In Baghdad last week, I missed the best chance I shall ever have to mention rope in the house of a hanged man. The house belonged to Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam’s repellent half-brother and one of the two men who are now scheduled to follow him through the trapdoor. These days, it serves as the office of President Jalal Talabani, with whom I was invited to take lunch. The television was showing the trial of Saddam and his associates for the Anfal campaign, that ruthless and mechanized devastation of Iraqi Kurdistan and the systematic slaughter and clearance of its people by conventional and chemical weaponry. Every Kurd I know was eager to see this episode properly aired in court and placed on the record for all time, with its chief perpetrator on hand to be confronted with his deeds. Instead, the said chief perpetrator was snatched from the dock—in the very middle of his trial—and thrown as a morsel to one of the militias. This sort of improvised “offing” is not even a parody of the serious tribunal that history demands.
What’s the one thing the world could do to ensure an Anfal campaign isn’t repeated? Ralph Peters had a good, albeit thoroughly impossible, idea in a piece published earlier this year in Armed Forces Journal:
The most glaring injustice in the notoriously unjust lands between the Balkan Mountains and the Himalayas is the absence of an independent Kurdish state. There are between 27 million and 36 million Kurds living in contiguous regions in the Middle East (the figures are imprecise because no state has ever allowed an honest census). Greater than the population of present-day Iraq, even the lower figure makes the Kurds the world’s largest ethnic group without a state of its own. Worse, Kurds have been oppressed by every government controlling the hills and mountains where they’ve lived since Xenophon’s day.
The U.S. and its coalition partners missed a glorious chance to begin to correct this injustice after Baghdad’s fall. A Frankenstein’s monster of a state sewn together from ill-fitting parts, Iraq should have been divided into three smaller states immediately. We failed from cowardice and lack of vision, bullying Iraq’s Kurds into supporting the new Iraqi government — which they do wistfully as a quid pro quo for our good will. But were a free plebiscite to be held, make no mistake: Nearly 100 percent of Iraq’s Kurds would vote for independence.
As would the long-suffering Kurds of Turkey, who have endured decades of violent military oppression and a decades-long demotion to “mountain Turks” in an effort to eradicate their identity. While the Kurdish plight at Ankara’s hands has eased somewhat over the past decade, the repression recently intensified again and the eastern fifth of Turkey should be viewed as occupied territory. As for the Kurds of Syria and Iran, they, too, would rush to join an independent Kurdistan if they could. The refusal by the world’s legitimate democracies to champion Kurdish independence is a human-rights sin of omission far worse than the clumsy, minor sins of commission that routinely excite our media. And by the way: A Free Kurdistan, stretching from Diyarbakir through Tabriz, would be the most pro-Western state between Bulgaria and Japan.
Follow the link for an amazing map of the Middle East with its borders redrawn.
Update: Via Iraqslogger, here’s the cellphone video of grief-stricken Baathists and tribal kinsmen shrieking “Allahu Akbar” as they bury Saddam. The shroud is pulled aside at one point, possibly to make sure the Shiite government didn’t pull a fast one on them, or possibly just owing to Islamic morbidity.
Believe it or not, this is considerably more dignified than Khomeini’s interment.
Update: The charges were dropped but the evidence remains:
“Yes, it’s effective, especially on those who don’t wear a mask immediately, as we understand,” another voice, identified as that of Saddam, is heard saying on another tape.
“Sir, does it exterminate thousands?” a voice asks back.
“Yes, it exterminates thousands and forces them not to eat or drink and they will have to evacuate their homes without taking anything with them, until we can finally purge them,” the voice identified as Saddam answers.