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Home » Editorial, Myth of the Nation-State, Religion, Southwest Asia and North Africa, State Failure

GeoCurrents Editorial: The Genocide of the Yezidis Begins, and the United States is Complicit

Submitted by on August 7, 2014 – 5:54 pm 90 Comments |  
(Note: GeoCurrents is still technically on summer vacation, allowing me time to catch up with other obligations that I have neglected. My recent essays on eco-modernism, written for the Breakthrough Institute, can be found here and here. I am interrupting this GeoCurrents hiatus, however, to address a highly disturbing and significant development. This post also violates the GeoCurrents policy on political editorializing. In general, this website strives to be as politically neutral as possible, but exceptions are made. One reason for my reluctance to express opinion is the fact that many of my views are somewhat extreme, although they come from the unusual position of radical centrism, one based on an equal distaste for the right and the left.)

SinjarIt is increasingly clear that the situation faced by the Yezidis of the Sinjar region in northern Iraq can only be described as genocidal. Thousands have been slaughtered and tens of thousands are facing death from starvation and thirst, if not from the bullets of the so-called Islamic State (or ISIS, as it conventionally designated), as they hide in remote reaches of Sinjar Mountain. Christians and members of other religious minorities are also at a heightened risk of extermination in the expanding ISIS-controlled territory. Thus far, the government of the United States has conducted a few humanitarian air-drops for the Yezidis, although reports are now circulating that that has begun or is at least considering military strikes against ISIS, actions that the Pentagon currently denies. But more to the point, by having previously thwarted the ability of the Kurdish Peshmerga to defend its territory and fight the militants, the government of the United States bears some responsibility for these horrific developments. Such U.S. actions and inactions stem largely from its vain insistence on trying to revive the moribund Iraqi state, which in turn is rooted in the discredited ideal of intrinsic nation-state integrity.

Melek TausMost reports on the Yezidis mention the unusual nature of their religion, but often do so in a misleading manner. The Yezidi faith is typically described as a blend of beliefs and practices stemming from ancient Persian Zoroastrianism and other distant sources. Such an assessment may be reasonable, but one could just as easily depict Christianity as mere mélange of Jewish, Zoroastrian, and neo-Platonic ideas. In actuality, Yezidism is very much its own faith, although it does have close affinities with other belief systems, such as that of the Shabak people. The specific nature of the Yezidi religion, more importantly, makes its practitioners especially vulnerable to extremist interpretations of Islamic law. The Yezidis follow what is sometimes called a “cult of angels.” To them, God is a remote entity who has entrusted creation to seven spiritual being, the most important of whom is Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel. Melek Taus, however, is often identified with the fallen angel of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions, Satan (or Shaytan), leading to pejorative descriptions of Yezidis as “devil worshipers.” In actuality, Yezidism has nothing to do with Satanism in any form; to followers of the faith, Melek Taus is a benevolent being who repented his refusal to submit to Adam and was hence restored to his rightful place. Yezidism is in actuality a profoundly non-dualistic and generally peaceful faith. Yezidis do not proselytize or accept converts, and they largely keep to themselves. One of the more intriguing aspects of the faith is its spiritual abhorrence of lettuce.

Yezidis mapI showcase the Yezidis when I lecture on religion in the Middle East for two reasons. First, the existence of this faith, like that of many others, demonstrates the historically deep level of religious diversity found in the area that is often called the Fertile Crescent and is sometimes deemed the Heterodox Zone. Second, it shows that the realm of Islam was in general historical terms more religiously tolerant than Christendom. I cannot imagine a group like the Yezidis having survived in late medieval or early modern Europe: crusaders and inquisitors, such as the grotesquely misnamed Pope Innocent III, would not have allowed it. But as the rampages of ISIS and related groups thoroughly demonstrate, the situation has changed drastically. Today, this same region is marked by the world’s most extreme level of religious intolerance and persecution.

ISIS MapSome reports claim that ISIS leaders have given the Yezidis the same three-fold ultimatum thrown at the Christians of Mosul: either immediate conversion to Islam, or acceptance of subordinate dhimmi status and payment of the jizya tax, or face death. The middle option, however, is hardly assured: hyper-fundamentalist interpretations of Islamic law demand dhimmi status for the “peoples of the book” (Jews, Christians, and few others), but those regarded as full-fledged idolaters, much less “devil worshippers,” are not necessarily accorded the same “respect.” But even when it comes to Christians, ISIS demands for the acceptance of dhimmi status appear to be largely pro forma, as the goal is apparently the complete cleansing from their would-be state of everyone who is not a Sunni fundamentalist.

After suffering for years, the Yezidis are at long last getting some attention. But mainstream media outlets still tend to downplay their plight, devoting vastly more attention to other far more familiar and less newsworthy matters. Other deeply persecuted Iraqi religious minorities, such as the Mandaeans who have suffered at the hands of Shia militias, receive even less attention. The destruction of Assyrian and other Christian communities gets a little more press, but it too has failed to spark widespread public outrage.

I have some difficulty understanding why such horrors are so widely disregarded. Ignorance is surely at play, but so too is partisan politics. I suspect that in the United States, many Republicans prefer to look away because the situation reflects poorly on the Bush administration’s Iraq policies, just as many Democrats do the same because it reflects equally poorly on the Obama administration. Other observers wrongly and spinelessly conclude that genocide in this region is simply none of our business. In regard to the Assyrians, several pundits have argued that they are “too Christian” for the left to care about and “too foreign” to concern the right. When it comes to the Yezidis, several sources have stressed the “tiny” size of the group, as if scant numbers somehow make persecution less objectionable. Yet in actuality the Yezidis are a substantial group, with roughly the same number of adherents as the population of Boston, Massachusetts (some 600,000-700,000). Can one imagine the dismissal of Boston on the grounds that its population is “tiny,” not even amounting to a million souls?

