Kurdistan: A Gangster State

by , January 10, 2006

Dr. Kamal Said Qadir, also known as Kamal Berzenji, was kidnapped by the agents of the Kurdish Democratic Party’s intelligence unit, Parastin, on Oct. 26, 2005, and jailed. His "crime": writing "insulting" articles about Kurdish Democratic Party high mucky-muck and Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani. In short, he committed lese-majeste, i.e., Qadir wounded the dignity of the king. After a "trial" that lasted one hour, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

This is what the "liberation" of Iraq has accomplished.

Qadir was born in a small village south of Hawler in southern Kurdistan and immigrated to Austria in 1978, where he studied law at the Vienna Law School. A former university instructor in Sulemani and Hawler, he was forced to flee Kurdistan again – after the "liberation" by the Americans – because he demanded more human rights and democracy in southern Kurdistan. At the time of his kidnapping, he was engaged in research activities in the field of constitutional law at the Faculty of Law in Vienna. He returned in order to set up a human rights monitoring group and to pursue legal action against the Kurdish Democratic Party, promising to reveal the secrets of the Barzani crime family. En route to a meeting with KDP officials in Arbil, he was arrested by KDP intelligence agents. Dr. Qadir was, in other words, lured and entrapped.

Semi-official U.S. protests over his detainment are belied by the news that the Kurds are rounding up their internal political opponents – with the active assistance of U.S. military forces – and stashing them in secret jails. Qadir is now on a hunger strike, and his health is rapidly deteriorating.

The Kurdish authorities – who have launched an ethnic-cleansing campaign against Arabs and are now readying themselves to seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq – were doubtless enraged when Radio Free Europe cited Qadir in this piece about Kurdish corruption:

"Kamal Berzenji wrote in an article published by kurdishmedia.com in December 2002: ‘The members of the [Kurdish] security services … try to make a business out of their powers by accusing and arresting anybody whom they think they could blackmail and extract money from.’ He says the practice has its roots in Hussein’s Ba’athist regime, but was also practiced during the Kurdish civil war in the 1990s. ‘One of the reasons [for that war is] business – and profit-making by some Kurdish warlords on both sides. Some of them grew [into] millionaires by confiscating and stealing the property of his fellow Kurdish brothers.’"

It’s as if reporters for the Washington Post, the New York Times, and other major media outlets were arrested for reporting on the buying of the Republican congressional caucus by Jack Abramoff & Co. They don’t dare do that in America – quite yet – but in Kurdistan, to speak out against the corruption of empire is illegal: that’s "democracy," Iraq-style.

What’s more, Iraqi Kurdistan has been touted as an island of relative peace and prosperity, ripe for Western investment, and a source of all that "good news" that’s supposedly being suppressed by the mainstream media. A massive propaganda campaign – engineered by the GOP-connected public relations firm of Russo, Marsh, and Rogers (RM&R) – has been launched to portray Barzani-land as a model of Iraqi "democracy." According to RM&R:

"’Of all the different groups in Iraq that have a vision for the future, the vision of the Kurds is closest to ours. It’s important to recognize that the Kurds are not hostile to the West.’ In addition, ‘their vision, belief system, and values – they’ve had a democratic system in place for a while – parallel ours.’ No doubt, it’s ‘a very messy situation over there and the country is trying to figure out its future. The Kurds would like the rest of country to look at the Kurdish region and see it as a model for the rest of the country.’"

Yes, the Kurdish gangster state resembles ours in that our rulers and their cronies shamelessly use the state for their own profit: in both cases, the system is based on bribery and corruption, the only difference being that, in the U.S., we still have something we call the rule of law, although the Bush administration has done everything possible to undermine it. In America, it is still possible to collar at least some of these kleptocrats and bring them to justice. In Kurdistan, however, and throughout Iraq, there is no law – only party militias on the rampage, offing their opponents and wilding in the streets, even going so far as to kill American journalists who expose their crimes.

