Sunday, April 06, 2003
A tragic "friendly fire" incident may cement Kurdish freedom
Nothing completely eliminates the fog of war, and the news of a "friendly fire" attack which killed a number of Kurd fighters and some U.S. special force members is indeed horrible. But the indirect result may be to protect the Kurds from a Turkish invasion.
Turkey fears an independent Kurdistan. Also, one of the big dangers of the war in Iraq was that Turkey would use the opportunity to enter Kurdish areas and possibly seize the rich oilfields in Kirkuk and Mosul. The U.S. has repeatedly warned Turkey to stay out. But if Turkey ignored that warning, what could the U.S. do about it, other than go to war with a nominal ally and NATO member? It was an ugly scenario.
The Kurds have filled the gap left by Turkish refusal to allow American soldiers to enter Iraq from the north. They've helped wipe out the Ansar Al-Islam terrorist camp, and they are providing the ground muscle to push back Saddam's forces.
The United States still insists that Iraq's "territorial integrity" will be maintained, and that Kurdistan will not become a separate nation. But the Kurds have already earned a very high degree of autonomy, even if (on paper) they stay part of Iraq. And now the United States owes the Kurds a blood-debt.
We also have the answer to what would happen if Turkish troops moved to invade Iraq. There would be one or more massive "friendly fire" incidents in which Turkish military units would be bombed by U.S. aircraft. The carnage would be horrible. The U.S. would express its "deep regrets", but point out that Turkey wasn't supposed to be in Iraq in the first place, and we naturally assumed that we'd spotted an enemy column.
And we'd have plausible deniability, simply by pointing to the similar unfortunate attack against the Kurds.
I strongly suspect the message has already been delivered to Turkey, that we cannot guarantee the safety of Turkish forces wandering around Iraq. Because of that, Turkey will be deterred from taking any risky military actions.
So the Kurdish soldiers did not die in vain. They gained their people's liberty.