Ecevit: Kurds dragging Turkey into war

So I posted the constitutions last night along with my thoughts that the Kurds are asking for trouble, and wouldn’t you know it? Today, the Guardian runs this. It’s more of that growling that I mentioned in my previous post, but what’s most alarming about this is Turkey’s charges that the United States is directing the Kurds: “It is beyond encouragement, (Washington) is directing them,” said Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit.

Wow. I posted the proposed Kurdish and Iraqi constitutions last night—and my thoughts that the Kurds are asking for trouble—and wouldn’t you know it? Today, the Guardian runs this. It’s more of that growling that I mentioned in my previous post, but what’s most alarming about this is Turkey’s charges that the United States is directing the Kurds: “It is beyond encouragement, (Washington) is directing them,” Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit told the Turkish paper Milliyet. “We will talk to the United States.”

If the United States is directing the PUK and the KDP, that would amount to a stunning reversal against Turkey, one of our most loyal allies in the region. I don’t think that we are, frankly, and these comments are likely playing to Ecevit’s nationalist base of support, which often views the U.S. with suspicion. (They still harbor resentments over Cyprus form 1964 and 1974.)

The United States needs Turkey more than it needs the Kurds, sadly, as the Kurds have only about 80,000 lightly armed peshmergas while the Turks have tanks and F-16s (bought from the United States, of course.) They’re also a NATO ally and Incirlik is a necessary base for running sorties in the northern no-fly zone.

But beyond that Turkey is valuable to the United States in that it provides a “good example” of democracy and Islam, serving as an effective ideological counterweight to Iran. It also has close ties to the Turkish-speaking peoples of central Asia and their energy reserves.

This is why the United States has been such a proponent of Turkey’s ascension to the European Union. America’s support is a complex web of self-interest (keeping a strong, democratic Muslim nation tied to the West) and pay-back (see military alliance above.) It’s also why the Kurds of southeast Turkey both admire and resent the United States. They admire it for its stance on the Turkey-EU issue, and they see membership as the key to economic recovery in that depressed region. They resent America because it was very very supportive of Turkey’s war against the PKK’s terror campaign (which Turkey remembered when Sept. 11, 2001 happened.)

So, again, I’m not sure what would happen if Iraq’s Kurds attain some form of independence. That would almost certainly drive the Turks to war in Iraqi Kurdistan, and what then would the Americans do? This may turn out to be a bigger question than who rules the day after Saddam…

Proposed Iraqi constitution(s) asking for trouble

Here’s something you won’t find anywhere else. (I googled.) These are the scanned copies of the proposed constitutions for Iraq, post-Saddam. Sami Abdul Rahman, the deputy prime minister (KDP) of the Kurdistan Regional Government, gave them to me after I interviewed him in his offices in the Parliament building in Arbil. He wrote them, and the KDP and PUK, in a rare show of public unity, have signed on. Even State, back in July, said the ideas were “interesting.”

Here’s something you won’t find anywhere else. (I googled.) These are the scanned copies of the proposed constitutions for Iraq, post-Saddam. Sami Abdul Rahman, the deputy prime minister (KDP) of the Kurdistan Regional Government, gave them to me after I interviewed him in his offices in the Parliament building in Arbil. He wrote them, and the KDP and PUK, in a rare show of public unity, have signed on. Even State, back in July, said the ideas were “interesting.”

There are two files, the proposed constitution for a Federal Republic of Iraq (3.0MB), heavily modeled on the United States Constitution, and the constitution for the Kurdish region (5.6MB). Sorry for the size of the files. I tried to make them as small as I could.

The first one maps out a plan that would divide the country into two regions: The Arabs would get the middle and southern regions along with the province of Nineveh (excepting regions that have Kurdish majorities) and the Kurds would get the provinces of Kirkuk, Suleimaniya, Arbil and Duhok, the districts of Aqra, Sheihkan and Sinjar and the sub-districts of Zimar (in Nineveh), Khaniqin and Mandali (Diyala) and Badra (in the province of Al-Wasit.) Unlike the U.S. Constitution, however, there is a state religion — Islam — and official languages (Kurdish in the Kurdish regions and Arabic in the other.)

