He's a retired US Army officer (military intelligence) who has written well for Kurds, most recently for Başurî Kurds, but he has also not shied away from the fact that the Bakurî are also horribly oppressed by the Ankara regime.

There's a little something from Ralph Peters in the Armed Forces Journal, a little essay of his aptly titled "Blood Borders." As he correctly points out, borders change all the time and he cites the borders drawn by Europeans as part of the core problem with Middle East restlessness that is not self-contained. In other words, the borders of the Middle East help to export the problems of the Middle East worldwide:

While the Middle East has far more problems than dysfunctional borders alone — from cultural stagnation through scandalous inequality to deadly religious extremism — the greatest taboo in striving to understand the region's comprehensive failure isn't Islam but the awful-but-sacrosanct international boundaries worshipped by our own diplomats.

Take that, State Department.

Of course he mentions the Kurds, since it is impossible to conceive of a peaceful Middle East without a just solution to this arbitrary division of Kurdistan by means of "blood borders." But the thing that I notice this time, is that Ralph seems to be turning a corner, and more fully embracing the idea of justice for the Kurds of Turkish-occupied Kurdistan:

The most glaring injustice in the notoriously unjust lands between the Balkan Mountains and the Himalayas is the absence of an independent Kurdish state. There are between 27 million and 36 million Kurds living in contiguous regions in the Middle East (the figures are imprecise because no state has ever allowed an honest census). Greater than the population of present-day Iraq, even the lower figure makes the Kurds the world's largest ethnic group without a state of its own. Worse, Kurds have been oppressed by every government controlling the hills and mountains where they've lived since Xenophon's day.

The U.S. and its coalition partners missed a glorious chance to begin to correct this injustice after Baghdad's fall. A Frankenstein's monster of a state sewn together from ill-fitting parts, Iraq should have been divided into three smaller states immediately. We failed from cowardice and lack of vision, bullying Iraq's Kurds into supporting the new Iraqi government — which they do wistfully as a quid pro quo for our good will. But were a free plebiscite to be held, make no mistake: Nearly 100 percent of Iraq's Kurds would vote for independence.

As would the long-suffering Kurds of Turkey, who have endured decades of violent military oppression and a decades-long demotion to "mountain Turks" in an effort to eradicate their identity. While the Kurdish plight at Ankara's hands has eased somewhat over the past decade, the repression recently intensified again and the eastern fifth of Turkey should be viewed as occupied territory. As for the Kurds of Syria and Iran, they, too, would rush to join an independent Kurdistan if they could. The refusal by the world's legitimate democracies to champion Kurdish independence is a human-rights sin of omission far worse than the clumsy, minor sins of commission that routinely excite our media. And by the way: A Free Kurdistan, stretching from Diyarbakir through Tabriz, would be the most pro-Western state between Bulgaria and Japan.

Hell, yes, every Kurd would rush to join an independent Kurdistan, if they could. Independent Greater Kurdistan is the Holy Grail of Kurdish life, meaning self-rule, right to life, mother-language education, and not having to carry around an AK-47 any more. It means having the opportunity to solve your own problems without the constant, violent meddling of the neighbors.

Notice what Ralph says about the world's democracies and media ignoring the Kurdish issue, something he characterizes as "a human-rights sin of omission." It is this fact that makes me question the whole idea of what these democracies stand for and what good they really are. Do these democracies really believe in democracy, or do they only believe in democracy for themselves? Do they believe in democracies for others but discount the possibility for the Middle East in general and Kurds in particular?

This reminds me of something Kanan Makiya said in an interview back in 2003, in which he pointed out that the State Department does not believe in democracy for the Middle East. The interviewer remarked that Kanan's comments sounded like he was describing racism as a factor in the State Department's policies and methods of operating. Kanan agreed with this observation, stating:

It's certainly how I felt with many officials that I had to deal with in the U.S. government. By the way, it's even worse in Europe. It's condescension, and they treat you in the most condescending possible ways. Actually, when you see them work inside Iraq later on, you see this condescension change. You know, all of a sudden they like inculcating little NGO's. ...

In close connection with this is the lack of support for women's rights in the Islamic/Arab world by Western feminists, cows who are too busy making excuses for totalitarian political Islam to bother with women of the Middle East--the one group that suffers double repression. But once again, on this subject, Ralph Peters links the growth of democracy in the Middle East to women's rights:

The true symbols of the War on Terror are the Islamic veil and the two-piece woman's business suit.

The math is basic. No civilization that excludes half its population from full participation in society and the economy can compete with the United States and its key allies. Yet Middle Eastern societies, especially, have dug in their heels to resist change. Some, such as Turkey, Pakistan and Iran, have tumbled backward.

Islamist terrorists have formed the last, great boy's club, meeting in caves and warning girls to stay out — or, in the case of the 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta, demanding that women be kept from his grave to avoid polluting it. Their vision offers women fewer rights by far than those enjoyed by the wives of the prophet Mohammed. They are women-hating sadists for whom faith is an excuse. Their fears are primal.

Ralph would feel right at home at Qandîl.

From the "great boys' club" of totalitarian political Islam, to the great feminists clubs in Western academe, to the State Department and other Western foreign ministries, plus all their little tin horns in the media--it's all condescension. That's our nice way of putting it. It doesn't help either that all of these groups benefit by their relationships with states like Saudi Arabia or Turkey. They're probably benefitting under the table from Iran as well, just as certain ones were benefitting from Saddam.

Borders on the ground and borders in society, all framed and maintained by the status quo; It's long past time that both must go.


Anonymous said...

It is great to see a strategist and thinker of Ralph Peters' stature so clearly grasp the nettle. As I've said before, the Kurds got a bad break because of Cold War politics, which crushed the freedom of many millions (most behind the Iron Curtain).

The only military-strategic thinkers of any ability today in the US were "on the right" during the Cold War, and had a strong predisposition to favor Turkey, and swallow pro-Turkish propaganda. [I was in this category, too] But the Turks really opened our eyes in 2003 by trying to sabotage the Iraq invasion, and I guarantee they will never recover from it here.

Let's hope more influential thinkers will join Ralph Peters.

Mizgîn said...

Ralph Peters has been pretty good about the Kurdish thing since I started noticing him in 2003. He has criticized Turkey in the past (either in '03 or '04, I don't remember now) about the human rights issue and Kurds, but I think, like many people, he is seeing that this whole EU accession process has gone nowhere. The turning point on this for all those who had the blankets pulled up over their heads for years, was the Amed serhildan. Possibly the Semdinli bombing too. Then the Council of State attack, and the whole Susurluk-ish thread that runs through all of this.

Nothing has changed. I think the 5-year ceasefire lulled people into thinking things were getting better. However, even last year, when I was last on the ground there, there was really the sense that things were going to get worse and that the ceasefire had been a negative peace on the part of the state. No real improvements were made. Everyone just relaxed a little bit, but the tension was definitely under the surface.

Even the nonsense with Kurdish-language broadcasting. . . it's such a joke, such a nothing. It's censorship.

Very few people say that North Kurdistan is occupied. It's not even on their radar. This is why I think Ralph has had an epiphany, and that's why he's saying that North Kurdistan should be considered occupied territory.