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Boardman writes: "The continuing incoherence, insanity, and ultimate inanity of US policy in and around Syria was highlighted brilliantly, albeit perhaps inadvertently, by Vice President Joe Biden on a state visit to Turkey August 24, when he threatened the most effective fighting force against the Islamic State - the Kurdish militias - with American punishment if they didn't play nice with the Turks."

Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim, right, and U.S. vice president Joe Biden at Cankaya Palace in Ankara. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim, right, and U.S. vice president Joe Biden at Cankaya Palace in Ankara. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)

New US Policy: Kill the Kurds

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

29 August 16


Syria: what do you do when you don’t know what to do?

he continuing incoherence, insanity, and ultimate inanity of US policy in and around Syria was highlighted brilliantly, albeit perhaps inadvertently, by Vice President Joe Biden on a state visit to Turkey August 24, when he threatened the most effective fighting force against the Islamic State – the Kurdish militias – with American punishment if they didn’t play nice with the Turks, who have spent years supporting the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL), attacking “bad” Kurds in Turkey and Iraq, and who are now attacking “good” Kurds in Syria.

This is not quite as complicated as it is stupid, self-defeating, and ultimately deceitful. Let’s review the bidding:

  • The Turks are a NATO ally whose reliability is an on-and-off thing unrelated to Turkey’s actual treaty obligations. The only reason Turkey is part of NATO is because somebody during the Cold War thought it would be a good idea to counter the USSR. With the USSR gone, Turkey is more like a dagger pointed at the heart of NATO, hence the delicate psycho-diplo-military dance NATO nations have had to follow for years, unwilling to cut Turkey loose from NATO, even now, as the Turkish government devolves toward authoritarianism and tighter ties with Russia. Putting it in perspective, Turkey’s longstanding, abysmal record on political and human rights is a prime reason that the European Union continues to deny Turkey EU membership. Turkey is not a truly modern state: Turks waged a genocidal campaign against its Armenian citizens a century ago, but it’s still against the law to mention that genocide in Turkey (by comparison, Americans can talk freely about the greater American genocide against native peoples, but the progress toward anything like justice is about the same in both countries).

  • The Kurds are for the Turks, metaphorically, the 21st century Armenians. The Turks exhibit all the signs of wanting to wage genocidal war on the Kurds but they are held off by multiple factors, not least the current taboo on genocide upheld by NATO and the EU, at least publicly, most of the time. The Kurds are also more militarized than the Armenians ever were, and the Kurdish home territory is a mountainous region that has resisted invaders for centuries. Also the Kurdish region is spread over four countries, so any Turkish genocide of the Kurds would work only if it included attacks on Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Each of those countries has also gone through periods of Kurdish repression, so there is always the theoretical possibility of an allied genocide of the Kurds. Right now, the Kurds in Turkey, having survived an attempted Kurdish genocide in the 1930s, continue their low level conflict with the Turkish military, punctuated by periods like the current high level conflict. The Kurds long for their own country, a Kurdistan, and no one else wants them to have that for reasons that are obscure and chronically destabilizing. (A similar situation keeps Afghanistan unstable, where the Pashtun are spread across southern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan, and no one wants them to have their own Pashtunistan, either.)

  • The US has no vital interests in any of these places. To be clear, the country of the United States has no vital interests. The empire of the United States is a different, undemocratic, self-directed global power structure that sees vital interests in faraway yurts in the most distant desert. That part is not up for debate. But the distinction between the US as a country and the US as an empire helps to understand why the country is pushed into doing things that are stupid, self-destructive, and planet-threatening on behalf of the empire. Everybody pretty much knows, even if they won’t admit it, that with a nod from the US the Turkish genocide of the Kurds could begin tomorrow, if not sooner. That is the context for the creative tension within which the US VP makes his not so veiled threats.

Biden to Kurds: defend yourselves from the Turks and we will hurt you

August 24, the day that VP Biden was talking tough in Ankara, was the same day the US and Turkey went to war against Syria, although it mostly wasn’t reported that way. It was advertised as Turkey finally responding to pleas to fight ISIS. Some called it an “escalation” and some called it an “incursion,” echoing official lines in Viet Nam, but it was an invasion. As invasions go, it was pretty small potatoes, unreported in detail, but involving probably a few hundred troops with heavy artillery support, and maybe dozens of tanks and aircraft. This was not the first Turkish attack on Syria, but it’s the first to seize and hold territory, and to do so with US sanction and air support (even though US special forces are on one of the other sides).