There is a liberal collection of rights granted, but a worrisome dependence on “the law,” as in, “No one can be captured, detained, jailed, or searched except in circumstances defined in law.” This loophole is scattered throughout the document, subordinating the constitutions to whatever the regional or national legislatures want to write into the lawbooks. Instead of being the supreme law of the land, as in the United States, the constitutions instead provide justification for, say, the harsh rule of shar’ia, should Islamists gain control over the National Assembly.

And while “power is inherent in the people as they are the source of its legitmacy,” I worry that this draft is too weak to protect the people of Iraq (and particularly the Kurds) from democracy gone bad. Jeffersonian these documents ain’t.

There’s also a lot that will piss off the Turks, making the adoption of this charter less than likely. The Kurds blame much of Iraq’s (and by extension their own) misfortunes on the centralization of power in Iraq. This is exactly the problem in Turkey and while a few Turkish intellectuals have floated the idea of a federal structure in Turkey, that idea has about as much of a chance as Saddam does of winning another war and occupying Washington.

As the preamble says:

Centralization in government has lost its appeal even within simple and homogenous communities. It has especially lost its rationale for being resorted to in communities that are of a pluralist nature made up of various nationalities, religious groups and languages, such as the Iraqi [Ed: And Turkish] community. The high degree of centralization and the indifference of decision makers to the presence of the special characteristics of the Kurdish people are among the basic reasons for the Kurds being deprived of their legitimate rights under successive Iraqi governments, which came to power under both the monarchy and the republic. This style of restricting authority in t he centre and the unwillingness to share it with the Kurds on a practical basis, even after the March 11, 1970 autonomy agreement has been the hallmark of the role of the Iraqi state.

Well, yeah, and Saddam murdering innocent women and children with chemical weapons has also been a “hallmark of the role of the Iraqi state.” Harping on the evils centralization and the failure to recognize the special nature of Kurds — which is exactly what has been happening in Turkey since 1921 — is asking for trouble, if you ask me. Every criticism mentioned in the preamble against Iraq could equally be leveled at Turkey. (Except the Turks haven’t bombed villages with aflatoxin or other weapons of mass destruction.) And Turkey has been growling that any deal that leaves the Kurds with independence, either de facto or de jure, will be met with guns and tanks. And I have no idea what the United States, as the new regional powerbroker, would do if a NATO ally began operations in the area America claims as conquered territory.

Calif. congressman: “I don’t trust this president”

It seems the Democrats were outmaneuvered by Bush & Co. yet again, just as Republicans were constantly outmaneuvered by President Clinton through most of the 1990s.

Woah. This firery deunciation of Bush comes from Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif. (He represents Fremont, home of the largest population of Afghanis in the United States, interestingly enough.) His statement is full of red meat for leftists, calling Bush a lightweight National Guardsman in the 1960s, and questioning his tough-guy cred by quoting columnist Molly Ivins: “For an upper-class white boy, Bush comes on way too hard. At a guess, to make up for being an upper-class white boy.”
I’m not one to take away from Mssr. Stark’s statement. I agree with most of it, in that the people who will pick up the $200 billion (estimated) tab for Gulf War II: The Sequel will likely be people like my grandmother who depends on Medicare, but will see it cut to make way for Bush’s tax cut and war costs. Others likely to pay include those who need unemployment insurance, students who don’t get federal money to go to college and any number of natural Democratic constituencies.
And now that the House and Seanate have passed their respective war resolutions, we have politicians like Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., who say things like, “The bottom line is . . . we want to move on.” The impression one gets is that Democrats want to move on to economic issues that play well a month from now, that might give them back the House and cement their hold on the Senate. Understandible, true, but at what cost?
It seems the Democrats were outmaneuvered by Bush & Co. yet again, just as Republicans were constantly outmaneuvered by President Clinton through most of the 1990s. Bush cranked up the war rhetoric from September on, to force an early vote, knowing the Democrats would be forced to either delay the vote, and open themselves up to charges of treason and/or wimpism (the Bush family’s least favorite slur!) or rush the vote and give the president what he wanted in the first place. Of course, this week’s quickie vote on war will come back to haunt the Democrats, when their liberal, anti-war supporters get wooed by the Green Party charging that Democrats and Republicans are but two sides of the same coin. (Nader’s party is active in many close races, potentially threatening Democrats from the left.)
So Mssr. Stark can afford to vote no and denounce Bush on the House floor. He’s in a safe district. The question is, now that he’s got his war on, will Bush’s action leave anywhere safe?

