Iraq moves to take control of Kurdish area


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The old world rolls on: With the defeat of ISIS almost complete in Iraq, Iraqi forces have now moved into Kirkuk, aiming to retake control of that region from Kurdish forces.

The overnight advance was the most decisive step Baghdad has taken yet to block the independence bid of the Kurds, who have governed an autonomous tract of northern Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and voted three weeks ago to secede.

Kirkuk, one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse cities in Iraq, is located just outside the autonomous Kurdish zone. Kurds consider it the heart of their homeland; they say it was cleansed of Kurds and settled with Arabs under Saddam to secure control of the oil that was the source of Iraq’s wealth.

As is usual in these typical old world waves of ethnic conflict, there are now thousands of Kurdish refugees fleeing Kirkuk.

The problem here is the desire of the Kurds to create a country based solely on ethnicity. Such a nation by definition, in the end, must be bigoted and must oppress everyone of the wrong ethnicity. Nor are the Iraqis innocent, as there is ample evidence that they have responded in the past in kind, trying to wipe out the Kurdish population because of its ethnicity. Thus, the Kurdish refugees now.

Once again, the real solution is to not define people by their race, ethnicity, gender, or religion, but by what each person does individually. Build a nation where each person can live and follow his or her dreams, irrelevant of these issues, and you will have justice, freedom, and prosperity. Build a nation based on these racist issues, and you will instead have war, bigotry, and hate. History has shown this repeatedly. It is tragic that we imperfect humans have trouble seeing it.

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11 comments

  • “Build a nation where each person can live and follow his or her dreams, irrelevant of these issues, and you will have justice, freedom, and prosperity. ”

    Nice sentiment, Robert, but that won’t . . . oh, wait.

  • Phill O

    Build a nation where each person can live and follow his or her dreams, irrelevant of these issues, and you will have justice, freedom, and prosperity. Build a nation based on these racist issues, and you will instead have war, bigotry, and hate.

    Robert, you have just defined the rise and fall of the USA. Hopefully, the fall can be slowed!

  • Laurie

    It is well past time for Kurdish suffering to end; certainly no peace-loving person would argue this. This does not mean the Kurds ought to unilaterally carve out their own geopolitical territory – however, they are right to pursue independence.

    Quote:
    “The problem here is the desire of the Kurds to create a country based solely on ethnicity. Such a nation by definition, in the end, must be bigoted and must oppress everyone of the wrong ethnicity.”

    Is Japan bigoted and oppressive? I don’t think this necessarily follows.

  • Laurie asked, “Is Japan bigoted and oppressive?”

    Unfortunately, the history of Japan up until World War II provides an unequivocal yes to your question. Since then, Japan has made enormous strides in the right direction, but I think commenter Garry has noted from personal experience some aspects of Japanese society that remain sadly bigoted and oppressive, when it comes to non-natives.

    Is Japan oppressive? No, not now thank god. However, they also do not permit outsiders to become citizens very easily. Moreover, their island geography makes it easy for them to remain mostly ethnically pure without having to impose many oppressive measures. I wonder what would happen if a wave of outsiders started to immigrate there.

  • wayne

    Garry has written some highly informative comments on the Japanese, and I would defer to him.
    Pivoting tangentially to the Korean’s; The North has been characterized as the most racist conglomeration anywhere (or any time ) on earth, they view all non Koreans as inferiors and they especially hate the Japanese. (and not entirely without good reason.)

    North Korea in One Lesson: Michael Malice
    https://youtu.be/fm1CV960vTE
    56:47

  • pzatchok

    Considering that every nation they have ever been forced to live in has oppressed them I can see their desire to want a Kurdish nation.

  • LocalFluff

    “the real solution is to not define people by their race, ethnicity, gender, or religion, but by what each person does individually.”

    But what all arabs do individually is to define themselves by their race, ethnicity, gender and religion. So now do you do about that?

    A parallel to Kurdistan and Iraq is Catalonia and Spain. In the news today, elected regional politicians have been arrested. The repression strengthens. Police beating up voters on election day will from now on become commonplace in the EU.

  • ken anthony

    It is a fundamental right of people to associate with whom they like regardless of why. Even if those reasons are abhorrent to others. The idea that people must be forced to do anything “for their own good” is suspect.

    You could also eliminate the problem by wiping out the people. Does that sound like a good idea?

  • Lee S

    The Kurds have shown their metal in there refusal to bow down to the forces of ISIS, which is indicative of the moderate nature of the vain of Islam they follow… in pre-colonial times they roamed the north of the Middle East with no problems… post WW they were forced into a minority position spread over multiple nations… nations they were never given a choice if they wanted to be a part of or not…( a similar thing has happened with the Samies here in Scandinavia… and I believe the Inuits in the north of the Americas…)
    Of course they should have the right for independence in the lands they have fought for valiantly for many many decades…
    But there is oil up there…. so they are pretty much doomed….
    ( same goes for the northern americas dudes… ( loads of gas), and the northern Scandinavian dudes ( very much iron and rare earth minerals)

  • Garry

    My son had a brilliant observation last week: “it seems that the Japanese overdo everything.” That speaks of their apparent uniformity of thought.