Unfortunately, American actions have hindered the ability of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to protect the beleaguered minorities of northern Iraq, and the KRG is the only organization that can offer any effective protection. In the tussle between the impotent “national” Iraqi government and the Kurds, Washington has sided firmly with Baghdad, unwilling to do anything that could potentially undermine the fictional integrity of Iraq. The American government has even tried to prevent the Kurds from selling their oil on the open market, as this goes against the wishes of Nouri al-Maliki and company. Deeply strapped for money, the KRG has been unable to provision its troops defending such places as Sinjar, thus forcing it to pull back, placing hundreds of thousands of people at the risk of mass murder. The more recent rapprochement between the KRG and the Iraqi state is indeed a hopeful development, but for tens of thousands of Yezidis it is too late and too little.

In defending the territorial integrity of Iraq, the United States is trying to prop up a corpse, as the country so depicted on our maps no longer exists. As a nation, it never did. As is well known, Iraq was imposed by British colonial authorities, and the state that they created never enjoyed genuine emotional resonance with the majority of its inhabitants. Iraqi national identity has always been superficial at best, thus requiring brutal dictatorial force to ensure state coherence. When that force was removed with the ouster of Saddam Hussein and free elections were eventually held, the disintegration of the country accelerated. The notion that diplomacy, patient nation-building, another regime change, or any other imaginable political process could somehow heal the wounds and allow the reconstitution of Iraq as a functioning nation-state is little more than fantasy. Basing American policy on such wishful thinking indicates an appalling abnegation of both intellectual and moral responsibility.

American policy in Iraq does not merely threaten major populations with genocide, but also works directly against the national interest of the United States. It is no secret that the current leaders of the Baghdad government are more closely aligned with Iran than they are with the United States, or that most people of Iraq are deeply suspicious of—if not actively hostile toward—American power. But both the Kurdish Regional Government and the people of Iraqi Kurdistan remain relatively pro-American, despite the shabby treatment that they have received from Washington. It almost seems as if the U.S. administration has decided that this situation is intolerable and that a few acts of betrayal are necessary to prevent the solidification of a regime that is genuinely friendly toward the United States. It sometimes appears as if the U.S. foreign policy establishment is more comfortable with “frenemies,” such as those in power in Baghdad and Riyadh, than it is with actual friends. Meanwhile, ISIS steadily gains power, innocents are slaughtered wholesale, and the rest of the world sits by. (France, however, has called for an emergency U.N. meeting to address the crisis and has pledged aid for those fighting against ISIS.)

Such self-destructive behavior on the part of the U.S. government has all the indications of lunacy. But such madness is seldom recognized, as it is far too deeply entrenched to attract attention. The same policies, after all, have been followed by all recent Republican and Democratic administrations, just as they are relentlessly pursued by virtually every national government the world over. The world’s sovereign states form a club and hence act in a stereotypically clubbish manner. Carcass states such as Iraq and Somalia remain members in good standing despite their abject failure, while highly functional non-members, such as Iraqi Kurdistan and Somaliland, do not belong and are therefore shunned, treated as if they do not exist. In a brilliant book, Stanford political scientist Stephen Krasner refers to the resulting international system of mutually recognized sovereignty as “organized hypocrisy.” To the extent that it propels such events as the genocide of the Yezidis, it might be better described as organized psychosis.

The international diplomatic system shows symptoms of insanity because it is based on a figment of the imagination: the nation-state. A few sovereign countries do indeed approach the nation-state ideal, in which a self-conscious political community strongly identifies with a particular state across its entire territorial extent, but—as GeoCurrents has noted on numerous occasions—most fall far short of this model. Yet the fundamental premise of the international system is the permanent reality of this mere ideal across the world. To be sure, it is widely recognized that many countries have been artificially created and thus had no preexisting national integrity, but they are all supposed to have seamlessly “constructed” national solidarity through education, economic development, and political inclusion. In actuality, many never have, and quite a few never will.

The fallacy of the nation-state provides a powerful explanation for the debacle of the U.S.-led campaigns to reformulate and rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s. It was widely assumed by many leading experts that Afghanistan and especially Iraq would present easy wars followed by undemanding and self-financing processes of democratic reconstruction. Both countries were assumed to be coherent nation-states that merely needed a change of regime and a little nation-building assistance to emerge as stable, self-determining U.S. allies. Although the initial battles were far less challenging than the anti-war movement had anticipated, the subsequent occupations proved vastly more difficult than what the neo-conservative war-supporters had imagined. Nation-building was doomed to fail in these cases because neither country has ever approached nation-state status.

The obsession with preserving the existing international order of ostensible nation-states derives from a concern for geopolitical stability. Abandoning the idea of the intrinsic unity of a country such as Iraq or Somalia by acknowledging instead the reality of Iraqi Kurdistan or Somaliland, such reasoning has it, would potentially destabilize the global world order. It would do so by encouraging other disgruntled ethnic, religious, or regional groups to seek their own independence, thus fostering secession, rebellion, and warfare. This argument, however, fails from the onset by assuming a degree of international stability that simply does not exist. In actuality, Iraqi Kurdistan and Somaliland are islands of relative order in seas of chaos. More fundamentally, the unwillingness to deal with such unrecognized states in deference to the established (dis)order invokes a “slippery slope” argument that can be used to justify any aspect of the status quo, regardless of how non-functional or maladaptive it has become. Iraqi Kurdistan and Somaliland deserve to be dealt with as actual states not merely because of their leaders’ desires, but rather because they have created relatively stable and reasonably representative governments with acceptable levels of human freedom out of the fractured territories of internationally recognized states that are in reality hyper-unstable and deeply repressive. As the same cannot be said for the vast majority of the world’s myriad separatist movements, no dangerous precedent would thereby be set.

