Our Gallant Allies, the Kurds (and Other Fairy Tales)

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Lines of Departure - The Kurds

Our Gallant Allies, the Kurds (and other fairy tales)1

Ah, the Kurds. How can mere words render a proper appreciation? They’re trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous…um…no; no, they’re not. Oh, sure, as individuals they can be fairly boon companions, but in the main and in the mass? Not so much.

My first experience of the Kurds – rather, of how the rest of the area thinks of and feels about them – was before I’d ever met my first one. This was at a majlis,2 in the town of Judah (or Goodah), Saudi Arabia, sometime in December or so, 1990. Citizenship is kind of an iffy and flexible concept in that part of the world, so there were folk from Saudi, from Oman, from the Emirates. There was even one Arab who insisted he was a citizen of the Gulf Cooperation Council, since he was a fully documented citizen of so many places in the GCC. I had my doubts right up until he pulled out a bilingual ID card which, indeed, did seem to list him as a citizen of the GCC.

One of the attendees had brought with him a book3 detailing the results of the chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja by the army and air force of Saddam Hussein. It was really heartbreaking, all those picture of gassed, dead, discolored, and decomposing Kurdish kids, who are, in fact, every bit as cute as the papers and television made them out to be.4 At least when they’re not dead they are. My team sergeant, Sig, and I were duly appalled and sickened.

The Arabs, though, didn’t seem to understand. To paraphrase, “What’s the problem? Don’t you understand that these were Kurds who got gassed?”

At the time, I found that attitude completely inexplicable.

Fast forward a few months; we’ve incited the Kurds and Shia to rise up and overthrow Saddam. They didn’t, of course, while such an uprising would have looked difficult and might have done us some good.5 Oh, no; instead the Shia – whose rebellion was spontaneous, anyway – waited until it looked like the Iraqi Army was crushed and such an uprising would be easy. The Kurds – who were organized – waited even longer. Sorry, boys, but when we offer you a quid pro quo, that doesn’t translate into “free lunch.” Moreover, when we’ve already offered someone a cease-fire it’s a bit late to try to get us to start hostilities again.6

In short, we owed them nothing.

Fast forward, again, to late May, 1991. I’d come home from the Middle East, hung around a while, and been sent back, this time to Operation Provide Comfort, the Kurdish Rescue, there to quasi-govern a few towns, run refugee camps, coordinate humanitarian relief, and such like.

While we’re waiting in the camp on the Turkish side of the border, not too far from Silopi, overwatched by a Turkish police fort on a hill, some Kurds got in position to fire at the fort such that, should the fort return fire, the Turks will be shooting at us. So much for gratitude from people you’re trying to save, eh?7 Fortunately, Turkish discipline held firm and enlightened Kurdish dreams of advancing the cause of having a homeland of their own by getting their rescuers killed came to naught.

After a couple of days at the camp, the crew I’m with and I are ordered forward to link up with the British Marines and their Dutch counterparts, already inside Kurdestan. We’re riding in on the back of a British Bedford Lorry, one which, based on the comfort of the ride, probably crossed the Rhine with Monty in 1945…after enduring the entire war in North Africa. If it had a suspension it was tolerably hard to see, and impossible to feel.

Sitting next to me is a Staff Sergeant Farnsworth. Farnsworth and I are both grunts, so we’re doing what grunts do when there’s nothing better to do and neither sleep nor playing cards nor reading are possible; we’re analyzing the terrain. It is fiercely rugged, with winding roads going through narrow passes between hills and mountains difficult enough to climb on foot and impossible for vehicles. Reverse slopes were of such an angle as would make defenders largely invulnerable to artillery and would make even high angle mortar fire of much reduced effect. In any case, at a certain point, looking over a particularly defensible pass, Farnsworth and I looked at each other. I no longer remember who spoke first but the conversation went like this:

“If the Kurds-“

“-couldn’t defend themselves-“

“-in this kind of terrain-“

“-they don’t deserve-“

“-their own country.”

And that was before we even knew how much they used mines.


