Monday, May 21, 2007

Hitchens on Iraqi internally displaced persons

"On the university campuses, you may easily meet Arab Iraqis who have gladly fled Baghdad and Basra for this safe haven"

Gee fucking thanks, Hitch. Next week, Aaronovitch Watch reports on the cosmopolitan nightclubs and funky restaurants of Khartoum, noting that many Darfurians have "gladly fled" there.

This piece of breathless nutriding on Jalal Talabani, leader of the Elvish Cavalry Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, comes via Brian Brivati (who, weirdly, repeatedly misspells "Hitchins"' name (and Michael "Waltzer"?). It's nice to have it out in the open, frankly, a clear indication of the extent to which Kurdish nationalism has been important to the development of modern Decency. As set out in the Hitchens article, the position is:

1) The majority-Kurdish area in Northern Iraq is having an economic mini-boom thanks to waves of foreign investment.

2) Having missed the brunt of the war, it is not yet involved in the civil war as the various factions have chosen to carry out their struggles over oil in Parliament rather than on the ground.

3) Ethnic Kurds are in charge of a disproportionate number of important government posts (and Hitch seems very cavalier in assuming that they are all happy to be implicitly accused of playing ethnic politics)

4) The rest of Iraq is going to shit

5) Hitchens is OK with that.

Brivati doesn't seem to follow Hitch all the way down this lunatic path, but nonetheless seems to be taking it seriously. The "Success in Iraq" line seems to be retreating faster than Comical Ali's platoons here; "What about all the good news in Kurdistan we're not hearing about?" is the direct successor to "What about the good news outside the Sunni triangle we're not hearing about?", which in turn succeeded "What about all the good news from Iraq we're not hearing about?".

Distressingly, both Brian and Hitch seem to use the terms "the Kurdish regions of Iraq", "Iraqi Kurdistan" and plain "Kurdistan" interchangeably. These are of course all fairly loaded terms - "Iraqi Kurdistan" is one which the Kurdistan regional government specifically avoids, because it's rather like "Israeli Palestine". Paradoxically, "Kurdistan" is the least controversial way of referring to the territory controlled by the KRG, because that's what it's always been called. However, there are substantial Turkomen minorities, and Dahuk province has a substantial Arab population. Most importantly of all, of course, Kirkuk (where the oil is) is a place which is not part of historic "Kurdistan" but which has a (bare) Kurdish minority and over which the KRG claims authority, rather controversially.

Basically, like George Galloway has his Palestinians (a romanticised Middle Eastern population who in his mind can do no wrong in their endless struggle against oppression and must be supported unconditionally), Hitchens has his Kurds. Or more specifically, he has his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which is apparently the only rebel movement in the history of the universe to have never touched civilians (they have, of course; the PUK have historically had a nasty little line in honour killings and enthusiastically contributed to the recruitment problems of the Iraq Worker-Communist Party. They've cleaned up their act since, of course, but why wouldn't they, given that they've had ten years of the USA doing their fighting for them?)

Apparently the issue for the Eustonauts is "one of solidarity - with whom should we feel solidarity in Iraq at this time?". They're having a conference about it, bless. I would not want to pre-empt their discussions, but I would certainly advise AW readers that if they are thinking of betting on the outcome, the answer "a bunch of nice men in suits with Mercedes who keep telling us how much they love the Americans" would have to be the bookies' favourite. Given that the Decent tendency have already managed to convince themselves that the Kosovar Albanians are a progressive force in the world, reducing the Iraq War to a stage in the quest for self-determination of the Kurdish peoples ought to be a doddle. I suspect that Hitchens will be quietly asked to keep his mouth shut about that other Middle Eastern nation-without-a-state that have also been getting the shitty end of the historical stick for the last fifty years though - no need to poison the debate or single anyone out.