Yet in actuality, just such a dangerous precedent has indeed been set by the same international community in regard to South Sudan. South Sudan was allowed to emerge as a recognized sovereign state not because its leaders had built effective institutions and demonstrated a sustained capacity for self-rule, but rather because they had waged a interminable war of independence against the Khartoum government that finally exhausted the patience of many world leaders. At the time, I fully supported the independence of South Sudan, owing largely to the atrocities that had been committed against its people by the government of Sudan. But the hideous civil war that has subsequently undermined “the world’s youngest country” calls into question the wisdom of this maneuver. Successfully fighting against a common enemy by no means ensures the ability to construct a viable state once that war dies down.

Significantly, Iraqi Kurdistan could have gone the way of South Sudan. Tensions between its Kurmanji- and Sorani-speaking areas (by linguistic criteria, Kurdish is a not a language but a group of languages) have been pronounced, contributing to a brief armed struggle between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the 1990s. But although friction remains, the Kurdish people have been able to surmount their problems and construct an effective state. Yet now the United States insists that they scale back their ambitions and instead accept subordination within the decaying geobody of Iraq. No amount of successful nation- and state-building will ever do, they are effectively told by the U.S. government, and as such they will never be granted a state of their own on such a basis. If, on the other hand, they were to reject such efforts and instead focus their attention on actively making war against the Baghdad regime, then perhaps they may follow South Sudan and eventually be awarded their own recognized state. I do not see how such a policy can be regarded as anything but delusional.

The Clinton Administration was widely accused of complicity in genocide for its lack of action as the Tutsis of Rwanda were massacred in the 1990s. Preventing this instance of genocide, however, would have been very difficult. Preventing the slaughter of the Yezidis, however, would have been very easy, as all that would have been necessary was the provisioning of a little military assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga, a force that, quite unlike Iraq’s “national” army, is willing and eager to defend the people of the region. The Obama administration’s refusal to do so in obeisance to the illusion of Iraqi national unity is a disgrace, indicating both moral cowardice and abject unwillingness to see the world as it actually is. What really leads me to despair, however, are my doubts that any other American administration would have acted any differently, as the paralyzing delusion of the nation-state is too deeply embedded to be dislodged by mere reality, no matter how blood-drenched that reality turns out to be.

 

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  • Sapiens

    This is one of the best articles I’ve read on GeoCurrents. The passion is evident and it instills the same to those who read it. I agree with this article and hope to see more like it. Please don’t always try to be ‘politically neutral’ especially when the facts on the ground demand the opposite.

    • Many thanks. I may reconsider reconsider the policy of political neutrality.

      • P.P.A.

        Please do not. While it’s justified in this case (indeed, among even the most cynical and stoic people I know and bloggers I read, there has been a moral outcry and a [justified] condemnation of the Islamic State as truly and genuinely evil) one of the reasons I am excited whenever I see this site updated is its neutral stance. GeoCurrents presents the reader with in-depth and well-researched raw information and leaves them to draw their own conclusions. The absence of political ballast was always a welcome respite from the tone of most other sites, both left- and right-leaning.

        More on topic, I also have been upset with Western governments clinging to their sacrosanct status quo. My own administration (German) has set aside a few millions worth of aid for the victims of the IS, and could air-drop supplies in less than a day—but the planes are grounded because our representives insist on going through official Iraqi government channels instead of corresponding directly with the Kurds. All while the besieged Yezidi are perishing in the desert, and the Peshmerga have to abandon their positions because they simply run out of ammunition (for their outdated weaponry). It’s terribly frustrating.

  • Inspired. Thank you.

  • SirBedevere

    While I would hate to see Geocurrents turn into some sort of advocacy website, this is precisely the editorial I have been hoping someone would publish.

    • It is interesting that such ideas are not being more widely expressed. They do seem to resonate with many people.

      • Bernd Lauert

        These ideas are being expressed, but seem to be confined to politically inclined imageboards, strategy game forums, and map enthusiasts.
        Redrawing borders and discussing the optimal compromise between ethnic divisions, historical claims, and political feasibility is a common pastime in such circles (and a fun one, too!).

        The Western mainstream, imagining other countries to be as homogeneous as their own once were, prefers to think of Kurds as “Turks” and of Gypsies as “Romanians”, however.

        • Good points. The editorial cartoon in today’s New York Times classified the Yezidis as Arabs!

          • I’ve seen them classified as Kurds, which isn’t exactly accurate either, no?

  • Ross Payant

    A very interesting article! I, for one, would love to hear more of your
    opinions. Perfect neutrality is like absolute zero, impossible. The most
    important thing is that you don’t distort reality to make your case and I find
    no cause to fault you on that account.

    I sympathize with your arguments (and I agree that Iraq should have
    been broken up). I don’t have enough knowledge about Kurdish political dynamics and motivations to know how successful your solution would be but assuming that such action would save the Assyrians, Yezidis and priceless historical monuments I’m all for it. The difficulty has more to do with American motivations themselves. Interventionist ideology comes from a belief that in order to justify its dominance in the world order the United States must exercise a benevolent influence on it. This is mostly for domestic consumption. The maintenance of US hegemony requires that anti-democratic states like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iraq be propped up while the rhetoric of humanitarianism is all but benevolent in the eyes of anti-humanitarian states like China and Russia. Thus, America is trapped in a space between intervention and isolation. A space called maintenance. It does not intervene for reasons of humanitarianism but to maintain its international system. The illusion of humanitarian intervention is maintained by the fact that most revisionist powers are anti-democratic. Israel, for example is permitted to behave brutally because it abides by the American system. In the government’s eyes, the question of whether or not to help the Kurds fight the IS is not a question of humanitarianism vs apathy but two different ways of destroying Iraq’s territorial integrity.