A little digression is in order here. As mentioned previously, Kurdish kids are adorable. (The women are also quite fetching, right up until they’re worn out, usually by age twenty-four or so, from being used like donkeys, which is to say, beasts of burden, but who, unlike donkeys, can still bear young…and must.) Most people shy away from or are at least ignorant of the reason so many of those adorable kids died. It’s simple; the Kurds starved them to death themselves. It’s a cultural imperative among them, when times get hard, to let the little girls die of starvation (first, of course), and then the little boys.

Good guess, dear reader; why, no, I didn’t like that for beans. As a matter of fact, now that you ask, I’m not much for multiculturalism, in general, either.


Interestingly, before we even arrived in our area, there had been an incident – a firefight resulting in several Iraqi dead – between the British Marines and some Iraqi troops guarding one of Hussein’s palaces in that part of Iraq. I asked a British officer about it and his answer was to the effect that, “As near as we can figure, as one of our patrols was passing, two Kurds, from different positions but surely with coordination, took a shot each, close to simultaneously. One shot was at our patrol, the other at the Iraqi on the gate to the palace. Both shots missed, but the Iraqis and our men, thinking they were under attack, reacted as one would expect. We were just a lot better shots, better led, than they were. Poor bastards. One of the reasons we’re quite sure that the Iraqis didn’t shoot first was that, as our men passed, they waved at each other, as soldiers will who have no particular reasons for enmity.”8


The main town I ran was Assyrian and Christian, Catholic, actually, having their own rite but being in full communion with Rome. It was an experience to attend mass held in Aramaic, the language of Jesus, a memory I rather cherish despite not understanding a word of it. They are nice people, the Assyrians, seriously nice people. I’ve dealt with a lot of different kinds of foreigners, over the years, even married one, for that matter, and liked almost all of them. But the Assyrians have a special place. They’re also amazingly hardworking. They can’t defend themselves or, at least, they don’t think they can, which amounts to the same thing. Everyone knows about the Armenian genocide. The genocide of the Assyrians, around the same time period, was about as bad and may have been worse, as a percentage of the pre-massacre population. And among the chief agents of that genocide? Of both of them, really? You guessed it, the Kurds.

I asked my Assyrian translator there, once, what he and the other Assyrians really wanted. He answered, “We’d like the British to come back and run the place, permanently. Failing that, we’d be very happy to be subjects of the American Empire, if you would just declare one. If that’s not possible, then letting the Iraqis back would be minimally acceptable. Under no circumstance, however, do we want to be under the Kurds.”

That main town was the only one in which no Kurdish babies died, of the smallish number that the Kurds didn’t let starve anyway, and the only one in which there were no political or ethnic murders in that time period. Part of that was probably my own rather forthright approach to domestic harmony – “One incident, just one, and I’ll cut off your food, medical care, and other goodies, causing all your followers to desert you for other groups and leaders I haven’t proscribed!” – but part of it, too, at least for the long term maintenance of the thing, was probably the perception among themselves that the various Kurdish groups needed one safe area in which to engage in local diplomacy, and, since this one area was peaceful, well, why not?

That meant a lot of luncheons, meaning, yes, I had the chance to meet most of the bright lights of Kurdish domestic politics and self-determination of the day. I’ve long since forgotten their names, but am pretty sure I could identify most of them in a police lineup and wouldn’t, of course, mind doing so. One in particular stands out in my mind, a rather distinguished looking middle aged barbarian who had once, over what amounts to a domestic dispute, murdered some thirty-seven Christian men, women, and children.

And then there was the day the Kurds demanded to be paid. Paid? Why, yes, we were providing free food, free medical care, free shelter, and free security, but they saw no reason not to be paid for unloading the free food and other goodies.

I sent the trucks back with the food until they knuckled under.


