The US-Kurdish Relations and the Kurdish Question in Iraq

Noam Chomsky interviewed by Peshawa Abdulkhaliq Muhammed

Kurdistani Nwe Newspaper, February 17, 2008

MUHAMMED: How do you see and assess the US-Kurdish alliance? What do you think to be the common interests on which such relations are built?

CHOMSKY: The alliance is, I think, fragile. That should be obvious even from recent history, for example, Kissinger’s abandonment of the Kurds to the savagery of Saddam Hussein 30 years ago after having encouraged a revolt against Saddam, or Reagan’s support for Saddam’s massacre of Kurds a decade later, or Clinton’s enormous and decisive support for Turkey’s violent and destruction repression of Kurds through the 1990s. At the moment, the relatively autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq is providing support for the US goal of ensuring that Iraq remains a client state and a base for US forces in the region, and that it will privilege US investors, as stated rather brazenly in the Bush-Maliki declaration of November 2007, reiterated by Bush in a “signing statement” in January 2008, in which he asserted that he would reject portions of the congressional legislation he had just signed that interfered with these objectives. But if those services to US power decline or are considered less useful, then the alliance will once again erode.

MUHAMMED: Michael Rubin from AEI in his recent report on Iraqi Kurdistan, surprisingly stated: “Iraq has changed, but Iraqi Kurdistan has not”, to what extent do you think such claims are rational given the fact that Kurdistan is the sole part of Iraq that enjoys a degree of safety, security and democracy?

CHOMSKY: I do not know what he means. Surely Iraqi Kurdistan is not what it was under Saddam’s tyranny, or 10 years ago during the civil war. Iraq has indeed changed, towards ever greater catastrophe. One of the most dedicated and informed journalists who has been immersed in the shocking tragedy, Nir Rosen, recently published an epitaph entitled “The Death of Iraq,” in Current History. He writes that “Iraq has been killed, never to rise again. The American occupation has been more disastrous than that of the Mongols, who sacked Baghdad in the thirteenth century the perception of many Iraqis as well. Only fools talk of `solutions now. There is no solution. The only hope is that perhaps the damage can be contained. There are doubtless problems in Iraqi Kurdistan, but nothing like those in Iraq under US occupation, though violence does seem to have reduced in the south after the British withdrew, leaving an ugly scene in their wake.

MUHAMMED: In the same report, Rubin said: “Sympathy to Kurdistan is understandable but is increasingly based on a myth.” Do you think Kurdistan really needs US sympathy to exist? Or the Kurds can be a force that can jeopardize US interests in Iraq and in the region?

CHOMSKY: Without US support, Kurdish rights would be severely jeopardized, as we see from recent history, and by the place of Kurdistan within the region.

MUHAMMED: What is the current view of US Foreign Policy towards the minorities (including Kurds)? Do you think such policies are run by moral values or they are interest-orientated policies? What are the roles of Turkish lobbyists in the US in shaping and influencing US policy towards the Kurds?

CHOMSKY: I do not see how one can speak about moral values without ridicule in the light of recent history, not just with regard to the Kurds. And it is well to remember that the US is not fundamentally different from other powerful states, past and present, in this regard. Clinton did not need Turkish lobbyists to provide a huge flow of arms to Turkey in the 1990s for its vicious counterinsurgency campaign against Kurds, though they probably have some role, as do lobbyists for other states.

MUHAMMED: What is your recommendation and advice for the Kurdish leadership in Iraq to stay as an effective part of Iraq, and avoid any US betrayal in the future?

CHOMSKY: Some advice should be too obvious to articulate: for example, do not have illusions about foreign powers and their soothing rhetoric. But it is not my place to give advice to Kurds, even if I had a sufficiently intimate knowledge of their circumstances and aspirations to do so with any confidence.