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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Mark L. Hopkins: Iraq, the Kurds and our dilemma

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  • Here we go again in the Mideast. We needed to go to Iraq in 1990 in order to protect the small nation of Kuwait. We went in 2003 was an exercise in bad judgment. We didn’t know it at the time, but history tells us the truth of that situation.
    When we were there before, it took us a decade to extricate ourselves. During that ill-fated conflict, the Shiites and the Sunni religious groups both seemed committed to
    fighting a guerilla war against us, at least when they weren’t attacking each other. It was a very confusing war.
    What is obvious and has been ever since we arrived in Baghdad almost a decade ago is that the majority of the people do not want us there. There is an exception, however, to the “Yankee go home” sentiment that kindles the constant turmoil in that country. One group welcomed us, wanted us there and would welcome us back in a short minute. They are the Kurds.
    Anthropologists call the Kurds an “Indo-European” people, a mixture of many
    different tribes and groups who migrated to the region over the past 4,000 years.
    One dominant group came from southern France. They were a peace-loving people who chose to leave their lands when nearby aggressive tribes continued to attack and harass them. They moved across the Alps and settled for a time in northern Macedonia. Still uncomfortable in their hostile surroundings, they were offered a “deal” by the King of Bithynia, a country located in the most northern province of present-day Turkey. (Those familiar with the journeys of Paul the Apostle in the Bible will remember Bithynia as a destination in present-day northern Turkey that he was not able to reach during his second missionary journey.) The deal offered was a “land for protection” arrangement. It called for the tribe to move to the mountainous eastern section of Bithynia to help the King protect his kingdom from the Persians who threatened Bithynia from their home base in what is present-day Iraq. (Again, Bible readers will remember that in the first century A.D. the Apostle Paul wrote letters to churches he had founded earlier in the Roman province of Galatia. Some of those churches were in the region occupied by the Kurds.) Thus, early in history, their heritage was French. They moved east, and in Bible times they were the Galatians. Today they are called Kurds.
    History has not been good to the Kurds. Originally, they were a Western people lost
    in an Eastern world where they neither fit nor wanted to be. The Kurds make up 28 percent of Iraq’s population, live mostly in the northern mountainous region, and have different
    customs and language from the rest of Iraq. Because of these differences they have been
    Page 2 of 2 - constantly harassed, discriminated against and even murdered by the Iraqi government.
    In recent weeks, the ISIS terrorist group made up mostly of Sunni Muslims has taken the city of Mosul in northern Iraq. For several hundred years there has been a strong Christian community in that city of 350,000 people. When the ISIS military arrived they ordered the Christians to convert to Islam, pay an impossible tax or be killed. Most of the 60,000 Christians left their homes behind and fled north to the territory held by the Kurds. The Kurds, true to their benevolent customs, accepted the influx of Christians and have become their protectors.
    Vice President Biden proposed three years ago that the only sensible solution in Iraq
    was to partition the country into three parts and allow “manifest destiny” for each of the three groups, the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. It was a good idea but, at the time, there wasn’t much support for that solution. Today, with the Shiites dominant in Baghdad, the Sunnis in the west, and the Kurds in the north, some say the three-nation split is already a reality. I sincerely hope so.
    Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. Contact him at presnet@presnet.net.

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