The reality is that Syria is still a sovereign country with a legitimate government still in place. No matter what may be true about the Syrian government or the all-but-uncountable forces arrayed against it and within it, the government remains legitimate, which is why the US and others keep calling for its overthrow. The Syrian government is fighting a very complicated, five-year-old civil war against combatants both Syrian and foreign, some of whom control significant areas of Syria, over which they’re fighting with the Syrian government and each other. As civil wars go, this one is particularly messy, not only because Syria was made up all along of different ethnic groups. Since Syrian citizens took up arms against their government, they have enjoyed, if that’s the right word, outside support of various kinds and quantities of fighters and materiel from the US, Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, and probably Jordan (which, with Turkey, has sheltered millions of Syrian refugees).

Even so, when the Turkish military with US air support crosses the border and captures the town of Jarabulus (population around 26,000), that’s a new thing in this war where other countries mostly use proxies to fight for whatever they think they’re fighting for, not their own armed forces. Russia is an exception, fighting for the Syrian government at the invitation of the Syrian government. Every other combatant is an uninvited guest. When the US-backed Turkish military crossed the border and captured Syrian territory, that was an act of undeclared war (like the US war with the Saudis on Yemen).

So who is the target, who is the enemy, and are they the same?

Billed as “a significant escalation of Turkey’s role in the fight against the Islamic State” (New York Times), the Turkish attack seems more seriously directed at the Kurdish citizens of Syria who have lived there right along. The Syrian Kurds have proved the most effective fighting force in Syria opposing ISIS, other than the Syrian government. And the Syrian Kurds enjoy the support of several hundred US Special Forces, who now find themselves facing the prospect of being attacked by a NATO army supported by their own country.

Jarabalus is on the west bank of the Euphrates River, which separates it from the Kurdish-dominated region of northern Syria. In 2013, ISIS forces took control of Jarabalus and have held it until recently, with little objection from Turkey. ISIS used this Turkish-Syrian border town as one of several crossing points for fighters and supplies with little interference from the Turks. In 2015, Syrian Kurdish forces threatened to attack ISIS in Jarabulus. Turkey’s President Erdogan warned the Kurds that such an attack would be met by the Turkish military, securing ISIS control of the town for another year. Now it’s the US vice president warning the Syrian Kurds not to interfere in their own country. Referring to the Kurdish desire to control that part of Syria where they live along the Turkish border, Biden said there would be no Kurdish “corridor” (as fragmentarily reported in the Washington Post):

Period. No separate entity on the border. A united Syria…. We have made it absolutely clear to … the YPG [Kurdish People’s Protection Units in Syria] that … they must move back across the river…. They cannot, will not, and under no circumstances will get American support if they do not keep that commitment. Period.

The “corridor” referred to by Biden is a hypothetical area that, if controlled by the Kurds, would connect western “Kurdistan” near Aleppo with the rest of “Kurdistan” in northeastern Syria. The Turks are dead set against this, as they consider all Kurds “terrorists.” The US has gone along with the Turks calling the Kurds in Turkey terrorists, but the US considers the Kurds in Syria non-terrorists, mostly because of their success fighting ISIS. Part of that Kurdish success was working with US Special Forces to take territory south of Jarabulus (Manbij and surrounding towns). According to Biden, that operation was carried out under a Kurdish promise to go back across the Euphrates and leave the area to Syrian rebels (who had been unable to take it on their own).

Turkey has long been shelling Kurdish communities in Syria, killing civilians with indifference, since Turkey’s main objective vis à vis the Kurds is ethnic cleansing. Now, with US blessing, Turkey is using its invasion of Jarabulus to attack Kurdish settlements to the south, killing dozens of civilians in attacks on Jub al-Kousa and al-Amarna. These are not Kurds who should have gone back across the Euphrates, these are Kurds who live in those towns.

There are roughly two million Kurds in Syria and about 30 million in the region. The Kurds have been subjugated and marginalized in all the countries where they live at one time or another. They have long been restive in Turkey. Then the chaos Americans brought to Iraq gave Iraqi Kurds some independence. In Syria, the Kurds earned greater independence by fighting ISIS more effectively than anyone else.

