FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Islamic State, the Kurds and Generational War

by

Some historians see the period between 1914 and 1945 as the replication of another Thirty Years War.  There was the illusion of peace between 1919 and 1939 – the failed efforts of the League of Nations (that failure is still misunderstood), attempts to outlaw war and attempts to construct a viable international system controlled by mild dispute resolution.  But the war system was simply too alluring as a means of redressing grievances. The seeds sown in the trenches of the First World War flowered in toxic blooms for the Second.

The battles being waged across the scarred landscape of the Middle East, notably those in northern Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, issue from wars that are now becoming generational in age.  The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 was simply one grand announcement of things to come, a reminder that those countries bordering traditionally mighty powers could not be left alone.

Militants and insurgents fighting a seemingly irrepressible machine were armed through US and Pakistani conduits.  Pakistan’s sole military victory, a sorry state for an army with a country, came through mujahadeen fighters taking the blow against Soviet tanks.  Throughout, the holy veracity of their cause was coloured by Allah’s sweet inspiration – the “bear” trap was coated with the divine inspiration of the Prophet.

This did not seem to concern most of the ideological straightjackets operating behind their office desks in Washington, though it would have struck former CIA operative Robert Baer as a touch disconcerting.  The US was arming forces who would, given the right moment, bite the hand that fed them.

Much biting has been taking place since.  Sponsor at your risk.  Al Qaida assumed a combat guise, and for much of the time, even through the 1990s, its fighters received the backing of Washington, as long as they sang the right tune.   Ditto the Taliban, who received backing from Washington via traditional Saudi and Pakistani contacts when it was thought that strong central rule was indispensable for an oil and gas pipeline.[1]  When things went off key, they found themselves targets.

Various splinter groups of the al-Qaeda franchise grew, and in time, the current Islamic State, grafted from the al-Qaeda branch of Iraq, outgrew its inspirational sources.  The parent al-Qaeda organization found the bullish, blood lusty radicals too much to handle.  They would deal with the infidels differently.  Exile has followed.

In 2014, we see the war of 2003, when Iraq was invaded with studied insanity, continue. Factions, be it Sunni or Shiite, are being backed.  The international punters are getting their wallets out, and the bank trails are varied.  A loose Western grouping is taking a bet on stopping the Islamic State with aid to Christian groups and Kurdish militants.  The Saudis and Qataris are gunning for the Islamic State. The US, with characteristic absurdity, finds itself engaging forces backed by their allies.

The issue of finding a solution in this conflict is rooted in numerous meetings, summits and venues.  These meetings will not take place, at least for some time, because the West finds itself bound and gagged in what it can do.  Its allies back its enemies. Its enemies know that.

The battles now being waged in northern Iraq cannot be divorced from the battles being waged in Syria, where the Assad regime, bugbear and convenient target of Western indignation, is fighting to the death.  There is no Islamic State solution without a Syrian solution.  In what must be foreign policy driven by mescalin, Islamic State fighters battling Assad may find themselves using US, French and UK supplies. The moment they cross into Iraq, they become the targets of those very same powers.  There is, fictitiously, the idea of good Islamic militants and bad ones.  Presumably this might be in the manner of beheadings.  The difference between Clark Kent and superman is, after all, a matter of spectacles.

The same thing can be said of the Kurds, who have struck it lucky with the change of events.  Just as Islamic State fighters will find themselves afforded different regimes of treatment depending on whether it is in Iraq or Syria, the same can be said for the Kurdish fighters who might find themselves in Turkey.  In northern Iraq, they are touted as the new saviours.  But another synaptic delusion has found its way into the argument: what Kurdish grouping are we talking about here?

While the Peshmerga has crowded the headlines, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)[2] has made the battle against the Islamic State their fight.  Their skills, fashioned over years fighting the Turkish army, should be familiar to anyone acquainted with the region. They also top the list of terrorist organizations in Turkey, a keen NATO ally. While the poster child units of the Peshmerga have received a bruising, the PKK and its affiliates are not merely holding the fort but making gains.

The diplomats in Washington may have a sense of that, though it is not clear whether their employers do.  This ignorance is certainly finding form in the corridors of confused power among the allies.  Australia’s Abbott government is crying for attention, putting its C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster aircraft at the disposal of the “humanitarian” mission.  The entire mission has a monotonously similar ring to it – one mounted by Western powers, enraged by human rights violations.  Humanitarianism has become the notorious shape changer.  The transformation from food parcel to weapons package is an easy one to make.

The countries now battling the Islamic State, be it by actual weapons or proxy, are also making a solid effort of turning their own states into heavily policed garrisons.  Surveillance bills and detention orders are being readied.  Returning Islamic militants are cited as the cause.  Foreign demons have a habit of causing local discord and instability.

The sad irony here is that this emergency, this instability, is the very thing craved by authorities that claim it already exists.  Fight the enemy there, in distant Iraq, because that enemy is bound to be causing mischief at home on the streets of London, Washington or Sydney. But if history throws up another of its perversions, an actual Kurdish state could issue forth from the cracks of the Iraqi state.  It will have the Islamic State to thank for that.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com  

Notes

[1] http://www.rense.com/general14/rise.htm

 

 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail