Kurdish Independence Vote

The results of the vote on Kurdish independence are not yet in, but are almost certainly to be in favor of independence, according to the Washington Post.  While the Kurds have been great allies of the US in Middle East, the creation of a Kurdish state is certain to create problems among the four countries with large Kurdish populations – Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria.  Each of these countries view the creation of a Kurdish state differently, but none of them entirely favorably.  The most strongly opposed is Turkey, which views some Kurdish organizations as terrorists, and for that reason is suspicious of all Kurds.  Iraq has enough problems with ISIS and the Sunni-Shiite split without adding Kurdish independence or autonomy to its inbox.  In Syria the Kurds pursue their own self-interest in creating a Kurdish state, but sometimes this means fighting against the Syrian government and in some cases fighting for it, or at least fighting its enemies.  Assad has many more important problems on his plate than Kurdistan, although Kurdistan would occupy a significant part of Syria, about one-quarter of it.  Iran opposed the vote on Kurdish independence, but it too has not put Kurdish issues at the top of its agenda; the Kurds seem to have a better relationship with the Iranian government than with the governments of the other three countries affected.  The US is also upset by the vote because of the confusion it may create in the region, although the Kurds have been America’s best ally in the fight against ISIS.  

In any case the creation of a new Kurdish state out of portions of four existing nations is almost certainly to be problematic.  The most recent example is the creation of South Sudan, which has led to civil war, famine, and thousands of deaths.  Arguably the creation earlier creation of several nations from the disintegrating Yugoslavia should have been peaceful, but it led to a terrible Balkan war among the new states – Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Montenegro.  The split up of Czechoslovakia into Czech and Slovakia went somewhat more smoothly. The creation of Israel has led to seventy years of violence and unrest in the Middle East.  Given the existing conflict in the Middle East and the countries involved in the creation of Kurdistan, it seems likely that it would be violent.  

Iraq has said that it will not recognize the results of the vote, but the Kurds may not allow the Iraqis to ignore it.  Iraqi Kurdistan is rich in oil; the Kurds will want it, and the Iraqis will not want to give it up.  Turkey will not want to do anything that it perceives as strengthening the hand of Kurdish separatists in Turkey.  This already appears to mean closing the border to shipments of oil, according to the NYT.  

As a sign of things to come, Iraq has demanded that Kurdistan surrender its airports.  Iraq asked other countries’ airlines not fly into Kurdistan.  Kurdistan does not have its own airline.

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Joint Resolution Attack on White Southerners

I am disappointed to see that you were a cosponsor of S. J. Res. 49 condemning Southern white men as racists.  As a Southern white man, born in Florida and raised in Alabama, I take offense at your racist bigotry.  I am not a “White supremacist” or a “neo-Nazi,” but my great-grandfather, James M. Williams, did fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War.  There is a book about his exploits, “From that Terrible Field.”  The title refers to the Battle of Shiloh, where he fought and where he best friend, George Dixon, was wounded.  My great-grandfather returned to Mobile, Alabama, to command Fort Powell in the Battle of Mobile Bay.  George Dixon went on to command the Confederate submarine Hunley which sank the Housatonic in Charleston harbor.  My great-grandfather named his first son George Dixon Williams in memory of his friend.

In addition to my great-grandfather’s Civil War service, my grandfather served in the Spanish-American War and World War I.  My father served in World War II and the Korean War.  He was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Korea.  I served in Vietnam in an Army artillery battery along the DMZ and on the Laotian border. The names of two of the men I served with are on the wall of the Vietnam Memorial.  After Vietnam, I served twenty-five years in the Foreign Service of the US Department of State.

I became a confirmed Democrat when I was serving as Science Counselor at the American Embassy in Warsaw, Poland.  One of my main jobs was to oversee a science cooperation agreement between the US and Poland that was to last five years.  Newt Gingrich and the Republicans were elected while I was there, and one of their first actions was to end US funding for the science cooperation after three years, although there was a signed agreement stating that it was to last for five years.  From Poland I went to Rome, where I again handled scientific affairs.  The Republicans refused to fund appropriations to buy oil for North Korea that the US had promised under the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization agreement.  One of my jobs became to ask the European Union, for which Italy then held the rotating presidency, to contribute enough money to KEDO to honor the US agreement, so that the US would not be the first party to violate it.  I was extremely upset that the US would give North Korea a legitimate excuse to restart its nuclear weapons program.  Finally, while I was at a cocktail party celebrating the launch by the US of an Italian communications satellite, an executive of the Italian telephone company came up to me and said, “You Americans must really hate me.”  It turned out that his daughter had been denied a visa to visit Disney World because his company had some connection with the Mexican telephone company that had some connection with the Cuban telephone company that was banned by the Helms-Burton Act.  In the fictional series The Winds of War by Herman Wouk, the Jewish heroine was prevented by the Nazis from leaving Italy for Israel by denying a visa to her child.  The situation I found in Rome was too similar.  I decided that I would retire from the Foreign Service because US foreign policy did not come up to my standards of decency.  I did not make it a political issue; I just retired in disgust.

I voted almost a straight Democratic ticket from then on, for the next twenty years, until the 2016 election. I voted for Bernie Sanders at the last Democratic caucuses.  But that changed with Hillary Clinton’s nomination and her characterization of Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables,” clearly meaning Southern white men like me.   Ironically, I had been the Warsaw embassy officer responsible for organizing President and Hillary Clinton’s visit to the site of the old Warsaw ghetto during Clinton’s visit to Warsaw to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II.

I became disillusioned with the Republican Party for failing to appropriate funds to meet America’s international commitments.  Now I am disillusioned with the Democratic Party for passing hateful, bigoted legislation condemning me as a racist.  You are free to hate me.  There is no law against hate, as long as you do not act on it.  However, politicians are in a position to act on it.  I see this Resolution as a sign that race-based discriminatory legislation is coming.  It is strange that you, Sen. Schumer and Rep. Pelosi would replace Sen. Jesse Helms, Rep. Dan Burton, and their ilk as the new racists in Congress.