Having invaded Syria to fight ISIS, Turkey is now joining with Syrian rebels (of some sort) to attack Kurds. This is American policy at work. In effect, VP Biden has said: Hey, you Kurds, you’re subjugated people, you’ve been subjugated people long enough to be used to it, and you’re gonna stay subjugated, OK, so suck it up.

So we leave the Kurds to the mercy of their perennial persecutors, and for what? Some dim hope that Turkey will improve its human rights record and stop torturing prisoners? Or perhaps our wishful thinking is that if we abet the Turks in their darkest whims, maybe they won’t cozy up to the Russians so much? Whatever the Obama administration is thinking – assuming there is any thinking going on in this secretive government – American policy seems politically incoherent, as if it’s enough to say: This is what the American empire requires, don’t ask questions. But it is more than politically incoherent. American policy toward a people yearning to be free is morally repugnant.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+35 # indian weaver 2016-08-29 14:13
I suppose Biden and Obama consider themselves adults but I do not. At best, both of them are sold-out toy boys, vapid dolts, empty suits, puppets on bankers' strings, stooges, and robo eunuchs. However, both have all the requisite political high points to lead us directly into national collapse and revolutionary and nuclear war: big mouths and white teeth. The mouth and teeth qualify them both to assassinate 1000s of innocent civilians worldwide and torture 1000s of others while committing grotesque, tragic, atrocious worldwide genocide, apparently.
+6 # Navigatio di Brendani 2016-08-30 11:39
Since when is killing Kurds a NEW U. S. policy?

Before and after 1991 war with Iraq, we let Saddam bomb and poison gas the hell out of the Kurds.

Kurds have been perennial whipping boys of everybody forever
+3 # WBoardman 2016-08-30 18:18
Navigatio is of course right big-picture-wis e,
while omitting the US no fly zone that protected
the Kurds from Saddam during the 1990s.

So maybe it's more of a NEW US policy variant,
to encourage a NATO ally to kill Kurds when there are
US special forces embedded with the Kurds.

That does seem unprecedented, and madly creative.
+5 # Radscal 2016-08-30 22:12
President Bush I gave Saddam permission to use helicopters in crushing the Kurdish uprising (which Bush I had publicly and repeatedly called for).

In so doing, he could pretend to have enforced his "no fly zone" by claiming it only counted fixed-wing aircraft, while standing by "unable" to stop the slaughter.
0 # Navigatio di Brendani 2016-09-01 08:27
I just gave a friend an "insider" tour of National USAF Museum 2 miles from me. Dad was a world class engineer, worked on 47 different aircraft. I know about all the cost overruns, boondoggles, stupid and deadly designs - B-58 Hustler supersonic bomber crashes / malfunctions killed/wounded 64 crew members (only 3-man crew) none in combat... and prototypes literally worth their weight in gold.

Anyway, pointed out a giant armored helo bristling w/miniguns and rockets that could easily erase a sizeable Kurdish village.
+1 # WBoardman 2016-09-01 21:37
Navigatio says:

"Anyway, pointed out a giant armored helo bristling w/miniguns and rockets that could easily erase a sizeable Kurdish village."

And is this supposed to be good news? Or what?
+45 # guomashi 2016-08-29 15:11
Moral repugnance has been the norm for quite some time with US policy.

But - what possible gain is there from abuse of the Kurds? So far as can be seen, they seem to have been the only allies US actually has in the region. What's the point of punishing them? IT makes absolutely zero sense.
+9 # jdd 2016-08-30 05:53
It is the untenable positioning of the Obama administration. What the author calls "cozying up to the Russians," is reference to the recent meeting between Erdogan and President Putin in which Turkey apologized for the downing of the Russian jet and murder of its crew, discussed construction of the pipeline though Turkey as well Russian plans to build two nuclear power plants in Turkey. Putin somehow got Erdogan to promise, in an about face, to join the fight against ISIS and that President Assad could be part of a "transitional government." Obama, who in the past has allowed Turkey to supply ISIS through the Jarablus corridor, was quick to sacrifice the Kurds in an effort to separate Turkey from Russia. Having nothing else to offer, Obama's cynical policy remains to play the neo-con's geopolitical game against Russia ("Assad Must Go") at whatever the cost in lives or integrity.
-4 # HowardMH 2016-08-30 08:14
Obama the Wimp, Obama the Wimp, Obama the Wimp.

