In early 2003 in the run up to Gulf War 2, Timothy Noah of Slate magazine started a column called "Kurd Sell Out Watch". "For Kurds", Noah argued, "getting screwed is a tradition. Great Britain, France and Italy screwed the Kurds in 1920 when [they denied them] … a Kurdish state. Iraq screwed the Kurds by failing to abide by a 1970 agreement to grant them autonomy; screwed them again by driving Kurds across the border into Iran in 1974 and 1991; and screwed them a third time - actually 'screwed' doesn't really cover it - by gassing the town of Halabja in 1988”. Now, Noah warned, the United States was poised to screw the Kurds one more time.
However, it was not to be Bush and Blair who are the latest sell outs. It's now the turn of the western Left to screw the Kurds.
The English journalist Nick Cohen writing in the New Statesman a little while ago suggested that if you asked an Iraqi communist or Kurdish socialist today what support they have had from the liberal Left, "they won't detain you for long". While little better could be expected from the crypto fascists on the far Left who represent the "insurgents" as some kind of Iraqi Viet Cong, it was the collapse of much of the democratic Left which Cohen said was catastrophic. "Why couldn't it oppose the second Gulf war while promising to do everything possible to advance the cause of Iraqi democrats and socialists once the war was over?" Cohen asked. "Why the sneering, almost racist pretence that Saddam had no honourable opponents?" Why indeed!
Since those words were written, there has been a glimmer of an alternative, with the creation of Labor Friends of Iraq [LFIQ] by UK labour activists and trades unionists and more recently with the UK based “Euston Manifesto” (including Cohen) which has now been taken up by many on the Left in the US. But most of the mainstream Left remains disengaged or hostile to the fate of Iraqi democrats.
Iraq’s President Talabani recently reminded us that Ba’athist Iraq was the longest lived fascist regime in history - rightly described by Christopher Hitchens as a "charnel house above ground and mass grave below." Yet the media, as well as the mainstream Left, has shown little interest in supporting and identifying the progressive forces in Iraq who still, bravely, carry the fight to the Islamo fascists.
Last week, of course, the media emphasis was on the neo-fascist holocaust denier, Ahmadinejad, foreshadowing Armageddon with the coming of the twelfth imam. Ahmadinejad and his egger-on and Mussolini mini me, Hugo Chavez, reminded everyone with ears to listen just how degraded and irrelevant the UN had become - just ask the people of Darfur.
In stark contrast, two visitors to Washington and New York who deserved public attention and did not attract it, were not show-boating fascists, but the Kurdish Iraqi leaders Barham Salih, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq and Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi President, who also addressed the UN.
Much of the mainstream Left have studiously ignored the pleas of the true progressives of the new Iraqi government just as they turned their backs on the desperate pleas of the Kurds and others for assistance against Saddam. Back in 2003, Salih, addressed the Socialist International conference, saying:
“As a Kurd, I know war is a devastating undertaking and should be questioned. But in the end a fundamental moral argument needs to be made for a war of liberation to save a people from tyranny. Many on the Left ignore the daily reign of terror the Ba'athist regime inflicts on Iraqis, yet the human rights of Iraqis should also be their cause.”
Regrettably, Salih has had no reason to alter his prognosis of the mainstream Left’s indifference to the Iraqi Left’s struggle.
Talabani and Salih today point to the war which they are waging every day against Islamo-fascism. The enemies which Salih identified in 2003 have not changed - they have just become more desperate. In a letter to the American people released to coincide with his UN trip, Talabani said:
“I want to be frank here. In order to rid Iraq of the constant threat of violence, we still need your help. As long as we are determined to outlast and outsmart our enemy, we shall reach our common goals.
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