Sign-up to receive our free newsletter.
Tricking The General– Or, When Norman Wasn’t Stormin’…
by Gerald A. Honigman
A good man and American, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, passed away this past December 27th. G_d rest his soul.
When the Syrian Assads’ twin butcher to the east, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, grabbed that giant oil well also known as Kuwait, he had crossed a line that was indeed taboo.
Previously killing hundreds of thousands (some claim millions) of human beings was one thing–especially if they were non-Arab Kurds a la gassed babies in Halabja, the Al-Anfal Campaign, and such. But hijacking one of the world’s most important sources of oil–now that was a crime that simply could not be forgiven or overlooked, especially since key leaders in the West (including the then current American President) had direct links to that black gold themselves.
I will never forget the venom which spewed out of the mouths of folks like President Reagan’s Chief of Staff, James Baker III, and Vice-President George H.W. Bush when Israel destroyed Saddam’s nuclear facility at Osirik just a decade before Stormin’ Norman commanded 1991’s Operation Desert Storm (http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Documents/2002/August%202002/0802osirik.pdf). Reagan, himself, reportedly reacted to the news by saying, “Well, boys will be boys.”
Bush the First would later also be known for such things as taking Israel to task for building in “occupied territory” (East Jerusalem–where the Jews’ age-old Temple Mount and such are located) and then demanding that it keep its hands tied behind its back while being sucker punched by Saddam’s Scuds during Desert Storm–Jews being punished for America’s attempts to save some Arab oil fat cat derrieres from other Arabs’ aggression.
Who knew at the time whether or not Saddam would be tipping those forty or so missiles targeting Israeli cities with biological or chemical warheads? As for the Patriot missile batteries America placed inside Israel allegedly as a trade for keeping the Jews from nailing Saddam like he needed to be nailed, most agree that they were virtually useless (http://www.fas.org/spp/starwars/gao/im92026.htm).
It made no nevermind. After all, what was more important, Gentiles gassing Jews again or that allegedly “indispensable” aid we got from the Saudis and Egyptians. And yes–I know about that Arab cover argument too.
Baker would become even more famous for such actions and comments as “F#*k the Jews, they don’t vote for us anyway.” Among other things, his law firm has represented Saudi Arabs against American 9/11 victims, his partner was Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and so forth. Indeed, Baker is a specialist supreme at milking the Arab oil teat while at the same time speaking about the Jews’ alleged love for money.
I think of such things now because of the non-stop news coming out of the region affecting all parties involved.
Sadly, I can’t recall General Schwarzkopf without cringing at how his boss and the latter’s close buddy, whom he appointed as Secretary of State (the Bush I and Baker team, once again), encouraged the Kurds in the north and the Shi’a Arabs in the south to revolt against Saddam, but then stood by and allowed them both to be mercilessly slaughtered while our own forces were just a few virtual stones’ throws away from the action.
True, later on, due to the scale of the carnage and suffering, we were embarrassed by our European allies into setting up a no-fly zone (one which, to the State Department’s dismay, allowed for the evolution of a semi-autonomous KRG in Iraq and perhaps something even more yet to come), but we did so only very reluctantly and after tens of thousands of people were massacred and even more displaced. Unlike Arabs, Kurdish refugees did not have almost two dozen other states to flee to–for whatever reason and regardless of who was to blame.
Recall that Bush I allowed Saddam to not only remain in power (indeed, had supplied weapons to him earlier as a counter to the Iranian mullahs) but to also keep the bulk of his elite Republican Guard forces intact so not to anger our alleged Arab “allies” and petro-despot buddies too much. After all, it would not look good to have some Arabs suffer a humiliating defeat (primarily at the hands of “Infidels”), regardless of what they were doing to others–including other Arabs.
So, Norman wasn’t allowed to go stormin’–however that nickname was allegedly earned.
And while the General went along with these decisions from above (what other choice did he really have?), he knew better himself. It bothered him until the day he died–especially since we had to do a replay in 2003.