Thus, it might be better for the United States, before pinning too much hope and faith on the Kurds, to understand that they’re military imbeciles with an unearned and undeserved reputation, that their culture is barbaric, they their one talent seems to be propagandizing and manipulating liberal Western opinion, which is eager to be manipulated, anyway, that any kids who die usually do so because of their own neglect of those kids, that they have no sense of gratitude for any help you give them, that they treat women like donkeys, and that they place zero value on the lives of those who try to help them. Why we, or anyone, would place our faith and trust in them…well, it eludes me.

To help that lesson stick in your mind I offer a Kurdish National Anthem, written by my team sergeant, Sig, in a moment of complete disgust with them. Every line tells a story:

(Tune: O Tannenbaum)

A voice without a hint of shame
Cries, “It’s all your fault; you’re all to blame.
We must be clothed, we must be fed
And when that’s done build our homesteads”


A Kurd can have no greater love
Than his brand new Kalashnikov;
O Kurdestan, my Kurdestan,
Do what you want; grab what you can.

You gave us shelter overhead
Doctors and blankets for our beds.
You’ve saved us from Iraqi raids,
Now tell us when do we get paid?


We fought the Turks, we fought Iran
We fought Iraq for Kurdestan.
And now you’ve made us free and strong,
We’ll kill the Christians when you’re gone.



1 This column is dedicated to the memory of Father Hanna Marko, of Mangesh, Iraq.

2 Majlis is something of a flexible concept, in the Arab and broader Islamic world, ranging in meaning from national legislature, to local council of elders, to meeting of de facto clients, to a festive gathering of friends, peers, and subordinates in a tent out back.

3 The book I don’t have. Here’s a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CgqXifzYKs

4 The Kurds are the only population I’ve ever run into with substantial numbers of people with eyes like mine.

5 People often forget that we did send some ten or eleven thousand body bags over, in anticipation of what we thought would be the likely casualties, so anything that might have distracted the Iraqi Army looked worthwhile.

6 As I’ll mention later on in this piece, trying to start hostilities among others is something of a Kurdish forte.

7 Cue footnote 6.

8 Cue footnote 6 again.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Tom Kratman is a retired infantry lieutenant colonel, recovering attorney, and science fiction and military fiction writer. His latest novel, The Rods and the Axe, is available from Amazon.com for $9.99 for the Kindle version, or $25 for the hardback. A political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he makes his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He holds the non-exclusive military and foreign affairs portfolio for EveryJoe. Tom’s books can be ordered through baen.com.

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  • Ming the Merciless

    they’re military imbeciles with an unearned and undeserved reputation,
    that their culture is barbaric, they their one talent seems to be
    propagandizing and manipulating liberal Western opinion, which is eager
    to be manipulated, anyway, that any kids who die usually do so because
    of their own neglect of those kids, that they have no sense of gratitude
    for any help you give them, that they treat women like donkeys, and
    that they place zero value on the lives of those who try to help them.

    So, pretty much like every Third World client Uncle Sam has ever had, then?

    • Tom Kratman

      Better at propaganda than most.

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  • rustypaladin

    I’d always wondered why you didn’t like the Kurds (Not a big deal to me, just wondered). My, admittedly limited, interactions with Iraqis left me with much the same bad taste (bunch of ungrateful beggars). My only real interactions with Kurds were financial though I have a funny story about how I found out the Kurdish word for garlic was “Thume” /thoom/.

    • Tom Kratman

      It’s not that I don’t like the Kurds as individuals – some I did and some I didn’t – but the world would be a better place if their culture were extinguished. And we’d be better off if we’d drop the fairy tales about them and look at them realistically.

    • James

      So basically like most Arab nations also? Why is that region home to so many cultures that just seem to be a festering pile of shit. It’s basically been Persia then a constant stream of crap.

    • Tom Kratman

      Probably the wrong question, where the right question might be, “Why are there any cultures all that _aren’t_ festering piles of shit?”

    • http://batman-news.com Rick Randall

      Barbarism does seem to be the norm of the species, yes?

    • Tom Kratman

      Yes, but I mean a little more than that. One of the great progressive lies is that people are basically all the same, that they want the same things (which is about half true; indeed, I am sure any number of unwashed barbarians would like a crack at any number of other men’s wives), and the corollary that democracy is not only exportable but _easily_ exportable. To quote someone much more famous than I, “Well it ain’t, see?”