    • Israel is “permitted to behave brutally” because it has no other choice to prevent another genocide, a second Holocaust of the Jews.

      http://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-indiscriminately-killing-in-gaza-data-says-no/

      • Ross Payant

        No one needs to commit genocide to prevent one. Or perhaps if you were particularly thorough and took out the entirety of the human race it would. But as long as two survived it would only be a matter of time before one accused the other of poisoning
        a well.

        • The reason I put “behave brutally” in my comment above in quotes (besides it being a quote from you) is that I don’t agree with it. Ditto your implication here that Israel commits genocide. You have no evidence to support this view. What you say is grossly misinformed, whether you intentionally avoid learning the truth because it would contradict your current beliefs or because you haven’t had a chance to do so. One way or another, your comments here *do* support Hamas (although you state above that this is not your intention). Unfortunately, you’ve become one of their “useful idiots” (as you probably know, the quote is from Joseph Stalin, who pioneered the strategy of inundating anyone who’d listen with so many lies that people would start believing them, same strategy that was later adopted by another Joseph, Goebbels, and now also by the Hamas).

          Anyway, as much as I would love to debate those points with you, this may not be the best forum, as Martin is trying to draw attention to a different (though in my mind totally related) crisis.

          • Asya, I highly respect your opinions and scholarship, but I don’t see how one can argue that Israel is in danger of a holocaust, and I haven’t seen anything anti-Semitic in Ross’s comments. Unless I missed something, can we please distinguish lack of support for the political interests of a state from prejudice against a people that the state is created to represent?

          • “I don’t see how one can argue that Israel is in danger of a holocaust” — not Israel as a state (may be as well, but not as important), but Jews as a people yes. Which part of “From the river to the sea” isn’t clear? Which part of the Hamas charter isn’t obscenely yet evidently anti-Semitic? Whether the Hamas has the military power to achieve that isn’t clear, but otherwise intelligent people falling for their propaganda is exactly what gives them their best ammunition.

            Equally alarming are ongoing pogroms in Europe… In 1937 most people said the same thing, “it’s a few crazies, no big deal”… United States, as we all know, turn around ships with Jewish refugees. Apart from Shanghai, there was nowhere that would take the Jews. Then it was all too late.

          • Hamas is obviously anti-Semitic. No one is disputing that. But it’s very disingenuous and illogical to label every person dissenting from Israeli government strategy as a Hamas supporter. There are not only two possible courses of action. Opposing high civilian loss of life in Gaza is entirely compatible with opposing Hamas’s claims to seek Israel’s destruction, and seeking a third way does not make Ross an anti-Semite.

          • Vitaliy

            Evan: unfortunately, the very fact that Ross brought up Gaza in this discussion about Yezidis makes me think that he is very hostile to the Jewish State, not just some of its policies.

            Joab: thank you for your comment!

          • It’s not just bringing up Israel in this conversation (to which, I agree, it’s tangential), but saying things like Israel commits genocide and the like — that’s pretty telling.

          • Vitaliy: This is an unfair character smear on Ross. A respectful interlocutor will wait and see what he actually says, not judge him based on extrapolations.

            Furthermore, should he be hostile towards the Israeli state in general, that does not automatically make him anti-Semitic or hostile to the Israeli people. Martin Lewis’s article above could be described as hostile to the Iraqi state (he thinks it shouldn’t exist), but no one is taking that to imply he doesn’t think Iraqis are people.

          • Vitaliy

            Evan: My conclusion is not a “smear” or “extrapolation” but an accurate deduction.

            The current story of Israel/Gaza presents a moment of moral clarity rarely seen in international politics. Thus, an opinion on this matter can provide precise information on one’s character — it’s like a litmus test. You failed.

            End of this off-topic discussion.

          • Incredibly condescending.

          • What is disingenuous is to blame Israel for what’s really the Hamas’ fault WITHOUT proposing a viable alternative. Just saying that there is another, better course of action doesn’t mean there is. Unfortunately, the solutions promoted by the self-professed “humanists” are either out-of-date, out-of-touch-with-reality, or have been tried and caused bloodshed on the Israeli side — which, sadly, doesn’t seem to register with, or matter to, such people. If you or Ross or anyone else has a better solution, I’d like to hear it. But please make sure first that it passes the criteria I mentioned above. Then we can have a contentful conversation.

          • Xezlec

            My problem is that your criteria for a solution require with absolute certainty that not a drop of Israeli blood will ever be shed, but a solution that kills thousands of Palestinians a year all while gradually diminishing their territory to zero is perfectly acceptable.

            Hamas rockets kill 3 or 4 people a year. How many other causes of death in Israel that kill a few people a year get such vigorous responses as the huge invasions of Gaza that we keep seeing?

            You (quite justifiably) criticize Hamas for wanting the whole region to themselves, but Israel manifestly wants exactly the same thing (despite being smart enough never to say so officially), and is the only one of the two parties that looks like it might actually succeed. They get a little closer every decade. Hamas will never conquer Israel and it’s laughable to even think that’s a possibility. Gaza is nowhere near as capable as 1930s Germany. Israel, on the other hand…

            You want a solution? Okay: Israel should stop supporting the settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, release
            Gaza from the siege, and give the Palestinians sovereignty. I bet Hamas’ support among the public would disappear if they did that. Hamas may want all of Israel, but I doubt the average Joe in Gaza does. Will there still be occasional terrorist attacks that kill a person here or there? Yes. But welcome to the real world; most developed countries have that problem today.

