April 18, 2007

Where Kurdistan Meets the Red Zone

“If Turkey allows itself to interfere in the matter of Kirkuk, we will do the same…in Turkey.” – Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani.

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KIRKUK, IRAQ – Just south of the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq’s northernmost provinces lies the violence-stricken city of Kirkuk, the bleeding edge of Iraq’s “greater” Kurdistan, and the upper-most limit of the asymmetric battleground known as the Red Zone. Kirkuk is claimed and counterclaimed by Iraq’s warring factions and is a lightning rod for foreign powers – namely Turkey -- that fear a violent ethnic unraveling of their own that could be triggered by any change in Kirkuk’s convulsive status quo.

I spent a day there with Member of Parliament and Peshmerga General “Mam” Rostam, Kirkuk’s Chief of Police Major Sherzad, my colleague Patrick Lasswell, and our driver Hamid Shkak. You could stay a month in Kirkuk hunkered down in a compound or a house and not see or hear signs of war. But violence erupts somewhere in Kirkuk several times every day. If you go there with a Kurdish army general, as we did, and spend your day with the city’s chief of police, as we also did, you will see violence or at least the aftermath of some violence. This isn’t a maybe. So I brought my video camera as well as my Nikon along.

From the safety of the Kurdish city of Suleimaniya – where the war is already over – Kirkuk looks like the mouth of Hell. It’s outside the safe fortress of the Kurdistan mountains and down in the hot and violent plains. The city doesn’t look much better up close, and you can feel the tension rise with the temperature in the car on the way down there.

Patrick and I woke Mam (“Uncle”) Rostam first thing in the morning at his house in Suleimaniya. He told us we could follow him to Kirkuk, where he works every day, so we hired a world class driver to do the job.

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World class driver Hamid Shkak

Hamid Shkak spent years driving foreigners around war zones in south and central Iraq. He has more experience than anyone I know steering clear of IEDs, barreling through ambush sites at 120 miles an hour, and veering around spontaneously exploding firefights. He was perfect for the job, and we had little choice but to trust him and Mam Rostam with our lives.

Hamid told us more than I really wanted to know about the limits of armored cars in a war zone. (Our car did not even have any armor.) “B7 and B8 cars are armored in the factory,” he said. “They put armor on top and below for IEDs. It provides a cage around the passengers. The whole car could explode, but you’ll be safe inside the cage. The only problem is the cage might get locked and sealed from the heat. Also, if four bullets strike the same place, the fourth will go through the armor. The companies will not tell you this.”

We followed Mam Rostam’s car through a Kurdish police checkpoint on our way outside the city of Suleimaniya. He got big smiles and waves all around from the police as they recognized the famous general and member of parliament on his way to work in the morning

Mam Rostam is a genuine bad ass, and he’s either famous or infamous depending on who you ask.

“He’s a nutter!” said an academic friend of mine in Washington who knows him well.

“He’s a show-off,” said another friend in Erbil. “He took some journalists to see the oil fields in Kirkuk and purposely drove down a street where he knew they would be shot at with mortars. The journalists screamed and cowered in the back while Mam Rostam laughed in the front seat. Tell him to roll up his pants and show you the scars on his leg.”

A few nights earlier Patrick and I had dinner at Judge Rizgar Mohammad Ameen’s house. Rizgar was the first of many judges in the trial of Saddam Hussein.

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Judge Rizgar, the first judge in the trial of Saddam Hussein

He told us that when he flew with Mam Rostam in a plane from Suleimaniya to Baghdad they were forced by the airport control tower to fly in circles for an hour and twenty minutes before they received permission to land. “They knew Mam Rostam was on the plane,” the judge joked. “They did not want him landing in their city.”

Thirty minutes or so outside the city of Suleimaniya the mountains began to get smaller. Jagged snow-capped peaks were replaced with surreal rugged hills.

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We were on our way out of Kurdistan, I could see it. Hamid hurtled us down the road at 90 miles an hour. The temperature climbed, along with the tension in the car, as the air became hazy and dusty. Cows mooed and lumbered along the side of the road.

“Up ahead is a ridge,” Hamid said, “above Cham Chamal. Saddam’s Iraqi Army was perched on that ridge over the city until 2003 when the Americans came. Near there was the last Iraqi Army checkpoint before the first [Kurdish] Peshmerga checkpoint.”

You could have fooled me. Nothing indicated the area was recently a line of death imposed by the Baath. I saw only hills, trees, and fields of flowers where children ran and played. I hadn’t yet seen the hell of Kirkuk, but I knew that what lay ahead beyond the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government would not look like this.

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The low ridge overlooking the city of Cham Chamal, the northernmost limit of Saddam’s Iraqi Army before its destruction

“In between that ridge and the city was a no-man’s land,” Hamid continued. “Cham Chamal belonged to Kirkuk Province before 2003. But it’s entirely Kurdish, so it was added to Suleimaniya Province after the war.”

When we entered territory that was recently controlled by Saddam Hussein, I felt we had crossed an invisible barrier or through a ripple in the dimension. Everything looked and felt heavier and much more unstable. Kurdistan was behind us. We were surrounded by eerie rolling plains, vanishingly empty of people. The horizon was swallowed up by the hills. I could no longer see the mountains of Kurdistan.

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A Kurdish friend in Erbil emailed me that day: “[Kirkuk] lacks major services and is extremely ugly,” he wrote. “The reason for that is that Saddam Hussein never considered it part of his country. He knew one day it will be taken from him. I will not go to Kirkuk, especially not to the Arab parts at night. It is full of terrorists.”

There is no formal boundary, no road sign that says Welcome to War. There is no line, visible or otherwise, where you’re safe on one side and in peril on the other. Rather, each mile on the hour-long drive from Suleimaniya to Kirkuk is incrementally more dangerous than the last. When you reach the Arab parts of Kirkuk – if you make it that far – you’ll be in extreme and immediate danger if you’re a Westerner.

War-blasted rubble lined the side of the road.

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Which wave of destruction wiped out this village, I couldn’t say. It could have been Saddam’s genocidal Anfal Campaign in the late 1980s, or any number of other violent convulsions since then.

Black smoke rose in a plume on the horizon. I’ve seen smoke plenty of times in the northern Kurdistan governates, and I never assume it’s anything other than a smoke stack from a cement factory, a pile of burning trash, or burn-off from a newly discovered oil well. This new plume of smoke was in the Red Zone, and it could be anything.

*

The road into Kirkuk was nice and smooth even at 90 miles an hour. My ears popped from the increase in pressure as we finished our descent from the snowy peaks of Kurdistan toward the vast muddy plains of Mesopotamia.

The city appeared on the horizon. We had left the fortress of the Kurdish autonomous region and entered the war.

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Kirkuk, Iraq

“Kirkuk is the richest city in the world,” Hamid said, “and also the poorest.”

Indeed. Kirkuk, with all its resources, if properly managed, should be as prosperous as Kuwait and Dubai. Glittering bejeweled skyscrapers should make up the city center. Instead it is a sprawling catastrophe of a place ground down by decades of fascism and war.

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We drove to, and through, the Kurdish side of the city, which is considerably less dangerous than the Arab side of the city. But the Iraqi police at the checkpoints wore body armor, something I never once saw in the Kurdistan Regional Government territory where there is no insurgency and there hasn’t been a single suicide bomb for two years.

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The only public art of any kind I saw in Kirkuk

Kirkuk’s cars are old and beat up. Its buildings are shabby. The streets are utterly bereft of beauty and grace. Residents live behind walls. There are no trees to walk underneath, no social places to hang out in, no sights worth sighing at, and nothing to take pictures of. It induces agoraphobia and a powerful urge to get inside and hunker down somewhere safe.

Here is a short video I shot from the car.

Nothing exploded anywhere near us as we drove through town. I just kept snapping pictures and video of this most broken of cities.

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A few people told me I’m brave because I went to Kirkuk. I appreciate what is meant as a compliment, but I am not brave. The Kurdish side of the city is only moderately dangerous, and besides…women live there.

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Children live there.

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They go about their lives as best they can in their shattered environment. Somehow they manage.

Are Iraq’s children brave?

*

Kirkuk is divided between Kurds, Turkmens (who are related to Turks in Anatolia, not Central Asia), and Arabs. The Arab quarter is extraordinarily violent. The Turkmen and Kurdish areas aren’t so much, although random acts of terrorism and mass murder can and do erupt anywhere at any time.

People in areas where the Baath Arabs live help terrorists plant bombs, Hamid explained as he drove. The Baathists have no support whatsoever in Kurdish and Turkmen neighborhoods. Terrorists have a much harder time operating in those places, so they don’t bother much. The available methods of killing are limited without local logistic support. Everyone knows everyone else. Strangers are instantly suspected, often searched, and apprehended if necessary.

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The Kurdistan flag painted on a wall, Kurdish quarter, Kirkuk, Iraq

Kirkuk’s terrorists are, my Kurdish hosts explained, mostly Baathists, not Islamists. Their racist ideology casts Kurds and Turkmens as the enemy. They’re boxed in on all sides, though, and in their impotent rage murder fellow Arabs by the dozens and hundreds. They have, in effect, strapped suicide belts around their entire community while their more peaceful Kurdish and Turkmen neighbors shudder and fight to keep the Baath in its box.

American readers may be uncomfortable by the explicitly racial nature of this description, but that’s just how it is in Kirkuk and I cannot apologize for it. Iraqis kill each other over race and religion and power. If you go there yourself you had better pay attention to who lives in which neighborhood and what they think of others. Otherwise you will not survive. I'm a bit awkwardly self-conscious about it, but race blindness is punished in Iraq with the death penalty.

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Kurdish neighborhood, Kirkuk

Not every Arab in Iraq is a terrorist, obviously. Most of the victims of terrorism in Iraq are Arabs, after all. And there is nothing at all about Arabs as Arabs that makes them dangerous or hostile to me as an American. I lived in a Sunni Arab neighborhood in West Beirut for six months. All my neighbors were lovely. Not a single one was a terrorist. Lebanese politics is unstable and at times deranged, but it’s nevertheless orders of magnitude more civilized and mature than politics in Iraq, poisoned as it has been by (as Fouad Ajami put it) Saddam’s legacy of iron and fire and bigotry.

*

Mam Rostam is a gruff man with a thin moustache and a thick forest of chest hair who does not wear a uniform. He has two official jobs; member of parliament and general in the Iraqi Kurdish army, the Peshmerga. Unofficially, he describes his job in Kirkuk as “the wild card.” He’s a jack-of-all-trades, a Mr. Fix It. He’s the guy you call when your forces are overwhelmed, when you don’t know what to do, and when somebody needs a swift kick in the ass.

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Mam Rostam

Patrick, Hamid, and I met up with him at a house on the Kurdish side of the city that he keeps as a base. He sat in the sun in a plastic chair on the porch, chain smoking, slamming cups of Arabic coffee, and constantly answering his phone while Patrick and I interviewed him.

“This place, where we are now,” he said, “was emptied of people, of residents. The government of Iraq brought Arab people to settle here. Those houses,” he said as gestured across the street, “were built for them. The majority are Kurds now. Many of the Arabs sold their houses and Kurds bought them.”

Kirkuk is historically a Kurdish and Turkmen city, but Saddam Hussein tried to Arabize it. He forced out as many Kurds and Turkmens as he could and resettled the neighborhoods with Arabs from the South. He hoped to use the Arabization campaign to solve two of his ethnic and sectarian problems at once. Most of the Arabs he placed in Kirkuk were undesirable Shias from Karbala and Najaf he wished to be rid of. The city is now torn, then, along racial and sectarian lines. The legacy of Stalinist politics will take a long time to die.

“Can you explain the main reasons why Saddam Hussein changed the makeup of this city?” I said. “Was it for the resources, because of the Baath ideology, or both?”

I heard a loud thump somewhere off in the distance and wrote “possible explosion” in my notebook. No one else seemed to notice it, though.

“It was for ethnic reasons,” Mam Rostam said. “The proof of this is that not only Kirkuk was involved. Suleimaniya and Erbil were also involved. They wanted to remove all the Kurds from everywhere in Iraq. They just destroyed whole villages and provinces and moved people into collective towns and concentration camps. Some of the Turkmen villages around here were demolished for the same reason. The point was to make it an Arab area, and no other. Saddam Hussein intended to be the leader of the Arab nation, the whole Arab world. He didn’t want anyone other than Arabs to exist around him. That was his policy.”

Saddam Hussein wasn’t content merely to force Kurds and Turkmens out of their homes so he could move Arabs in. He also smashed their villages and neighborhoods with air strikes, artillery, chemical weapons, and napalm.

Below are satellite images of a Kurdish neighborhood in Kirkuk in 1997 and 1998 before and after an ethnic cleansing bombardment.

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Kurdish neighborhood in Kirkuk before ethnic cleansing

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Kurdish neighborhood in Kirkuk after ethnic cleansing

“The Arabs use Islam as a cover for their aims,” Mam Rostam said. I hear this time and again from Kurds in Iraq who are just as Islamic – but much more liberal and democratic – as the residents of Fallujah.

“The Ottomans didn’t do this,” Patrick said. “They didn’t try to make everyone Turks.”

“Even when people gave birth here it was forbidden to give them Kurdish names,” Mam Rostam said. “They were only allowed to give their children Arabic names. If a Kurd wanted to purchase real estate he had to have it purchased in an Arab’s name. Otherwise he could not have it. During the Anfal operations they took young women and used them as sex slaves. Even when the Mongols invaded they didn’t do this. They just don’t like people who are not Arabs. Whoever is not an Arab is an enemy, and they use religion as an excuse for their evil goals.”

“What exactly are the people who bomb the Arab parts of the city trying to do?” I said. “Why are Arabs bombing other Arabs?”

“Most, if not all, the terrorists are the old Baath Party members,” Mam Rostam said. “They changed their names and became an Islamist party. But they are the same guys. They have unified with some Sunnis around the Southwest of Kirkuk because they are living in this area. They are making these attacks to make this democratic experiment after Saddam fail.”

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A child watches passing traffic from the roof of a house

I had heard much the same from members of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Suleimaniya. What frustrates them most about the U.S. military strategy is the American prioritization of Al Qaeda. The vast majority of the violence, according to my Kurdish sources, is committed by Baathists and old Baathists under new names. Failure to identify Iraq’s principal terrorist organizations and treat them accordingly is the number one reason why Iraq is such a catastrophe. At least this is what I have been told. Kurdish officials I’ve met who try to explain this to the Americans are dismissed out of hand and ignored utterly.

“So their goals are not local to Kirkuk,” I said. “They are for the whole of Iraq.”

“They want all of Iraq to fail,” Mam Rostam said. “They want the Americans to feel that they are not able to succeed in this area. They want to force the Americans to negotiate with the Baath Party.”

“So they aren’t necessarily targeting you or us,” I said.

“They are targeting anyone just to achieve instability,” Mam Rostam said.

“So there’s no plan other than violence,” Patrick said.

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“There is no plan,” Mam Rostam said. “It doesn’t matter where. It’s just random violence. Sometimes they bomb a kindergarten in their own neighborhood. Or a university. Or the civil office. Or a municipality. Or wherever. In these offices there are people of every nationality and religion. There is no way to say there are only Sunnis or whatever in these places. This is a multicultural country. Everyone is everywhere.”

Most Americans have soured on the war and want out. I was once optimistic myself, but I no longer am. I can’t help but notice, though, that those I’ve spoken to who actually live in Iraq are more confident and less fatalistic.

“The central government intends to send an army here, about 6,000 soldiers,” Mam Rostam said. “They have been chosen by them. They are not anyone from anywhere in particular. They are very clean. Those 6,000 soldiers will be working in Kirkuk to achieve stability in this city. We’re expecting after this, which is going to happen in a very short time, for the terrorism to be reduced 80 or 90 percent.”

“This is what you hope or expect?” I said.

“This is what we expect,” Mam Rostam said.

American military vehicles rumbled past the front of the house with their guns up.