      It takes a great deal to make a culture where the people capable of more than, “One man, one vote, once.” And when I say “a great deal” I mean divine work or a lot of lucky chance; man cannot expect to be able to do it deliberately. At least just about every time man tries in a place not naturally and already suited to it, Man fails. The only exceptions I can think of involved inflicting sheer frightfulness on the civil population sufficient to get them to at least want to change. (That said, Japan hasn’t, in many particulars, changed that much.)

    • BB

      Pet theory: All of Western civilization at one point was under the bootheel of the Romans who civilized them. Or the descendants of people civilized by the Romans put other peoples under the bootheel and civilized THEM. Unfortunately there are large portions of the world that were not under the civilizing influence of the bootheel long enough.

    • Tom Kratman

      Ahem, the Irish and Scots come to mind….

    • James

      LOL and yet we seem to make up the backbone of some of the best armies.

    • Tom Kratman

      First came the to the Welch, who prayed on their knees on Sunday, and on their neighbors the other six days of the week. And then came the Scots, who kept the Sabbath, and anything else they could lay their hands on. Then came the Irish, who were never quite sure what they wanted, but were always willing to fight to the death for it, anyway. Last came the English, who declared themselves a self made people, thereby illustrating the horrors of unskilled labor, and relieving the Almighty of a dreadful responsibility.

      (Yes, I’m aware there are other versions of that.)

    • James

      You know I do think a serious point is made though. Often the civilized make terrible soldiers. It seems that good soldiers often come from cultures that are both civilized and savage. The Romans seemed to do well right up to when they lost this. The Greeks the same in many ways (though since it was the Greeks they always prefered fighting each other).

      You even once separated from their culture the Arabs and such can become great soldiers or something to that effect (obviously this isn’t all of them like all folk).

      I do wonder if being to civilized and at peace for to long isn’t the worst enemy of a people and culture.

    • http://batman-news.com Rick Randall

      Tom has addressed why Arab armies are bad, and I threw some darts in that match as well. I misremember which article it was, but one of the early ones here, IIRC…

    • James

      Yea it still seems insane to me. Remember the story of the time in Egypt I believe it was. Heard enough other people confirm it and other things to.

    • Ori Pomerantz

      Arguably Arab cultures show this effect. The fertile crescent has been civilized, for some value of civilized, for longer than anywhere else. Whatever martial memos Arab culture had, living for four centuries under Ottoman rule led to them dying out.

    • James

      I think rather the turning point for their culture was the death of Baghdad by the horde. Raped it of it centerstone and its best minds.

    • Tom Kratman

      Toxicity is in the dosage.

    • Earl Wyatt


    • Earl Wyatt

      But the Irish and Scots never escaped the far reaching influence of Rome which persisted long after the decline of the Empire. I say this as a proud Irishman.

    • BigGaySteve

      My pet theory is that the plague wiped out all the stupidest collectivists leading to the renaissance. Every other society has had times when where the spark of individualism has been snuffed out by coercive collectivism. Asians competed with whitey until first Emperors and them Moa hammered down all the nails that stand up. The US was great for a while because all the nails that stand up fled their for freedom.

    • http://batman-news.com Rick Randall

      Concur in all regards.

    • Earl Wyatt

      As in when the Anglican Church essentially gave up on “converting” the Africans. One particular chief having as many did great respect for David Livingston remarked full of skepticism: “Do you really think you’ll influence them through talk? I’ll tell you what, lets take the whip to them and convert them rapidly to Christianity.” He understood how it works here as did every other African leader before and since. Democracy has only ever been useful for the manipulation of the West.

    • Chavi Beck

      good article:
      Daniel Pipes “Why Egypt Will Not Soon Become Democratic”

    • BigGaySteve

      Evolution stopped at the neck don’t you know. A nurse that takes an hours worth of smoke breaks a day and got investigated for being an angel of death will claim women get paid less than men for the same job.