In related news, a prime example of the kind of blanket accusations and slander that Norman Geras would like us to believe the Decents don't use:

"Beyond the feelings of anger that so much of the left has embraced the jihadists, there sits the incomprehension I feel that they do not at least also express solidarity with the Kurds and other Iraqis who are being killed. [no, neither do I know why Brian claims that the Kurds are being killed by the insurgency here, given that the rest of his article is about how they aren't - bruschettaboy[1]]

The shibboleth of anti-Americanism pollutes everything, blinds people to the suffering of innocent victims and deludes them as to the nature of the conflict that now engulfs Iraq. It is a conflict unleashed by our mistakes, misjudgments and poor planning, which many think we are prolonging and making worse by our continued presence. I have no idea if that is right or wrong, though I trust the democratically elected government of Iraq to tell us when to go and I hope we do not cut and run before then. But what I would like to see, and what I think the Euston Manifesto stands for, is a renewed sense of solidarity with groups like the Kurds who have grasped their freedom and are making it work, rather than solidarity with groups who walk into schools, kidnap headteachers and murder them."

yup, fuck off, Brian.

[1] I suspect the idea here is that instead of protesting the war now, we ought to be protesting the an-Anfal massacre of 1989. Of course, "the Left" did protest this at the time, but they committed the much great sin of not protesting it 14 years later; in other words, this is "Decent Tardis" politics at work.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The invasion of Iraq has turned it into a failed state. Kurdistan is, however, one part of Iraq where there is some semblance of normality. It would be nice to think that this would lead peacefully to an autonomous Kurdistan (so that there would be at least one positive item on the balance sheet from the invasion of Iraq). It is, however, far from clear that this will be the outcome as there are still many big questions lying there like unexploded mones. Turkey won't like an autonomous or independent Kurdistan because it may then support the Kurds inside Turkey. There is potentially a big conflict with other Iraqis over sharing oil revenues and how the boundary will get drawn through the oilfields. So I wonder if the Eustonians will still be pushing the same line one or two years from now.

5/21/2007 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

they are still happy to portray Kosovo as the Elysian Fields so I think the answer to this is yes.

5/21/2007 08:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw the entry for Brivati's article on CiF this morning and thought: Yep, I know where that one's heading. To be honest, the Hitch was pushing the Happy Kurdish Independence line at least a year ago (on Newsnight, if I recall aright). The Kurds have always been the poster children of the invasion, so even though Kurdish independence wasn't supposed to be a war aim, claiming it now (and ignoring any bloodhsed that may ensue) is just the latest move of the goalposts by all the pro-war posse.

5/21/2007 09:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"a romanticised Middle Eastern population who in his mind can do no wrong in their endless struggle against oppression and must be supported unconditionally"

It's interesting to think about who had that mantle on the left 60 years ago . . . Yup, it was You Know Where. Before that, see Hungary, Poland, Italy, Ireland etc. Didn't someone famous once write about 'transferred nationalism'?

It may even be time to look up Urquhartism as well - although that particular box of frogs probably applies better to ultra-stoppers than to ultra-decents.

Chris Williams

5/21/2007 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger splinteredsunrise said...

Odd too that Talabani's extremely close links with Tehran for over 20 years never seems to feature in Decent discourse. Mind you, with the Jacksonauts pushing the cause of the Ahwazi Arabs (former sponsor S. Hussein) this might prove a little difficult to explain.

For further conformity with Washington, I expect soon to be reading "The plight of the Azeris in Iran" and "Our good friends the Mojahedin Khalq". While the Decent Tardis heads for overload.

5/21/2007 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

As it happens, whenever there's any sort of colonial war, there's nearly always an ethnic minority who tend to side with the colonialists because they think (and with reason) that they're going to get it in the neck after the war. This ws true in Vietnam, for instance and it was true for that matter during the American War of Independence.

5/22/2007 08:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When it comes to be written, the Bumper Bedside Book of Decent History will read a bit like Catch-22. The story will be fragmented, jumping about in time and space and from one character to the next. Some events will be repeated with different interpretations. Important events will be mentioned as if the reader ought to know all about them already. There will be a hefty dose of circular arguments. There will be a sense of absurdity against a background of death and destruction. The prose will be repetitive and full of unexplained paradoxes. And anyone who starts asking questions will be accused impatiently of "just not getting it".

5/22/2007 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

So - Norman Stone's "The Eastern Front 1914-1917" as edited by William Burroughs?

Meanwhile, I wonder what a mone is, and what happens when it explodes..

5/22/2007 03:36:00 PM  

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