When America concluded its ceasefire with Saddam, amongst the other tragic mistakes (however much some folks try to cover for them and which resulted in our having to go to war to finally oust Saddam later anyway) was one which allowed him to use non-fixed wing aircraft against Iraq’s own residents. And he did so horrendously.
I will never forget the news conference or interview–I forget which it was–that I watched in which Schwarzkopf complained about how he was duped. This occurred after Saddam had unleashed hell on the Kurds and Shi’a after the ceasefire and American withdrawal, when our forces were right over the border in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. This was nothing less than an American disgrace–and one engineered by the same Arabists at the State Department who are now supporting Islamists just about everywhere else in the region and undermining more democratic, inclusive forces begging for assistance. Like the Syrian Democratic Coalition in Syria, for instance. Worse yet, they had done this to the Kurds years before as well.
Later, the General defended the American position by simply saying that the Kurds had been battling the Iraqi regime for years and would continue to do so regardless of what America did or said. “Yes, we are disappointed that that has happened. But it does not affect the accomplishment of our mission one way or another.”
Stormin’ Norman had no control over those who make American foreign policy. He was just their faithful servant. But those folks have largely been in bed with Sunni Arab oil potentates for some three quarters of a century now. It has been rare indeed when an American leader could/would operate at least somewhat independently of their enormous influence.
American officials have had oil tankers named for them; scores of millions (probably more) of Arab petro-dollars have come to former Presidents’ libraries, foundations, and such; and folks like James Baker III, Cap Weinberger, the Dulles Boys, and a zillion others have moved through the revolving doors of government and petro-businesses. Together, this influence has made the relative “power” of Israel’s much talked about supporters at AIPAC look like that coming out of a BB gun (http://books.google.com/books?id=trU7nY-T-4EC&pg=PA228&lpg=PA228&dq=Dulles+and+arab+oil&source=bl&ots=sDFm01u_wJ&sig=3COSCmA3Js8stdrS8Pp5APUdSj4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=XsTlUP6oPIz69gTUwYHADg&sqi=2&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=Dulles%20and%20arab%20oil&f=false) .
Having been deeply engaged in Kurdish and other Middle Eastern issues on academic, professional, and/or personal levels for well over forty years now, I can say that we have, quite possibly, finally arrived at the dawn of a new momentous era in history.
Change is in the wind–unlike I have ever seen before.
The much-touted Arab Spring has sprung in some very nasty ways–as at least some of us feared all along. Secular despots have simply been replaced by theocratic, even less tolerant ones. And the plight of scores of millions of non-Arab peoples like Kurds, Copts, Assyrians, Imazighen/”Berbers,” Jews, and so forth–has become even more dangerous as a result. Many, many thousands have already fled abroad.
Again, perhaps as the collective poster child for all of this, some forty million Kurds are still struggling for the same human and political rights in (at least) one federated or independent state that Arabs demand for themselves in almost two dozen others. It is for this reason that I devoted a good portion of my own book to the Kurdish cause (http://q4j-middle-east.com), and it is no accident that the book’s Foreword was mostly written by the President of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, Sherkoh Abbas.
Given this change, current events in both Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistan are both worrisome and encouraging.
The recent power vacuum, for instance, in Syria, with Assad being preoccupied with events elsewhere in the country, has allowed Kurds more freedom than they have ever known to date, at least in modern times. But they are caught in the middle between Sunni Arab Islamist forces (and Turkish supporters) and those of Shi’a Arab Alawis (and their Lebanese Hizbullah and Iranian supporters).
In the end, however, no matter who comes out on top, almost all Arabs–regardless of stripe–will see the hopes of Kurds as they do that of the Jews and have called the birth of a potential “Kurdistan” another Israel.