    • JW

      Japan is one of the most homogenous cultures.

    • BigGaySteve

      Other than western civilization there is not much else. East Asians are clannish to the point a toddler run over on video shows no one willing to help her. Asians respect their elders but a stranger is not an elder.

    • BB

      Thanks for the explanation Tom.

    • Tom Kratman

      No sweat.

  • Anthony Aristar

    The Kurds are clearly very unlovable: I’ve never really swallowed the fairy stories about them. But they do seem to be more effective against ISIS. What do you think is the reason for that?

    • Tom Kratman

      Terrain, and ISIS being from skirmisher, rather than close combat, cultures, too.

  • Duffy

    You mean they are basically a Middle Eastern Muslim culture. Yeah, go figure, and no one will really want to hear that truth about the Kurds (and Iraqi Shia, Iraqi Sunni, and oh yeah especially “our” Sunni anti-Assad insurgents in the Free Syrian Army, who may or may not also be part of ISIS and/or Al Q). The World Wonders…..

    • Tom Kratman

      Nah, the Kurds are – or their culture is – different, and probably worse.

    • Duffy

      Could being farther up into the Hills have anything to do with that? That always seems to make things worse, culturally.

    • Tom Kratman

      Anything’s possible, I suppose, but most of the hills they’re occupying now they took from Assyrians they drove out or murdered.

    • W. Fleetwood

      Okay, Kurds bad, maybe double bad. But one has to ask; So what? The purpose of having an ally is to get their folks killed instead of our folks (Cf. the Soviet Union, 1942 to 1945). If we are fighting ISIS or, come to it, Iran, and they are too (For their own ignoble reasons I’m sure) it seems to me we might as well sprinkle them with some better killing tools on the principle that “For every Legionnaire that dies a citizen lives” This by the way is an honest question, not an attempt to argue against your points made above.

    • Tom Kratman

      Because, unfortunately, as illustrated above they may well try to drag us into things we should have no part of. They may well even succeed, since they’re good at that sort of thing. Think here: “An independent Kurdestan? What business of ours.” Note that they already dragged us into something, Provide Comfort, by making us feel bad over the kids they let starve. Think, too, about that section where I mention how the Arabs feel about them, which is to say, “Lice breed nits.” Well, _everyone_ in that area feels the same way about them. “Everyone” includes Turkey, which does matter to us. (Disloyal over not letting us send 4th ID through in 03? Once again, why should the Turks help us set up a refuge for their internal enemies. Someone was being a disloyal ally there, but it wasn’t the Turks.)

    • James

      I look at it this way. If you can make the Iranians, Ottomans, Arabs and all the others hate you when they can conquer you and still hate you for hundreds of years you probably need to look at your self and culture.

      It’s like the Arabs. All of your neighbors hate you. Especially the other Arabs..there seems to be a fundamental problem there.

  • Grumpy Guy

    If you look at the history of the region, going back only a number of decades, you see that the Kurds have been used and betrayed a number of times, and not just by the west. Also by the regional powers, notably the Shah’s Iran. So it does not surprise me that these people are far from happy, friendly, trustworthy, well-adjusted sorts. They’re a Middle Eastern culture, which has survived the shithole of the ME. Anyone who thinks they are going to act like Americans or Europeans is smoking bad shit. War here always verges on war to the knife, and atrocities are the most probable outcome in any fight. Because of the perversity of the universe, specifically the geographical distribution of large oil reserves in the world, we have an interest in the ME and may sometimes need to get involved in their disputes, but we forget the nature of the region and ALL its people at our peril.

    • Tom Kratman

      Sadly for the recent oppression theory, they’ve apparently been cutthroats for a long time.

    • Jack Withrow

      I have been reading a lot lately about the Eastern Front in WW I. I have a couple of different books that claim the Kurds were up to their eyeballs in the Armenian Genocide. Also there are claims of wholesale desertions by Kurdish troops from the Turk Army to the Russians during the war with those troops then forming Kurdish Units to fight the Turks. Looking at their history it is kind of hard to see much that is admirable in it.

    • Tom Kratman

      Saladin was pure Kurd. I suspect much of their good reputation springs from that. But so what? You can find the odd admirable Nazi, too (Rabe, in Nanking, for exampe).

    • JW

      Which books do you recommend?

    • Jack Withrow

      “Germany Ascendant” & “Collision of Empires” by Prit Buttar. Also check out Sean McMeekin’s “1914″

    • Grumpy Guy

      Yeah but who around them hasn’t? Anyone who is not a cutthroat is not going to last long in the cesspit of the ME. The only rational thing to do is build lots of nuclear plants, IMHO, to limit our vulnerability to the whims and assholery of ALL the states in the ME.

    • Tom Kratman

      Quite, but that’s long term, not recent.

      For the latter point: Thorium! Thorium! Thorium!

    • James

      No they have been like this a long time. Picture a culture that descended from Pirates in a desert. Thats basically it. It’s kind of like the Arabs in that regard.

      Never understood why people liked pirates.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    Huh. Different anecdotes from other I’ve heard about the Kurds. I haven’t been there, so I’ll defer but it doesn’t match up with what Michael Totten and other writers who’ve been to ‘Kurdistan’ in the 2000′s.

    • Tom Kratman

      As I said, the Kurds are good at playing on western emotions.

  • TokyoTengu

    There’s been a lot of press recently about Kurdish women fighters kicking ISIS ass. Is it all propaganda or is there truth to it? And, as a related question, if they are arming the women and sending them out to fight, doesn’t the indicate a long-term change in the society? It’s one thing to hand a gal a rifle and tell her to go out and shoot people, it’s another to take it back and whip her into the kitchen, or wherever.

    • Tom Kratman

      I suspect little or no truth. I suspect little if, indeed, anything more than mere propaganda. For one thing, there’s no better way to ensure Arabs won’t retreat or surrender and will attack with more verve than they usually show than to put them up against women.

      Nose around for a picture of an old woman holding an AK, purporting to show her readiness to fight. Note that from the picture there’s no reason whatsoever to think she has the first clue even of what has been placed in her hands, let alone how to use it. Just propaganda.

      Ah, to hell with it: This picture: http://imgur.com/gallery/NaWMPjQ

      Now she’s supposed to be Armenian, but the principle still holds. Show a misguided liberal westerner something they desperately want to believe and they will believe it.

    • http://blog.timp.com.au TimP

      Most of the Kurdish women “fighters” I’ve seen pictures of at least look like they know how to hold their rifles. While that old lady seems to think that her thumb is the trigger finger. (It is possible that she has arthritis and can’t use her index finger well enough to fire the rifle, but you’d think if it was that bad she wouldn’t be able to properly hold and fire a stockless AK either)

      Still you’re correct that almost all the shots are clearly posed propaganda shots, and there’s no reason to believe that the few exceptions aren’t simply better posed, other than our trust in that epitome of trustworthiness that is the mainstream media.

    • Tom Kratman


    • http://blog.timp.com.au TimP

      Actually a possible reason why the Kurds might use women units just occurred to me based on a few observations I’ve read from you and other commentators.

      Observation One: Kurds don’t particularly value their females.

      Observation Two: ISIS favours light cavalry tactics such as hitting weak points and then retreating rather than staying to finish them off so that they don’t get pinned down by a stronger enemy unit.

      Observation Three: Arabs are less likely to retreat when facing women fighters.

      It’s possible that the Kurds are using female units to defend so that their attackers will delay the run part of hit-and-run longer than they should, allowing the Kurds to hit them with artillery or manoeuvre stronger [presumably male] units to their flanks.

    • Tom Kratman

      Yeah, I’m going with Occam’s razor on this one; the girls are for propaganda.

    • BigGaySteve

      Who would win in a fight between the Kurdish woman and the US rangerettes?

    • Tom Kratman

      Since there are only three Rangerettes, so far, I’ll go with numbers and bet on the Kurds.