          • Frankly, I am disappointed to see that you’ve fallen pray to all this misinforming propaganda: “3 or 4 deaths”, “occupation”, “siege”, depicting Hamas as “oh so not capable of much harm”, etc. Perhaps you need to understand the facts before you can blame Israel for protecting its citizens, which is its job… something too many states elsewhere totally forgot. Perhaps you need to get informed about the lives of millions who are threatened and traumatized by continuing violence that no “restraint”, “withdrawal”, “land for peace” and the rest of the nonsense has diminished… Until then!

          • “Perhaps you need to get informed about the lives of millions who are threatened and traumatized by continuing violence”

            This can just as easily apply to either side of this debate.

          • Cheap shot, I am afraid. I don’t know where your information on what’s going on on both sides of the border comes from, but I know plenty of Palestinians and what conditions they live in. I am not saying that what is happening to them is good in any way, but that it is unavoidable, given in part their own worldviews and choices.

          • Worldviews and choices are also involved in the settlements policy in the West Bank. Do you disagree that the continued expansion of settlements is rooted in certain Israelis’ desire to take the West Bank for their own people? This to me seems only slightly different from Hamas’s desire is to take Israel for its people (especially given the high incidence of anti-Palestinian hate crimes by settlers, as documented by Israeli human rights organizations).

          • Israel has control over 4% of the West Bank and 0% of Gaza. A small minority of Israelis might want to take over (parts of) the West Bank (or even parts of Jordan and Syria, for the most extreme), for which they have valid historical reasons (whether or not we accept that such historical reasons are acceptable in the modern world is an orthogonal question). The majority of Israelis do not want a one-state solution and do not think it’s viable. Neither do Israelis teach their children that this land MUST be taken by killing as many Palestinians as possible, preferably ALL. Or by raping Palestinian women, just an Egyptian (?) female (!) lawyer recently suggested Arabs should do with Israeli women:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAbYodZ7Fp4

            Thus, although it may SEEM “only slightly different” to you, there’s a huge difference. Israel is not proposing to exterminate all Palestinians, while the extermination of all Jews (and the destruction of Israel, because there will be no Jews left there) is a DECLARED aim of the Hamas and a large majority of Palestinians, as well as their brethren in other Arab/Muslim countries who subscribe to this as well. Israel would be more than happy if the Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank were a normal independent (but really independent!) country and took care of themselves (without siphoning Israeli tax shekels on electricity etc. for Gaza). If they had the choice, do you think Israelis would prefer to be neighbors of a civilized, peaceful, well-governed, and economically prosperous country like Switzerland or Japan, or to be surrounded by countries that dream of nothing better than to destroy it and do all they can to achieve that? But could Gaza and West Bank (and Jordan, Syria, Egypt) be turned into the likes of Switzerland and Japan (these are just random examples, of course)? I doubt this is possible in the foreseeable future. What happened in the Arab Spring is a good indication that I am right (whether that sounds condescending to you or not). What happened when Israel pulled out of Gaza and the Gazans destroyed the greenhouses left for them as a base to build their economy on is another indication. If you’d like, I can find and send you links to all the things I am talking about, but I assume you are well informed about these events.

            At any rate, let me remind you that approx. 1.5 million Arabs (Muslims and Christians) are full-fledged citizens of Israel, represented in its Parliament etc., while Gaza and West Bank are not, and are not meant to be, multi-ethnic states allowing Jews equal rights. Let me also remind you what happened to the Jews when North African Muslim Arab countries became independent, and where all these Jews went. They do not live in refugee camps to this day, receiving international aid, etc.

          • Israel controls the vast majority of the West Bank. It’s called Areas B and C.

            And I think the majority of Palestinians would be satisfied with a stable two-state solution as you describe. I don’t think you’re correct that most of them seek the extermination of the Jewish people. True, many voted for Hamas, just as many Israelis voted for the Netanyahu government (which is supportive of the settler movement). As in many countries around the world, more extreme parties are able to secure votes from a less extreme populace by convincing people (not necessarily correctly) that they are the lesser of two or more evils.

          • Let me clarify: I am talking about administrative control (Areas C) and population rather than land:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Bank#Palestinian_administration

            “And I think the majority of Palestinians would be satisfied with a stable two-state solution as you describe.” — I am not sure how one could convincingly access what people ACTUALLY want there, as it’s not exactly a place where people are accustomed to speak their mind freely. Maybe it’s a majority, maybe it’s a minority — but they do not matter in their own society. Just as peace-loving Germans didn’t matter to what Germany did in 1939-1945. What is perpetuated in the Palestinian society (both in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza) is Jew-hatred that would make Goebbels turn in his grave. This is the sort of “education” Palestinians get, according to the New York Times (not exactly the most anti-Palestinian media outfit either!):

            http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/mideast/080300palestinian-camp.html

          • I see what you mean about measuring control by population. But I also think it’s nontrivial that the Israeli military still polices Area B and completely controls airspace and territorial seas for all of the West Bank and Gaza.

            Okay, let me put it this way: “I think the PLO and PA would be satisfied with a stable two-state solution as you describe.” I suspect even Hamas would capitulate and support for their genocidal mission statement would dry up if statehood were no longer an issue.

          • Well, it appears that neither Hamas nor PA are able to proper police their territory and borders, in the same way as, say, Canada polices theirs, so that no terrorist groups (government-supported or not) are constantly bombarding northern USA. This goes back to the issue I raised on your blog, whether PA/Gaza is a de facto state. While there may be lapses of this sort in other countries as well (such as the Muslim-dominated areas in France where the French police doesn’t dare enter), on the whole other states manage to control their territory or borders, better or worse. Not so with PA and Gaza.

            As for the second paragraph in your comment, based on what besides wishful thinking? The desire to eliminate the Jews from the area at all costs predates the state issue, in fact predates the establishment of the State of Israel (I am referring to the Arab massacres of the Jews in the 1920s and 1930s).

