Op-Ed: Of Kissinger, the Kurds and Israel
Gerald A. HonigmanThe author is an educator who has done extensive doctoral studies in Mid-East...
That popular game show from the 1950s and reincarnated both in the ’70s and ’80s, "Name That Tune", is set for yet another rebirth. This time, with slight change in title, it will be led by none other than former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and renamed "Change That Tune".
Kissinger had two famous forerunners, who both share with him the policy that power and practicality trump ethics and ideals.
In 1498, Nicolo Machiavelli, became the main voice of modern political thinking. And on the surface, Otto Bismarck’s later realpolitik was characterized by “an enticing realism, but at its ruthless center was the idea that with a worthwhile end one could justify any means (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article12349.htm).
Machiavelli, Bismarck and Kissinger–three of a kind.
Perhaps the convincing act which won Kissinger his new role of game show host was his speech this past June 19th in New York City hosted by the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy (http://www.fordschool.umich.edu/news/?news_id=1111).
Speaking about the Syrian civil war, among other things, he offered that the best solution was to see the “artificial state” of Syria dismembered into its distinctive sectarian parts. You can watch the video here http://explosivereports.com/2013/06/24/henry-kissinger-balkanized-syria-best-possible-outcome/.
Dr. Kissinger is correct in his assessment–but what a change of tune!
Now calling for, among other things, separate Kurdish, Alawi, and other states in what would be the former post-World War I, post-Ottoman Turkish Empire’s pieced together “Syria,”, back in the ’70s, he managed to greatly augment–if not actually help orchestrate–the Iraqi Arab bloodbath which would subsequently take hundreds of thousands of Kurdish lives over the next decades (http://kurdistantribune.com/2013/henry-kissinger-realpolitik-genocide/).
Like others before it, America came to specialize in using and abusing the Kurds for its own interests.
As Kissinger would do when Israel was attacked during this Jewish High Holiday season forty years ago on Yom Kippur and he decided to withhold crucial resupplies for many days so that Israel would bleed more to make it more pliable at the end of the fighting, he ruthlessly manhandled the Kurds as well. The lingering Kurdish tragedy intensified after what the late, great New York Times columnist, William Safire, called Kissinger’s betrayal and sellout of the Kurds (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/9640 ; http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/03/opinion/the-kurdish-ghost.html).
Kissinger saw to it that the Kurds would not separate and would remain at the mercy of their assorted tormentors and butchers.
The New-York Times’ then younger columnist, Thomas L. Friedman, while repeatedly badgering Israel for the creation of Fatahland (and/or eventually Hamastan), had a similar message. While discussing Iraq, on March 26, 2003 he wrote, “what part of ‘no’ don’t you understand? You Kurds are not breaking away.”
After the dissolution of the Turks' centuries’ old empire, the Kurds were promised independence (included in one of President Wilson’s "14 Points", for example), but were sacrificed on the altar of British petroleum politics and Arab nationalism after London received a favorable decision on the oil-rich Mosul region from the League of Nations in 1925.
After the oil of the contested–but age-old, predominantly Kurdish–north was attached to the British Mandate of Mesopotamia, London abandoned the Kurds like the plague. While there were some Turkmen, Arabs, victimized Assyrians, and some others there as well, the Kurds constituted the majority of the area. Furthermore, Turks already had a half dozen other states and Arabs possessed even many more; they were/are not stateless peoples. Justice for the Assyrians still remains an issue, however, and most of the region’s ancient Jewish community fled to Israel.
Largely to appease Arab oil potentates elsewhere (who today fund and supply Sunni Islamists fighting Assad and his Shi’a offshoot Alawis in Syria), the region’s non-Arab Kurds saw their one best chance for independence in the new age of nationalism aborted. The Arab League state of Iraq was created on the entire land instead, with the British actively involved in the Arab fight against the Kurds.
At the same time that real and proposed partitions of the smaller Mandate of Palestine occurred so that both Arab aspirations could be addressed (Jordan, for example, created on some 80% of the original 1920 whole area in 1922) and the Jews get what indefensible area was left, there would be no justice for anyone but Arabs in all of Mesopotamia.
While Kissinger now rationalizes about the wisdom of allowing an “artificial” state of Syria to break apart due to mutually exclusive and hostile human elements which had been earlier forced together, this reality rings even more true for Iraq. The latter is indeed the former Yugoslavia of the Middle East, with mutually hostile ethnic and religious groups largely forced together after the collapse of empires for other major powers’ interests.
As with the death of Yugoslavia’s Marshal Tito, it was only a matter of time–with Saddam taken out of the picture–that Iraq would follow along this same disintegrating path. Sunni Arabs; Shi’a Arabs; Assyrians, Armenians, and assorted other Christians; Kurds; Turkmens all looking for independence.
If Syria’s antagonistic, diverse groups depended on a similar despotic iron fist to keep them united, then why has Kissinger insisted on denying the Kurds' bid for a small slice of the political justice pie in Iraq–something they had indeed been promised earlier?
There are always reasons for those to whom the ends justify the means.
Regarding Kurds, there’s the hostility of the Turks, Iranians, Arabs and related petro-politics. There was also Moscow to consider.