  • Jack Withrow

    I haven’t worked with the Kurds, so I will take your word for them. The only problem is that the things you have leveled against the Kurds can be said for most of our “allies” in the ME. The various ethnic groups in Afghanistan come instantly to mind, and in some ways they are worse than the picture you paint of the Kurds.

    And while our European Allies are not as barbaric as the Kurds, IMO most are about as trustworthy as Kurds. And then what few really trustworthy Allies we had, the Oxygen Thief in the WH has managed to turn them against us.

    • Tom Kratman

      I wonder how much of that is our fault, too. There’s a great passage in Sir Robert Thompson’s No Exit From Vietnam, to paraphrase, “While it is true that the South Vietnamese are corrupt; they’ve also been corrupted. Imagine the effect on American society of suddenly having (updated to 2016) ten million foreign soldiers dumped on it, each with an annual disposable income in the multi-million dollar range.”

    • Jack Withrow

      You are probably correct in regards to South Vietnam, that probably contributed a lot to the corruption. In the latest wars, not so much since the troops were very limited on how much cash they could draw each payday and especially in Afghanistan had limited opportunities to spend it.

      My beef is with our so-called allies that come in riding on our coat tails everytime we deploy troops somewhere. Except for the Brits, Aussies, and Cannucks, NATO was useless in Afghanistan. The troops were not allowed to do anything dangerous. They ate up our logistics. Would run at the first sign of danger (not the troops fault, their leadership). And generally lorded it over the local population, making our efforts to accomplish something that much harder.

    • Horhe

      What about the Eastern Europeans? There weren’t a lot of them deployed, to be sure, but their societies don’t seem to have the hangups that Western ones do with regards to what a soldier should be doing.

  • Lincoln Farish

    Tom, you left off the part where you have the Barzani clan (KDP)
    and the Talabani clan (PUK) essentially have two separate
    governments in place. With out a common enemy these two groups would
    likely fight each other causing a civil war similar to what is
    happening in South Sudan where the President and VP are currently
    fighting over which clan will be in charge.

    • Tom Kratman

      Good point.

    • James

      So how many of the Kurds are also maoist again or at least communist? Because honestly Kurdistan would make a terrible bananna republic.

    • Can Terzioğlu

      They already did in Iraq. Evicting non kurds and beating ANY criticism, they surpassed Saudi Arabia in fascism in months.

    • Tom Kratman

      Don’t put too much into a name or an alleged ideology. Look to the tribe that makes up the majority of the “party.”

    • James

      Ah now it makes sense.

    • Earl Wyatt

      Aha and the same goes in Africa. The ideology is only used as the means to the end. For instance communism really appeals to the masses who would dearly love to be able to loaf and live for free off of the labour of the hard workers. The reality no matter how obvious and no matter how many times proven simply will never sink in.

    • James

      Ironically if any part of the world would get better that isn’t already I think Africa has a chance. Many younger people there and those my age have come back to the conclusion that no matter what happened in the past its what they do now that matters and that it is their responsibility.

      Of course they live in a place with no law but the local dictators and backed by the UN in most instanced. The grain from the food programs is pirated by those in charge and sold off on the black market making it impossible to make a income off of farming even in places people are starving.

      But hey lets keep doing what we are doing its working right….

    • Earl Wyatt

      Yup, unfortunately sinister forces of tribalism continue to work and wield mighty influence over all facets of life here. I’d love to echo your sentiments but a straw remains a straw and we are bracing for yet another African state of disaster,

  • Can Terzioğlu

    They will call you “foshik” since they cannot pronounce “fascist”.

    You made a bitter enemy Tom. Kurds will now hate you. You better now visit Sweden,Norway or Denmark.

    • Tom Kratman

      That’s okay; I’m a better shot.

  • Ciarog


    Ever read anything by John Dolan on the Kurds, either back on the Exile or now on Pando? He used to be pretty impartial (Why the Brave Tribes are Doomed), but having worked as an ESL in Kurdistan has I think clouded his judgement.


    His Pando stuff is behind a paywall; started going down in quality anyway.