          • Having been an issue in the past doesn’t mean that it’s the biggest issue now. The situation has obviously changed a great deal since the 1930s, or even since the PLO’s original state declaration in the 1980s.

          • But the PLO and the Hamas still declaring that the elimination of Jews and Israel is their main goal AND them doing everything they can to achieve it means it is still in issue. My point is that it is now AND has been for a long time.

          • The main goal of the PLO is establishing a state within the West Bank and Gaza. That’s what it agreed to pursue in the Oslo Accords, when it recognized Israel’s right to exist, and that’s what its leadership is pursuing now.

            Israel doesn’t recognize the “State of Palestine”, but the latter (represented by the PLO) does recognize Israel. Elimination of Israel is not the current program of the PLO as an organization.

          • Except if you actually listen to what they say still (particularly, in Arabic-language speeches and interviews). As for the Oslo Accords, was the wave of suicide bombings that they unleashed in the wake of the Accords (now all but forgotten by all too many!) the way to “recognize Israel’s right to exist”?

          • Also, why do you call Likud an “extreme party” (or imply it)? Perhaps you should educate yourself about Israel’s internal politics:

            http://languagesoftheworld.info/uncategorized/israeli-elections-2013-tell-vote-ill-tell.html

            Also, are you prepared to call Likud’s “antipode”, the Labor Party, “extreme” as well? Because if you insist on calling Likud an extreme party, you must admit that Oslo Accords were made by another extreme party, headed by a man who was himself not a stranger to “terrorist” operations…

          • That was my admittedly sloppy way of trying to say that Likud has been supportive of the expansion of settlements. I understand that Likud is not generally extreme within Israeli politics, but supporting the expansion of settlements to take over more of the West Bank seems to me somewhat akin to Hamas’s undisputedly extreme policy of calling for the takeover of Israel.

          • Unfortunately, your equation is once again faulty. Likud supports building Jewish homes on the land that is, at best, disputed. It does not support an establishment of an “Arab-free” state, the same way that Hamas (and PA) supports an establishment of a “Jew-free state” in Gaza (and Judea and Samaria). Thus, you can hardly call Likud “extreme”. Moreover, if you read the post to which I liked in an earlier comment, you will see that Likud is not extreme in terms of its voter base (nor is it primarily supported by settlers either).

          • Here are a couple of the MANY examples out there (from authors who I hope you will trust do not seek the destruction of the Jewish people):

            http://972mag.com/israel-has-alternatives-to-this-war/94325/

            http://972mag.com/how-can-you-possibly-oppose-this-war/93924/

          • As I said in another comment above, one’s good intention may not lead to a good outcome. These people may think they do not seek the destruction of the Jewish people but their behavior leads to exactly that kind of outcome. Just as similar views that “Germans are too civilized to really do anything bad to the Jews” (which many Jews in Europe had as late as 1939) led to the murder of 6,000,000 Jews and the near destruction of the Jewish people.

          • Clearer. Thank you.

          • Good!

    • Joab

      That’s hilarious. you just read an entire post dealing with the genocidal policies of a Muslim-Nazi organization, and then you turn around and defend the exact same type of regime that rules Gaza with the explicit goal of annihilating Israeli and killing all the Jews. So, do you support the genocide of Jews but object to the genocide of Yezidis and Kurds? Why?

      Anyway, I am still waiting for evidence of Israeli brutality. What is brutal is lobbing rockets indiscriminately into civilian population centers…which is what Hamas has been doing for years. I bet you don’t care about that though…or about the fact that 10% of those rockets hit Gaza itself, killing Arabs…or that Hamas uses human shields, and cvilian buildings, including schools, hospitals, and playgrounds as launching pads and its own headquarters. Just the other day a few dozen Gazans protested against Hamas – twenty were shot and the rest imprisoned. No, that didn’t make CNN, because reporters who actually report the truth are deported or threatened with death, even when they reach the West.But that is the brutality typical of such a regime.
      Anyway, here’s a short refresher course on who is fighting who and what each side stands for: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-moral-clarity-in-gaza/2014/07/17/0adabe0c-0de4-11e4-8c9a-923ecc0c7d23_story.html

      • Thanks for jumping in, Joab.

      • Ross Payant

        How does one argue with this? My only statement concerning Israel was that I found its behavior abhorrent. I never said anything about supporting Hamas, Nazis, genocide or anything. I support human beings. I am opposed to persecution. I am of the naïve belief that human beings have inalienable rights.

        • I am afraid that your statements taken together imply that you do not consider Israelis (Jews?) as human beings. You don’t seem to support them, or to think that they too have inalienable rights such the most basic — to live. There is nothing naive about this belief system.

          • Asya, your comment here is the exact opposite of what Ross clearly meant. You feel the Gaza war is necessary to preserve the Jewish people, and Ross doesn’t agree with that (or thinks the war should be waged in a different way). Can we please leave it at that? His comment does not at all imply that he doesn’t think Israelis or Jews in general are not humans or don’t have the same rights as everyone else.

          • Well, let’s have Ross himself respond: you can’t know what is in his mind any more than I can, eh?

          • He can disagree all he wants, but unless he proposes something better (or someone else does), his (and other people’s, as he is clearly not alone in this belief!) insistence is pushing for the destruction of Israel and another Holocaust of the Jews — whether he wants it or not (and I am perfectly happy to allow that it’s not his intention, or yours, nor of many other folks saying the same things). The problem is that even the best intentions can lead… well you know where.

      • Let’s not delude ourselves that either the Israelis or Gazans are in danger of extermination. Hamas is in no position to destroy Israel, and Israel is clearly not trying to exterminate the population of Gaza.