“This is a big city,” he continued. “The police can’t control it by themselves. The police are not so many in number and they’re not that good in quality. We have our main central police departments which have been working by themselves and have chosen the elements to work in these locations. They are perfectly controlling their neighborhoods. But the others belong to the central government and other directorates. There are people from various places who work for them, so they’re not that trustworthy. There are some people who work with the terrorists who then apply to work with the police. So they go to the police stations, and instead of faithfully working with the police and the government they just transfer information – especially the sensitive information – to the terrorists. The problem is, the right person is not in the right place. Nobody is managing this in some places. On the Kurdish side, we have taken care of it and we’re stressing they do the same.”

“If we go outside this city,” I said, “are there more Arabs in the countryside in this province? Or are most of them in the city?”

“Around 100 years ago there were no Arabs around Kirkuk,” he said. “There are a few villages southeast of Kirkuk where there are Arabs, but the majority inside and outside the city are Kurds. If you take a ride around outside the city of Kirkuk you will notice that the names of all the places are Kurdish. It has been a Kurdish area for a long time, from the beginning. Even Kirkuk is a Kurdish name. The name of the place where they found oil for the first name came from a kid who was accompanying his father in the area. He noticed something was coming out of the ground. He tried to figure out what it was and found fire. He said Daddy, Daddy, fire, fire. And that became its name. But the governments and regimes that came from the beginning time until now wanted to change the city and the names. Sometimes for sheep, sometimes for salt, but always because the area is important and they wanted to remove the Kurds from here.”

“If there was a wise leader in this country,” he continued, “it would be the greatest country in the world. Because of our natural fortunes, not only the oil but also the other things. But the government has spent all the fortune on weapons and bombs. I know some countries that don’t have any resources at all, but when you go to the cities they look like crystals. You see now what Kirkuk looks like.”

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Physical beauty does not exist in Kirkuk

I asked about Kurdish and Turkmen relations.

“As Kurds we don’t have any problem with the Turkmens,” Mam Rostam said. “If you come back I will show you some villages where the Turkmens live and you will see how much they like us.”

As if on cue, two Turkmens came to the house and joined us on the front porch. They enthusiastically shook hands with Patrick and me, as if they were meeting rock stars. This kind of treatment always embarrasses me, but – believe it or not – that’s how it goes in parts of Iraq if you’re an American. Mam Rostam kissed both of them on their cheeks.

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Iraqi Turkmens in Kirkuk

After exchanging pleasantries with his Turkish guests, Mam Rostam steered back to the subject. Neither objected to what he said next.

“The Turkish government created a party here that makes problems for us and the Turkmens,” he said. “The Turkmens got their rights as soon as we started managing the area here, more than before when they were under the Baath Party authority. Now they have much more rights than before. If Turkey is honest and is actually helping the Turkmens, why didn’t they defend the Turkmens when the Baath Party demolished their villages? They are not interested in the Turkmens here. They are afraid of the Kurds living in Turkey. We have about 400,000 or 500,000 Turkmens here in Iraq. There are millions in Iran. Why doesn’t Turkey defend them?”

“What does Turkey do here to cause problems?” I said.

“In general the Turkmens are on our side,” Mam Rostam said. The two Turkmens who sat on the porch nodded in agreement. “The problem with this Turkish party is that they demonstrate against everything we ask for. They bring in Turkmens who are loyal to them and who don’t agree with the Turkmens here.”

The Iraqi Turkmens backed by Turkey insist Kirkuk is not a Kurdish-majority city and that it should not be formally attached to Iraqi Kurdistan and administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government. The residents of the city – Kurdish, Turkmen, and Arab – will all be asked later this year in a referendum whether or not Kirkuk should be administered from Kurdistan’s capital of Erbil or from Baghdad.

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Kirkuk, Iraq – one of the nastiest places I’ve ever seen

“They don’t want people here to be able to vote on letting Kirkuk be managed by the Kurdish authorities,” Mam Rostam said. “They are working against that. 85 percent of them want to join Kurdistan.” And why shouldn’t they? The Kurdistan Regional Government is the only authority in Iraq that has proven its ability to defeat terrorism, rise above racism and sectarianism, and govern effectively. “Only a small percentage of them are against this idea.”

“Why would any Turkmens rather be with Baghdad than Erbil?” I said, addressing no one in particular. The visiting Turkmens were invited to answer as much as Mam Rostam.

“It’s not about who manages Kirkuk,” Mam Rostam said. “It’s about Turkey. Turkey has got a problem with the Kurds. It’s not a problem for them if Kirkuk belongs to the central government of Iraq. They would still have problems with the Kurds in Erbil, though. They are against the existence of the Kurds.”

What Turkey really fears is that Kirkuk, which sits on top of as much of half the oil in Iraq, will be added to an independent and wealthy Kurdish state that will embolden the Kurds in Turkey to break from Ankara and attach themselves to Erbil and Kirkuk.

“In Hamburg, Germany, there was a restaurant opposite the Turkish Embassy,” Mam Rostam said. “That restaurant was named Kurdistan, and they flew the Kurdistan flag. The Turkish government sent a notification to the German government that said If you don’t remove that sign and that flag and that name from that restaurant, we are going to pull our embassy out of Germany. And they did it. The Germans removed it. If the Turkish government was smart they would know Kurdish rights is a good thing for them. They have to know this can be useful and beneficial for them. But they aren’t wise enough. They aren’t smart enough to understand this.”

“They’re afraid of losing the Kurdish portion of Turkey,” I said.

“When I was a member of the Kurdistan Parliament a guest from Turkey came,” Mam Rostam said. “He said they don’t have problems with the Arab nations, that only the Kurds are their enemies. I said to him, frankly, You’re an idiot. If we become a country, what harm are we going to cause you? All the Turkmens here are going to get good jobs. For sure. And they’re going to get most of their rights, if not all. Okay? And the other thing, we’re going to manage ourselves and sell our oil to Turkey. And they can set up some refineries that will be useful for them and for us. The Turkish government promised not to understand. They don’t understand today, and they won’t understand in the future.”

Just then Kirkuk’s chief of police arrived and introduced himself as Major Sherzad. He wore traditional Kurdish men’s clothes and carried a walkie-talkie that constantly squawked. I asked if I could take his picture.

“Yes, take my picture,” he said. “I am not afraid of terrorists.”

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Kirkuk’s Chief of Police Major Sherzad

Mam Rostam invited all of us, including the major and the visiting Turkmens, into the house for lunch. We ate chicken, rice, cucumbers, tomatoes, and soup. Liquid yogurt was served in tall drinking glasses.

“I am sorry for the quality of food for my guests,” Mam Rostam said. “This is what we had in the house.”

A portrait of a younger, less grizzled, Mam Rostam hung on the wall over the table.

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“The American troops based here refuse to eat outside their compounds,” said Major Sherzad. “Unless they are invited to Mam Rostam’s. Here they will eat.”

Patrick and I were in good hands, then. Mam Rostam may be a high value target for the Baathists and other troublemakers, but they have an exceptionally difficult time hitting their target.

After lunch we moved into the living room and sprawled on the couches. Piping hot tea with sugar was served.

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Mam Rostam upended his glass, poured the tea into the saucer, blew on it for two seconds, and downed it all in one gulp. Showoff. My glass was still too hot to even pick up.

Everyone but Patrick and me spoke to each other in Kurdish. I did not interrupt or ask for translation. Kirkuk’s security elite should not revolve around me. Instead I watched the TV. The channel was turned to Kurdsat, a highly professional Kurdish satellite station out of Suleimaniya.

The news was on, and I saw pictures of the war in Iraq. It felt so strange to watch the war in Iraq on TV from inside Iraq. It felt the same as when I watch the war in Iraq on TV in my house in the U.S. The violence and mayhem on the screen had nothing to do with me. I was in Iraq’s Red Zone. But sunlight slanted in through the windows. The grass outside was green. Flowers bloomed in the yard. Birds chirped. The neighborhood was at peace, at least at that moment.

Iraq is a big place. It is more or less the size of California. If a car bomb were to go off in San Diego, it wouldn’t disturb people who live in San Francisco. They would watch the aftermath from safety on TV just as I watched scenes of carnage from safety at Mam Rostam’s in Kirkuk. The war was far away…or at least around a couple of corners. Iraq looks scarier from far away than it does up close and in person…even when you’re in the Red Zone. How much danger you’re in depends on where you are in Iraq. The Red Zone is not one shade of crimson. The war, for the most part, is concentrated mostly in very specific areas. On any given day you might see something violent, but you probably won’t. This fact is completely lost in the breathless media coverage of the carnage, the mayhem, and the bang-bang.

But I was lounging around with the chief of police. Any illusion that Kirkuk might have been safe couldn’t last long with him in the room. My feelings of detached security were but a passing moment. The chief’s walkie-talkie urgently squawked and he had to answer. The room was silent as he listened grimly.

“There has been a shooting,” he said. “Two men on a motorcycle rode down the street and fired a gun at people walking on the sidewalk. One of the men was apprehended. They are bringing him here.”

For some reason I assumed when the chief said “here” he meant the police station. He did not. He meant Mam Rostam’s.

“They will be here in two minutes,” he said.

“Here?” I said. “They’re bringing him here? To the house?”

“They will bring him here before taking him down to the station,” the chief said. “I’ll interrogate him here. I’m not going to feel good until I slap him.”

An Iraqi Police truck pulled up in front of the house and slammed on the brakes.

“Here he is,” the chief said.

I grabbed my video camera, flipped the switch to on, and ran out the door.

To be continued…

Post-script: If you like what I write, don’t forget to pay me. Travel in Iraq is expensive, and I am not able to do this job without your financial assistance. If you haven’t donated before, please consider donating now. If you have donated before (and a thousand thanks for doing that), please remember that my expenses are ongoing and my donations need to be ongoing too.

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Also, don’t forget to visit Patrick Lasswell’s blog Moderate Risk. He, too, wrote about our trip to Kirkuk.

All photos and video except “Before” and “After” satellite pictures copyright Michael J. Totten

Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 18, 2007 11:38 PM

Comments

Great article Michael. Reminds me that I hate cliffhangers though.....

Posted by: JC at April 19, 2007 02:18 AM

Most Americans have soured on the war and want out. I was once optimistic myself, but I no longer am. I can’t help but notice, though, that those I’ve spoken to who actually live in Iraq are more confident and less fatalistic.

Can you be a little more specific? Do you mean just the Kurds or also the Arabs in Kirkuk? I still think the reason Americans have soured on the war is because the Administration won't tell Americans what the final goal is supposed to be -at least not in any concrete way that most people understand. If the President laid out a plan and timetable to commit American troops to support a free and prosperous Kurdistan, the majority of Americans would support that. Let's not confuse that war with the other war which seems to involve US troops hunkered down in Baghdad with no real strategic goal in sight. And the reality is the Turks really would have no choice but to accomodate themselves to an independend Kurdistan. Ironically the Kurds should be the Turks best allies in the Middle East if the Turks could ever get over their insecurity about what being "Turkish" actually means. Like you say, Iraq is a big country - maybe we should focus on fixing what we can really fix and isolating the rest of it. America needs real direction and leadership from someone, and it will be sad if the Kurds suffer because we can't provide it.

Posted by: vanya at April 19, 2007 04:16 AM

Most Americans have soured on the war and want out. I was once optimistic myself, but I no longer am. I can’t help but notice, though, that those I’ve spoken to who actually live in Iraq are more confident and less fatalistic.

This is the second article this week that I have read that has essentially said the same thing - that Iraqis are in fact far more optimistic about the current situation than Americans (the other article can be read here http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110009926 ).

It would be a terrible shame to pack up and bug out and have Iraq descend into even greater chaos - chaos that this time would have no cause for optimism. Its also a shame that other nations, especially EU nations, don't pick up the slack and come in and help.

Of course that would be admission that the US was perhaps doing the right thing in liberating Iraq, and we can't have that now can we?

Posted by: jonorose at April 19, 2007 04:55 AM

vanya,

I think that any metric like a timetable is just handing a yardstick to the terrorists so they can beat us with it.

First and foremost, war is a chaos process and imposing a timetable is a fundamental break from that reality. Assuming that we are in sufficient control of a situation that we can gate the time of progress goes beyond hubris to delusion. It invites reality checks of the bloodiest kinds, especially in areas that were considered "safe" and "completed".

Second, but putting together and (God help us) ANNOUNCING the conditions under which we will surrender the fight most easily, aren't we making it a lot easier for the people who detonate car bombs in playgrounds. When does that become a good thing?

Finally and most chillingly, even if timetables were the best thing ever, what makes you think that stressing the integrity of our military leaders by giving them artificial goals to meet is a good plan. We are still trying to recover our honor in the military from the idiotic "body count" metric in Vietnam. Finding new ways to break the troops for a long time is a bad plan.

Timetables are an addictive and destructive hallucinogen.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at April 19, 2007 06:43 AM

Great stuff, Michael. Pulitzer material. I wish your work had a wider audience. Best wishes, and may you stay safe.

Posted by: Mystery Meat at April 19, 2007 07:12 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 04/19/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

Posted by: David M at April 19, 2007 07:35 AM

I just read the article about Kirkuk and its a great example of good and resposable journalism. Congratulations and im waiting for the new entry. Im an student of international relations in Mexico and I would love to do after college what you are doing now.

Posted by: Manuel Vargas at April 19, 2007 08:12 AM

There are no trees to walk underneath, no social places to hang out in, no sights worth sighing at, and nothing to take pictures of.

Your video shows some trees, buddy. Editing needed. :-D

Posted by: glasnost at April 19, 2007 08:19 AM

“They want all of Iraq to fail,” Mam Rostam said. “They want the Americans to feel that they are not able to succeed in this area. They want to force the Americans to negotiate with the Baath Party.”

An absolutely perfect capsule of why withdrawal is needed, with or without timetables. After four years, it can only be assumed that the Bush Administration is not capable or not interested in a negotiated outcome with the Baathists. So we have mayhem, all conducted for the point of making Americans look bad and spoiling Iraq explicitly as a great-power project for America.

As long as we're still running the country's security operations, the spoilers will be blowing up the country just to flip us off. So our pride and insistence that we need to be the ones to fix everything, to win, to clear our name, to bring the good guys out on top, etc etc, is a pi*sing match with the civilians of Iraq caught in the middle.

And since we have absolutely zero prospects of squeezing the insurgency to death under current conditions, we effectively condemn the country to apocalyptic violence for another decade, in order to avoid bruising our warrior pride. To avoid handing one set of 'bad people' any form of mythically important psychological boost from our withdrawal, we will allow the whole country to burn. Sure, individual people are trying hard to protect Iraqis, but they're unable to overcome the pragmatic impact of our collective policy. It's like trying really hard to put out a house fire with hoses that spray gasoline.

Even if Iraq gets worse initially when we leave, it will never get better while we're there. The people with power want to punk us, even at the cost of wrecking their own country. That's an impossible dynamic to beat from the outside.

Crowing about the potentially destructive impact of a timetable is laughable. It requires ignoring the horrific destructive impact of the status quo.
It's kind of like the British at Dunkirk being worried about whether handing over heavy equipment constitutes a "blow to the morale".

Posted by: glasnost at April 19, 2007 08:36 AM

The vast majority of the violence, according to my Kurdish sources, is committed by Baathists and old Baathists under new names. Failure to identify Iraq’s principal terrorist organizations and treat them accordingly is the number one reason why Iraq is such a catastrophe. At least this is what I have been told. Kurdish officials I’ve met who try to explain this to the Americans are dismissed out of hand and ignored utterly.

That's because Al Quieda is the magic name American security officials need to keep uttering in order to create the perception that the Stalingrad of the GWOT is right here in Iraq.
If we were allowed to perceive the violence as localized ethnic warfare over oil rights in Kirkuk, the chimerical victory could no longer be held out as the only way to avoid the coming of Bin Laden's new caliphate.