We aren’t exporting democracy at gunpoint – we’re imposing the same sort of corruption that infects Washington, except that, over in Iraq, the kleptocrats are not only above the law, they also have the power to clap anyone who denounces them in jail. And it is the U.S. government that has empowered them. Qadir makes this point in his article entitled "The Winner and Loser in Iraq’s New Constitution." He avers that the Iraqi constitution – written under the conditions of occupation and incipient civil war – and the civil order it created were necessarily deformed at birth and rendered illegitimate because

"The overthrow of the former Iraqi regime did not occur by Iraqi hands; and that the foreign forces, which had achieved the regime overthrow under the banner of ‘Liberation of Iraq’ from tyranny and oppression, became itself forces of occupation which does not differ in its behavior, practices, and actions to any other force of occupation in history. Thus, the democratic process which was subsequently forced upon [Iraq by] the forces [of] occupation, carries non-Iraqi fingerprints that increase the doubt amongst the Iraqis to the true impetus behind this process."

Qadir’s critique of the Kurdish kleptocracy is particularly sharp on the question of Iraqi "federalism," which he believes is being used as a cover for massive corruption. While acknowledging that the federalist impulse is an expression of the Kurdish desire for self-determination, Qadir points a finger at the Kurdish leadership, writing that they "are not without selfish conflicts and [their] own interests," which are being pursued under the banner of "federalism." "The Kurdish leadership," he writes, "and in particular the leadership of the two main parties, have tired of the sweet taste of power alone" and are now enjoying the "economic privileges" conferred on them by the American victory:

"[Their] power and privileges cannot be maintained without a federalist Kurdish entity which cannot be scrutinized by the federal government of Baghdad. On the other hand, as a sovereign state, the Iraq state will guarantee the Kurdish leadership protestation [editor’s note: I think he means protection] from the interferences by the neighboring countries which will prohibit any move towards the establishment of a fully sovereign Kurdish state in the future. In addition, Iraqi Kurdistan has great wealth in natural resource, which the Kurdish leadership wishes to convert into its private and personal property. This cannot be achieved unless the current Kurdish Cartels ruled the Kurdish region itself and alone, as is the case at the moment."

The gangster state of Kurdistan is Abramoff-ism in power. Criminal cartels run the state apparatus, doling out rewards and punishments in a system of bribery and kickbacks – and the occasional gangland-style murder. We are, in short, exporting our own system, albeit with none of the legal and constitutional constraints against the more brazen forms of gangsterism.

The effort to dress up the Kurdish tyranny is just one of the more cynical efforts by the War Party to prettify an abominable abortion as the birth of "democracy" in Iraq. It’s no coincidence that RM&R was instrumental in the founding of "Move America Forward," the neocon front group running television ads proclaiming the "news" that WMD have been found in Iraq but the "mainstream media" is suppressing it. In the Bizarro World parallel universe of the War Party, up is down, the president’s own admission that the "intelligence" was wrong is discounted, and Kurdistan is a "democratic" utopia "parallel" to ours – where someone can get 30 years in prison for exposing official corruption.

U.S. government officials have promised members of Dr. Qadir’s family to investigate his case and report back in two weeks: in the meantime, reports from Amnesty International that he is being tortured – combined with the record of the U.S. military’s cooperation with the torturers – is hardly reassuring. The KRG’s "Minister of Human Rights," Ihsan Nuri, confirms our worst fears, reportedly telling Awaz Sayd Qadir – the sister of Dr. Qadir – that her brother must "rot and die in jail." In addition, one has to wonder how much pressure the U.S. will bring to bear on their Kurdish clients over the fate of a prominent critic of the American occupation.

Here is a case where protests can make a difference: the torturers and aspiring tyrants of Kurdistan shrink from the spotlight and are paying a pretty penny to cover up their crimes in the raiment of "liberation." Now is the time to get in touch with your congressional representatives and ask why American taxpayers have to protect and subsidize Kurdistan’s gangsters. You also need to get in touch with the following KDP offices, depending on where you’re located, requesting that your letter be forwarded to President Barzani:

KDP Office, Washington, USA
E-mail: pdk7usa@aol.com
Salutation: Your Excellency

KDP International Relations Bureau, London, United Kingdom
Fax: +44 20 7498 2531
E-mail: kdpinternational@yahoo.com
Salutation: Your Excellency

KDP Europe, Berlin, Germany
Fax: +49 30 797 437 46
E-mail: kdpeurope@t-online.de
Salutation: Your Excellency

KDP Office, Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 312 447 3532
E-mail: info@kdp-ankara.org.tr
Salutation: Your Excellency

Read more by Justin Raimondo