        • Let’s not delude ourselves that the two parties are equal in an “and” or “or” conjunction such as above. Gazans are in danger of Hamas exterminating them (see pictures of people dragged behind a motorcycle; it’s only the tip of the iceberg). As for Israelis and more importantly the Jews, they certainly are, if Hamas is given full reign, i.e. if Israeli government does exactly what the Western self-professed “humanists” want them to do, that is do nothing. “From the river to the sea”… it’s in the charter, it’s in the chants, it’s in children’s puppet TV shows and textbooks…

          • Gazans are not in danger of anyone exterminating them. “Extermination” means killing every last one of them. That is NOT at stake, at the hands of any party.

            Hamas is not going to exterminate the Jews by launching rockets from Gaza, and no one is arguing that Israel shouldn’t fight if Hamas were to launch a ground invasion (however ludicrous a prospect that is). Most Western opponents to Netanyahu’s policy seek security for both Israel and the Palestinians, and argue that there are solutions which will achieve this. Your denial (or ignorance?) of this basic characteristic of most Western criticism of the Israeli government is, frankly, difficult to comprehend.

            Your posts in this thread are coming across as much more emotional and less rational than usual. I would like to warn you as a friend that it is damaging your credibility and doing a disservice to your cause.

          • To clarify: I think we should be able to disagree on the merits and ethics of Netanyahu’s war strategy without having to accuse each other of much broader prejudices.

          • “if Hamas were to launch a ground invasion” — and what do you call a constant stream of terrorists blowing up buses, etc. Ah yes, you simply ignore that.

            I do not deny that “most Western opponents to Netanyahu’s policy seek security for both
            Israel and the Palestinians, and argue that there are solutions which
            will achieve this”. They do argue that. I think their arguments are delusional and are based on ignorance and/or misinformation. That somebody is doing good IN THEIR MINDS does not mean that they actually are doing good. In some cases what they’re doing is actually harmful.

          • This is something I can agree to disagree on. Thank you for the clarification regarding intentions.

            As for terrorist attacks, I’m not sure “constant stream” as an appropriate characterization, given that they have clearly become less common in recent years. I will admit there have been a handful more of them recently than I had realized (I was not intentionally ignoring them). I still don’t think Hamas can exterminate millions of people through scattered bus bombings, but I understand your point that the terror factor is relevant.

          • Terrorist attacks “have clearly become less common in recent years” — check out this:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_rocket_attacks_on_Israel

            From what I can see of this summary and the individual Wiki articles, the stream of mortars and rockets is constant and increasing in both numbers and range.

            This Wiki list is neither up to date nor complete, and I did see a more detailed list but I can’t find it now:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Palestinian_suicide_attacks

            Maybe not through bus bombings, but through tunnel system that covers many villages and towns? Anyway, before 9/11 few people believed something like that was possible, and the few people who warned about a possibility of just such an attack that would kill thousands at once (including my history professor at Hebrew U) were laughed at. With their connections to Iran, etc., Hamas’s military capabilities are not to be laughed at either, and their ideology produces more than enough people ready to sacrifice their lives for the cause.

          • I meant to refer to terrorist attacks other than rockets from Gaza, e.g. bus bombings. But again, your points are well taken.

          • I am not sure what difference it makes from the terror point of view what methods are being used: bombings, rocket and mortar attacks, stabbing, shooting, running people with cars or you name it. I recently saw a fairly detailed list which shows a great deal of variety — I’ll see if I can find it when I get back to my computer…

          • Point taken, though the rocket and mortar attacks perhaps stand out as especially ineffective at killing people lately (because of Iron Dome, I know).

          • From what I’ve read, Iron Dome intercepts the minority of the rockets/mortars. Their ineffectiveness is due in large part to falling in the “wrong” (from the Hamas’ perspective) places, unpopulated and the like. As far as I understand, Iron Dome is not even used to intercept such rockets.

            One could say that rockets are less effective per $ spent, as they are obviously more expensive than a suicide belt. That assumes, of course, that human life is dirt cheap, exactly what Hamas assumes…

  • Najah

    I hope you consider submitting this to the NYT op-ed or the op-ed at your local paper. It would help counteract the lack of information and the sterility of the few points of view and ideas constantly recycled and offered as solutions.

    • I doubt that they would publish it. I imagine that one need connections at such places to get anything published. But I do appreciate your support.

  • Mansion Beach

    Obama sacrificed the Yezidis, Christians and the Shabaks, in his game of one-upmanship against Russia. He does not want to do anything to provide the Kurds a semblance of independence, since that would give the Russians a precedence to intervene more effectively in Eastern Ukraine. As usual US foreign policy is only run on business interests, not humanitarian interests.

    • Very interesting analysis. I am not sure that keeping Putin in check is more important for “business interests” than preventing ISIS from getting too much out of control… It does seem to me that Putin has pretty much free reign with respect to Ukraine already, regardless of the Kurdish situation… It’ll be interesting to see what develops there, especially as the US finally has a new ambassador, who doesn’t seem to be a huge fan of Putin, by all accounts…

    • D. Schwartz

      Considering that the US stance on the Kurdistan has been maintaining the current status quo since the invasion we can’t pin this on just one administration. And the roots of it go back to Desert Storm which spreads it across 4 administrations in some ways.

      In all cases opposing Russia wasn’t the name of the game, rather the complex web of allies and opponents in the Middle East and how what we do is perceived by them.

    • Interesting point, although I di think that it goes deeper than that.

  • Nictionary

    This is a great site. It truly does give you the news that the mainstream media doesn’t report. There are many media, such as Information Clearinghouse and Counterspin (or Commiespin as I think of it), to name a few examples, that present themselves as giving you the news ignored by the mainstream media, but turn out to be biased far left pundits who only report selective news that fits their viewpoint, and who hate Obama as much as the Tea Party, with whom they have more in common than they do with rational people. Geocurrents has no such bias, and does a great job reporting the facts. If I were president, Professor Lewis, I would appoint you my National Security Adviser.