That's why we have to stay here forever, you know, because we're not just losing any old third-world quagmire, but losing to... "Al-Quieda". Of course,
as soon as we leave, The Shiites will hang the Sunni jihadists out to dry..

Posted by: glasnost at April 19, 2007 08:43 AM

glasnost,

I'm sure glad you've run all those other successful counter-insurgencies and can tell us all how things should go. Where exactly have you seen your methods succeed? The revival of Somalia after we left? The flourishing of Darfur while we ignore it? The prolific growth of Zimbabwe over the last decade of abandonment by civilization? The vitality of North Korean art and culture under the enlightened rule of the Kim Dynasty? The prodigious scientific accomplishments of Turkmenistan because of the guidance of Saparmurat Niyazov?

(For our friends who are improving their English, the above is what we call "sarcasm". The places listed are disasters due to the kinds of policy advocated by glasnost. I am making fun of him using the actual results of his own advice. This is distinctly unkind, but not as bad as...you know...ignoring genocide and rape rooms.)

Ignoring bad people and hoping they will go away is not an economically or morally viable position. It has consistently failed in the past and there is no reason to expect it to work in the future.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at April 19, 2007 08:55 AM

Stunningly good reporting.

Posted by: Vanderleun at April 19, 2007 09:03 AM

Great reporting Mike. With people like you reporting, I don't even turn on the TV anymore.

Posted by: Keith at April 19, 2007 09:12 AM

What Turkey wants is a secure and democratic Iraq free of terrorism. As long as PKK is allowed to operate freely in Northern Iraq, it is illogical to assume that there will be friendly relations, let alone the prospect of becoming allies. If Kurds of Iraq want to live peacefully with its neighbors, then they should act against all terrorist factions and eliminate them.

Posted by: Fuzuli at April 19, 2007 09:37 AM

as always, awesome stuff.

Posted by: mantis at April 19, 2007 10:13 AM

Dear Fuzuli

Thats what we are trying to do, but you should know better destroying PKK is not an easy task, it is infact near impossible.

Gurrella warfare is different to how regular armies go to war with each other. Israel has being using everything at their disposile and they still havn't managed to destory Hamas.

Posted by: Shvan at April 19, 2007 10:33 AM

On any given day you might see something violent, but you probably won’t. This fact is completely lost in the breathless media coverage of the carnage, the mayhem, and the bang-bang.

US media covers Iraq a lot like they cover the weather. "Tornado, 7 killed. Car-bomb, 21 killed." The difference is, tornadoes don't plan their atrocities. I have yet to hear a mass-media outlet discuss groups or motivations, beyond a token "looks like another Al Qaeda bomb". A description of the different groups, their motivations, their strategies, and our potential counter-stragegies seems to be beyond them.

Fortunately we have people like you, Michael. Thank you, and God bless.

Posted by: SteveA at April 19, 2007 10:54 AM

Keith,

You wouldn't find stuff this good on the TV, anyway. Takes too much time away from Anna-Nicole Smith et. al., don't ya know....

Posted by: Joe Katzman at April 19, 2007 10:54 AM

Fuzuli, the question is whether Turkey means it or plays just a game of enless blame. It is an efficient technique. Middle sized countries play much harder their minisupremacist games in their regions or lost colonies. Look at France or Germany. It gets never reported, that is why we need a universal culprite as US, a welcome smoke screen for those middle ones with huge ambitions and wounded memories of past. We can make a nice long list of them, you can include even dwarfs like Hungary or Lybia...

Posted by: Czechmade at April 19, 2007 10:56 AM

Kirkuk was amazingly peaceful even just a year ago; I was sad when it became a dangerous hellhole.

I really enjoyed your reporting, but I would like to make 2 factual corrections:

1. Concerning armor: B6 is what most PSD vehicles have. It is true that 4 well placed rounds could pierce it, assuming the shooter was firing directly into it (from head on which they never do) and using something other than an AK *(an M4 will go right through because of the higher velocity). However, 4 rounds will not even come close to piercing either B7 or B8. We took 16 rounds of friendly fire from a Bradley's coaxial 240 into our windshield and it didn't come close to breaking...

2. The kurds will never admit it, but they are responsible for a good bit of the violence in Kirkuk which they instigate through kurdish terror groups. They are better than the rest of Iraq, but they aren't 'good guys'. It serves their purposes to keep Kirkuk destabilized more than anyone else.

Posted by: Staubutz at April 19, 2007 11:55 AM

Excellent reporting - can't wait to read the next half (?) of the cliffhanger.

..and Mam Rostam sounds very interesting - your short description of the "shot" of tea said volumes.

Posted by: mary at April 19, 2007 12:05 PM

If there was any justice in the world of journalism, you and Michael Yon would be awarded Pulitzers.

Posted by: TW Andrews at April 19, 2007 12:20 PM

Michael:

Superb reporting... again. Stay safe.

btw: Staubutz, just what is it you've been smoking? "... an M4 will go right through because of the higher velocity." "..16 rounds of friendly fire from a Bradley's coaxial 240 into our windshield and it didn't come close to breaking..." "The kurds.. are responsible for a good bit of the violence in Kirkuk which they instigate through kurdish terror groups."

Posted by: H. Short at April 19, 2007 12:30 PM

Micheal, if the iraqis have faith, why don't you? They have to live there.

If America gives up, is it willing to cope with the aftermath? If America stays, are we willing to cope with that? Our "leaders" are too busy using corpses for political gain to care and we should hold them accountable for that an come up some plan.

Posted by: Rachel at April 19, 2007 12:51 PM

6000 additional IA.
That is two additional Brigades.
Word is that a new Division is being built in Kirkuk Province.
A Mechanized Division.
M60s and M113s to be delivered in later half of this year:

Efforts are under way to rebuild the Iraqi Army, with more arms and equipment to be delivered in the next few months, Fox and Ghaidan said. “We have now eight divisions that are at a second-level state of readiness, meaning that they have full manpower, light weapons and some logistical capabilities, but lack heavy weapons and support units, like artillery,” the Iraqi general said. Two more divisions should become operational in June, and their M60 main battle tanks, M113 armored personnel carriers and other mostly U.S.- and Western-built heavy weapons will arrive in the second half of the year. “The objective is to have 10 divisions — six infantry, three mechanized and one armored — fully ready and equipped,” Ghaidan said. “The armament process has been slow, but it seems to be picking up at the moment and we hope it is complete soon.” One U.S. Army official said medium and heavy weapons, which are needed only to repel foreign threats, were given a lower procurement priority than internal-security gear. “Once security in Iraq is established, then we can move to completing the armament of the Iraqi Army,” the official said. Ghaidan said an Iraqi military committee is in charge of procurement; the U.S. military is just providing advice. http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?F=2681008&C=navwar

"The article seems accurate." MNSTC-I Deputy PAO e-mail

Posted by: DJ Elliott at April 19, 2007 01:09 PM

glasnost - The coalition has already withdrawn from three provinces and a 4th is scheduled for April. Since you're in favor of withdrawal with or without timetables, does this mean that you are in favor of the current coalition withdrawal policy? So glad to have you aboard...

As for Iraq being Stalingrad, of course it isn't. It's the strategic high ground that gets us the reform of the entire mid-east. Iraq succeeds with or without the coalition and Iran, Syria, KSA, even Egypt will have a very tough time continuing to explain to their people why they can not have the political rights and economic achievements of Iraq. The ultimate problem is that Islam has been declining for centuries and technology makes backward and degenerate regions increasingly dangerous over time. The ME must be brought on board as must Africa out of pure self-interest.

Posted by: TM Lutas at April 19, 2007 01:21 PM

If Iraqi Kurds are indeed acting against PKK, then I invite you to give a single example of that. When was the last time a PKK terrorist was arrested in Iraq? How many PKK terrorists were tried in Iraq? How many PKK terrorists were extradited to Turkey? What has been done to cut their logistic support? What has been done to secure the border? How come PKK can still have a so-called "bureau" in Kerkük (named as 'Democratic Solution Party')?
If the "authorities" can't prevent terrorists from using Iraq as a launchpad, then there will be no solution other than a direct intervention.

Posted by: Fuzuli at April 19, 2007 03:43 PM

I thought I'd pre-paid my MJT fan dues for '07, but this one demanded reinforcement in the old tip jar. Michael, the writing is excellent, and the photos are astonishing. Thanks.

p.s. cliffhangers are a necessary evil, I guess -- and this one was nicely turned.

Posted by: Pam at April 19, 2007 06:15 PM

Staubutz,

Concerning point 2: The kurds will never admit it, but they are responsible for a good bit of the violence in Kirkuk which they instigate through kurdish terror groups. They are better than the rest of Iraq, but they aren't 'good guys'. It serves their purposes to keep Kirkuk destabilized more than anyone else.

Have you got anything like a reference to back that up or are you just passing gossip from the Baath and AQ? Because you're calling some friends of mine liars and implying that Michael and I are too stupid to figure out some pretty basic things about the Kurds.

Post some backup or post some retractions.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at April 19, 2007 06:23 PM

Heck, the point-counterpoint here is worth a tip in itself.

Shvan -- Israel has being using everything at their disposile and they still havn't managed to destory Hamas. It's a question of what you mean by 'at their disposal.' Israel has maybe used everything they dare use, but if they had blown off international condemnation (and every scrap of conscience) they could have done like Syria, or Jordan, times ten, and quite likely have had pretty good success against Hamas, Hizbullah, etc.

Perhaps to win against guerillas, you have to be more savage and inhumane than the guerillas, and do it quite openly due to media focus. No Western-style democratic nation has a government and an army willing to do that.

That's a good thing, morally and ethically, but I really worry about how Western nations can ever win -- or succeed, whatever the term is now -- in an asymmetrical war.

Posted by: Pam at April 19, 2007 07:38 PM

Pam,

There are a lot of ways to defeat guerillas, the best way is to create conditions that make them obsolete and unnecessary. Regrettably, the Turkish government is structurally incapable of making those kinds of changes quickly. Additionally, the PKK is a third generation revolutionary movement and very resistant to rational therapy. We heard a lot of things that indicate that the PKK is getting funding from a lot of sources and is convenient to a lot of central asian players. There's more to this story and we'll keep looking at it.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at April 19, 2007 07:51 PM

That's a good thing, morally and ethically, but I really worry about how Western nations can ever win -- or succeed, whatever the term is now -- in an asymmetrical war.

The asymetrical wars in question are by definition on someone else's territory. The follow-up question to whether we'll ever be able to win them is - do we ever need to?

We're perfectly capable of punishing/destroying governments, killing terrorists, and disrupting individual plots in relativly stable societies. Why, as a country, do we need more than that for our security?

Posted by: glasnost at April 19, 2007 08:28 PM

I'm sure glad you've run all those other successful counter-insurgencies and can tell us all how things should go.

This is sort of the pro-war version of the "chickenhawk" argument, huh? Only people who have run counterinsurgencies are qualified to have opinions, or knowledge of them?

This is distinctly unkind, but not as bad as...you know...ignoring genocide and rape rooms.)

I see. So, you consider the only available reactions to totalitarian governments either direct military saturation/repression, or benign disinterest?

Ignoring bad people and hoping they will go away is not an economically or morally viable position.

Right. So here, you've taken my criticism of the counterinsurgency military operation in Iraq as being hopelessly incapable of achieving its stated goals, distorted it to an alternate policy of "ignoring bad people and hoping they go away", and expanded it to a grand worldwide strategy, rather than one specific of its place and time.

I'm sure you're capable of better criticism than this. Perhaps, for starters, you could come up with an example in the past 40 years where a Western counterinsurgency on alien territory has wound to and end a) before withdrawal of western troops and b) without a negotiated truce with the "bad guys", whoever they were.

Where exactly have you seen your methods succeed?

Hmmm. The Soviet Union? Don't recall invading their country, deposing their government, and forcibly installing someone else there. Lebanon? The Ukraine? South Africa? Taiwan? Most of South America? Are you trying to imply that countries never become stable democracies without US-installed governments? Surely, this is some kind of bad joke, right?

While you come up with something better, perhaps you could explain why the 20/1 rule doesn't apply in Iraq, or else explain how to wish away ex-general Barry Mcafferey's statement that the 20+ brigades deployed for the surge are "not sustainable, even if they were anything close to enough to make a difference, which events in the last week - you're there, I can only assume you've heard of them - seem to indicate to the contrary.

Posted by: glasnost at April 19, 2007 08:55 PM

an example in the past 40 years where a Western counterinsurgency on alien territory has wound to an end a) before withdrawal of western troops and b) without a negotiated truce with the "bad guys", whoever they were.

I meant to have an "or" after a) and before b).

Posted by: glasnost at April 19, 2007 09:06 PM

As for Iraq being Stalingrad, of course it isn't. It's the strategic high ground that gets us the reform of the entire mid-east. Iraq succeeds with or without the coalition and Iran, Syria, KSA, even Egypt will have a very tough time continuing to explain to their people why they can not have the political rights and economic achievements of Iraq.

You can do that without a massive military presence. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that a massive military presence is the thing that makes this unable to happen. I'm all for democratic reform in the middle east putting pressure on their neighbors to straighten out. Depending on how optimistic you are, you can argue a) that we've already moved Iraq forward as much as we're going to, or b) we haven't really moved Iraq forward a lot, but either way, we hit diminishing returns quite some time ago.

It might be different if we, as a country, were willing to, oh, quadruple our burn rate in Iraq and add, maybe one trillion dollars in reconstruction in two years, with 500,000 civilian specialists, guarded by another million soldiers. We might, possibly reverse the deteriorating viability of Iraq as any form of "example" through sheer exertion. But we're not.

The point I'm getting to here, is that Iraq isn't currently working much as a siren song or a glistening advertisement to the people of the ME right now. And we have neither means nor (realistic) plans to change that.

Posted by: glasnost at April 19, 2007 09:14 PM

Hey, Mike, I'm not a big fan of Joe Klein from time, but he says something smart here.

Final point, for more than six months Richard Holbrooke and others have been suggesting that we place a blocking force on the Turkish-Kurdish border to dissuade an invasion by the Turks and incursions by the Kurdish guerrilla group, PKK. If the scenario favored by Baker-Hamilton and the wise core of bipartisan Senators had been enacted, those troops would be sitting peacefully on the Turkish border right now, instead of taking fire in Baghdad.

Amen. We can't save Baghdad from itself, but we can keep Kurdistan intact. Without American troops preventing, a Turkish invasion could turn most of Kurdistan into southeastern turkey.

Posted by: glasnost at April 19, 2007 09:18 PM

Glasnost,
You wrote:
an example in the past 40 years where a Western counterinsurgency on alien territory has wound to an end a) before withdrawal of western troops or b) without a negotiated truce with the "bad guys", whoever they were.

This is sophistry. Every military intervention has an 'insurgency'; it is called the opposing army. And please define alien. Since we put down resistance in various pockets of the former Yugoslavia does this then not qualify as alien? And at some point there are negotiations whether or not the fighting subsides, so your point is guaranteed to hold true. It is like saying, show me a morning that didn't have a sunrise or clouds.

All of your other statements are basically like this; too many escape-hatch qualifiers and bogus non-choices. If you honestly have a point argue in good faith.

Posted by: Keith at April 19, 2007 09:55 PM

Totten, you don't know iraq yet, many people will tell you many things that simply is stereotype or maljudgement. in the very south also you can tour around safe (with guards of course), and you can see women and children. Many people judge by a generalizing way. they believe what their political party tells them. for example,, you quoted one saying the turkey made party to make problems and turkmen on the side of kurds, well I heard from another kurds complaining about turkmans, not only this, there was election in kirkuk and turkman party hold seats. there is another conflict between turkman and kurds, kurds dominantly sunnis while there are many shiite turkmans, so some turkmans affiliated with turkey and some affiliated with shiite political parties in the south. it is complicated. I see the kurdish political parties dying for kirkuk for what? for the oil too, isn't it? they chose to stay in federal union, why it is so matter to take kirkuk? how about making it region by itself.

