How Many Times Will the U.S. Betray the Kurds?

Revolutionary Worker #1195, April 20, 2003, posted at

Today, the U.S. poses as the savior of the Kurdish people from the clutches of Saddam. But the reality is that the Kurdish people--an oppressed nation of about 25 million living in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria--have a long and bitter history of betrayal at the hands of U.S. imperialism.

As A World to Win News Service (March 7, 2003) pointed out: "When the Western imperialists were dividing up the Ottoman Empire after the First World War, the U.S. and Britain had promised to create a separate country, `Kurdistan,' a promise recorded in the Treaty of SŠvres in 1920. Three years later this was reversed in another treaty, and the area promised the Kurds now became part of Iraq--an oil-rich area then occupied by the British. The Kurdish nation as a whole was scattered among Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria, ensuring that the Kurds would remain an oppressed, marginalized people in those countries ever since."

From 1973 to 1975, the U.S. supported Kurdish rebels in Iraq in order to strengthen the pro-U.S. regime in Iran and weaken the then-pro-Soviet Iraqi regime. But as soon as Iran and Iraq cut a deal, the U.S. withdrew support, denied the Kurds refuge in Iran, and stood by while the Iraqi government murdered them. Henry Kissinger, the U.S. national security adviser at the time, justified this cold-blooded move by saying that "covert action should not be confused with missionary work."

In 1979, Iran's Kurdish population rose up with millions of other Iranians to overthrow the hated Shah, but when they demanded their national rights, the U.S. government publicly supported the Khomeini regime's efforts to crush them and maintain Iranian domination of Kurds.

In 1988, the Iraqi regime launched poison-gas attacks on Halabja, a small Kurdish town under the control of Kurdish rebels, killing over 5,000 people. This crime was met with silence from the U.S. government. U.S. officials even claimed that they had reviewed the evidence of the gas attack and found it "inconclusive." Meanwhile, the U.S. was increasing support for Saddam Hussein--part of the sinister moves to prolong the bloody war between Iraq and Iran in order to benefit U.S. imperialist interests in the region.

While Bush and Co. now loudly denounce Saddam Hussein's brutal treatment of the Kurds, the U.S. has for decades given massive support to the rulers of Turkey--who have waged genocidal war on the Kurdish people and imprisoned and tortured countless Kurds.

During the 1991 Gulf War, U.S. President Bush called on Kurds in northern Iraq (and the Shia population in the south) to rise up against Saddam Hussein. When the Kurds and the Shia did rise up, the U.S. government--fearing that a break-up of Iraq would not be in its interests--stood by as the Iraqi regime brutally put down the rebellions. Kurds fleeing westward were attacked by the U.S.-armed Turkish troops. The Kurds once again became the victims of cynical imperialist calculations.

The current situation in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq is very complex--an explosive mixture of Kurdish national aspirations, scramble for the oil resources, expansionist moves by Turkey, and schemes of the U.S. occupiers. How all this will play out is unclear. But one thing is certain--the U.S. imperialists are not on the side of genuine liberation of the Kurdish people. As one Kurdish vendor in the Suleimaniah market place observed shortly before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, "If the Americans come, it will be after their own interests, not ours."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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