KURDS AND WHY!

It is much easier to criticize foreign policy than to make and successfully carry it out. Nevertheless, even an old sailor and scientist such as myself should be able to recognize and protest seeming stupidity of the government he long supported with his service. Kurds all over Europe have been demonstrating, angered and upset by the capture of Ocalan, the Kurdish rebel leader, by the Turks. He has been brought back from Kenya to Turkey, where the government will try him with causing the deaths of 37,000 people over a decade from "terrorist activities." Mr. Ocalan and his PKK followers have been seeking independence for about 12M Kurds who live in Turkey, much as the Albanians of Kosovo have been seeking independence from the nation of Serbia, of which they long have been a part.

I don't pretend to be an expert, but realize in 1991 we instituted a "No fly" zone in northern Iraq to protect Iraqi Kurds from Saddam Hussein's air strikes. However, America recently permitted Turkish troops to invade northern Iraq to seek out rebel Turkish Kurds who were being harbored by the Iraqi Kurds our country is defending. Whenever possible, the Turks have militarily engaged Turkish Kurds for a decade or so, sometimes in northern Iraq. Those must be bad Kurds. However, the Kurds who live in Iraq now enjoy American protection, so they must be good Kurds. We would like them to overthrow Saddam Hussein. I conclude that a Kurdish move for independence from Iraq is good, while a Kurdish move for independence from Turkey is bad. For explanation, I refer the reader to our State Department, an organization highly proficient in Doublespeak.

Of course, all this must somehow neatly tie in with our attitude toward Albanians living in the Serbian province of Kosovo, and their move for independence from Serbia. In general, we seem to be supporting the Kosovar rebels, or at least are trying to prevent further massacres, in their revolution and drive for independence or autonomy, depending on what spin one accepts.

If anyone has by now come to the conclusion all this is rather hard to figure out, he is correct. On the other hand, it seems fair to say that what now passes for American foreign policy on the Kurdish issue is porous, irrational, and evades logic. Does anyone think that by holding up and protecting Iraqi Kurds with one hand, and allowing the Turks to subject and slap down Turkish Kurds with the other, we are motivating Iraqi Kurds to battle Saddam Hussein? To make matters even worse, America's intelligence agencies have been accused of locating and tipping off the Turks that Mr. Ocalan was hiding at the Greek embassy in Kenya.

Our congress is at this time considering keeping China from joining the World Trade Organization because of human rights violations and its treatment of native Chinese who advocate democracy. How can we expect the world to take our insistence on human rights seriously, when we ignore the fundamental human rights issues involved in the way the Turks treat Turkish Kurds? Turkey was not even permitting use of the Kurdish language, as it tried to stamp out Kurdish culture and traditions. One cannot insist on the instigation of human rights in countries we do not regard as friends and allies, and ignore such violations among nations friendly to us. Failure to insist everywhere on equitable treatment of human beings makes the United States both inconsistent and more than a little hypocritical.

Frankly, I'm not too sure we'd have welcomed significant foreign intervention during America's Revolutionary War against the British or, for that matter, during our Civil War. We'd never have allowed a European country, or collection of foreign powers, to introduce a truce, or dictate the outcome of the Civil War. In civil wars, the best rule may possibly be to just stay the hell out of them unless they are your own. They are nasty, brutish things, as evidenced by our Civil War, and are fought with great ferocity. Sherman's march through Georgia was not noted for its kindness.

The larger problem is what I call the constitutional imperative. Our revered, but largely unread, Constitution creates an armed forces, a military, whose purpose is to defend America from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Wherever and whenever America's vested interests are involved, our military may be employed. Try as I may, I cannot extrapolate those clear, succinct words into justification for sending American military forces into either Bosnia or Kosovo. We have no vested interests there, and the most charitably disposed humanitarian reasons simply violate our constitution.

As for our forces in the Persian Gulf, I cannot justify by any known extension of international law the formation of no-fly zones over a foreign nation. The United States is now engaged in an undeclared war with Iraq. We reply with bombs and missiles when radar locks onto our planes that are flying over a sovereign nation on whom we have not declared war. It is more than a bit arrogant, and strikes me as highly illegal. The term we use, self-defense, may apply, or it may not. Radar is itself a passive pulsing of electromagnetic beams that bounce off an object and return to their source. It merely locates the object. RADAR can be used simply to identify and track planes in airspace. Based on that spacial information, anti-airfare guns or missiles MAY be fired or launched. Our pilots have been instructed to presume that being "painted with radar" is evidence of an aggressive attack. The fact that radar beams sweep over a target is not conclusive proof an attack is imminent, and we look like the bully on the block with a chip on his shoulder when we shoot first and ask questions later. As I view it, Iraq is not Soviet Russia, nor is it a superpower that poses a potential threat to America. My question is: what on earth are we doing in the Persian Gulf eight years after we drove Iraq from Kuwait? They pose no threat to us, and the world is now awash in oil.

We are squandering the only resource that can defend America by trying to put down global civil unrest, and the condition of our military readiness is not acceptable. The Chinese may soon supplant the former Soviet Empire as a formidable enemy and potential superpower. America had better be ready, and America had better be strong.

Only if I am very wrong can the Clinton administration be right in its conduct of foreign policy. I hope that worries the reader as much as it does me.


Sam Orr sorr@metrolink.net
World Traveler
and Philanthrope
(Location Unknown)