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December 20, 2006

Kurdish Plea -- Don't Sell Us Out Again

James Baker was part of one sell-out of the Kurds after the Gulf War. Now his Iraq Surrender Group has proposed another sell-out by seeking to appease those who fight America at the expense of those who cooperate with America. Kurdish leader Masrour Barzani urges the United States to reject such a solution.

The Iraq Study Group's recommendations will accomplish nothing in Iraq. Its expressions of "gratitude" to those of us Iraqis who fought on the battlefield for freedom and liberty ring hollow. The report ignores our accomplishments, dreams and sacrifices in favor of a concern for those whose ultimate goal is the destruction of democracy.

Our federal constitution, which the majority of the Iraqi people voted for, is treated flippantly, as though it were a negotiable document rather than the hard-fought result of lengthy negotiation among those willing to participate in the new Iraq. Further, the study group's approach is driven by the concerns of the countries in this region rather than by the concerns of the Iraqi people.

Many Iraqis, especially the Kurds, are justifiably concerned about this. No one from the study group visited Iraqi Kurdistan, which the group admits is safe and pro-American, and where there has not been a single U.S. casualty since the war. Kurds not only fought alongside Americans but lost some of our best men to American friendly-fire incidents. Yet we staunchly support the work of the coalition and are eternally grateful for the sacrifices the American people have made for our future.

The report is right to acknowledge that part of the problem in Iraq is America's inability to distinguish friend from foe. Unfortunately, Baker-Hamilton fares even worse in this regard. This comes as little surprise, since it was partly written by those who orchestrated the saving of Saddam Hussein in 1991.

Remember -- the Kurds have steadfastly supported US efforts to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq. They have paid a terrible price for those efforts, as the United States has abandoned them in the past.

Once again Kurds are about to be sold out. Should the U.S. administration adopt the recommendations of Baker-Hamilton, the Kurds will be sacrificed to protect the interests of Iraq's neighbors. We were massacred in 1975 and 1991 by Saddam Hussein because we thought that our commitment to democracy and tolerance made us natural U.S. allies. We responded then, as we did four years ago, to American calls for the introduction of a new era in the region. Like Americans, we dream of a better future for our children, one in which they can grow up without deformities caused by chemical attacks on our villages.

Baker, Hamilton, and the Iraq Surrender Group have a different vision -- negotiate with America's enemies even if that means that America's friends once again pay the price of our failure to stay the course, honor our commitments, and support our allies.

Iraq's constitution should be treasured. Iraq's neighbors should not be allowed to violate our sovereignty. Democracy and federalism are the popularly chosen basis of the new Iraq. Never again should Kurdish wealth be stolen to finance genocide against the Kurdish people.

While Kurds welcome American troops into their homes, Baker-Hamilton proposes that the United States revise its policies to meet the demands of those firing at its soldiers. According to the study group, we are all part of "a problem" that needs fixing, and we are equally unworthy of America's protection.

Don't sell us out to our authoritarian neighbors and those who are terrorizing our communities. We agreed democratically to participate in this project because we were guaranteed the rights needed to protect our people. We Kurds are asking President Bush and America to remember the sacrifices we have made to keep your loved ones safe in Iraq. We are asking you to keep a promise where those before you have failed.

We must stand by the Kurdish people, and all the peace and freedom loving Iraqis. We must finish what we started, resolute in the assurance that our course is correct and our goals are proper. If we do not, we show the world one clear truth -- the United States is not to be trusted, and American promises and commitments will not be honored when the going gets tough. In short, the decision that faces America is stark -- will we continue to be a great nation which stands with our allies, or will we simply be an impotent joke with which others ally themselves at their own peril?

* * *

Interestingly enough, the top leader of Iraqi Shiites has come out in support of US efforts to work with a coalition of Iraqi forces to isolate extremists, rather than negotiate with those who bankroll those who seek to bring down the US-backed government.





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