I doubt even if kurdistan will stay friendly for long run, kurdistan reminds me of early arab nationalists, they cam with same ideas, and same style. but then plunged into power hunger, and sooner arab nationalism lost to more dangerous one "islamists". The only solution is for kurds to take this oppurtinity and make a real democracy and reform education, and reduce nationalism, instead plant patriotism.

Posted by: Ali Al-Iraqi at April 19, 2007 10:37 PM

MJT,

Great report, thanks again for all you've done.

I don't want to be a critic - and I don't mean this to be criticism - but as a Californian, this analogy stood out:

If a car bomb were to go off in San Diego, it wouldn’t disturb people who live in San Francisco.

Perhaps not, but if 300 car bombs went off in San Diego over the course of a 4 year period, killing tens of thousands of civilians, people who live in San Francisco would be disturbed.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at April 19, 2007 10:50 PM

Ali Al-Iraqi,

What a load of crap. Are the Kurds trying to take over Mecca? Are the Kurds declaring Morocco a lost homeland? How about Andalusia?

You're trying to drive a wedge between the growing good feelings for Kurds in the US. I've talked to the Kurds, they aren't early arab nationalists. They've already seen what happened to that movement. They aren't persecuting the Turkomen, Assyrians, Yezidi's, or other groups in their midst. Most importantly, the canary in the coal mine is alive and well in Kurdistan...the Kurds are fine with the Jews.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at April 19, 2007 11:03 PM

Ali Al-Iraqi

KRG is trying to copy the Swedish school system, they are building more universities then ever before and they are sending students to Europe. There is no way Islam will take over Kurdistan because most kurds identify themselves as kurdish first and muslim second.
The nationalism you describe is in fact patriotism. Kurdistan is proud of its people and heritage, not just the kurdish etnicity.

Posted by: RM at April 20, 2007 03:52 AM

ali Al iraqi

please dont confuse your own arab racisim and nationalism to ours. unlikr you, we do not try to invade any one's land, we never done before, and never will in the future. unlike you we have not gassed any one, unlike you we do not kill dads infront of their kids and then make the mother pay for the bullets, unlike you people can have a say in kurdistan.

by you i do not mean you specficly but your arab policy makers and the opressors that you support, so no offence was intended there.

We are proud to be kurds and want to free kurdistan, you know as well as we do that kirkuk is a kurdish city, and if oil is not that important to you, why do you care about it so much?

kirkuk is a kurdish city, for whatever reason we want kirkuk back, we want it back and we will have it back. maybe oil, maybe not but thats non of your people's business.

ohh by the way I forgot to say, we also do not conduct anfal operations against other nations just because they are not kurds.

You want us to stay in iraq but yet you deny every single right that we have, and i don't understand how do you expect the kurds to like you if this is how you are talking? how do you expect us to be able to live with you, if that is your way of talking?

ohhh please. I just wonder someone as simple as you hate us this much, god what are the ones at the top thinking?

Posted by: Shvan at April 20, 2007 05:20 AM

Still the best site on the entire internet. (although I'd put Glenn Reynolds a close second)

Honestly, I'm pretty surprised that you haven't been asked to speak to Congress yet, Mike. You're one of the few honest voices reporting from the Middle East. I should think that the Republicans in the House and Senate would be all over you like white on rice.

Posted by: Nate at April 20, 2007 05:42 AM

Mr. Totten and Mr. Lassell, Congratulations on your work: this is absolutely A+ stuff, and deeply appreciated. You guys have succeeded, and it is gratifying to watch you out-perform almost an entire profession without any rancor or bad-faith exploitation of easy and imprecise themes. That is most admirable.

Posted by: Dan at April 20, 2007 07:49 AM

It puts the BBC to shame this does. Instead of cowering in Baghdad you are actually out there getting the real story. As alwasy stunning stuff well done.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge at April 20, 2007 08:36 AM

Mike;

Thanks for your report. I was in the Kirkuk area last year and got to meet some of the same personalities. As a soldier on the ground we were always welcome in the Kurdish neighborhoods, but the Arabs too were hospitable to a point. I found it amazing how people even in the city rarely crossed out of their neighborhoods and there was a suspision of other ethicities. Where ever we could we tried to bring these groups together in dialog.

I miss Kirkuk and the friends I made there and hope that there and throughout Iraq people will be tire of the secular distrust and violence.

Sallaam Alakuum, Peace (السلام)
Arif Abiath Abu Philip

Posted by: jeff at April 20, 2007 10:08 AM

glasnost said:
An absolutely perfect capsule of why withdrawal is needed, with or without timetables. After four years, it can only be assumed that the Bush Administration is not capable or not interested in a negotiated outcome with the Baathists.

Your logic escapes me. How can you have a negotiated settlement with someone whose only recourse is your failure? This is like those people who want us to negotiate with bin Laden. How do you start negotiations with people who claim God has ordered them to kill you? What was it Churchill said about feeding an alligator hoping it eats you last?

Posted by: Kafir at April 20, 2007 10:55 AM

Great reporting Michael. Really looking forward to the next installment.

Posted by: Nile at April 20, 2007 01:06 PM

Michael:
The Iraqi children would be considered brave if they had the option to leave and didn't.

You could claim that you aren't brave because you carefully planned your trip and thought the risks were minimal, but comparing yourself to people that make do in crappy circumstances is silly.

Posted by: Raven at April 20, 2007 03:13 PM

Michael,

This is my first time here and I greatly appreciate your efforts. Payday is two weeks away and I will try to throw a coin or two in your cup.

I admit that I've been watching the show from the cheap seats in the back of the balcony but it seems to me that the Kurds are the only sane people in the region. If they want their own country they should have it. If that means they get a few oil wells, so be it. It is a mystery to me why no one wants these people to have a little spot on this planet to call their own. Do they grow fangs and talons when the moon is full?

If so please get video.

Posted by: USBeast at April 20, 2007 05:19 PM

USBeast,

The Kurds go out to the hills in the springtime and picnic. They barbecue and drink beer and sometimes dance, modestly. Their primary crimes are that they are that they refuse to disappear. They are caught in the gears of three imperial powers Turkish/Byzantine, Persian, and Arab. They are some of the most live and let live people in the least live and let live place in the world.

It is worth noting that despite excruciating effort on the part of the intolerant bigots of the three imperial powers, the Kurds still exist and are distinct. The reason this is such a problem is that if these imperial powers acknowledge the legitimacy of Kurdish self-rule, they lose most of the remainders of their own empire. Half of Turkey goes away when the Kurds get independence. Azerbaijan doubles in size and Baluchistan pops into existence at the cost of Persia. Berbers start causing difficulty in Morocco.

What this does to the Arab bloc in the UN is not to be contemplated. If the Kurds are really smart, they will form a league similar to the Scandanavia bloc of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Faroe Islands to maximize their voting power...assuming they really give a damn about the UN by that point.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at April 20, 2007 05:40 PM

great post Michael. i think USA, Israel and kurdistan can do great things in the middle east which is full suicidal extremist. only this coalition can be a good counterbalance against this radical sunni terrorism which is funded by petrodollars. retreat is no solution. i think in the long run we will see the benefits. it took 50 years to bring evil soviet empire down but at the end it was worth. nothing is without sacrifice. note: i am not tech-savvy but i beleive michaels post should be conveyed to more people so that american public can see their tax dollars and american blood is not being spent for nothing. a new, reliable, true american ally is emerging in middle east,that is KURDISTAN. KEEP FIGHTING

Posted by: a kurd in america at April 20, 2007 05:47 PM

"
“Here he is,” the chief said.

I grabbed my video camera, flipped the switch to on, and ran out the door.

To be continued…"

...wow...and I'm looking forward to reading/seeing what the shooter had to say...

Posted by: Orbit Rain at April 20, 2007 06:40 PM

"If the Kurds are really smart"

than they would build on what they already have in Iraq and not push too far, thereby giving Turkey a reason to stop the progress that's being made. By the looks of it, the Kurds are handling the situation very well.

The Kurdish "patriots" dreaming of a kurdistan that takes land away from Turkey and Iran are the real dangers to their cause.

Posted by: TG at April 20, 2007 07:53 PM

Your video shows some trees, buddy. Editing needed. :-D

Depends on what you're used to, I guess.

As someone from the same general region as MJT, I can confirm that by our standards, the place is a clearcut.

Posted by: rosignol at April 21, 2007 03:49 AM

to all kurdish people in this world,where you life,think ass kurdish,save you culture and married with your own people.dont married with forgien people ,becasue western community people have Hata eyes agin kurdish people like this basterd turksh donkys.arabe trorrist and iranier dogs,special American socity and Europien nazist,Racist and facist never have bee kurdish friend or care about kurdish issue,dont trust to anybody of this people and trye bee togher and help eathe other and bee one where ever you are and kurdistan dont need crminal trorrist forgien company do bussnis in kurdistan it is manye greet kurdish bussnins man have compny so can help of Economie of kurdistan.I have been 19 years in some shit europien bout never ever see me like Europien, becuse Im kurdish and bee only kurdish what ever if I have been 100 years in country like europa or country calls for united stat.

Posted by: kurdish natinalist at April 21, 2007 04:27 AM

Well done article; intuitively objective. I can understand, somewhat, the origins of the thought that surfaces from time-to-time about controlling the internet. In a different context, a future article might consider the religious/politicl implications of Kurdish success and what that might mean for the violence and the rest of us.

Posted by: Joe Legris at April 21, 2007 04:38 AM

Hello people "kurdish natinalist" is not a kurd, he is turkish, he has done this in many other sites, so please ignore his comments.

Regards,
Shvan

Posted by: Shvan at April 21, 2007 05:05 AM

They are some of the most live and let live people in the least live and let live place in the world.

Great line, Patrick. Applies to another group of ME outcasts I can think of.

Shvan, don't worry about "kurdish nationalist." I doubt anyone gets past the first incomprehensible line -- way too much work.

Posted by: Pam at April 21, 2007 09:11 AM

Pam

true, even i myself didnt read the whole thing.

Posted by: Shvan at April 21, 2007 09:34 AM

Orbit Rain

...wow...and I'm looking forward to reading/seeing what the shooter had to say...

Indeed. I am also looking forward to seeing him get slapped by Rostam.

Posted by: Rightjabs at April 21, 2007 10:36 AM

Shvan:

""kurdish natinalist" is not a kurd, he is turkish, he has done this in many other sites, so please ignore his comments."

I'm not exactly surprised to hear this, Shvan :^).

Posted by: Gary Rosen at April 21, 2007 11:47 AM

I noticed someone brought up petrodollars. If anyone needs a quick and dirty synopsis of the US/OPEC petrodollar history and current pressures on the whole structure, try this link:

http://www.kitco.com/ind/Willie/apr192007.html

Posted by: allan at April 21, 2007 01:19 PM

i have a different spin:

This war is:

Organized chaos.

I predict that our bases are going to be in Kurdistan, which will also help contain the animosity of the Turks towards the Kurds. Don't forget that neither Barzani nor Talabani like the PKK, which could turn into an army within an army (=Peshmerga)..............that's not good for any country.......I hope that the Kurds prosper and become (as they already are) a Middle East shining example on how to run a country. Kirkuk and Kurdistan have more oil reserves than the Shiite area.I also like the fact that they have no bones to contend with Israel.

Posted by: diana at April 21, 2007 03:39 PM

pravda says:

An absolutely perfect capsule of why withdrawal is needed, with or without timetables. After four years, it can only be assumed that the Bush Administration is not capable or not interested in a negotiated outcome with the Baathists.

Under what terms do you think the Baathist might be willing to negotiate? They get all their old jobs back? I don't believe there are any official "rape room supervisors" in the current Iraqi government.

Perhaps they want to run the government along the Baathist lines set down by Saddam?

Perhaps as a hypothetical you could outline what terms might be accepted. Then you could run down how the rest of Iraq would feel about such terms.

Given the level of hostility towards the previous regime, the Baathists are lucky that they have only lost their jobs. Perhaps you have a plan for getting the rest of Iraq to forgive and forget. I'd like to hear it.

Posted by: M. Simon at April 21, 2007 08:53 PM

Great site.

Posted by: runescape money at April 22, 2007 03:59 AM

I don't believe there are any official "rape room supervisors" in the current Iraqi government.

Sure about that, huh?

Perhaps as a hypothetical you could outline what terms might be accepted.

Most of the main Baathist groups have been pretty clear, to the point of holding conferences to explicitly state, that they want a public commitment to withdraw U.S. troops on a deadline - before they will truce.

I want to stop here - this means, the very thing the Democrats are pushing for and being hyped as "surrender" is the very thing most likely to tamp the violence down in Iraq.

The Baathists have some other demands, which sometimes don't sound very realistic. These conditions have been publicly disclosed. Go find them. Educate yourself.

Sometimes such conditions get flexible halfway through a deal, when you know you're going to go back to dying young otherwise. Sometimes, not. But we won't find out until George Bush is gone. Anyone who thinks the insurgency will die out before his presidency is deep in the sh*t.

"Forgive and forget" is a whole different order of problem. "Not slaughter each other actively" is where you start.

Questions?

Posted by: glasnost at April 22, 2007 10:19 AM

Why is that Karkuk video you promised to upload soon is on youtube and not on your own site? I just thought it odd for you to show your work that way.

Posted by: hawraman at April 22, 2007 10:31 AM

Have you got anything like a reference to back that up or are you just passing gossip from the Baath and AQ? Because you're calling some friends of mine liars and implying that Michael and I are too stupid to figure out some pretty basic things about the Kurds. (Patrick Lasswell to Staubutz)

Oh come on, that's pretty outrageous as it's directed towards someone who has clearly been to Iraq and has taken fire....have you btw?

Not only is it outrageous, it's also lazy to immediately tar anyone who doesn't toe your line with the AQ brush.

Read what he said again. No doubt Kurdistan is an inifnitely better place than the rest of Iraq. And he didn't say the Kurds were bad guys, he said they weren't completely whiter than white either. As for back up:

Kurdish political parties and their militias want to expel 270,000 Iraqi Arabs from Tamim province, which includes Kirkuk, under a plan to annex the region to a future autonomous zone. Kurds argue that they are merely redressing an injustice perpetrated by a variety of Iraqi governments

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A43058-2004Jan23?language=printer

Posted by: Nana Poku at April 22, 2007 01:33 PM

Nana Poku,

Rather obviously, if you have read the article, I have been to the Red Zone in Iraq...I'm a featured player. As for the implied "chickenhawk" accusation, my eight years on active duty really make that a deeply stupid thing to say.

Staubutz was carrying water for the Baath and AQ with his statements, he tarred himself. Are you one of Michael's special friends from South Lebanon? The ones who take money from Iran and say whatever their Persian paymasters say? (See, I tarred you with the Hezborroid brush...didn't need to use AQ.)

As for the WaPo, their description of Kurdish military force as militia is a bit telling, isn't it? They are wrong to describe the Kurdish forces as militia and the remainder of their report is also suspect. Major media sources in Iraq have been known to shade the truth quite a lot, and this looks like an hit job.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at April 22, 2007 04:04 PM

To Shvan:

I expect such rhetoric from these Americans who are extremely unfamiliar and ignorant to the Kurdish problem in Turkey. However, I am ashamed to find that there is Kurd like yourself who is careless enough to ignore the atrocities committed against the Kurdish people in Turkey, and wrongly compares the PKK with an organization such as Hamas.

I did not read through all 70+ comments posted herein. However, I'd like to respond to those that I have read. There are several key reasons why the Kurdistan Regional Government has not taken any recent action against the PKK. The number one reason is that the overwhelming majority of Kurds are against such action. The second reason is because the PKK is a direct result of the atrocities and ethnocide that has been carried out against ethnic Kurds in Turkey by the Turkish State since it's establishment.

The fact that the PKK has offered peace through five separate ceasefires, which have all been rejected by the Turkish State, is proof that the Turkish military would much rather carry on this conflict rather than find a proper political solution.

