No Stan for the Kurds

Man, am I glad I’m not black. Being born black in this country is like waking up smothered in A-1 Sauce in a pit full of starving lions, and then being told to stop acting like a victim. But I’d rather be black than Kurdish. Those Mesopotamian cats are always getting it in the sensitive parts. They’re the niggers of the Near East. And it’s not going to change anytime soon. The Kurds tracked down Saddam Hussein and discreetly pointed him out to the US military, prior to which they fought bravely (as usual) as auxiliary forces to the Coalition of the Wilting; in short, they behaved like brave and worthy allies. And they’re not one microgringle closer to getting their homeland reinstated. It can never happen, no matter how useful the Kurds make themselves. They haven’t had their own turf, after all, since the 16th century. And even before then their territory was an imbroglio of Turks, Persians, and Medes feudalizing each other senseless, in reverse order.

The unified Kurdistan first took it in the shorts when a certain Sheik Idris-I Bitlisi, who was an agent of the Ottomans, created division within the Kurds during the 16th century (you may remember the 16th century from the previous paragraph) and turned the country into the battleground of the sultans. One might call this an early example of ottosuggestion. But subsequent recumbent Ottoman rulers let things go to the point that the Kurds actually had a whiff of autonomy. In those days, apparently, the Ottoman and the recliner were one and the same (a little risivitism for the Upholsterer’s and Furniture Manufacturer’s Union there). But by the 18th century, with increasing pressure from European colonialist powers (who favored the wing chair and tufted hassock) the Ottomans started leaning on the Kurds. If you’ve ever been leaned on by an Ottoman you know this situation is intolerable, and in the 19th century-which is the century after the 18th century and two centuries before the 21st century, which it now is, or possibly the 2nd century BC, it’s hard to be sure just from glancing at the newspapers-the Kurds first earned the appellation ‘revolting’. They uprose, it didn’t work out, and the Ottomans squashed the Kurds flat until WWI, when the Europeans squashed the Turks flat.

This was a fun time. What with one World War and another, Kurdistan was chopped up into bits, the chuck roasts and rib-eye for Turkey, the short loin, sirloin, and round roast for Iran (nee Persia), and all the skirt and flank steaks for Iraq. Syria got the brisket. The Kurds got the shaft. As a people, the Kurds enjoyed almost total oppression from almost everybody, except possibly Samoa. The 20th century was a dead loss. But things almost looked up for a brief period in 1991, when the Kurds rose up against a defeated Iraqi regime. As usual, they were swiftly oppressed. Rather than create a Kurdish state, which might create some balance in the region and thus make all the other countries less malleable by Western powers, the US and Britain (the 51st state of the Union, in case you didn’t know) created a no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel, so-called because in those days slant parking was illegal, especially in airplanes carrying bombs. What this created was essentially a hunting preserve with Kurds instead of antelope.

But then comes the latest foray into the region by the minions of governor Bush from Texas. Once again, the Kurds sprang into action, apparently not having learned a thing from the last half-millennium of getting screwed. They assisted the American, British, and Mauritanian forces in overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s forces, a task akin to knocking a condemned building down from the inside: it’s not particularly difficult, but somebody is going to get killed. (I was once killed knocking down a condemned building, so I should know.) Be that as it may, the Kurds earned some payback. Oughtn’t they get their old place back? After all, there’s even a parallel sitting around that somebody could announce is the new border of the Kurdish Republic, and we’d hardly even have to redraw the maps. But of course, it isn’t going to happen that way. The Kurdish leaders came forward recently and announced that it’s time they got their own joint. Paul Bremer III, the Pontius Pilate of our time (Ariel Sharon is disqualified because he’s a Jew), told the Kurds to put it in their hats.

Washington (the city, not the dead president) isn’t going to have Iraq breaking up along ethnic lines, because-get this-the USA doesn’t want to threaten the future unity of Iraq. Iraq doesn’t have any unity! It’s an imaginary country concocted out of globs of other, extinct countries by Europeans less than ninety years ago. One of those countries, Kurdistan, isn’t actually extinct, ethnically speaking, and the locals would like the Iraq-based fragment of their homeland back. Sad, deluded fools. Iraq is a strategic necessity, not a country. And the Kurds are unfortunate in occupying the part of Iraq that separates pretty much everybody the West wants seperated. So Bremer, bless his buttons, not only didn’t listen to the Kurdish demands, he actually told them they would have less autonomy than they did while Saddam was in charge. I bet they regret turning the guy in at this point.

But the story doesn’t end on this sad note. After a second meeting with said Kurdish leaders, Bremer, probably at the tip of a scimitar, agreed that the Kurds ought to have some sort of state of their own. Washington won’t allow for any nonsense such as the Kurds having their own army (the pesh merga, which sounds like peach Melba but is in fact a very different thing) or for them getting any tax revenues from local oil production. But Bremer, who is an idiot but has to stay in Iraq, unlike the rest of the American government, has become realistic about this matter. If the Kurds really get pissed off, there’s going to be unrest in the north of Iraq, and if that happens, it may not be Westerners redrawing the map. So sayeth Bremer.

Instead, the story ends on this sad note: Washington says hell no. So it looks like the Kurds are going to have to spend another century oppressed. The good news is, as long as you’re not black, it’s better to be oppressed by the United States than it is to be oppressed by the Ottomans or Britain or Saddam Hussein. Just as soon as things settle down, we’ll start exporting American jobs to Iraq, and the Kurds can start buying real estate. Before you know it, there will once again be a Kurdish homeland. It won’t be a state, but you can live pretty well in a gated community.

BEN TRIPP is a screenwriter and cartoonist. Ben also has a lot of outrageously priced crap for sale here. If his writing starts to grate on your nerves, buy some and maybe he’ll flee to Mexico. If all else fails, he can be reached at:


Ben Tripp is America’s leading pseudo-intellectual. His most recent book is The Fifth House of the Heart.