  • PeaceMaker

    I spent some time up in that part of the world, in 2003, Securinga DZ/

    • Tom Kratman


    • JW

      I had heard ‘Chaldean’ until recently. Is one or the other preferred by them, or is one general and one particular?

    • Tom Kratman

      Dunno. Father Marko referred to himself, his people, and his church as “Assyrian.” If he ever used “Chaldean” it wasn’t noticeable that he meant anything different by it.

  • Daniel Koolbeck

    So would “moderate/democratic Syrian rebels” fall under “Other Fairy Tales?”

  • Ganesh

    And they pinned their entire future on oil dreams, which have now been soundly shattered.


  • Mightypeon

    Just some random points:

    Kurds =! Kurds. Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish for example have totally different alphabets, and Syrian and Iraqi Kurds get along about as well as the Red Army faction would with chancellor Bismark.

    As far as the Syrian Kurds go:

    1: The famous ones are marxist, not muslim. This is partly due to the pretty complicated history of marxism in the middle east, partly because being marxists gave them Soviet support against Turkey (and to an extend Syria, although this was really really complicated). They are pretty pragmatic, and a bit less bullshittery then the Iraqis. For example, Syrian Kurds would not have pulled the stunt you alleged to with the British. Way too much risk for too little gain, and they do recognice the need of keeping a somewhat trustworthy image, because this allows them to get better deals in other rounds. The Iraqi game of thrones has much fewer players, so there is much less coalition building involved, then in its Syrian equivalent. This requirement for coalition building tempers the bullshit a bit.

    2: Syria ethnicities are a lot more complex then Iraqs. The Kurds had kind of a weird place by being a minority, without being a part of the Alawi led minority coalition that rules Syria (Syria had christian officers commanding Sunni muslims, it still has those btw.). The reasons for this were Turkish demands to not integrate the Kurds, Kurds not being very fond of being in a coalition they do not lead, and the Alawites on occassion feeling the needs to stress their Arab credentials by opressing non Arabs.

    3: Concerning the YPJ (Kurdish female units), they are one of the few edge cases where female units are actually a decent idea.
    First, the YPG has a manpower problem. There arent a lot of Kurds in Syria, and the number of Kurds in Syria who are marxists are considerably less. ISIS is actually competing for Kurdish loyalties, and basically vows to treat them decently if they convert to being Salafi Wahabis (and Kurds can rise quite highly in ISIS). So, YPG is in a situation where normal military age males (15-40) are already employed militarily, or cannot be employed militarily for a number of reasons.
    Second, YPJ is female only. No relationships, no men allowed. If you have a relationship, you are out. This also means no pregnancies. God/Marx help you if you get pregnant while in the YPJ and cannot come up with a good explanation why this happened. Note that Marxists dont believe in virgin births.
    Third: YPJ is pretty “cheap”. They have light weapons (cheap), pretty limited training (cheap), and are used as garrison troops, or as second line troops, or as diversions, or as all three. They are not supposed to close in with Chechens.

    Now, there are also specific for the theatre reasons which give YPJ a bit of a legup.
    4: YPJ is a great, absolutely great PR tool for dealing with the west, and still a good PR tool for interacting with the Russian public. YPJ heroine worship is probably a reason why Erdogan doesnt fuck the Kurds harder then he already does, and well, this kind of prestige opens up many options they would have otherwise. YPJ people interviewed by the Russians are also those somewhat versed in Marxist history, and will often be smart enough to name Lyudmila Pavlichenko as an idol. Russians respond very well to certain types of flattery.

    5: No Kurd who runs in a battle where YPJ did not run will ever get laid anywhere in Syria (maybe thats why many fuck off to Europe). This is a powerful motivator for not running away. Now, running after YPJ also ran is ok, but never before them.

    6: The Salafist fucktards have some seriously fucked up ideas about women, and believe that getting shot by females means they dont go to heaven. The theology behind that is totally bullshit, but it basically is an “accepted excuse” for a salafist to not attack. There is always and in all militaries demand for such excuses, and in this way YPJ increases the challenges for their adversaries.

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