The latest ceasefire rests on these conditions as publicly and officially announced by the Kurdistan Confederation and PKK:

1- The acknowledgement of the Kurdish identity and the constitutional guarantee of all identities under the identity of a Citizen of Turkey as the main identity,

2- The lifting of obstacles on the development of the Kurdish language and culture, the acknowledgement of education in the mother tongue and Kurdish acknowledged as the official second language alongside Turkish in the Kurdistan region, and with this to show respect to other minority cultures,

3- The acknowledgement, on the basis of freely practicing politics and organizing, of the right to thought, belief and freedom of expression, the lifting of all social inequalities in the constitution and laws, firstly being those of gender discrimination,

4- A social reconciliation project with the aim of mutual forgiveness of both people’s for the development of a peace and freedom union, on this basis the release of political prisoners including the PKK Leadership, and no obstacles to them participating in politics and social life,

5- The removal of forces in Kurdistan there for the purposes of special war, the abolition of the village guard system and the necessary social and political projects to be developed for the return of displaced villagers,

6- In parallel to the realization of the above articles, the initiation, with a timetable determined by both parties, of the gradual disarmament and legal participation into the democratic social life.

These are civil demands that are in line with democracy and freedom that normally should exist in any part of the free world. These demands are those that the fascist Turkish State refuses to accept.

The Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraqi Kurdistan is well-aware of the atrocities being committed and that continue against the Kurdish people in Turkey. Iraqi Kurdish leaders have repeatedly requested that the Turkish State engage in dialogue in order to solve the Kurdish problem that is deeply rooted within Turkey's own borders. However, Turkish leaders refuse. Instead they continue to terrorize Kurdish civilians in Turkey, destroying over 6000 Kurdish villages in Turkey's southeast, and leaving over 3 million Kurds displaced and in poverty. This is the terror of the Turkish State. Now I ask, why would any Kurd anywhere in the world want to help Turkey?

~Hawar

Posted by: Hawar Kamali at April 22, 2007 06:05 PM

Hawraman: Why is that Karkuk video you promised to upload soon is on youtube and not on your own site?

I'll put it here shortly as soon as I have the text to go with it. I've been out of town with my wife on our wedding anniversary.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 22, 2007 06:21 PM

Hawar Kamali: I expect such rhetoric from these Americans who are extremely unfamiliar and ignorant to the Kurdish problem in Turkey.

I've been to Turkey, and to Turkish Kurdistan. I am well aware of what goes on there, and am also well aware that the PKK resembles Hamas in far too many ways.

Turkish oppression does not give you a license to murder Turkish and Kurdish civilians any more than the existence of Israeli settlements in Hebron gives Hamas a license to murder children in Tel Aviv.

If you are going to support an organization such as the PKK, be a man and suck up the criticism. And post somewhere else. Terrorist supporters are not welcome here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 22, 2007 06:29 PM

"am also well aware that the PKK resembles Hamas in far too many ways"

I am sure you are Mr. Totten. Your words on the other handle resembles not those of the ignorant American, but those who simply echo world opinion based solely upon self-interests and propaganda. I suspect, and it is unfortunate, that you refer to Turkish media for your sources in comparing the PKK to Hamas. Your statement regarding the "murder [of] Turkish and Kurdish civilians" is strongly put and lacks credibility. The PKK targets the Turkish military, not civilians. However, I'm sure your kind would much rather believe Turkish and biased U.S. reports than those wretched Kurdish ones...

The fact is that the Turkish military and State is the one truly engaged in the murder of Kurdish civilians.

With all due respect, if you say that you are well aware of the situation in Turkey, then you must certainly be aware of the 6000 Kurdish villages that were destroyed by the Turkish military. You must be aware of the 3.5 million displaced Kurdish villagers. You must be aware of the 80% or higher poverty rate that exists throughout cities in the Kurdish region of Turkey such as Diyarbakir. You must be aware of the constant dismissal of Turkish military personnel and police who are excused after killing Kurdish children from 3 to 12 years old and calling them terrorists.

Are these children like the PKK also terrorist by your standards, Mr. Totten?

Perhaps you and others failed to read the six points outlined by the PKK in accordance to their ceasefire. Perhaps you don't realize that the 6 points are civil and are rights that any human beings should be born with. Why doesn't the Turkish State simply grant Kurds their rights? This would solve the PKK issue once and for all.

But the Turkish military would rather complete the genocide they began decades ago. What a miserable democracy if that's what we are calling democracy nowadays...

Mr. Totten, maybe you have already seen it... but I recommend the documentary entitled "Good Kurds, Bad Kurds" by Kevin McKiernan. I think it was released in 2000 but it's still worth the watch...

~Hawar

Posted by: Hawar Kamali at April 22, 2007 07:35 PM

Hawar, I am very aware of Turkey's abominable treatment of the Kurds, more so than almost anyone else in the West. I have been to Turkish Kurdistan. You will not lecture me about this.

I don't rely on the Turkish media for reports on the PKK. I pay precisely zero attention to the Turkish media.

The Kurds of Iraq will tell you that the PKK is a terrorist organization. You know that very well, because it just happened in my own comments section. See your own response to Shvan if you have forgotten.

And post somewhere else. Terrorist supporters aren't welcome here. Period. No grievance justifies that sort of behavior. Do not forget that I am an American, and we have zero tolerance for terrorists in this country.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 22, 2007 07:56 PM

Americans also don't even know what proper criteria for being considered "Terrorist" is. Just because the U.S. government tells us one group is terrorist and another is not, doesn't mean anything to me, Mr. Totten.

You say that you rely on information from "Iraqi Kurds". Well Mr. Totten, I'm an "Iraqi" Kurd myself. I therefore don't comments from people like Shvan to confirm anything. And I can tell you that many Iraqi Kurds don't view PKK as a terrorist organization who fights against the Turkish military any more than than they would view the Kurdish political parties who fought against Saddam's Ba'a'thist army. And those same Iraqi Kurds are highly against the killing of civilians. Ironic? Probably not...

By the way... I, too, am an American... strong and proud. And one thing I know about the people of this country is that we support freedom of speech. If you are going to write about Kurds, be a man and expect Kurds to respond to your writings.

Posted by: Hawar Kamali at April 22, 2007 08:09 PM

Hawar,

The US government does not tell me what a terrorist is. I know what a terrorist is.

Your PKK friends have kidnapped foreign tourists in Turkey. They have thrown grenades at tourist sites in Turkey. Yyour friends could have killed me, my wife, or any number of other innocent people who were there on a holiday.

You're banned. Future posts will be deleted.

This is not a violation of your freedom of speech. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom to support terrorism on michaeltotten.com. Get your own blog and neither I nor the state will get in your way.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 22, 2007 08:18 PM

MJT -- Patrick -- any thoughts on what the Kurdish reaction might be to the massacre of 20-plus Yazidi Kurdish civilians today in Mosul?

I was very startled that one theory is that this was a Muslim revenge killing for the videotaped 'Honor Murder' by stoning of a Kurdish Yazidi woman last week who converted to Islam and ran off to marry her boyfriend.

If Kurds endorse Honor Murders, or death by stoning, then they, too, are terrorists, in my view. Is this accepted Yazidi practice? Or Kurdish?

Posted by: Pam at April 22, 2007 08:40 PM

Pam, that happened in Mosul. I doubt the Kurds had anything to do with it, but it's possible that I'm wrong.

Mosul is not in Kurdistan.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 22, 2007 08:46 PM

Michael,

I think you're going to be banning a whole new group of trolls.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at April 22, 2007 09:37 PM

I've eaten at Rostom's place. The chicken and rice with the raisins was great.

Posted by: MaDeuceGunner at April 22, 2007 09:54 PM

Patrick: I think you're going to be banning a whole new group of trolls.

It happens when I write about Lebanon, too. Oh well. My affection for a place cannot be unconditional or include everyone, especially not in the Middle East.

If I ever start making excuses for terrorists because they kill people for a cause I support, I'll need to get a new job.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 22, 2007 10:08 PM

If I ever start making excuses for terrorists because they kill people for a cause I support, I'll need to get a new job.

If only more people thought that way.

Posted by: jonorose at April 23, 2007 01:36 AM

If I ever start making excuses for terrorists because they kill people for a cause I support, I'll need to get a new job.
If only more people thought that way.

The world would be a better place..

Posted by: mary at April 23, 2007 08:20 AM

To all the PKK supporters

fact is PKK is a terrorist organisation for the following reasons.

1. They threatened to turn turkey into hell if what they say don't go. which means turning turkey into hell not just for turkish military but also for innocent civilians, and when you start threatening civlians thats when you are a terrorist.

2. they use bombs in cities and civlian areas to cause panic = terrorsit act

3. they kill any one leaving their party = makes me remember saddam hussien, and again = terrorist

4. they used to and might still be kidnapping kids in iraqi kurdistan and if you kidnap ppl you are = terrorist

5. they killed and destroyed many other kurds in turkey just because they were more popular than them.

6. pkk had young girls/guys blowning themselves up, now here comes the good part, for me any one who blows himself up is a terrosit i do not care where, when or who she is trying to kill. and obviously they did that in government buildings in the cities where civlians could be.

in conclusion any one that causes chaos in the cities is a terrorsit and thats the only thing they are good at.

and the biggest reason why i hate them is they keep giving the generals in turkey what they want (which is reasons to invade iraqi kurdistan). am thinking are they actually workin for the governments secretly?. why dont they come down from our mountains and go back to theirs and fight? why cause trouble for us? why keep making turkey's invasion justifiable.

any supports of the pkk are terrorists to me. you wanna free kurds in turkey, follow layla zana's example. did she ever shoot? NO. did she ever kill any one? NO. did she ever hurt any one in any way? NO. and what has she achieved? 100000 times more than what PKK has achieved.

need i say more?

Posted by: Shvan at April 23, 2007 09:43 AM

and where do they get their money from? hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm thats a good question aint it buddy? well let me tell you

1. they do drug traffcing
2. they kidnap ppl in europe and ask for ransom, latest case was in machnester(uk)
3. they bill all the kurdish shops in britain. i have heard tons of stories regarding that.
4. they trade with arms.
5. they accept money from governments who are killing kurds (thats somethin other parties have done too but not on the level the pkk does. or atleats they have moved on now , that was a thing of the past).

yeah yeah? you are telling me they are growing money trees?

Posted by: Shvan at April 23, 2007 09:46 AM

Thanks for your work. Thanks for putting up with the nimrods.

Portland Metro Weather, "GREATER PORTLAND METRO AREA-GREATER VANCOUVER AREA-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...FOREST GROVE...BEAVERTON...GRESHAM...
OREGON CITY...LA CENTER...BATTLEGROUND...VANCOUVER...CAMAS
940 AM PDT MON APR 23 2007

.TODAY...AREAS OF MORNING LOW CLOUDS AND FOG...OTHERWISE MOSTLY
SUNNY. HIGHS AROUND 65. LIGHT WIND.
.TONIGHT...PARTLY CLOUDY IN THE EVENING...THEN MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A
CHANCE OF LIGHT RAIN AFTER MIDNIGHT. LOWS IN THE 40S. SOUTH WIND 5 TO
10 MPH."

Take care.

Posted by: OregonGuy at April 23, 2007 11:31 AM

MJT: Any chance you could take a break from your current focus on Iraq and write a bit about what is happening now in Lebanon. The Syrian/Hamas/Iranian/Lebanese dance over the government shutdown and the tribunal is pretty interesting.

Posted by: dontgetit at April 23, 2007 02:40 PM

As a Kurd, I have admired MJT's reports for a long time now. A classic example of raw, real, accurate (to a point), both from top down and ground up observations of a zone of conflict, documented with photographic evidence and in situ commentary. Great prose, too.

I love especially when food or drink is served during long interviews. A photo of a banquet before it was served or hard brewed tea in traditional glass cup and saucer. It gives one a sense of immediacy and participation in the conversation. It is a fantastic reporting this from fortress Kurdistan. Something for others to emulate in other parts of the world.

Yet when he writes about the Kurdish people in different parts of the world, it is not hard to notice that MJT studiously casts the liberation struggle in the North of our country in a negative light.

Mr. Micheal J Tottens, I am sorry to say, suffers from an acute case of "Good Kurds/Bad Kurds" syndrome. It is the same syndrome that is suffered practically by everyone in the US State Department. "Yes, the Turks are heavy handed, but only if those PKK terrorists laid down their arms, then all will be well for all Kurds and everyone else".

It is not that simple, Mr Tottens. No armed insurgency in the world will lay down its arms in order to be frogmarched into prisons. Not when they have started off as a national liberation movement and paid so much in blood and materyal loss for so many of their supporters.

There are many problems with the PKK. They are primitive, insular, dogmatic, fanatic and prone to cultism. On one hand they fight the Turkish Army. On the other and they have as leader, indeed the undisputed master of their universe, a person under total Turkish domination in a jail cell. It takes a great deal of despotism to make such contradictions fit together in the PKK.

These are the problems the Kurds tend to see in the PKK, not "terrorism". After all, one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter, right? So that is why even the New York Times is calling most of the people who kill Americans in Iraq something that the PKK never did as "insurgents" or sometimes even "the resistance".

Honestly, I was surprised to see that MJT's reflex reaction to the mention of the PKK as anything other than a terrorist organisation was a reading of the Patriot Act. Perhaps, he shouldn't be too shy about asking people in his next trip to Kurdistan what they really think about the PKK. Better still, why not pay a visit to the PKK camps and see it all for himself?

Posted by: Shexmus Amed at April 23, 2007 10:44 PM

If I ever start making excuses for terrorists because they kill people for a cause I support, I'll need to get a new job.

I respect this position, but I don't think that not banning pro-PKK commenters is the equivalent of you personally abandoning your moral distinction. Not that you have to agree with me, it's your blog, but this is a discussion forum, so
I respectfully suggest that it negatively impacts the knowledge available to the readers to ban that guy.

To elaborate here, with some serious questions:

First: It seems clear from, from an analytical perspective, that the PKK has support from Iraqi Kurdistan. In other words, you're more than likely meeting, and possibly interviewing, people right now who support the PKK, at least to the extent that they actively refuse to help Turkey cooperate in neutralizing them.

If Mam Rostam turned out to be a supporter of the liberation struggle in Turkey, would you blacklist him? Given the sectarian thinking that has been so heavily emphasized around here, what are the chances that he does, in fact support them? I'm not sure, BTW, that he would say it if he did.

Second: what moral distinction can be drawn between the Turkish Army and the PKK? I'm not positively supporting the PKK with this statement - I'm asking, if both the Turkish Army and the PKK commit widespread abuses against the Kurdish civilian population, why is one morally superior
to the other? If neither is morally superior, then why are those who support the Turkish government allowed to post here? Why are non-state actors who indiscriminately kill civilians more morally evil than states that indiscriminately kill civilians, assuming both are equally indiscriminate?

Third: The terrible fact is that in situations of mass generalized violence, a lot of passive civilians tend to support the killers of their own group. In other words, in a general sense, it wouldn't be unusual for a Kurdish guerilla/terrorist group, even one that kills Turkish civilians, to have plenty of civilian support. Not unlike Serbs and Croats in Bosnia - your own team's killers are always 'doing what's neccesary', etc.

So, does it really do any good to ban a popular point of view on a discussion forum intended to grapple with exactly these sorts of distorted, even terrible views? Are you getting more from banning a pro-PKK poster than you would be from refuting him?

Posted by: glasnost at April 23, 2007 11:21 PM

Honestly, Glasnost (and everyone else) I am unsure of the best way to handle this. You make a strong case.

But if I can't make terrorist supporting off limits in my comments, can I make anything off limits?

I have seen what happens to comments sections with no standards, including mine when I have let people post vile and violent propaganda. It's an ugly thing, and I don't want it here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 23, 2007 11:30 PM

The pro-PKK supporters seem to me to make a very calm rational defense of their positions.

I think it's beneficial to westerners to hear their opinions, so long as it avoids incitement to violence, racism, and the other hateful stuff you see on other comments section.

Posted by: tg at April 24, 2007 05:06 AM

The pro-PKK supporters seem to me to make a very calm rational defense of their positions.

Some of them, sure... they seem to have a reasonably good understanding of the media game. Still, didn't the Hizbullah fans start out calm and rational?

The PKK is a revolutionary marxist group, and I know enough about the crap done by other revolutionary marxist outfits that I am disinclined to give the PKK any slack.

People who really believe in marxism think that building a worker's paradise justifies any means.

As far as poverty and disruption is concerned, Marxist economics tends to have that effect, even in the abscence of deliberate action from external sources. It's a deeply flawed theory of economics, and sooner or later the internal contradictions catch up with the people who try to use it.

Posted by: rosignol at April 24, 2007 07:17 AM

Glasnost makes some very strong points. I suggest the degree of shrillness/venom/ irrationality/deviousness and (for my tastes) coherence and readability be the deciding factors on what constitutes a troll and/or terrorist.

That way you preserve freedom of speech and the exchange of ideas -- how else will rapprochement or evolution of ideas be possible? -- while ensuring that your blog promotes civil communication, not incomprehensible ranting.

It's a little more work for you, but you could ask the regulars to alert you when they think someone is getting toxic, perhaps

Posted by: Pam at April 24, 2007 07:54 AM

I have to agree, banning him was not the best thing to do. i not like his ideas and what he belives in but he should have had his say. anyway it is your blog, your rules.

some people read my comments and then email me, thinking am a pro turkish government, well I am not. I'm against their policies with all my wisdom but if you think of the turkish government as a car engine, pkk is the igniter. thats the problem.

Posted by: Shvan at April 24, 2007 10:27 AM

Okay, I'm going to deal with this on a case by case basis for now. If it gets out of control, I'm pulling the plug on the PKK just like I pulled the plug on Hezbollah.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 24, 2007 11:05 AM

I have seen what happens to comments sections with no standards, including mine when I have let people post vile and violent propaganda. It's an ugly thing, and I don't want it here.

I hear you. And it's quite a dillemma. Propaganda needs to be combatted. I think the best way to combat "incomplete picture" propaganda is by filling it in. I suggest that Deliberate, repeated outright lies, differentiated from wrongly informed beliefs by a failure to respond honestly to contrary facts/assertions, might be past the limits of tolerance. Ditto for abusive language and insults. For that matter, anything that seems to promote terrorism, itself, on the board - statements that refer positively and specifically to acts of murder themselves - could and should be punishable, up to and including banning. Talking to people that support groups that do bad things is life - we're all sinners and we all get supported. On the other hand, cheering for bad things to happen to people is offensive and punishable.

It's the same kind of standard that ought to apply to the GWOT. The goal is to separate those who are engaging in violence from those who ain't. It's neither practical nor ultimately moral to imprison everyone who in some emotional sense supports some of these organizations. But are you talking, marching, performing charitable acts or are you engaging in or planning acts of inhumane behavior? If it's A, you should be tolerated and opposed civilly. If it's B, every door should be closed to you.

Same thing on the comment board. Find universal rules of behavior on the comment board and enforce them - but, if possible, try not to have those rules be related to things to bad behavior here, not bad behavior out in the world. People take different points of view on bad behavior out in the world. It's inevitable.

Posted by: glasnost at April 24, 2007 03:10 PM

You're welcome to run a blog with those standards if you like. I'll stop by in a few months to see what the comment section looks like.

Posted by: rosignol at April 24, 2007 10:13 PM

Rosignol, I will pull the plug immediately on this policy if it gets out of control for even a day. I will not put up with bullshit.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 25, 2007 12:32 AM

Wow, breathtaking journalism!

Posted by: Andrew at April 25, 2007 06:49 PM

Contrary to what pseudo-reporter Michael Totten writes, the Ancient Citadel of Kerkuk has never been Kurdish. Totten hasn’t got a clue about the history of the north of Iraq, he only repeats like a parrot what the chief of a Kurdish gang tells him. This is what I call unprofessional journalism, it’s dishonest and misleading. Totten never bothered to meet with the original inhabitants of Kerkuk, the Turkmens. Had he discussed the region’s history with Turkmen intellectuals he would not be writing such rubbish and misinforming his readers.

Totten’s articles about Iraq abound in inaccuracies and false information, but Totten is not only ignorant about Kerkuk’s history, he doesn’t even know that Hamburg is not the capital of Germany! Here again, like a parrot he repeats and takes for granted what his Mam Rostam, his Kurdish host, tells him: “In Hamburg, Germany, there was a restaurant opposite the Turkish Embassy”!!!. One doesn’t have to be a “professional journalist” to know that Embassies are only located in the capital city of a country, but Totten doesn’t know…yet he has the cheek to write about Iraq’s history for his folk back home!

I strongly recommend to those who wish to find the truth about KERKUK’s history and about the CITADEL OF KERKUK to read Dr. Suphi Saatçi’s well documented and beautifully illustrated book : The Urban Fabric and Traditional Houses of KERKUK.
English translation published in January 2007
ISBN-975-6849-19-3
kERKUK VAKFI IKTISADI ISLETMESI
ISTANBUL 2007

Extract (Page 43) Dr. Suphi Saatçi writes:

‘ The most noteworthy aspect of Kirkuk’s Citadel, the urban fabric of which is lost almost completely, is that it housed the most significant examples of traditional residential architecture in the city. Most of the 800 houses located here were important examples of traditional Turkmen residential architecture (Figure 42) Only forty-five of them survive to this day, particularly as a result of recent assaults. Five or six of them were repaired, but their wooden doors and windows have been plundered since April 19, 2003 when Peshmergas entered the city”

Posted by: Blue Woman at April 26, 2007 10:40 AM

For God's sake, Blue Woman, I know very well that Hamburg isn't the capital of Germany. Errors inside quotes from other people are their errors, not mine.

I am also well aware of the tendency of Middle Easterners to inflate their ethnic and sectarian numbers in relation to the others. I'm sure Rostam does it, just as I'm sure you do it. I left out Rostam's numbers about the Kurds in Kirkuk because what he said is as unreliable as what you're saying.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 26, 2007 11:17 AM

Blue Woman
One doesn’t have to be a “professional journalist” to know that Embassies are only located in the capital city of a country,
NOT TRUE-Houston and New York City come to mind.

Posted by: texasred at April 26, 2007 12:31 PM

Anyway, Turkey has a consulate in Hamburg. It was firebombed by terrorists in 1993.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 26, 2007 12:53 PM

" Failure to identify Iraq’s principal terrorist organizations and treat them accordingly is the number one reason why Iraq is such a catastrophe. At least this is what I have been told. Kurdish officials I’ve met who try to explain this to the Americans are dismissed out of hand and ignored utterly."

I'm confused. The fact that U.S. forces recognize al-Qaeda as the "bad guy" is a bad thing? Who would you have our troops recognize as enemies?

Posted by: DagneyT at April 26, 2007 04:44 PM

NOT TRUE-Houston and New York City come to mind.

The US is something of a special case- the embassies in NYC generally host an ambassador to the United Nations. There will also be an embassy in Washington DC, hosting the ambassador to the US government.

I dunno what the deal is with Houston.

In larger countries, it is very common for foreign governments to have an embassy in the capitol, and consulates in major cities. As the US is very large both in terms of geography and population, and has a large immigrant community, pretty much every major city will have a few consulates, which perform similar functions as embassies, but are not quite the same thing.

Posted by: rosignol at April 26, 2007 11:27 PM

For God's sake, Michael Totten, stop equalizing the victims with the aggressors, as you westerners have been doing for decades in all conflicts in the Middle East, starting from Palestine and ending in Iraq.

Concerning the north of Iraq, you are putting me at the level of your Mam Rostam, who you are promoting as a new ‘Rambo’ while in actual fact he is nothing else but a gang leader, smuggler, killer and contrabandist who became one of the representatives of a community which has shamefully collaborated with the aggressors of the Iraqi people and the occupiers of Iraq after an illegal war of aggression for their self-interest and against the legitimate interests of the majority of the Iraqi people.

Mam Rostam and his gang who you are promoting and elevating to the status of a nation in the north of Iraq, mainly to break Iraq, to divide it and plunder its wealth, have always worked against the interest of the majority of the Iraqis.

Today, the Kurds are openly and unjustly marginalizing all the other inhabitants of the north of Iraq, especially the Turkmens who are incontestably not only the third main ethnic component of the Iraqi people representing 12% of Iraq’s total population but also undeniably the second main ethnic group of the north of Iraq, with their community counting no less than 3 million Turkmens representing at least 30% of the population of the north of Iraq, where Mam Rostam and his gang with the blessing of the Anglo-American aggressors of the Iraqi people have imposed their hegemony and are now denying the Turkmens their basic and legitimate rights, their history, their representation and the existence of their region ‘TURKMENELI’ in the north of Iraq.

Indeed, a few weeks ago Mr. Massud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish regional government ‘KRG’, passing beyond all limits of honesty, decency and objectivity, bluntly declared that the Turkmens were ‘only a few thousands’ in Kerkuk and he threatened Iraq’s northern neighbour, Turkey - who fed him and his family and who supported him and his group for decades - to intervene in its internal affairs creating problems in Turkey, if the Turks rejects his (Mr Barzani’s) lucubration, fallacious theory and ambition to create a state within the Iraqi state and come to the defence of their cousins, the Turkmens of Iraq , whose existence is threatened and whose legitimate rights and true representation in the north of Iraq are denied by the Kurds.

It is only the beginning of another source of problems for the entire Middle-East and for the majority of the people of this region that your Mam Rostam and his group are actively working to create, unfortunately reporters like yourself are willingly helping them to achieve their objective by diffusing their lies and their propaganda without any reservation and without any verification about their rightness and about the veracity of their declarations!

Time has come to stop throwing oil on the fire that the new crusaders led by the anglo-americans occupiers of Iraq have ignited in the region.

Concerning the inhabitants of the towns and cities of the north of Iraq I recommend you consult the “Ethnographical map – to show distribution of races in Northern Iraq” drawn by the British in 1922 for the purpose of their negotiations with Turkey before the signature of the Lausanne Treaty in July 1923.

You can refer to the British National Archives, London. File No. F.O.925/41335.
Even though this map is biased as it was drawn by the British to serve their imperialistic objectives for the negotiations with Turkey for the signature of the Lausanne Treaty and was intended to reduce the Turkmen importance and representation in the north of Iraq (Mosul Vilayat) and to limit the Turkmen region to a minimum minimorum for their imperialistic objectives, this map nonetheless indicates that: Tel Afer, villages around Mosul, Erbil, Altunkopru, Kerkuk, Tuz Khurmatu, Kifri, Karatepe, Khanekin, Kizlarbat, Mendeli, etc. were Turkmen towns and cities.

Posted by: Blue Woman at April 27, 2007 06:52 AM

Blue Woman,

Is there a name for that alternate universe you live in?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 27, 2007 10:32 AM

to blue woman,
What a lie "The Turkmens representing 12% of Iraq’s total population". I think the number of the Turkmens members of the Iraqi parliament(1 out of 275)speaks for itself. I think Michael Totten is right "blu woman you live in your own universe".

Posted by: bob miller at April 29, 2007 06:56 AM

Great stuff as usual.

I'm not sure if you've covered it in subsequent posts but have things smoothed over between the PUK and KDP?

Posted by: h0mi at May 2, 2007 09:39 AM

first of all l don,t know how to start. anyway hopefully would be welcame by mr toten,, hehe toten . 2>l agree what hawar kamil has been writing above. and as a kurdish (from north kurdistan,officialy which,s known southeast turkey)condemning mr totten and mr shvan... both of u know nothing about north kurdistan and u have no right to commenting about northerner kurdish people by calling their only hope and (existences) pkk as terrorist org, which,s fighting against terrorist turkish state. and by banning HAWAR kamil u show how limited knowledge u have. anyway

and u SHVAN u,re claiming that u,re kurd and supporting kurdishness or kurdish rights,,right? l only can lough at u. cos first of all thx to the god that we kurds have very very but very few people like u even not worth to call u kurd, since u work with kurdish enemies to separete kurds part by part then to genocide kurds part by part make it easy like suddam did in hallabja and turkey did (still doing) in GELIYE ZILAN, DERSEM , AMED, AGIRI, MERASH, ETC AND ETC. can,t finish by counting turkish terrorist state,s genocides against kurdish people. anyway shvan> u,re very very but very harmfull person 4 kurdish people all u,re doing,s to turn kurdish people back to BRAKUJI TIME .but no worry u and those people like u ,ll never ever succeed in such dirty game.. and SHVAN =MR TOTTEN. both of u have to understand that all kurds from north kurdistan ,re bihind pkk and pkk ,s our freedom fighters . l,m not copkk or pkk,s guerilla. l,m just a kurdish guy from the capital of great kurdistan which,s located in north kurdistan with other name,s DIYARBEKIR.. the only thing that so called deviding us kurds ,s those countries >iran iraq syria turkey according to the officialy map of the world, but this,s only on the name we kurds ,re one and kurdistan,s one there,s no iraqi irani syria or turkey,s kurdistan. AMED MAHABAT HEWLER QAMISLO ,re same each of them ,s a kurdish city. it doesn,t matter how far we ,re to the united kurdistan but eventualy it ,ll be. and there,s no kurdish person who call pkk (puk)pdk(pyd)pjak) pdki) except those very very but very few kurdish betrayers and kurdish enemies who does cooperation with kurdish betrayers.. finaly what l wanna say u SHVAN ,s that who call pkk or pdk or puk or pyd or pdki as terrorist ,s terrorist (her)himself and (she)he ,s not kurd . we don,t accept (her) or him as kurdish since (she) he ,s seperating kurds by cooperating with kurdish enemies....

l DON,T THINK U GUYS CAN BE SUCH >NAOM CHOMSKY .. WHAT HAS NAOM CHOMSKY SAID ABOUT KURDS? OK THAT,S HIS WORD.>>>>>>>>>>>KURDS HAVE LEFT NO OPTIONS

Posted by: rotin,from AMED the capital of great kurdistan at June 30, 2007 08:53 AM

The arrest of Ocalan and the plight of the Kurdish people
By Ted Grant and Fernando D'Alessandro
Friday, 26 February 1999
The arrest of Abdullah Ocalan the leader of the PKK (Workers Party of Kurdistan), has brought the oppression of the Kurdish people to the attention of the whole world. The Turkish government has attempted to portray Ocalan, as a bloody terrorist, responsible for the deaths of thousands of Turks. It is true that many Turkish soldiers and civilians have died in the 15 year war against Kurdish separatism. But that is not the responsibility of one man. It is the result of the national oppression of the Kurds meted out by the Turkish ruling class, the same class that oppresses all workers in Turkey, whether Kurdish or Turkish. Thousands of Kurds have also died as a result of the operations of the Turkish army in South East Turkey.

Workers around the world must support the struggle of the Kurdish people against the oppression they suffer at the hands of the Turkish regime. However, it is not sufficient to simply support the cause of the Kurdish people. It is also necessary to explain what lies behind the oppression of the Kurds and show a concrete way out of the impasse they are facing.

The capture of Abdullah Ocalan, is part of a continuing onslaught on the Kurdish minority in Turkey. The fact that no European power was prepared to give Ocalan asylum shows that they all tacitly supported Turkey's demand for his arrest.

Ocalan had appealed to several European countries for political asylum, or at least an international trial. No one was prepared to give him asylum and yet the right to asylum is inscribed in all their constitutions. In reality they give the right to asylum to suit their purposes, but denied it to Ocalan.

Ocalan's quest for asylum

Germany, initially called for the arrest of Ocalan. When he arrived in Italy last year, seeking asylum, he was arrested because of the German request. But once arrested the German authorities did not request his extradition. The Germans did not want to be left with the hot potato. The Italian government was then left to try and solve the problem. It could not extradite Ocalan to Turkey because the Italian Constitution forbids extradition to countries that have the death penalty. So it resorted to putting pressure on him, to make him understand that he was not wanted. Forced to leave Italy he then spent weeks travelling around half the world looking for another safe haven. He appealed to the Greek government, but all they could come up with was their embassy in Kenya. And that turned out to be a trap.

