An open letter to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) from a friend in the U.S.
|You are blowing it.|
Worse, you are blowing it at a time when, because of the Abdul Rahman affair in Afghanistan, the West is paying attention. At a time when the West is beginning to ask itself some hard questions.
Questions like, "Do any of these people really share our values? Or are they just telling us what we want to hear in order to get our support, guns and money?"
Questions like, "Is the cost in blood and treasure to rebuild and protect these so-called democracies really worth it?"
"Did my son really die to protect a regime in Afghanistan where a person can be prosecuted and punished with death because he converted from Islam to Christianity?"
"Is my daughter risking her life to support a government -- the Kurdistan Regional Government -- that allows Muslim religious "authorities" to issue with impunity a fatal fatwa against the author of a book on the status of women in Islam? A government whose official response is not to protect the author, or to prosecute those who have solicited his murder, but instead to promise that "we will give those who attack our prophets a sentence so that they can be a lesson for everyone?"
Consider the latest news Americans have received from Iraqi-Kurdistan:
The perception in the West is that people who are willing to destroy a monument to their own suffering must be honestly and justifiably angry. That perception is not without some merit. Perhaps more importantly for the KRG, when the story reaches the front page of The New York Times, it is far too late to blame the problem on "Islamic radicals" or "foreigners." Nobody is buying it.
Yes, you have the support of President George Bush... for two more years. But what after that? Support, if the above news stories are repeated, from the next U.S. president if he is a Democrat? Don't kid yourselves. Support, at the same level as now, of the next U.S. president if he is a Republican? Don't be so sure.
Hard-core Republicans and Bush supports are starting to ask questions. When confronted with evidence that the KRG does not oppose fatal fatwas against authors, some have already come to the conclusion that they were "gullible" to believe "all these glowing reports about Kurdistan." They now counsel each other to fight their "natural inclination to believe that the Kurds are any different."
This is not good news.
Even leaving aside traditional isolationists, U.S. citizens who want lower taxes or to decrease the deficit, and people who want health care for Americans as opposed to health care for Iraqis, a new foreign policy ideology of, let us say, more focused and "robust" interventionism is rising in the U.S. and the West. The proponents of this ideology are colloquially referred to as "Derbocons" or crudely (if not entirely inaccurately) "To Hell with Them Hawks." They are interventionists whose only slightly tongue-in-cheek motto is "rubble doesn't make trouble."
The to Hell with Them Hawks are people who have given up on nation-building, if they ever believed in it. Citizens of the U.S. and the West who have grown impatient with supporting purported allies who don't really share our values, but want only to "share" our money and, if necessary, the blood of our children. People who are isolationists unless we are attacked, or believers in the preemptive strike -- with the emphasis on the word "strike." In either case their conversations and position papers concerning "intervention" do not refer to nation building, but instead include references to Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the fire bombing of Dresden. The fact that Tokyo was destroyed using conventional weapons is also a topic for conversation.
The to Hell with Them Hawks are people who have come to the conclusion that while we may not be good at nation building, we are still damn good at blowing stuff up.
The to Hell with Them Hawks are willing to intervene, but only when necessary. The world might find such intervention less than constructive.
In other words, everyone is losing patience.
On a personal note, I sadly realize that I cannot travel to Iraqi-Kurdistan. Ever since I began reading and writing about the aspirations of the Kurdish people for independence, democracy, and constitutional rights, I had hoped to travel there one day. I have, for example, repeatedly praised President Barzani for offering refuge to Christians, as well as for condemning terrorist attacks on coalition forces as not constituting legitimate "resistance."
However, I have also criticized the KRG for its prosecution and jailing of Dr. Qadir in this and earlier articles. As a result, I can look forward to a prison sentence if I ever travel to Iraqi-Kurdistan. Unfortunately, unlike Dr. Qadir, I am not an academic, so it appears I would be facing five years in prison instead of only a year and a half. Forgive me for not being willing to run the risk.
Obviously, the fact that I cannot travel to Iraqi-Kurdistan is of no real importance. The fact that someone such as myself, a supporter of independence, freedom, democracy and constitutional rights for the Kurdish people, has to be afraid to go there may tell you something.
Finally, some in the KRG, and indeed some Kurds, may construe this article as destructive. As mean-spirited. As something other than well-intentioned. Or, at the very least, as bad publicity. It is not so intended. Please consider this a well-intentioned warning. A wake-up call. The proverbial canary in the coal-mine. If necessary, be angry at the messenger, but heed the message.
Values matter. Rights matter. The U.S. and the West really are paying attention.
Don't blow it.
UPDATE: 3/27/06 at 12:56 a.m.: Also see the excellent Los Angeles Times article this date about Dr. Kamal Qadir (aka Kamal Karim): Free Press Stumbles in Kurdistan. The message to the KRG is clear -- the U.S. and the West are paying close attention.
UPDATE: 3/27/06 at 1:32 a.m.: The Washington Post is also covering the story of Dr. Kamal Qadir (aka Kamal Kadir Karim): Kurd Draws Jail Again In Press Freedom Case.
UPDATE: 3/27/06 at 6:37 a.m.: Rich Lowry at National Review on "The 'To Hell with Them' Hawks."
EDIT: 3/29/06 at 3:23 a.m.: Added news item above that Mariwan (sp. Marywan) Halabjayee (sp. Halabjaee, Halabjaye, Halabjayi), "the Salman Rushdie of Iraqi-Kurdistan," was forced to flee to Sweden.
EDIT: 3/29/06 at 6:52 p.m.: Added item above regarding the article by Michael Rubin entitled, "Dissident Watch: Kamal Sayid Qadir" in the Spring 2006 edition of the Middle East Quarterly.
UPDATE: 3/30/06 at 12:54 a.m.: The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the 18-month prison sentence handed down against Kamal Karim (aka Kamal Sayid Qadir), and is monitoring the criminal defamation case against Hawez Hawezi.