Gordon Campbell on the fallout (so far) from the selling out of the Kurds

Foster-imageLess than a week can seem like a long time in politics…Reportedly, the US betrayal of the Kurds in northern Syria has not only trashed the Kurds’ bold experiment in egalitarian self-rule, but has also pushed them into the arms of the Assad regime. Yesterday, the Kurdish administration in the formerly autonomous region announced that it would be allowing Assad’s Syrian Army forces to be deployed along the Syrian/Turkish border, in an attempt to fend off the Turkish offensive.

The move, announced on Sunday, represents a major shift in alliance for Syria’s Kurds…..The Kurdish-led administration in a statement on Facebook said it had brokered the agreement with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to counter Turkey’s ongoing push, which has drawn widespread condemnation.
“In order to prevent and confront this aggression, an agreement has been reached with the Syrian government … so that the Syrian army can deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF),” the statement said.
Clearly this move – while understandable – will serve to strengthen Assad’s grip on power. It will also create a serious risk of direct fighting between the Syrians, the Turks and the murderous local militias who are allied to Turkey.

Should the Syrian Army come off badly in these exchanges, there is an added risk that Assad’s allies (Russia and Iran) could be drawn in. If which case, Israel would probably not remain on the sidelines…

In less than a week, the conflict has already cost hundreds of lives, including the murder by a Turkish-backed miitia of a leading female Kurdish politician, Hevrin Khalaf.
This blood is on the hands of Turkish president Recep Tayytip Erdogan, but the spiral into chaos has been the direct result of US President Donald Trump’s removal of US troops from northern Syria. The US presence had provided a layer of protection long promised to the Kurds, in return for them doing the bulk of the fighting (and the dying) on the battlefield against Islamic State. Their efforts saved American lives.

The US has now thrown its Kurdish ally under the bus. It has done so mainly in order that the Psychopath-in-Chief can brag on the election campaign trail next year that it was he who brought America’s soldiers home from Syria, safe and sound.: Trump’s decision has been met with shame and revulsion by some of the US troops involved.

….Some of the Special Forces officers who battled alongside the Kurds say they feel deep remorse at orders to abandon their allies. “They trusted us and we broke that trust,” one Army officer who has worked alongside the Kurds in northern Syria said last week in a telephone interview. “It’s a stain on the American conscience.

History As A Flat Circle
Sadly, even those who clearly remember the lessons of history can be forced to repeat them. As this article points out, this is the fourth time in living memory that the United States has betrayed the Kurds, and their fighters. The US sold them out to Saddam Hussein in the mid 1970s after Saddam suddenly and surprisingly signed a pact with the Shah of Iran. The US then stood quietly by in 1988 as Saddam gassed thousands of Kurds with chemical weapons in the city of Halabja– and after Saddam ceased to be a reliable American ally, the Kurds were sold out yet again when they rose up in rebellion after the First Gulf War, in the belief that the Americans had been encouraging them to do so. Instead, the Americans sat on their hands as Saddam regrouped, and slaughtered them.
As that disaster unfolded in the early 1990s, the world’s conscience was briefly stirred by the sight of thousands of Kurdish refugees fleeing across the mountains from Saddam’s wrath. Ultimately, very little of the funds raised in May 1991 by Lord Jeffrey Archer’s rock star- laden “Concert for the Kurds” ever reached them. At best, 250,000 pounds reportedly got to the Kurdish people on the ground in Iraq, from an event that claimed at the time to have raised 57 million pounds.

The Kurds are the world’s fourth largest ethnic group. All logic would indicate that they should have had a homeland long ago, after the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of World War One. Instead, the victors of the Great War divvied up the spoils between themselves as they created new countries in the Middle East by drawing arbitrary boundary lines that are still sources of conflict now, a century later. The Kurds lost out heavily during this process. Bits of what should – arguably – have been a unified Kurdistan were parcelled out to French and British puppets in Syria, Iraq and Iran, and the Kurds have been at the mercy of a succession of neo-colonial oppressors ever since. In the 1920s, the birth of a fiercely nationalistic Turkey under Kemal Ataturk proved to be an especially cruel disaster for the Kurds.

Footnote One: Supposedly the Turks have launched their current offensive in order to create a’ safe zone’ free of the alleged Kurdish “ terrorists” who live on territory that’s adjacent to Turkey’s southern border with Syria. This ‘safe zone’ will function as a tool of ethnic cleansing as Kurdish villagers are driven out, and nearly a million of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently camped on Turkish soil get moved onto their land. As Al Jazeera has just reported (link above) the ambitions of the Turkish invaders have expanded over the past few days :

The “safe zone” Turkey had proposed was to span a stretch of territory 120 km wide and 30km deep inside Syria. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday the area may be wider, running between the towns of Hassakeh and Kobane, a stretch of 440km.

Greed is one of the driving forces:

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Akcakale on the Turkey-Syria border, said the withdrawal of US forces from northern Syria had put “the whole area up for grabs”. “There’s more than one player in the Syrian conflict who wants to control this territory, which has oil and is the bread basket of Syria,” she said. The pact between the Kurds and Assad’s government indicates the end to the Kurdish-led administration’s rule in Syria, Khodr added.

Footnote Two : The US Military Times has a useful summary of how hundreds of the Islamic State fighters formerly held captive in northern Syria are now free to return to the battlefield, thanks to the turmoil generated by this week’s outbreak of fighting. The freed IS fighters include dozens of their most dangerous leaders:
For its part, Turkey has never been unduly bothered by the rise of Islamic State. It tended to treat the Sunni fundamentalists as a tool to weaken Assad and one of his closest allies, Iran. In Turkey’s view, it is only its enemies elsewhere in the region and the unbelievers in the West who have any reason to fear Islamic State’s resurrection.

Remember the Truxtun?

Talking of US military forces….veteran peace campaigners may recall the visit of the US destroyer Truxtun to Wellington in May 1982, and the protest flotilla that greeted the ship’s arrival. The Truxtun visit was one of the key events that helped build the anti-nuclear movement that eventually drove New Zealand out of ANZUS.

Incredibly, the Truxtun is still in active service. Over the past year, it has also become the cutting edge vessel in the US Navy’s efforts to foster more efficient use of fuel, thereby reducing the Navy’s emissions profile.

Essentially, the Truxtun has been the first (and thus far, the only) US Navy vessel converted to run on an electric hybrid drive system that enables the destroyer to switch off its dependence on fossil fuels whenever it is sailing at lower speeds, below 13 knots.

So….the same ship that was once a catalyst for the anti-nuclear movement would probably be welcomed back here now as the prime example of the climate change prevention measures being investigated by the US Navy. On occasions, 37 years can be a short time in politics.

Summertime, livin’ easy

Summer is just around the corner. Supposedly, there are over 25,000 recorded versions of George Gershwin’s song “ Summertime” from Porgy and Bess. From Ella Fitzgerald to Norah Jones, there have been any number of classic renditions. Yet back in 1965, the soul singer Billy Stewart had a smash hit with an exuberant assault on the old standard that once heard, can never be forgotten :

Stewart died in the early 1970s just before his 33rd birthday, in a car accident that also killed several members of his band. He was not just a one-hit fluke. The doowop-derived “Sittin’ In the Park” is another soul music standard :