    I can speak of Japan as of 20 years ago, when I moved back to the US after living there for 4 years. I still have family and friends and Japan, and make much of my living editing raw translations from Japanese, so I still have some insight, but it’s no longer firsthand. Japan has become more open in some ways in the past 20 years, as the older generations pass.

    But there remains a sense of exclusion of foreigners, and it’s not all bad. “Gaijin,” a word commonly translated as “foreigner,” is more akin to “gentile”; it refers to those who are not Japanese and consists of the kanji for “outside” and “person.” By definition, a Japanese person can never be a gaijin.

    Just a few examples that show the clear lines that are drawn between Japanese and gaijin:

    -When I lived there, the newspaper printed 4 crime statistics every month: crimes committed, crimes committed by gaijin, violent crimes committed, violent crimes committed by foreigners. I always did the math, and without exception, gaijin accounted for crimes in proportion to their number. That probably means that in reality they had a lower crime rate; police would overlook some crimes by those who appeared to be Japanese, but not those by obvious gaijin.

    -It’s very hard to become a naturalized citizen. Most “gaijin” in Japan are actually Korean descendants of those enslaved before and during World War II who ended up in Japan. Many of these people have never been to Korea or anywhere outside Japan, don’t speak Korean, don’t eat Korean foods, and have no connection to Korea other than their names. Yet they are basically outcasts and cannot become citizens. One girl I worked with was dating such a Korean, yet she was careful to hide that fact from everyone in the company other than the gaijin, and she swore us to secrecy. She eventually quit the company, but took pains to hide that she was moving to Seoul.

    -Even Japanese descendants have a hard time gaining Japanese citizenship. I know of some Japanese descendants (whose great grandparents moved to a foreign country, and who moved to Japan as infants and knew only Japan) who were initially given very good scholarships, but had them taken away because they were gaijin in the eyes of society (luckily, they eventually found other ways to get to college).

    This is not all to the bad; I found that, although at times nobody would sit next to me in the train no matter how crowded it got (I’m of average height with a small frame, so not all that intimidating physically), I also saw a lot of Japan that most Japanese do not, as some of my Japanese friends would show me and tell me things that they would be ashamed to show and tell to a Japanese person. For example, Japanese almost never let anyone see the inside of their houses, but I have been in perhaps 20 Japanese houses, and stayed overnight in many of those 20. Japanese tend to be very private, but there’s no shame in a gaijin knowing things, because a gaijin’s opinions don’t count.

    Japanese have a herd mentality by nature; when I lived there, at least in Tokyo if one wasn’t formally introduced to somebody else, in effect the other person didn’t exist. I remember taking the train every morning, seeing the same people at the same spots at the same time, but none of them seemed to know each other; no conversations, no eye contact. I often wondered if some of them had been together every morning for decades without ever interacting. I grew up in new England, so that’s not completely foreign to me (but I prefer the openness shown by most Americans outside New England, and even here we’ve gotten better).

    Every time I go back to Japan the people are more open with each other, and I think things are shifting. But no matter how well they treat gaijin in person, when the conversation turns to anything political or social, they can be very very anti-gaijin in the abstract. I’ve rather have that than the opposite (friendly in the abstract but hostile in person).

    One of the dirty secrets of Japanese society is the burakumin, people who are in effect outcasts because their ancestors worked in occupations considered dirty, such as butchers. Some people even hire private detectives to determine whether their intended spouses have any burakumin blood. It makes no difference if nobody in the family has worked in the “dirty” occupations for 200 years; it’s still in the blood, and marrying one of them is unthinkable. Much like other superstitions, every Japanese person who has ever spoke of the subject to me was quick to point out that they personally had no problem with burakumin, but they were afraid of what the rest of society thought. Reminds me of their equivalent saying to “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” which is “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.”

    So, yes, Japan is bigoted and oppressive, although, as Mr. Z points out, not anywhere to the harmful extent it was before 1945.

    On the main topic, I echo the statements of other commenters about the Kurds: as I understand their history, they were forced to become part of Iraq, Turkey, and other countries/societies, and I get the feeling they just want to be left alone. I’ve often heard that the British took 5 distinct nations of people to form the country of Iraq, and this is one of the logical outcomes. One cannot force different societies to become a nation (ask the Soviets).

    The US was able to form a country accepting people of all races (eventually), religions, cultures, etc. because we didn’t have a past like the Kurds; there’s a subtle but important difference between being forced to become part of another country, and being forced to remain part of a country one had always been a part of. For the Kurds to form a more inclusive society, they need to be led by the equivalent of George Washington, or the (in some ways) even more visionary Gandhi, who in forming modern-day India accepted people of all races and religions while Pakistan restricted itself to Muslims.

  • wayne

    Garry–
    Great Stuff!

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