Stimulating history of the single Iraqi ethnic group that doesn’t want American troops to leave Iraq.
BBC correspondent Lawrence’s debut reviews the ancient struggle for independence of 25 million Kurds (the majority living in Turkey), a struggle they may be winning despite the opposition of the United States and every Middle Eastern nation. They seemed on the verge of success after the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in World War I, but Kurdish leaders made the mistake—one they would repeat—of pinning their hopes on America. By the time they realized that Woodrow Wilson was unwilling to twist anyone’s arm to achieve a new world order of democracy and self-determination, Mustapha Kemal (later known as Ataturk) had created a modern Turkish state, and Britain had remapped the Middle East, leaving the Kurds inside Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. The world ignored 70 years of violent revolt and oppression until the end of the first Gulf war in 1991. Hearing that the United States would look favorably on Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, Iraqi Kurds rose again, trusting that America would help. Only widespread revulsion at Hussein’s brutal reaction persuaded Western nations to act. They enforced a “no-fly” zone in Northern Iraq, essentially preventing Hussein’s army from entering and creating a reasonable facsimile of an independent Kurdistan. Still insecure, the Kurds cooperated enthusiastically with U.S. planning for a second invasion—which began well before 2003, the author avers. They also did not join in the chaos that followed. Lawrence emphasizes repeatedly that America is greasing the squeaky wheel in Iraq, obsessively concerned with unruly Sunnis and Shiites at the expense of Kurds who would love a permanent American military presence to protect them from Turkey, Iran and the Iraqi Arab majority.
A disturbing account that prompts new admiration for a people whose age-old toil for a homeland will continue after the United States withdraws from the region.