Monday, March 13, 2006

The 51st American State

I recently discovered an excellent blog by Michael Totten. He has been blogging from Northern Iraq, and he has been including great photos in his essays as well. Here is something from his most recent post:
What was the hardest time this village has seen?

“When the Iran/Iraq war was here,” he said. “That was the worst time. Before the war there were 800 families. Most were displaced. Mine was one of them. The Iraqi army didn’t allow us to enter the village. We had to sneak in through the orchards.”

What are you most afraid of right now?

“Islamists,” he said bluntly without a moment’s hesitation.

Did Ansar Al Islam occupy this village?

“Yes,” he said. “We didn’t want them to stay but they forced themselves on us. They were not as strong here as they were in Biara, but they were still able to impose their rules on us.”

Who belonged to Ansar Al Islam? Were they from around here?

“Indians, Kurds, Arabs, and Persians. The Iranian government supported them against us.”

What do you think of the Iranian government?

“It is not a good regime. We do visit people from there, but we don’t do it officially.”

Were you affected by the Kurdish civil war? (The PUK and the KDP fought a stupid low-level conflict in the mid 1990s.)

“No,” he said. “We were like one family. We did not allow that war to come here.”

Should Iraqi Kurdistan declare independence from Baghdad?

“We are a different people. We have our own history and culture. We will join with the Iranian Kurds, Inshallah.”

A young man who spoke perfect English pushed his way through the crowd that had gathered around. He wanted to make sure he had a chance to speak to me. He crouched down so he could look me in the eye while I sat.

What do you think? I asked him. Should Iraqi Kurdistan declare independence?

“If the West stands with us, we want independence for all the Kurds in the world. We are one people. Kurds in Turkey, Syria, and Iran, are exactly like us.”

I wanted to know: What’s the one best thing the West can do for the Kurds? He told me the same old answer that has been bouncing around in this part of the world for decades:

“We want Kurdistan to be the 51st American state.”

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