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I knew nothing about the Kurds prior to last summer. But — as whole Iraqi divisions fled in panic in the face of the ISIS onslaught, ditching their uniforms and weapons as they fled — there was an overlooked people who didn’t disgrace themselves: the Kurds.
The most startling images that came out of Iraqi Kurdistan were of beautiful, young women in fatigues, smiling with AKs on their backs and going into battle alongside men as equals. In fact, there are whole Kurdish militia units of women. These militias have been integral in repelling ISIS from Kobane, where a genocide would surely occur if it fell.
The Kurds, while majority Muslim, bear little resemblance to their demoralized Iraqi neighbors. Nor do they share in the misogyny, fundamentalism, or cruelty of their jihadist foes. On the contrary, there is a level of liberty, enlightened equality of sexes, and pluralism absent everywhere around them save for Israel.
And speaking of Israel, the Kurds recognize that they share a great deal in common with the Jews in the Middle East. Like Israel, they are a small and often persecuted minority surrounded by enemies. How many Muslim countries’ flags have you seen side by side with Israeli flags in rallies?
And most importantly of all, they are ferocious fighters. Their legendary Peshmerga units and militias have evicted ISIS from virtually all Kurdish territory that was occupied last year. With help from Coalition air strikes, the Kurds have put up stiff resistance in Kobane, or as they have nicknamed it, “Kobanegrad.” And each day, they march closer to the city of Mosul. It goes without saying that should ISIS ever be defeated, the world will owe the Kurds a great deal of the thanks and credit for it.
Which brings me to the obvious question: why doesn’t the US government support a free and independent Kurdistan? Yes, at least Iraqi Kurdistan is now autonomous after the defeats the Iraqi government suffered last summer. But what are the downsides to recognizing the Kurds as a nation comprised of Iraqi Kurdistan and all present and future territorial gains they make against ISIS? Robert Zubrin wrote a piece for NRO last fall on what the US stands to gain from a free Kurdistan. The key line:
When we invaded Iraq in 2003, a key objective was to create a free country, whose prosperity and decency would serve as a beacon of light in the region, showing to all the benefits of taking an alternative path from fanaticism, hatred, and tyranny. The hopes for such a wonderful outcome proved illusory in the Sunni and Shiite Arab parts of the country, whose inhabitants chose to use the gift of liberty that we provided them to engage in endless murder and mayhem. But in Kurdistan, the gift was not spurned. The dream was not betrayed. Where the Shiite and Sunni Arab factions have sought only to destroy, the Kurds have sought to build. While the Arab fanatics contend to turn the rest of the country into a pile of wreckage, in Erbil, the Kurdish capital, universities are growing, enterprises are blossoming, and gleaming skyscrapers are rising.
So that there is no mistaking me for being objective here, I have become something of a Kurdish nationalist the past year and have since befriended several foreign volunteers in the Kurdish militias. Their selfless adventurism is not unlike that of the Lord Byrons and Jack Haceys of history.
In a region lacking in friends, it is bizarre that we would so blithely ignore a pro-Israel, pro-America people willing to fight our enemies to the death.