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From nobody Sat Feb 8 07:31:47 2003
From: wkegpffm@opzcifjnzl.org (Raoul Compton)
Subject: Imperialism Sabotaged Kurds' National Struggle
Newsgroups: soc.culture.african
Sender: Christoph Carmichael
Distribution: world
Organization: Blanche Mehl
Message-ID: <1044667673.34679@news1.lynx.bc.ca>
Date: Sat, 08 Feb 2003 01:00:38 GMT

Imperialism Sabotaged Kurds' National Struggle

By Jack Barnes, excerpt from Opening Guns of World War III: Washington's Assault on Iraq in New International, no. 7, and based on a talk given by Socialist Workers Party national secretary Jack Barnes on March 30, 1991

After fleeing the killing fields in Kuwait, some units of Baghdad's defeated army went into open rebellion against the Iraqi regime. They were fed up with the disastrous consequences for Iraqi soldiers and civilians alike of Saddam Hussein's expansionist adventure in Kuwait and treacherous refusal to organize its troops to fight. These soldiers joined in revolts by working people who took up arms against the regime in cities, towns, and villages across southern and northern Iraq. Much of the population in the south, although far from all, is from the Shiite Islamic majority and face discrimination from Iraq's predominantly Sunni Islamic ruling clique. In the north most are members of the oppressed Kurdish nationality who rose up, as they have done repeatedly in this century, to press for autonomy and national self-determination.

Throughout March 1991 Saddam Hussein used the troops of the elite Republican Guards—as well as helicopter gunships and heavy armor he had held in reserve and refused to commit during the allied invasion - to drown these rebellions in blood. Cities in southern Iraq such as Basra, Najaf, and Karbala were savagely bombed and shelled. As a result of this brutal suppression, tens of thousands of Shiite and other Iraqis in the south, and more than two million Kurds and others in northern Iraq, have been uprooted and turned into desperate refugees.

Hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled into neighboring Iran and Turkey; hundreds of thousands more are massed along their borders, living in wretched conditions with little food, shelter, or medical care. According to a United Nations report in late April, some 2,000 are dying each day from the cold, disease, and malnutrition; other reports from early May indicate there may already have been 20,000 to 30,000 deaths. The spread of contagious disease threatens to push these numbers even higher. The U.S. and Western European imperialist rulers - themselves responsible throughout this century for repeated sabotage of efforts to establish a sovereign Kurdistan—are today cynically exploiting Baghdad's repression of the Kurds to enhance their own rival economic, political, and military interests in the Gulf region. They are organizing to drive the Kurds back into Iraq, and turning emergency relief for them over to the United Nations, with a piddling budget. Not one of the imperialist governments in North America, Europe, Japan, New Zealand, or Australia—all supporters of the imperialist slaughter - has offered to throw open its borders to these or other refugees from Baghdad's attacks and provide them with jobs and housing. Nor have the Gorbachev regime or other U.S. allies in the war opened their borders to the refugees. All of them merit some variant of the title they so freely gave to Saddam Hussein—the Butcher of Baghdad....

Kurdish self-determination The U.S. rulers' military victory put an international spotlight on another unresolved fight for national self- determination in the region—that of the Kurdish people. Prior to the Gulf war the Kurdish struggle had largely been in retreat, having been dealt repeated defeats over the past half century by the Iraqi, Turkish, Iranian, and Syrian ruling classes, with the complicity of Washington, London, Paris, and Moscow. The consequences of the Gulf War have now posed Kurdish national self-determination more sharply than at any time since the close of World War II and the years just after the 1958 revolution that overthrew the monarchy in Iraq.

Some twenty million to thirty million Kurds are divided between southeastern Turkey, northeastern Syria, northern Iraq, and northwestern Iran, as well as a small region in the southern part of the USSR. An independent Kurdish republic came into existence in northern Iran after the establishment of a workers' and peasants' government in neighboring Azerbaijan in December 1945.

Although the Kurdish republic was crushed by the Iranian monarchy a year later, the Kurds continued their struggle during the decades that followed. The U.S. rulers have alternately doled out aid with an eyedropper to Kurdish nationalist groups, and then abruptly cut off this backing, depending on Washington's shifting relations with regimes in the area, especially Baghdad and Tehran.

The Kurdish people took advantage of the weakening of the Saddam Hussein regime as a result of the war to press forward their struggle once again, holding many villages and towns -

including the major city of Kirkuk—for a week or more in March [1991]. Baghdad used helicopter gunships and heavy armor to crush the Kurdish rebellion with ruthless brutality, causing two million or more Kurdish refugees to attempt to cross the Turkish and Iranian borders.

As we discuss here today, the U.S. and European imperialist powers have declared a temporary refugee enclave for the Kurds north of the thirty-sixth parallel in northern Iraq near the Turkish border. Washington is sending troops, Special Forces units, into northern Iraq to function as what amounts to little more than a police force for Saddam Hussein. Along with Turkish soldiers, the U.S. troops are forcing the refugees out of Turkey and off nearby mountains into ill-provisioned and barren transit camps. Washington's aim is to push the Kurds back to the towns and villages from which they fled.

At best, this enclave will be the temporary equivalent of an Indian reservation in the United States or one of the many blocked-off areas near Israel's borders containing Palestinian refugee camps. The imperialists share a common interest with the capitalist regimes in Baghdad, Ankara, Damascus, and Tehran in ensuring that such a haven for the Kurds is short-lived. All of them know that any more-or-less-permanent Kurdish area can only breed aspirations for more land that is justly theirs, as well as potential intifadas [uprisings] among young generations of Kurdish fighters. Bush will have nightmares about setting up a very large reservation, nightmares about a modern- day Geronimo leading a new breakout.

This is another of the unresolved and uncontrollable social forces in the Gulf that has been unleashed, rather than contained, by the results of Washington's war against Iraq.

As we continue campaigning against imperialism and war today, we must call not only for All foreign troops out of Iraq! but also Open the U.S. borders!—to the Kurdish people and to all Iraqi and Kuwaiti refugees fleeing the Baghdad regime and the al-Sabah monarchy.

For the ruling class in Turkey, which joined Washington in the war against Iraq in hopes of winning trade favors and military aid and hardware, the results so far—nearly one million refugees pounding at its borders—are nothing short of a catastrophe. (The Turkish regime is also suffering major economic blows from honoring the continuing blockade, which shuts off Turkey's oil pipeline with Iraq and the resulting flow of funds into the state treasury.) These events have brought to greater world attention once again the Turkish rulers' own suppression of the Kurdish people, until recently legally denied the right even to speak their own language in Turkey—and they are still denied the right to read, write, or be educated in Kurdish.

Above all, the Kurdish people have come to the center stage in world politics as never before, not primarily as victims, but as courageous and determined fighters for national rights.