Update on House Vote

The Hastert-Gephardt proposal (H.J.R 114) passed the House today on a 296-113 vote.

The Hastert-Gephardt proposal (H.J.R 114) passed the House today on a 296-113 vote. The Senate also voted 75-25 to limit debate, meaning its vote on the war resolution could come as early as tomorrow. This is disappointing as the Spratt amendment was a common-sense approach to this whole killin’ Iraqis business. (For a glimpse of alternatives, Here’s a PDF that compares the various House and Senate proposals.)
All of this may be moot, however because sources on Capital Hill are saying that Bush doesn’t want war at all! That come Nov. 5, Bush will suddently start talking about how the United Nations is a useful body after all, and that inspectors will be allowed to do their job. I’m told Bush doesn’t want to be looking at an occupied Iraq two years from now when we have guerilla fighting in Baghdad suburbs, a massive drain on the national economy and a stable oil supply only because United States occupation forces keep Kurds, Shi’ites and Sunni Arabs (not to mention Turkomen and Iranians) from each others’ throats. Add to that a daily trickle of body bags as one or two GIs die every couple of days. That wouldn’t be very fun to run on, would it? Especially since Bush avoided the horrors of a long, drawn out guerilla war once before!
This would be a fascinating example of dog-wagging. At least President Clinton actually tossed some cruise missles around when he was accused of doing it to distract the nation from him “doing it.” In Bush’s case, however war with Iraq will have been talked up, the Middle East destabilized, the UN insulted and our reputation trashed with allies—all for short-term election gains. (Well, not all for short-term gains. No doubt there are plenty of true believers who think that Saddam should be blowed up real good, but trying to divine the influence of people like Karl Rove, Dick Cheney et al., is akin to Kremlinology.) A post-election change in rhetoric would prove the influence of “General Rove.”

Not so fast, Mr. President

There is a time when politicians should be applauded. This is one of those times.

There is a time when politicians should be applauded. This is one of those times. Reps. Spratt of North Carolina and Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., will introduce into the House debate on war with Iraq this alternate resolution. (It’s a PDF to be downloaded.)
In essence it allows military action but only after the UNSC has been allowed to do everything it can, including muscular and intrusive inspections. If the UNSC fails in its duties, the President must come back to Congress and ask for authorization for war against Iraq. (It actually says “military force” instead of war, but still.)
In the case of shooting, “the President should endeavor to form a coalition of allies as broadly based as practicable to support and participate with United States Armed Forces, and should also seek multilateral cooperation and assistance, specifically including Arab and Islamic countries, in the post-conflict reconstruction of Iraq.”
And this:

In the event that the United Nations Security Council does not adopt a resolution as described in section 3, or in the event that such a resolution is adopted but does not sanction the use of force sufficient to compel Iraq’s compliance, and if the President determines that use of the United States Armed Forces is necessary for such compliance, the President should seek authorization from Congress to use military force to compel such compliance.

Clear enough? In essence, come back to us, Mr. President, when you’ve got some proof. Proof that Iraq is the clear and present danger you say it is, and proof that the UNSC is an impotent organization that can’t do its job. Only then do you get the guns.
The House rules committee has allowed this resolution in, so the whole House may vote on it. It likely won’t pass, but it’s a saner voice than what we’re hearing from the White House.
I don’t know Spratt or Snyder or other other sponsors of this resolution, but I suspect that I should. Thank you, gentlemen.