This shows how the governments of the West all talk of self-determination for the smaller nations, but in reality they treat them as so much small change in their own manoeuvrings.

The CIA was clearly involved in tipping off the Turkish authorities of the presence of Ocalan in the Greek embassy in Nairobi. The Greek government also collaborated in tricking Ocalan into leaving the embassy, letting him believe that he was about to be flown to the Netherlands. It is obvious that the Greek government was put under enormous pressure by the United States. Turkey is an important ally in the area for the US.

However, the collaboration of the Greek government in the arrest of Ocalan has already destabilised the situation in Greece. The Greek Prime Minister, Costas Simitis, has been under fire at home for letting Ocalan fall into Turkish hands. Greece's foreign minister and two other ministers were forced to resign over the affair. It has caused widespread discontent at what is seen as a betrayal. Simitis is facing opposition inside his own party, the Pasok. The youth of Pasok have organised demonstrations in solidarity with the Kurds, in open opposition to the party leadership.

According to the New York Times, "Papandreou [deputy foreign minister of the Pasok government] did not hide his dismay over the government's bungled diplomacy. 'By whatever mistakes, Greece has partial responsibility for turning Ocalan over to Turkey,' he said. 'There is an obvious feeling of humiliation in public opinion that has to be recognized.' The arrest of Ocalan, who was under Greek protection in Nairobi until he was seized by Turkish agents, was devastating to most Greeks, who sympathize with the Kurdish cause..." (New York Times, 19.2.99)

The popularity of Simitis was already lagging. This latest affair will further increase opposition to his government. In fact in the face of this opposition he has attempted to save his face by increasing anti-Turkish demagogy, and this is bound to increase tension between these two countries, both members of the NATO alliance.

Thus all the European governments share in the responsibility for the fate that now awaits Ocalan. In Turkey the authorities have managed to get a 36-page confession out of the man. We can but guess at the methods used to extract this confession. As The Guardian (26.2.99) commented, "Only Mr Ocalan's interrogators know what he has really said" obviously implying that torture may have been used.

Ocalan has now been charged with treason and the state is seeking the death sentence. The Western governments who all refused him asylum are now putting pressure on the Turkish government for a "fair trial". Behind this lies their understanding that if Ocalan were to be executed this would aggravate the situation among the Kurds even further.

Historical background

Before these events unfolded many people had probably not even heard of the Kurds. But who are the Kurds? The number of Kurds totals about 24-27 million. Kurdistan has a territory the size of France. The bulk of Kurdistan is divided between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, with smaller enclaves in the ex-Soviet republics of the Caucasus. The borders that divide Kurdistan are artificial borders that have been drawn against the will of the Kurdish people according to the interests of imperialism. These borders have divided villages, towns, even families.

The Kurds are one of the most ancient peoples of the Near East. They have been living in the area known as Kurdistan for about 2,500 years, long before the Turks arrived. They have their own language, which is divided into various dialects, and is unrelated to the Arabic or Turkish languages. Of the dialects the most widely spoken is Kurmanci. This is spoken by about 60% of all Kurds, and 90% of the Turkish Kurds speak it. The other main dialect, Sorani is spoken by about 25% of the Kurds, mainly in Iran and Iraq. There is a vast literature in the Kurdish language going back to the tenth century A.D. The overwhelming majority of Kurds are Moslems, about 75% of whom are Sunni and 15% are Alevite Moslems.

The Kurds have played a significant role in the history of this region going back to ancient times. According to Arab, and Armenian sources, the Kurds founded several important states during the Islamic epoch between the tenth and thirteenth centuries, as well as in the distant past. Sultan Salahaddin (Salâh al-Dîn) a Kurd was the founder of the Ayyûbid state, which included Egypt, Syria, and Kurdistan, and played a particularly significant role in history.

The Turks, whose roots are in Middle Asia, arrived in what is now known as Turkey much later, after the eleventh century, and founded the Selchuk and subsequently the Ottoman states. Kurdistan was fought over between the Ottoman and the Persian empires. The Kurdish princes, in this period, managed to maintain a certain autonomy by siding first with one then the other. However in 1638, Kurdistan was officially divided between the Ottoman and Persian empires in the Treaty of Kasri Shirin. From then on Kurdistan has been prey to foreign domination.

The betrayal of French and British imperialism

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the Kurds fought for the unity and independence of Kurdistan, but were always defeated. But at the end of the First World War the Kurdish question re-emerged. The Ottoman Empire collapsed and the areas it previously dominated were carved up into new states. In 1920 the Treaty of Sèvres, was signed by Turkey and the Allied powers.

Article 64 of the Treaty stated that: " If within one year the Kurdish people within the areas defined in Article 62 [the area known as Kurdistan] shall .... show that the majority of the population of those areas desires independence from Turkey, and if the Council [of the League of Nations] then considers that these people are capable of such independence and recommends that it should be granted to them, Turkey hereby agrees to execute such a recommendation and to renounce all rights and title over these areas."

Turkey initially defined its new borders as those "which include the areas settled by the Turkish and Kurdish majority". About 70 Kurdish Members of Parliament were present at the first session of the Great National Assembly in Ankara and were officially designated as the "MPs of Kurdistan". The Turkish representative, Ismet Pasha, declared at the signing of the Lausanne Treaty in 1923 that, "The Kurds are not a minority but a nation; the government in Ankara is the government of the Turks as well as of the Kurds."

That was simply to dupe the Kurds in Turkey. Both the Treaty of Sevres and the Treaty of Lausanne were dead letters from the moment they were signed. British and French imperialism had no intention of allowing the Kurds to have their own state. In the building up of the modern Turkish state there was no room for the Kurds. British imperialism tore up the Treaty of Sèvres and proceeded to deploy RAF aircraft against the Kurds in their mountain strongholds.

Subsequently the existence of the Kurds was denied. The Kurdish language, the practice of Kurdish culture, even the concepts of "Kurdish" and "Kurdistan" were forbidden. Article 39 of the Treaty of Lausanne, according to which the citizens of Turkey had the right to freely use their respective languages in all areas of life, was trampled upon, and the Kurdish language was totally forbidden in the educational system and the printed media. Speaking about the Kurds and criticising the oppression of them was held to be a severe crime and was massively punished.

The betrayal of the Kurds by British and French imperialism was embodied in the Treaty of Lausanne, signed on 24 July 1923 which parcelled out the region between Turkey, Iran and Iraq, with no mention of the Kurds. Thus those areas of Kurdistan which had been part of the Ottoman Empire were carved up once more. Part of them were included in the British and French Mandates, where Syria and Iraq later came into being. The biggest area of Kurdistan remained within Turkey.

As a result, in 1925 there was a large-scale revolt in southern Turkish Kurdistan and two years later a resistance movement developed that lasted three years in the north and east. These revolts were put down by the Turkish army, but only after fierce fighting and heavy casualties. The Turkish Government then introduced a series of measures aimed at absorbing the Kurds into the Turkish nation and wiping out their distinct national identity and culture. Most significantly, the study of the Turkish language was made compulsory, and the Kurds became known officially as " Mountain Turks".

This oppression of the Kurds led to further uprisings, the major ones taking place in Ararat in 1930 and in Dersim in 1938. The Turkish state waged war in Kurdistan on a permanent basis. And since 1979, Turkey has ruled Kurdistan through military law, a State of Emergency, and a dirty war.

To this day the Kurds in Turkey are not recognised as a minority because recognised minorities would have the right to teach in their respective languages. A ban imposed by Turkey's last military government on the use of Kurdish in everyday life was lifted in 1991, but Kurdish is still illegal in broadcasts and in educational or political settings. A court case to ban Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party is under way at this very moment. Even to defend the rights of the Kurds in a peaceful manner is considered a crime.

The plight of the Kurds in Iraq and in Iran

The Kurds living within the borders of Iraq, have also been resisting oppression since World War I. They staged uprisings in 1919-1923, and again in 1933 and later. The greatest Kurdish uprising in Iraq began in 1961 and lasted until 1970. Iraq's rulers formally recognised a Kurdish identity after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958. But there has been a constant conflict between the Iraqi state, increasingly centralised and totalitarian since the Ba'ath party came to power in 1968, and the Kurds with their mountain tribal traditions and growing self-awareness as a potential nation.

In 1970 the government of Iraq reached an "agreement" with the Kurds concerning an autonomous region. But this was simply a stalling tactic on the part of Baghdad which ignored the conditions of the agreement, thus provoking a new war in 1975 which lasted until 1991. Iran was supporting the Iraqi Kurds. As has always been the case, Iran supported the Kurds in Iraq while it continued to oppress its own Kurds. Saddam Hussein, under pressure, initially made territorial concessions to Iran. Then, to win back these areas, it started the destructive eight-year war against Iran which devastated the Kurdish areas of Iraq. Using the excuse that some of the Kurdish factions had supported Iran in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Saddam Hussein reacted by razing villages and attacking peasants with chemical weapons killing thousands of Kurds.

Saddam Hussein suffered a massive defeat during the Gulf War of 1991 and the Kurds rebelled again. Spontaneously they rose in the northern industrial towns - Suleymania, Hawlir and Kirkuk - where the oil industry is concentrated. Inspired by the Iranian revolution against the shah in 1979 they set up shoras only to be crushed by Iraqi troops, and western imperialism did nothing to help them. Again, we see how the fortunes of the Kurds were dependent on the interests of imperialism, this time US imperialism.

Faced with the spontaneous uprising of the Kurds in Northern Iraq US imperialism left Saddam's elite republican guard untouched, which then moved to reoccupy the Kurdish towns in the north. The imperialists preferred Saddam in power, compared to a socialist revolution. However, even the republican guard was defeated and thrown out of Suleymania, the centre of the uprising.

The problem was that nobody had a clear strategy of what was to be done next. The leaders of the PUK and KDP, having a purely nationalist outlook, were incapable of developing a class strategy and appealing to the workers of the whole of Iraq to unite with them in the struggle to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Once the Kurdish rebellion had been crushed, the United States created a so-called "safe haven" for the Kurds within Iraq by imposing a "no-fly" zone north of the 36th parallel. The refugees expelled previously were able to return to their homeland. But not before a new war had been fought among the Kurds of Northern Iraq. From 1994-98, two Iraqi Kurd factions &endash; the Kurdistan Democratic Party, led by Massoud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Jalal Talabani &endash; fought a bloody war for power over northern Iraq. In September 1998, the two sides agreed to a power-sharing arrangement and created a "parliament" and a "national government".

US imperialism, in its usual cynical fashion, made use of the Kurdish people's struggle against Baghdad in order to establish its "protectorate" over the north of Iraq. This insolent act had nothing to do with the defence of self determination, but was aimed at crippling Iraq. US imperialism is the main counterrevolutionary force in the world. It was naive and stupid of the Kurdish leaders to expect it to uphold their interests. As we have seen on many occasions, especially in the Middle East and in the Balkans, the bourgeois leaders of small nations, under the guise of "self-determination" end up as the agents of one imperialist power or another.

The problems of the Iraqi Kurds have still not been solved today. The two factions, KDP and PUK are mere puppets of rival imperialist interests in the area. This is revealed by the fact that over the years the PKK has come into conflict with Barzani's KDP faction in Northern Iraq, which controls the Turkey-Iraq border. Barzani has criticised the PKK for establishing military bases inside Iraqi-Kurd territory to launch attacks into Turkey! The KDP controls the road carrying goods between Iraq and Turkey, and it has benefited from the taxes it is allowed to impose on goods travelling through this route. This includes oil sent abroad from Iraq in defiance of United Nations sanctions. To preserve this profitable activity and to maintain good relations with Turkey, the KDP leader, has cracked down on the activities of the PKK inside Iraq. As a token of gratitude the Turks have helped the KDP in its struggle against the PUK. In 1997 a large Turkish force helped the KDP to block a PUK assault.

More recently the Turkish authorities have been trying to cobble together a deal between the two opportunist tribal based Kurdish guerrilla movements, KDP and PUK, in Northern Iraq so that the PKK bases there can be closed down.

Without bases in Syria and Iraq, and without a sympathetic population to supply them food, shelter and arms transport, thanks to the mass deportations, the PKK is finding it more difficult to sustain its guerrilla warfare.

None of this, of course benefits the ordinary Kurdish workers and peasants on both sides of the border. In the meantime the whole country is being subjected to a UN embargo, and the Iraqi Kurds are suffering like the rest of the Iraqi population.

The state of Iran has practised a policy of oppression against the Kurds similar to that of Turkey. After World War II, Iran was occupied in the north by the Soviet Union and in the south by Great Britain. The Kurds were able to proclaim the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad in the territories occupied by the Soviet Union. But soon thereafter, once the Soviet troops had withdrawn, the government in Tehran, with the support of Britain and America, annihilated the Republic of Mahabad.

Again when the Iranian revolution overthrew the Shah in 1979, the Kurds of Northern Iran could enjoy relative freedom with the setting up of an autonomous region. But this did not last long either. The new regime of the mullahs clamped down militarily on the Kurds and the armed resistance to the Islamic fundamentalist regime that began in 1979 is still continuing today.

The hypocrisy of US imperialism

What had alarmed the Turkish government was that by the early 1990s, Ocalan's movement had a certain control over large parts of eastern Turkey, appointing local officials, collecting taxes and administering its own legal system. It had developed genuine mass support in these areas. That explains the Turkish government's savage military campaign in which many Kurdish villages were burned and many suspected rebel sympathisers were tortured or killed or disappeared. Between 1991 and 1997, some 1,500 Kurdish nationalists died in what until January 1998 were classified as 'unsolved crimes.' Then a government report revealed that the killings were the work of state-sponsored death squads.

In all this the hypocrisy of the US, is sickening. While they continue to talk of the plight of the Kurds in Iraq they turn a blind eye to the oppression of the Kurds in Turkey. They even allow the Turkish army to enter Iraqi territory to hound the PKK, in spite of the so-called protection of the Northern Iraqi Kurds against the "evil" Saddam Hussein.

Because Iraq and Iran are considered opponents of US interests in the Middle East, US imperialism is prepared to give some limited aid to the Kurdish minorities in these countries. So Kurdish nationalists in Iraq are portrayed as "freedom fighters" while Kurdish nationalists in Turkey are "terrorists". It is true that the Kurds in Iraq have been brutally oppressed. Saddam Hussein has even used chemical weapons against them, killing thousands. But what has the Turkish army been doing for the last 30 years in South Eastern Turkey against its own Kurds? The Turkish generals have mobilised between 200,000 and 300,000 men, about half the forces of the Turkish army in their operations against the Kurdish separatists, maintaining a permanent force of about 50,000 in South East Turkey.

The Kurds in Turkey

The largest part of Kurdistan, which in terms of both its population and its territory makes up about one-half of the total, lies inside Turkey. This part amounts to one-third of the total territory of Turkey. About 13 million Kurds live within the borders of Turkey, 8 to 10 million in Iran, 5 million in Iraq, and 1.5 million in Syria.

About one-third of the labour migrants who have left Turkey in the past 20 to 30 years and came to the countries of Europe are Kurds. If we add to this the number of Kurds from Turkey and the other parts of Kurdistan who have fled to Europe in recent years for political and economic reasons, the number of Kurds living in European countries comes to about 1 million.

Of the roughly 10 to 12 million Kurds that live in Turkey, 70 to 75 percent now live mostly in the slums of Ankara and other cities to the west of the capital, together with millions of Turkish workers. Hundreds of thousands more have gone to cities in Kurdistan or migrated, often illegally, to Europe. Of those who left their villages some 560,000, according to an estimate accepted by the State Department, were forcibly evacuated by government forces. [The purpose of emptying villages was to deny the PKK resources, including food and men who might join it.] According to Turkish government sources, 80 percent of the villagers turned urban dwellers are unemployed.

