Kosovo, the Kremlin, and the Kurds

by , February 26, 2008

The violent reaction from the Serbian “street” to Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence is “blowback” – as the writer Chalmers Johnson terms it – with a vengeance, and we have not yet experienced the worst of it.

The U.S. attack on Kosovo has come back to haunt Washington, and not just with the burning of the American embassy in Belgrade. A chain reaction is setting in, and its effects cannot be confined to the Balkans. The unrest is already spreading to Austria – and beyond.

For if the Kosovars can have their own “nation,” then why not the South Ossetians? Why not the Abkhazians? Why not the Transdniester Republic? And why not the Kurds?

The rule the U.S. has set up is as follows: restive peoples who find themselves transferred from one great “prison house of peoples” to newer, U.S.-supported prisons named Georgia – and Iraq – have no right to self-determination. The Kosovars have a special status: they enjoy the protection of the EU and the U.S. armed forces, and the West recognizes their national aspirations. The others, however, must endure being ruled by a central authority that has the support of the U.S. government.

Why? Because Washington says so.

This is the new essence of “international law” – an edict from Washington. The UN, the EU, and other international bodies all must rubber-stamp decisions made essentially by the American president and his advisers.

Yet peoples yearning for freedom and self-determination are not about to cave in the face of this arbitrary power. The Serbs of northern Kosovo, who have been all but pushed out of their ancient land, are in open rebellion. They, too, want the right of self-determination. Will the U.S. and its allies use force to keep them in the newly independent state of Kosovo? If the American president sends troops to the Balkans – again – to enforce his will, Americans will begin to ask questions, and they are not going to like the answers.

As 8,000 Turkish soldiers pour into Iraq’s Kurdish region, hunting down guerrilla fighters of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), the consequences of American support for Kosovo’s declaration of independence are clear. America’s alliance with Turkey is threatened, as is the tenuous stability of the Iraqi government – and U.S. occupation forces have made new enemies out of their only reliable Iraqi friends. The Christian Science Monitor reported that “Peshmerga Gen. Muhammad Mohsen took down his American flag, folded it up, and placed it in his office corner Sunday, reflecting the growing anger in Iraq’s Kurdish north with U.S. support for Turkey’s campaign against separatist rebels operating in the region.” One hopes symbolic actions such as these are sufficient to express the full extent of his anger at his erstwhile American allies, but somehow I doubt it.

The Kurds have every reason to expect support from the U.S. After all, they have been our most enthusiastic allies in the “liberation” of Iraq, and we have supported them with billions in tax dollars, as well as the lives of American soldiers fallen in battle. While it’s true that the Kurds claim a lot more territory than the current “Kurdish Regional Government” now commands, the same is true of the Kosovars, whose “Greater Albania” encompasses parts of Macedonia, Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia. As the U.S. and its EU allies do everything to encourage this ultra-nationalist expansionism by recognizing Kosovo, why shouldn’t the Kurds join in the fun and put “Greater Kurdistan” on the agenda?

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

I am sorry for the brevity of this column, but I have been quite ill today, so I hope you’ll excuse me. However, I just want to take a moment to thank everyone who has contributed to our fundraising drive – yes, it’s just about over! As I write this, we have nearly made our goal, and for that I want to thank our readers and supporters who responded to the call. Without you, we would not be around, so a heartfelt thanks to all.

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