With almost no advance notice, hundreds of Kurds erected tents at official polling places in Iraq's Kurdish areas and asked those emerging from the ballot booths to take part in an informal referendum on whether Kurdistan should be independent or part of Iraq. From what I saw, almost everyone stopped to vote in the referendum, and the tally was running 11 to 1 in favor of independence. …Here is what President Bush said about freedom in his inaugural speech.
[I assume the figures represent, from left-to-right, the Kurds, the Sunnis, and the Shiites.]
What drives the move for independence is not just the love of Kurdistan but also a widespread antipathy toward Iraq. The Iraqi flag is a hated symbol of a brutal regime, and it is still banned in areas controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (it does fly, along with the Kurdistan flag, on a few public buildings elsewhere in the region).
The Kurds do not allow Arab units of the new Iraqi military onto their territory, nor do they permit Baghdad ministries to open offices. They refuse to surrender control of their international borders to Baghdad for fear that the central government will cut off their precious access to the outside world. …
[W]ill Kurdistan want to stay in an Iraqi federation - even a very loose one? As the United States learned in Yugoslavia, it is hard in a democracy to hold people in a country they hate.
[I]t is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture. …Now, we all know that Bush is a lying hypocrite. (And I now believe that he is smart enough to be hypocritical.) Let's see how his so-called values play out here.
[W]hen the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own.
America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way. …
Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.
This certainly is not an easy situation. But Bush is being paid to deal with difficult situations. As he so brilliantly said during the campaign. It's hard work being the President. In this case, our allies, the Turks, are worried about an independent Kurdistan. So are our other "fiends," Syria and Iran, who also have large Kurdish populations.
Has Bush praised the fact that the Kurds are "finding their own voice?" Not that I can remember? Does he value the "call to freedom" that has arisen in the Kurdish soul? Not from anything he has said. Will he stand by his pledge not to "impose our own style of government on the unwilling?" Who knows.
Will he live up to any of his promises? Or are they as phony and dishonest as his social security crisis? (See Paul Krugman's latest for more on that intellectual scandal.) I guess we'll find out.