Arabs may kill Arabs and certainly do–but all agree that Kurds, Assyrians, Copts, “Berbers,” and whomever else should remain the ruled while Arabs alone will be the rulers. And in case you haven’t noticed, that’s also the Arab-Israeli conflict in a nutshell.
Add to these bloody, historical events in Syria the amazing, ongoing economic and political development of the KRG region in Iraq, the potential for conflict with Arabs there over the heartland of Kurdistan’s oil, complications which arise due to the involvement of both Iran and Turkey, and the balancing act Kurds must engage in to mollify all parties involved.
Keep in mind that such recent developments also have impacts on tens of millions of Kurds in those above non-Arab nations. Over one half of Iran consists of non-Iranian minorities suppressed to one degree or another. Millions of Kurds are among those folks–some being hung of late, many others slaughtered earlier. And according to the Turk’s own stats, over 22 million (!!!) of its own citizens are Kurds, aka “Mountain Turks” (http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurds/5220.html).
The relative good news discussed here is somewhat offset by the potential (if not necessarily likely) response in the long term of those in the majority who still want to suppress such progress–be they Turks, Arabs, or Iranians. Not long ago there were joint meetings between the three over how to handle their common Kurdish “headache.”
The question is, will the world stand by, yet again, and simply watch another slaughter?
My guess, unfortunately, is yes. After all, Arabs are slaughtering Arabs daily in Iraq and Syria as well.
Nevertheless, the plight of Kurds and all of these other long-oppressed peoples must finally be taken seriously– and if that means having to redraw some post-World War I maps, then so be it. There was/is nothing sacred in at least most of those regional internal and/or external imperial lines to begin with. And despite Arab claims to the contrary, the whole region is not just “purely Arab patrimony.”
The creation of a more inclusive, tolerant, post-Assad Syria which allows for autonomous federated Alawi, Kurdish, Assyrian, Sunni, Druze, and possibly other states is light years ahead of what the American State Department-supported Arab Islamist opposition forces have in mind. For them, look at the Muslim Brotherhood’s Egypt as the model. Ask some twelve million native, non-Arab/pre-Arab conquest Copts what they think of that idea.
Again, it’s long past due that we demand something better than the virtual bed partnership which has existed between the Foggy Folks and the Sunni Arab oil potentates over the good part of the past century. The policies of State towards a reborn Israel (fighting President Truman over its very resurrection) and the struggles of the Kurds have been virtually the same–and for many of the same reasons.
General Schwartzkopf’s disappointing response to the Arabs’ repeated slaughter of Kurds would not have been necessary if the cause of this much used and abused people, promised independence after World War I, but then sacrificed via a collusion of British petroleum politics and Arab nationalism, had not been abandoned. My own heavily-documented doctoral studies detailed this travesty in depth over three decades ago. We continue to witness the tragic consequences of all of this today. There is still no “roadmap” for Kurdistan nor a “Quartet” demanding it.
While some of the players have changed a bit over the past century in the new age of nationalism erupting in the region, the Kurds (along with the Imazighen/”Berbers” of North Africa) have remained the area’s most numerous, stateless victims. On this issue, the Arabs are thus largely correct–the Kurds of today are the oppressed, often slaughtered, stateless Jews of yesterday. Recall that over half of Israel’s Jewish population (and another million Jews who fled elsewhere) are from refugee families from the so-called “Arab”/Muslim world.
Given all the above, it is time for all good people and nations to come forward and, as the Arabs and their supporters continuously act to create a 22nd state of their own, force the issue at a non-stop pace.
The cause of scores of millions of truly stateless Kurds must finally continuously make it into the front pages, op-eds, and editorials of the mainstream media; onto course syllabi and required reading lists in academia; and into the halls of the United Nations and other world bodies the same way the demand for the creation of that additional Arab state does. And we must press forward despite the relentless opposition that such endeavors will receive from members of the Arab League, the Turks, Iranians, and others elsewhere–like those right here in the American State Department who still insist that Kurds remain tied to those who habitually subjugate and massacre them.