Iraqi Kurdistan: Imperialist-Sponsored Liberation a Mirage

Revolutionary Worker #1197, May 4, 2003, posted at

We received the following from A World to Win News Service:

14 April 2003. A World to Win News Service.There is a saying that the dawn reveals the day. On 12 April as Kurdish guerrillas were ordered out of the Kurdish city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, it revealed many bad days ahead for the Kurdish people--right at the moment when their leaders thought they were achieving a great victory.

The Kurdish Patriotic Union (PUK) headed by Jalal Talabani had promised the U.S. that Kurdish forces would not take the city. But despite Talabani's eagerness to prove his absolute obedience to his American handlers, things turned out differently. It seems Kurdish people in the town rose up against the local representatives of the Iraqi regime, who put up less resistance than expected, and Kurdish guerrillas outside the city got carried away. On 10 April, the city was in Kurdish hands.

The PUK hurried to undo that achievement immediately. They apologized to the American military commanders, and ordered the guerrillas to hand over power to the American troops as soon as they reached Kirkuk. "This shouldn't have happened at all," said an unnamed "senior Kurdish official." "The understanding was to stop."

Kirkuk is strategically important to all sides in this war. Historically, it is the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. The major oilfields lying between Kirkuk and Mosul have long been these cities' misfortune, as they have for all of Iraqi Kurdistan. In an attempt to strengthen his grip on the region, Saddam Hussein carried out a policy of driving Kurdish people out of these cities and replacing them with ethnic Arabs. Many Kurdish families want to return there.

Under the leadership of the U.S., Kurdish fighters have been manipulated to guide the U.S. soldiers, act as military scouts, drive out Saddam's soldiers and hunt down the Americans' enemies, and capture some of the cities and oilfields.

The support for the U.S. invasion by the Kurdish Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP), led by Masood Barzani, and Talabani's PUK is more than a strategic mistake. It is a crime. Instead of meeting the need to fight the invaders collectively by uniting all the forces and the peoples of Iraq as much as possible, these forces chose to become servants of the imperialist aggressors. When people all over the world united in solidarity with all the peoples of Iraq in resistance to the U.S.-led aggression, these forces with no hesitation accepted and aided the aggressors' plunge deep into the heart of the country. If they had not aligned with the U.S./U.K. forces the invaders might have succeeded anyway, but it would have contributed to better and more conscious class relations between the oppressed classes of the Iraqi and Kurdish people, to building a fraternal harmony among the oppressed Kurdish nation and the other peoples of Iraq, and the establishment of credible political unity of all nationalities to fight against the imperialists. Of course, the main fault for the split between people in Iraq that the imperialists have been able to take advantage of lies with the anti-Kurdish policies of Saddam Hussein, but this does not free Kurdish leaders of their responsibilities.

In the 1991 Gulf War, these groups fought the Saddam regime. Afterward, the U.S. helped them strengthen their army to as many as 50,000 peshmerga (fighters), and established a de-facto autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. When the U.S. invaded, these forces were enlisted in the U.S.- U.K. coalition. Contrary to the interests of the people, the peshmergas were not led by a party that would lead the masses to fight the aggressors. They were waiting orders and signals from the U.S. imperialists about what their next move should be. On 21 March, The New York Times reported what a military commander of PUK, which controls the southeastern half of the Kurdish zone, said: "We do not move forward because we don't know what is going to happen." The remark shows that Kurdish politics have been trapped in the hands of the imperialist reactionaries.

Because of the dependent and submissive political line of these groups, the peshmergas have been robbed of their historic responsibility to protect the Kurdish nation from the invaders and turn the Kurdish area into a base for the liberation of the whole region from imperialism. Instead, the U.S. has misled people, manipulated these forces and utilized Iraqi Kurdistan for its own interests in its war to conquer and occupy all of Iraq.

These groups saw the domestic dictator as the principal enemy, instead of the imperialists, even when the imperialists were invading. Although done in the name of protecting Kurdish interests, this act really sells the Kurdish people into economic, political and social servitude to the U.S. aggressors. In return, according to speculation in the Western press, Barzani and especially Talabani hope to get posts in a future U.S. puppet national government, along with some local control in Iraqi Kurdistan. In other words, they hope to be raised up to the role of junior partners in administering the servitude of their people. These feudal and bourgeois nationalists, guided by the interests of the Kurdish top traditional leaders and capitalists, betrayed the real basic interests of the Kurdish people, the Iraqi people in general and the people of the whole region.