    • Haha, I for one always said that Martin would make a great president!

    • Eli

      Love your term “Commiespin” 😉

  • Very well-argued! Exposing the delusional nature of the nation-state system is a high priority for my work on http://www.polgeonow.com as well, so I’m very sympathetic to your overall message. Organized hypocrasy, indeed.

  • Ed Luna

    An excellent analysis, much needed. (One apparent mistake, however: “…Iraqi Kurdistan and Somaliland, do not belong and are therefore shunned, treated as if they do [not] exist.”)

  • Vitaliy

    Dear Martin, thank you very much for this excellent article! I completely agree — I’ve sent letters to my representatives stating that ” the goal of saving the integrity of the boundaries of Iraq does not worth the life of all its minorities” and demanding immediate help for the Peshmerga forces.

  • Xezlec

    Military intervention to support the Yazidis is good, but military intervention to oppose Saddam Hussein was bad? Didn’t he kill tens or hundreds of thousands of people too?

    • Who said that “military intervention to oppose Saddam Hussein was bad”?

  • Paulo Roberto

    Great blog, Martin. Your blog inspired me to try something similar in Brazilian Contemporary History. Congratulations!

    • Thanks, Paulo. Please let us know the URL of your blog when you have that up and running — I for one would love toknow more on contemporary Brazilian history!

  • Eli

    Thank you for this post. I do not think any of your readers will object to your expressing your opinions for once. Personally, I’d like to read more of them.

  • joseph

    Amazing article, thanks for writing it!

    I think there may be one complicating factor that I’d like to hear your opinion on. Namely, the possibility that the US does not really want Iraq (with or without its Kurdish portion) to be fully stable. An Iraq in which Sunnis and Shiites are at peace could eventually try to annex Kuwait and/or Iran’s Arab-inhabited Khuzestan province, as it did in the 1980’s and 1990’s. These territories would give Iraq direct access to the sea (which today it does not really have), defensible borders on the Zagros Mountains and the Arabian desert, and enormous quantities of Kuwaiti and Khuzestani oil and gas. Iraq already has an estimated 8-15% of the world’s economically accessible oil reserves; if you throw in Kuwait and Khuzestan that number would arguably rise to as high as 35% of the world’s reserves (if you do not you count tar sands oil reserves in Alberta and Venezuela), and a massive amount of natural gas as well.

    Moreover, if Iran and Saudi Arabia were to eventually fragment – and Iran and especially Saudi Arabia are in many ways far more potentially fractious, “artificial” states than Iraq is – then Iraq might also gain some influence over yet another 30-40% or so of the world’s profitable oil reserves, and an even more gigantic amount of natural gas. Such a scenario could be especially plausible because a large majority of Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas is located in its relatively unpopulated Shiite-majority areas in and around the Persian Gulf, and since an Iran stripped of Khuzestan could be much less powerful than it is today, and since the Persian Gulf’s energy-rich mini-monarchies like Qatar and the UAE are relatively weak militarily and potentially unstable internally. Plus, as ISIS has sort of shown, and as linguistic maps of the region show, Iraq may also have the potential to expand its influence within the Euphrates territories of Syria, extremely close to Aleppo and only a few hours’ drive from the Mediterranean.

    So I wondered if the US really wants to make Iraq’s Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs bury the hatchet as much as it says it does, since that might lead to a very powerful Iraq down the road. At the same time, the US obviously does not want to Iraq to fall apart either, since that could give Iran and Saudi Arabia too much power, and also allow for groups like ISIS to continue controlling a significant amount of territory. Empowering Iraqi Kurdistan too much or allowing it to secede from Iraq could help bring about either scenario; it could lead to Iraq falling apart completely, yet it could also have the affect of reconciling Iraq’s divided Arabs. I feel like the US might think that the status quo, as tragic as it is, might be in America’s interest to a certain extent, therefore.

  • Jeronimo Constantina

    Geocurrents should be commended for the timely appearance of the article on the Yezidis, when their very survival is at stake. Your reevaluation, too, of the political neutrality of Geocurrents comes at a most opportune moment, since political developments in the Middle East force this reexamination. Insisting on a naive neutrality, or mindless equidistance between differing political views, even where one of the choices is clearly evil and unmistakably abhorrent, is reminiscent of the West’s infuriating indecision over Nazi Germany’s annexation of Sudetenland, and the beginnings of what would become the Holocaust.

    Asya Pereltsvaig’s bringing up of attempts to desensitize the public to attempts to exterminate the Jews by bombing them from the Gaza, and at the same time throw the blame on Israel for acting in self-defense, and accusing them of exterminating Gazans (by shelling Israel from schools, refugee camps and homes, so that if it retaliated, it would be responsible for killing civilians) is especially appropriate in an article on the genocide of Yezidis, since all minorities in the Middle East – Yezidis, Christians, Jews, and even, in ISIS territory, Muslims with differing views, such as Shiites, should underscore the threat to all minorities in the Middle East, and other parts of the world where such groups with intolerant views are spreading. Note, for instance, that because of the spread of neo-paganism, atheism and secularism, Christians are now a minority in many parts of Europe. Guess what have become the biggest group.

  • Heather Wood

    I really enjoy reading your blog …. One of the regular emails I get that I actually read and learn from. Thank you.

  • AZ

    Truly this is one of the most illuminating articles I have read on Geocurrents as well. The issue of neutrality has nothing to do with this in my opinion, and in fact, nothing is truly neutral except if it says nothing at all – even a cookie recipe isn’t neutral if it claims to be delicious! The point is to provide evidence and sound reasoning for what you’re saying, not to “neutralize” your information.

  • fairplay08

    Thanks so much, Martin, for this terrific and very insightful article. You are very appreciated as I know these things take up much of your time. Take care now, fairplay08