But, at some point, good people must insist on injecting ethics and some semblance of relative justice into policies of State as well.
If Arabs are deserving of almost two dozen states–acquired mostly by the conquest and forced Arabization of other, non-Arab peoples lands (going on to this very day), how can the rights of others in the region be allowed to be manipulated solely by those who think like Kissinger?
When will an American President direct the Arabists in his State Department to step aside while he openly supports the birth of an independent Kurdistan–like President Truman did in 1948 over the rebirth of Israel? and when will he allow Israel to defend itself?
When will an American President show leadership once again and openly supply a new Kurdish state with the fire power to adequately protect itself–which Washington readily does for the oil potentates of the Arabian Peninsula and for other Arabs in Iraq, Egypt, and Jordan?
When will Washington wake up, look at the tragic, barbaric mess which largely typifies the so-called “Arab world” and, not only stop blaming Jews for that mess, but also support some forty million Kurds who are also America’s natural allies in the region?
Furthermore, the oil of the Kurdish north is not insignificant–and there are now major fossil fuel surprises coming out of Israel as well.
This does not have to be an either/or scenario.Washington must make it clear that Turkey’s own twenty million or so Kurds, whom Ankara renamed “Mountain Turks” and outlawed their very language and culture, are also entitled to something much better.
Ditto for the Iranians–even if the two are now on opposite sides of the Syrian fight. The ayatollahs lecture about creating that 22nd Arab state on the ashes of Israel while some eight million Ahwazi Arabs are subjugated, assassinated and jailed in Iran.
For whatever reasons, Kissinger’s new Machiavellian moment seems to allow for the creation–among other things–of an autonomous, perhaps independent, Kurdish region in Syria. Surely, however, he knows how the Turks will react to that–along with the region’s other key players–almost all hostile to justice for the Kurds.
What will he say if the previously Arabized and non-Arabized five to seven million people in Syrian Kurdistan link up with the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq (ancient home of the great warrior, ruler, and terror of the West, Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub)–the best hope Washington has as a counterforce to the likely emerging Shi’a Islamic Republic of Iraq,, and the Sunni al-Qaeda terrorists?
Will there be another change of policy if Ankara decides to invade Kurdistan for fear of the Kurdish problem spreading to the far more numerous Mountain Turks?
True leadership is required–in the White House andthet State Department. One more time: this does not have to be an either/or scenario.
Kurdistan can be for Kurds like Israel, Greece, Armenia, and other lands are to their own members in respective diasporas.
Those Kurds who prefer to live in a Kurdish state will, at long last, have one to go to. A perfect solution, it will not be–for many reasons. But what “perfect solution” exists anywhere–especially in that part of the world? What compromises, for example, have Arabs ever made with anyone else in a region which they declare to be simply “purely Arab patrimony?”
Of course it would be even more fair if chunks of Turkey and Iran were also added to this solution. I see the latter as separate, federated parts of a single united Kurdish state, Kurdistan–some long overdue justice, but a nightmare, indeed, for the Kurds’ assorted oppressors.
What rule says that the region’s scores of millions of Kurds are not entitled to what Arabs, Turks, and Iranians already have? And why must such eventualities result in hostility? Kurds live there already–indeed, pre-date most of the conquerors of their lands by millennia–so why can they not have the same independence that the world demands for yet another Arab state?
President Obama won’t hear about Israel getting what the final draft of UNSC Resolution 242 promised it after the June ’67 war–more secure, real borders to replace the absurd, ultra-vulnerable ’49 armistice lines. The most he talks about are land swaps.
Another swap could be to let the Kurds to gain some of the southeastern parts of Turkey where they pre-date the invading Turks by millennia.
However, the the Turks drew lines in the sand after their main realm was greatly truncated as a result of World War I. They vowed never to retreat further–especially with the loss of the oil-rich Mosul region. And the Iranian mullahs will continue to exterminate–literally–any such dreams on the eastern side of this picture as well. Kurds are among those hanged in Iran almost daily.
So, in light of these realities, we must work for what is possible–not what is fair.
If they feel seriously threatened, the Turks, will send their NATO (and Israeli)-equipped armed forces to squash a nascent Kurdistan.
The Kurds must thus show, as much as possible, that relative justice for their own people translates into a net plus for the entire region.
Perhaps someday the Turks and their friendly neighbor, Kurdistan, can develop relations and mutual respect to the point where something even better might become possible. There is already much trade going on between the KRG in Iraq and Ankara. Arabs could come into this positive picture as well, but the odds are against this scenario. It would involve, for most Arabs, an entire change in mindset.
What Washington and others choose to do or not to do could have a major impact regarding the fate of this almost forty million truly stateless people. Kurdistan’s neighbors will be watching very closely.
During the era of Henry Kissinger’s major betrayal in the ’70s, Washington and Israel were also supporting the Kurds–as a thorn in their enemies’ side, Saddam’s Iraqi Arabs. The Israelis supported Mulla Mustafa Barzani’s Kurds at other times as well. The Jews, of all peoples, should understand the plight of subjugated, truly stateless victims.
There is no game show. But the change that tune approach to current events in the Middle East is nevertheless all too real–and not to be trusted.