They failed to understand and correctly solve the relationship between two different contradictions, the contradiction between the Kurdish people and the Iraqi ruling class led by Saddam, on the one hand, and on the other the contradiction between the imperialist invaders versus all of the peoples of Iraq. The oppression of the Kurdish people of Iraq and of the Kurdish people in the neighboring countries (Turkey, Iran and to some extent Syria) requires that they win the right to self-determination, that is, to their own state or states where they can freely decide their relations with the other people of the region. The Kurdish people have been fighting for decades against the chains imposed by these reactionary countries. On top of that, the imperialist vultures have been eyeing the potential for profit from the Kurds' human and natural resources. Each of the countries in which Kurds find themselves has, to some extent or another, served as a tool for the imperialists. This means that the liberation of the Kurds requires not just the unity of the Kurds alone, but the unity of all oppressed masses in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. The problem is not just Saddam and/or the other reactionary rulers. The problem is the imperialist system and the whole network of reactionary relations it maintains globally and locally.

The idea that the U.S. will give Iraqi Kurds any real autonomy is an illusion if for no other reason than the fact that Turkey is against it, fearing revolt in northern Kurdistan in Turkey. Turkey's foreign minister warned that if peshmergas were allowed to stay in Kirkuk, Turkey would take this as a direct threat to Turkish interests. This is the same man who only a few weeks ago tried and failed to get Turkey's parliament to accept the U.S. demand that American troops be allowed to use Turkish soil as a base to attack Iraq. The humiliation of Turkey by America is fine as far as Gul is concerned, as long as Turkey has its say in the humiliation of the Kurds in Iraq as well as the deep oppression of the millions of Kurds in Turkey itself.

In fact, the oppression of the Kurds is one of the central pillars of the Turkish regime, just as much as it has been for the Iraqi regime (and for the Iranian reactionary regime as well). The Americans may have made some promises to some prominent Kurdish politicians, but they definitely do not want the slightest power to fall into the hands of the Kurdish masses. One thing Turkey and the U.S. agree on utterly is that the U.S. and the U.S. alone is going to get the oil and the political power. Because of this, the U.S. has tried to limit the peshmergas' role even in military terms. The U.S. "asked them not to go into offensive combat and risk provoking Turkey," The New York Times wrote 21 March. Obviously, Turkey has strategic importance for the U.S., and the U.S. is not going to willingly see Iraqi Kurdistan became a base for the greater Kurdish liberation movement. But even if the imperialists were to give their blessing to some limited form of autonomy, or even if they divided up Iraq, there would be no liberation. The only way for the people to free themselves of all forms of oppression is to get united and dig the graves of the aggressors in the region.

The strategy and tactics of the two main Kurdish groups have meant that the Kurdish people have not been able to develop an independent and more powerful army, even though they are participating in a major war. Therefore the people have little to protect their interests and they have no real political power. Of course, simply having an army and even an area alone is not decisive for the complete victory of the people. Every organization, no matter what its nature, is guided by a political and ideological line, a way of understanding the world and well-defined objectives and policies and the methods to achieve them. The line of these organizations has left the Kurdish people completely dependent on the U.S. and with nothing of their own.

U.S. imperialism cannot distribute "liberation" like bags of rice to each oppressed people in Iraq and the region. More than that, under the slogan of phony "liberation" it is threatening to destabilize other countries and further subjugate the people in the whole region. No autonomy or independent state has any value for the people under imperialist domination. For complete liberation, the Kurdish people have to fight a war against imperialism, with the struggle for the right to self-determination a part of and in service of that greater struggle. In the war against imperialism, they need to forge a unity with the different nationalities, and they cannot do that without a revolutionary party, the party of the oppressed classes, guided by the scientific ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism that can mobilize the revolutionary masses and lead a people's war and unite the oppressed people of the whole region. There is no other way the Kurdish people can free themselves and play their vital role in freeing the world. Otherwise, with the policy of these national bourgeois and feudal chieftains who seek "liberation" under the grace of imperialist powers, the masses will be plunged again and again into the quagmire of imperialist plunder. "Liberation" with the imperialists' blessing is simply a political mirage.

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