A journalist from The Guardian visited a village in south-eastern Turkey at the beginning of the year and reported on the situation facing the Kurds:

"The men from the village of Kalkum in south-eastern Turkey gather at the same coffee house at the same time every day...

Their village was burnt and evacuated more than six years ago by the Turkish army, at the height of its battle against the PKK, the Kurdish separatist movement. The coffee house is in the centre of the teeming city of Diyarbakir, where the villagers have joined hundreds of thousands of other refugees forced out of the surrounding countryside.

The intensity of the Kurdish war has faded as the military has saturated the region with tens of thousands of troops. But the sense of dislocation is as strong as ever. Conflict still rages in the minds of the dispossessed.

'We've all been evacuated,' said a man with sad eyes, 'and no one has a permanent job. Some of us try to sell goods on the street; some even beg'." (The Guardian, January 2, 1999)

Mass support for the PKK

Only by taking account of this situation can we understand how the PKK, the most militant wing of the Kurdish nationalist movement in Turkey, was able to emerge as a mass force in South Eastern Turkey. The PKK has the backing of millions of Kurds inside Turkey.

We cannot condone, of course, the bombing of civilians in the cities, or the vendetta killings of anyone who does not abide by the decisions of the PKK. These methods have not served to further the cause of the Kurdish people. In fact they have strengthened the hand of the Turkish generals who can use these attacks as an excuse for their own military campaign against the Kurds, and in particular against the PKK.

The aim of the Kurdish workers and peasants should be to build unity with the Turkish workers against the common enemy, that is the capitalists and landlords that rule Turkey. This cannot be done with terrorist bombing campaigns. They must win over the Turkish workers who are also oppressed by the Turkish regime. This is even more the case now considering that millions of Kurds have been proletarianised and live in cities like Istanbul and Ankara side by side with Turkish workers. They work in the same factories and workshops. The solution to the problems of the Kurds lies in a joint struggle against the oppressive Turkish regime together with the Turkish workers.

Initially the PKK had proclaimed that its aim was not only the total separation of the Kurdish speaking areas from Turkey, but also that of a state uniting all the Kurds, of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. None of the regimes in the area would allow this. And neither could Western imperialism tolerate such a thing. All the regimes in the area are prepared to give limited support to this or that group of Kurdish nationalists, when it suits their interests, but they will never accept the creation of any Kurdish independent state.

Inter-imperialist conflicts

Support for this or that Kurdish nationalist movement that each regime in the area may give only reflects their own narrow national interests. The Iraqi regime has supported different factions at different times, the same goes for the Iranians, Syrians and Turks. But to help them in creating their own state would mean creating a precedent whereby their own Kurds would begin to call for separation. This would lead to the break up of Iraq, and Turkey. In this Iran would stand to benefit. That explains why US imperialism gives mild support to the Northern Iraqi Kurds but will not allow them to set up their own state, because this would put enormous pressure on Turkey that could break up in the process.

That is why the Kurdish people can place no confidence in any of the imperialist powers who may periodically appear to side with their cause. They will only use them as so much small change in their own manoeuvrings in the area.

Oil is an important element in the conflict. A large part of Iraq's oil resources is in Kurdistan. A part of Iran's oil resources is also in Kurdistan, in the region around Kirmanshah. Turkey's oil resources are almost exclusively in Kurdistan (in the regions around Batman, Diyarbakir, and Adiyaman). Syria's oil resources are also mainly in Kurdistan, in the region around Cezire. The territories of Kurdistan are also rich in mineral resources such as iron, copper, chrome, coal, silver, gold, uranium, and phosphates.

There are also plans to develop oil fields in the Caspian Basin. How is that oil to be transported? Proposals are being considered for various new pipelines. One, would pass through or close to Turkish Kurdistan, carrying oil from Azerbaijan and other Caspian oil producing countries of the ex-Soviet Union to a terminal at the Turkish city of Ceyhan near the eastern end of the Mediterranean.

That is one reason why the Turkish ruling class will not relinquish control of this area. The other is that the bourgeoisie of Turkey has big ambitions after the fall of the Soviet Union, especially to its east. It has annexationist ambitions over the Northern Iraqi oil fields. These are also in Kurdish territories. In fact the incursions into Iraq, while serving the purpose of hounding PKK forces, also serve as an excuse to establish a military presence in Northern Iraq. The Northern Iraq no-fly zone, imposed by western imperialism, in fact aids Turkey in working towards this goal.

Syria also has its own ambitions. But it has been weakened by the collapse of the Soviet Union, its former ally. If the Soviet Union had still been a superpower, most likely Turkey would not have been able to threaten Syria with war if it did not expel Ocalan. The Turkish government forced Asad of Syria, under threat of war, to end his support for the PKK. PKK militants were obliged to quit the facilities he had provided for them in Syria and the Bekaa valley in Syrian-controlled Lebanon. This was a humiliation for Asad.

There is a long standing dispute between Syria and Turkey over the Turkish province of Hatay on the Syrian border. It is one of the reasons why Syria, until October 1998, supported the PKK, fighting the Ankara government (while of course silencing its own one million Kurds in the north). The power game that is being played out in the area can be seen by the fact that a month after his capitulation to the Turks, Asad of Syria received the promise of military assistance from Russia.

US imperialism is very worried about Turkey's position because, after Israel, it is its main ally in the area. A simmering conflict has been going on for years between Greece and Turkey. The imperialist aspirations of the Turkish ruling class are adding to growing tensions with Syria, Iraq and Iran. That explains why Turkey has now, a de facto alliance with Israel. Israel is supplying Turkey with arms and Turkey has allowed Israel to carry out military air training operations over Turkish territory. In this line up the United States is backing Turkey. It was in fact the pressure of US imperialism that forced Greece to hand over Ocalan to the Turks. Russia, is also watching, the situation carefully, with its historical allies, Syria and Iraq, as we have already seen.

The struggle of the PKK in difficulty

The huge military onslaught on the part of the Turkish army, together with the mounting pressure on the PKK to dismantle its bases in Syria now means that the PKK is militarily on the retreat. But this was already the case before Ocalan's capture. In fact, the irony of the situation is that Ocalan was proposing a "political solution" to the conflict. The PKK, basing itself on the examples of Northern Ireland, the Palestinians, and ETA in the Basque Country declared, for the second time, a unilateral cease-fire in September 1998.

Ocalan abandoned the call for an independent Kurdistan and appealed to the European Union and the European governments to give the Turkish Kurds limited autonomy. That is not the way one would expect a genuine communist leader to behave. You cannot expect any real help for the oppressed Kurds from the bourgeoisie of Western Europe. The EU has important economic trade links with Turkey and is planning to bring it into the Union at a later stage. The European governments are supplying Turkey with weapons which are killing and maiming Kurdish men, women and children!

Back in November when Ocalan had fled to Italy seeking asylum, The Guardian reported the following: " 'I have come to Italy to open the way to a political settlement,' Ocalan has announced on the PKK's web site. 'I am opposed to all terror, even if it originates from us. I am ready to do whatever I can so that it will be stopped immediately.' But although Italy's president and Germany's foreign minister have suggested that Ocalan's arrival in Europe could form the catalyst for action to solve Turkey's Kurdish crisis, it is obvious that Ankara will never negotiate with people it calls 'bloodthirsty PKK murderers'. (The Guardian, 25.11.98).

The Turkish military are not prepared to make compromises with the PKK guerrillas. They threatened Syria with war, and are on the offensive against the Kurds. The capture of Ocalan has given them a new confidence. After his arrest, the Turkish military sent thousands of soldiers into Iraqi territory, together with armoured cars and helicopters, in pursuit of PKK guerrillas.

Hundreds of arrests were carried out all over the country. Even Ocalan's younger brother Mehmet, who seems to have nothing to do with the guerrillas, was arrested. This reflects the ruthless methods of the Turkish military. They wish to break Ocalan with all means possible and humiliate him before the eyes of the millions of Kurds who look to the PKK and its imprisoned leader.

For now the army is not prepared to talk of "political solutions". It wishes to eliminate the problem militarily. They would like us to believe that the Kurdish cause is a lost cause. However, that conclusion would be a big mistake. For now the PKK is on the retreat, but if no lasting solution is found the problem will come back again and again.

The Turkish government with its mass deportations and forced migration of the Kurds doesn't understand that it has been digging its own grave. By bringing masses of Kurds together in the cities they have paved the way for a genuine mass movement of all the workers of Turkey, which in contrast to guerrilla warfare would actively involve the majority of Kurds. What is more they have also laid the ground for a united struggle by Kurdish and Turkish workers, something which would really shake the military backed regime to its foundations.

All workers in Turkey face the same fundamental problems - military repression, bad housing, unemployment, which are all aggravated by the war in Eastern Turkey - and they are mainly organised in the same unions. In a movement based on the towns they would unite against the common enemy.

The solution of the Kurdish problem is an impossible task under capitalism, for so long as the Kurdish people remain oppressed and without rights the struggle will re-emerge repeatedly.

Although the Turkish authorities wish to break the back of the PKK, at the same time they have combined this with some recognition of a Kurdish identity. For instance it is no longer illegal to use the Kurdish tongue in everyday life, although no newspapers or TV and radio transmissions are allowed in Kurdish, and the use of Kurdish in schools is still forbidden. If genuine concessions on these questions had been made 20 years ago, they might have been sufficient, but, as always, it is a case of "too little, too late". Half hearted measures will no longer suffice. But, on the other hand, the PKK also offers no solution.

It lacks an internationalist perspective and a genuine class approach to the problems of the Kurdish workers and peasants. Without this it is not possible to win over the workers of Turkey and of all the Middle East to the cause of the Kurdish people. Without an internationalist perspective the danger of nationalism is for ever present. This is shown in a recent statement of Ocalan. While continuing to defend the rights of the Kurds to autonomy, he proposed a drive of Turkey towards the East. But genuine autonomy for the Kurds will not be achieved in this way: it is not the way to appeal to the workers and peasants of the countries to the east of Turkey!

What this shows is the impasse facing the leadership of the PKK after 15 years of guerrilla warfare. The PKK is further than ever from its ambition of self-determination for the Kurdish people. The fact is that under capitalism this is not possible. As The Economist (20/2/99) stated, expressing the views of British imperialism, "the Kurds need to recognise that there is no political room in the Middle East, at present or in the foreseeable future, for an independent state of Kurdistan." It does add some advice to the Turkish state: "A lasting peace can be forged only if the Kurds, especially but not only in Turkey, are given the fair deal that has so far been denied them." Of course this ignores completely the role of British imperialism over the years and its part in the consistent betrayal of the Kurds' aspirations.

A solution under capitalism is impossible

Only a prolonged period of economic development would lay the basis for solving the Kurdish question. If there were enough jobs and houses for all the workers of Turkey, both Turkish and Kurdish, if there were a steady increase in the standard of living for all the peoples of this area of the world then one could talk of a "peaceful", "political" solution. But the world is facing exactly the opposite scenario. Forty per cent of the world is already in recession and the rest is moving ever closer to it. Particularly the underdeveloped countries are facing terrible hardship. Unemployment is going up and the standard of living of the masses is under constant attack.

Kurdistan is a particularly backward area from the point of view of economic development. The people live in poverty in a potentially wealthy country. The colonial conditions have prevented the country from developing. Any profits made in Kurdistan flow out of the area. Society has not been modernised, and the feudal structures of the past have not been completely eliminated. The tribal structure in the rural areas has persisted. Kurdistan is still ruled by a semi-feudal social system. There is no significant bourgeoisie or working class in the modern sense of the word. In other words the Turkish bourgeoisie have not even been capable of completing the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution.

In an attempt to reduce support for the PKK the Turkish government has spoken of the need for more roads, more schools, more medical facilities for the Southeast of the country. That is why they have come up with the idea of the "South-Eastern Anatolia Project". The idea is to develop the economy of South Eastern Turkey. The plan encompasses the spending of $1.8 billion on transport, health facilities, education, telecommunications, mining, industry, and tourism. But the Kurdish nationalists, are not so optimistic. There is insufficient foreign investment and many Turkish businessmen doubt it will be profit-making.

As the Financial Times reported, "Business leaders of Turkey's backward south-east can just about keep count of the number of times the government has promised to boost economic development in the region.

"An 'investment onslaught' announced by Bulent Ecevit, the caretaker prime minister, to help win over disgruntled Kurds after the capture last week of Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the PKK guerrilla movement, is by their tally the eighth pledge of its kind. But the announcement was not accompanied by any calculation of how much money would be allocated to the region". (Financial Times, 24.2.99)

While the government "talk" of investing money the capitalists understand that the world market leaves no room for the development of Kurdistan. So the money is spent on repression rather than on economic development. The war against the PKK is costing Turkey $8 billion a year.

A Socialist Federation is the only way out

All this shows that there is absolutely no way out for the Kurdish people under capitalism. So how are the aspirations of the Kurds to self-determination to be achieved? So long as the interests of the various local and international ruling classes remain, the road to self-determination is blocked. True autonomy can only be achieved through a Socialist Federation of all the Middle East, including Turkey.

Within this federation there would be autonomy for all the minorities in the area including the Kurds. They would have the right to use their own language, to develop their own culture, etc. Once the interests of capitalism and landlordism are eliminated there would even be the possibility of having their own state. There is no other road.

All the regimes in this area oppress their own peoples. It is in the interests of workers across the Middle East to overthrow their own ruling classes. That is why the struggle must be one for the building of genuine workers' parties in all these countries that would work for the unity of the working class of all nationalities in the struggle for Socialism. This is not a Utopia, but the only practical road.

It should be noted that the Kurds have always come close to some form of autonomy at moments when there was a revolutionary upsurge internationally. The 1917 Russian revolution overthrew Tsarism and thus led to Russia pulling out of the region. This together with the general revolutionary wave that followed the First World War raised the prospect of a state for the Kurds, as embodied in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. As that wave petered out reaction was able to get the upper hand and the Kurds of Turkey (and not only of Turkey) were smashed.

At the end of the Second World War, the presence of Russian troops in Northern Iran, together with the revolutionary movements on a world scale, allowed for the setting up of a Kurdish state in Northern Iran, only to be smashed by Iran, a year later, with the support of British imperialism.

Again, in 1979 it was the revolution of the Iranian workers against the Shah that gave the Kurds in the north a temporary respite and a certain autonomy, with the setting up of an autonomous region, only to be smashed again once the reaction of the mullahs had set in. Had there existed a genuine revolutionary party in Iran at the time things would have turned out differently. A socialist revolution would have been possible in Iran. This revolution would have conceded autonomy to the Kurds in the north. This would have inspired workers across the whole of the Middle East. It would have been the beginning of the revolution throughout the whole of the Middle East, and within this context the question of the Kurds and of all the minorities in the area could have been solved.

This shows that throughout history the question of autonomy of the Kurds has been closely linked to the revolutionary movements of the workers in the region and on a world scale.

We must base ourselves on the perspective of a renewed wave of class struggle across the Middle East. Only in this way can we see the possibility of the overthrow of the despotic regimes that dominate the area, and within that the concrete possibility of self-determination for all the minorities.


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Posted by: rotin,from AMED the capital of great kurdistan at June 30, 2007 09:04 AM

You should ask why in the hell the Kurds host PKK terrorist groups in Northern Iraq.

If they don't get rid of the PKK, we are coming to get them ourselves. Just a friendly warning to our Kurdish friends.

Posted by: turkish at July 8, 2007 02:10 AM

my answer to that creature which called >turkish.. where u before USA? do u think if u could destroy the kurds woudn,t u do it? of course u would but untill today ur terrorist turkish state have invaded south kurdistan 24 times what have u done ? remember not 1 not 2 not 3 times but 24 times u have done but the result ,s coused hundred even thousands death of turkish soldiers and u got back sitted on ur ass and cried. but at this time u won,t have able to get out from kurdistan. u must know that very well...

Posted by: rotin,from AMED the capital of great kurdistan at July 9, 2007 12:48 PM

yea here u,re

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