Totally agree with Weaver, guomashi and jdd. Can someone actually prove I am wrong about Obama the Wimp.
+5 # Caliban 2016-08-30 18:07
It's good you have a couple of thinking folks to lean on because name-calling is not thinking.
0 # Kootenay Coyote 2016-08-30 19:58
Some things exasperate some folks beyond bearing. It's understandable. ...
+5 # Timshel 2016-08-30 12:33
We are not really supporting most of the Kurds, including their brave women fighters, because the left-wing Kurds share the land equally and are so courageous because they all have a stake in the victories. i.e. and are against having our profit system exploit them they way it exploits us. Wall Street wants left groups attacked and they have the greatest influence in Wash. D.C. The other Kurds, the pesh merga are partly US paid mercenaries. and as our surrogates we like them.

We are actively against ISIS only now because its an election year and even the MSM have shamed the administration for its inactivity. (Thank you Richard Engel)

Our government has been most interested in propping up our dying profit system, and democracy comes second, if at all. Economics never explained everything but at this time in history preserving "free" enterprise has become paramount.

Having two motives makes us ill-equipped to be a force for good in the world and at home. Only Sanders has really been for people and democracy. It is never too late for Clinton to step down before more leaks put Nazi Trump in office. (Though if you read No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald you find it harder to see much difference.)
+2 # Radscal 2016-08-30 22:14
guomashi, you know that the US has NEVER been interested in crushing ISIL. The goal has always been to "regime change' Assad, and break Syria into powerless statelets, or at least a "failed state."
+36 # rivervalley 2016-08-29 19:04
There are oil pipelines that cross Turkey and more are planned. American Interests demand that the host country be kept happy. If that happens to involve killing a few hundred or million people, well, that can be arranged.
+24 # PeacefulGarden 2016-08-29 19:31
Well shesh, you got that right. It is all about the pipelines, end of story. Everything else is just fodder. Biden is Mr. Banker. Mr. Credit Card.
+5 # economagic 2016-08-30 07:31
Right. There was an article by RFK Jr. on RSN yesterday, with details and history.
+30 # Ralph 2016-08-29 19:20
Old US policy: kill everyone that gets in our way.
+45 # grandlakeguy 2016-08-29 21:34
It is hard to believe that once upon a time Americans were the good guys (mostly).

Now it just seems to be an unobtainable fantasy to attain that role.

Certainly with a Hillary Clinton Presidency things will only get much worse.
+37 # DurangoKid 2016-08-29 22:30
First off you have to dispense with any ideas of justice. It was never about that. The empire reacts moment to moment on the signals that point to the greatest return on resources expended. Those who were allies for one moment are gladly sacrificed a moment later for the possible gains. The only loyalty is to increasing profits. It's the ideology of cancer. Growth for the sake of growth forsaking all else.
+15 # indian weaver 2016-08-30 06:41
The USA has made over 300 treaties with Native Americans since it became a nation. It has kept almost none of them. Most treaties were broken by further incursions and massacres of Native American land and peoples within days of signing any treaty. Anyone out there actually believe a word Obama says, or anyone else in the USA's fascist regime?
-1 # sashapyle 2016-09-04 18:01
You continue to single out Obama. He is no better and no worse than all the rest of them. Time to worry about what's coming next, because he is a lame duck, on his way out the door, and unlikely to continue trying to run the world the way the Clintons have done all along.
+33 # William Brandon Shanley 2016-08-29 22:59
The Venetian-Anglo- American model of Empire is to create civil wars, foment wars between allies, assassinate game changers, lie, deceive, divide nations, dump products, realize genocide. When will the world wake up to the true intents of this lunatic, pathological mindset of finance oligarchy that is responsible for every war and economic catastrophe of past 700 years since Dante's days of The Divine Comedy?
+4 # William Brandon Shanley 2016-08-29 23:01
+15 # dotlady 2016-08-29 23:27
US eyes on the oil prize have created a madhouse of destruction and waste.
+20 # John Puma 2016-08-30 02:03
Turkey has a critical geographic location. It is the historic gateway to Asia and it controls naval traffic into and out of the Black Sea, on which resides Russia's only warm water port in the Crimea. It's landmass is barely 150 miles from Russia, across Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Turkey is a member of NATO, ie the US's army in Europe. There are some 100 nuclear warheads located at the Incirlik military base.

