By Peter Boyle
Any illusion that a "new world order" based on peace, democracy and justice was being built upon the death and destruction of the Gulf War lies in tatters. Now that Kuwait is returned to the emir and Saddam Hussein's military and economic power have been trimmed, Washington and its allies are happy to sit back and watch Saddam slaughter Shiites and Kurds in Iraq.
The Gulf War wasn't fought for democracy or even to end the rule of brutal dictators. It was fought to maintain Western hegemony over the world's most oil-rich region and to prop up the rule of "friendly" dictators.
George Bush claims that he will not intervene because the war against the minorities is an "internal matter" — an excuse that sits uncomfortably with a government that has invaded numerous countries precisely to intervene in their internal affairs. It never bothered him just weeks ago, when the war against Iraq was in full swing.
Bush betrayed his real motives when he reiterated his support for Saddam's generals if they would launch a coup against Saddam: "If their own army would do something about it, maybe we could start over", he said on April 4.
Cemal, a spokesperson for the Australian Kurdish Association, spoke bitterly of this latest "Western betrayal" to Green Left: "I believe the American government and its allies even prefer to see a weak Saddam Hussein in power in Iraq rather than a successful Kurdish or Shiite rebellion.
"More than 2.5 million of our people are fleeing from Saddam Hussein's army. They have left their homes and, with their children and even newborn babies, they are trying to cross into Iran and Turkey in freezing cold. Thousands of people are dying. People are getting lost in the snow-covered mountains. Fighting is continuing between the peshmerga [Kurdish rebels] and Saddam Hussein's army while the Western world is blind to what is happening."
On April 4, the United Nations Security Council adopted a long resolution spelling out conditions for formally ending the war against Iraq. It imposes war reparations that will tax the Iraqi people for decades and limits Iraqi military forces. But there was no mention of the war against the Kurds or the Shiite minorities.
The cease-fire will lift all restrictions on the operations of the Iraqi armed forces imposed under the interim cease-fire negotiated with the US armed forces occupying the south of Iraq. Saddam's forces will be able to use planes and helicopters to shell, strafe and bomb the Kurds with napalm, phosphorus and other chemical weapons. They had started to do so even earlier, while the high-tech US armed forces looked on.
The Soviet Union and China supported the Western powers on this resolution, continuing their reactionary collusion over the Gulf ted against, while Yemen and Ecuador abstained.
The French government may raise the plight of the Kurdish people in later sessions of the Security Council, allowing the West to show some token concern. But by then thousands of Kurds will have died.
"The Kurdistan National Front and the Kurdistan Democratic Party are calling on the world for help, but so far no-one is answering them", said Cemal. "Some countries — like Australia — are talking about humanitarian aid but this will not solve our problem. It may save a few of our children, but it won't save our people.
"We need some governments to raise the Kurdish question in the United Nations. That is what we are asking the Australian government to do. This is an international issue. The region will not be at peace until the Kurdish people get their freedom and independence."
Representatives of the Kurdish community in Australia will meet foreign minister Gareth Evans on April 9, but they are not very hopeful.
The Western powers support Saddam against the Kurds because a Kurdish victory might inspire revolts by Kurdish minorities in neighbouring Turkey, Iran, Syria and even the Soviet Union. Even as some 200,000 Kurdish refugees freeze or starve to death on the borders of these countries, the Turkish army is waging war against its own Kurdish minority. Iran has in recent times also massacred its Kurdish minority.
The Kurds of Iraq (who have formed alliances with Iraqi Communists) might even inspire radical movements in the Middle East. This is one reason why Western military and economic aid to Saddam Hussein before he invaded Kuwait was never a "mistake". Saddam's brutal regime was doing a great job for the international capitalist system until it overstepped the mark by invading another "friendly" dictatorship, Kuwait.
"The Kurdish question should be put before the United Nations. We are a nation of 30 million and Kuwait has not even 1 million people, yet the Kuwaiti issue was quickly taken up by the United Nations but we have been ignored", said Cemal.
The Kurdish people missed out on having their nation recognised when the departing colonial powers carved up the Middle East earlier this century.
Since then numerous Kurdish uprisings have been suppressed with little opposition from the rest of the world. Amnesty International's reports on Iraq, Turkey and Iran are full of tales of torture and other atrocities committed against the Kurds. Kurds in Iraq have waged war when all other opposition forces have given up under Baathist repression. They have attempted to negotiate for autonomy, without success.
When Saddam Hussein killed 5000 Kurdish villagers with chemical weapons three years ago, military aid to Iraq continued to flow from the West, the Soviet Union and China. "The Kurd has no friend" — an old summarises this people's historic experience of betrayal.
"The war will continue whether we get help from outside or not. But many more innocent people will die. If our people are forced to flee to Iran and Turkey, the world can be sure we will return to fight for our homeland one day", Cemal concluded. Can the rest of the world afford to remain silent? n