The current attack on the Kurds by Turkey is to keep open the supply/escape lines used to maintain ISIS.

The US's "confusing" dance in Syria has ONE objective: remove Assad from office. If that is achieved "failed state" will take on a new meaning and the chances for WWIII will increase alrmingly - just in time for the Generalisssima to prove she's as tough as any male warmonger.
+1 # RLF 2016-08-30 06:10
Just one problem with Turkey as an was just taken over by a tyrannical Muslimist dictator...time to give them weapons like we did Bin Laden!
+7 # John Puma 2016-08-30 06:25
Don't 100 nuclear war heads count?

In general, the US demands ONE thing from the leaders of the world: unquestioning obedience.

To the extent they don't obey, is the extent they get the shaft ... except those who can defend themselves, of course.
+5 # indian weaver 2016-08-30 06:44
Just like the young black doode had to prove he's a man to the CIA and NSA by committing worldwide genocide. Obama is a big boy. He can assassinate innocent civilians from his basement play station, with impunity. This is how killers with no sense of honor live and kill. So, obama has proven his manhood with genocide. What a guy. "I'm a big boy now, so there CIA." - Obama the Pretender.
+17 # Anonymot 2016-08-30 02:55
"The continuing incoherence, insanity, and ultimate inanity of US policy in and around Syria..."

Exactly when was the last American foreign policy coherent, sane, and brilliant? 1944? Maybe the Cuban Missile Crisis as an isolated instance?

Look at the US as a corporation playing by standard corporate rules:
We have short-term vision.
Nothing, no one counts, but US.
We have only bottom-line monetary profit as our goals.
The interests of all Others are of no importance.
Others are all competitors or useful.
Those not useful in our short term approach are dispensable.
Those who are useful today, but not useful tomorrow may be eliminated when that tomorrow arrives.

We have gone from a nice little company to a global monster with big eyes, big teeth, and a small stomach. We shall choke to death like the snake that swallowed the alligator (if you remember that photo.)

Hillary will be that snake. Putin will be the alligator. Nothing will survive the conflict which embodies all of your quote above.
+7 # Anonymot 2016-08-30 03:05
I with you, except for one sentence: "Turkey’s longstanding, abysmal record on political and human rights is a prime reason that the European Union continues to deny Turkey EU membership."

Jimmy Carter's rush to "human rights" has obliged a massive amount of lip movement, but all governments know it's for public consumption and consider it a childish Americanism. Don't believe for a nanosecond that anyone who influences Washington's foreign policy enters human rights as a real part of decision making. It's all done with cold, calculating, heartlessness. (Hillary and Kissinger will be the worst since Nixon and Kissinger.)

I live part of the time in Europe. THE (not A) prime reason the EU hasn't invited Turkey in is because Germany, France, and the UK already have more Moslem inhabitants, legal & illegal, than they feel they can deal with. Turkey is not a modern state, as you say, but it is a powerful Moslem nation and veering more and more to a religious state. Hillary's forcing millions of Syrian/Iraqi/Af ghan refugees to suddenly invade Europe is the proof of the pudding. Europe can't deal with 3 million more Islamic people. Adding a proper democratic Islamic nation of 75 million is seen as more than the EU institution can handle.

Europe opened its doors wide to blacks and Moslems in the '60s and have yet to digest the results. They wish to remain predominately white and nominally Christian. Turkey's EU admission would destroy that in the long run.
+7 # Doll 2016-08-30 06:01
What scares me is the 50 or so US nukes in Turkey. I do not trust Erdogan.
+12 # indian weaver 2016-08-30 06:48
Really, the only thing adverse that Erdogan can do with America's nuclear arsenal at Incirlik is threaten to confiscate them, or destroy them! He cannot actually arm and fire them, that is a certainty. And, if he actually threatened to confiscate them, Turkey would have hell to pay to the Pentagon.
+7 # lfeuille 2016-08-30 18:54
Can this get any more fucked up? When your enemies change from day to day it's time to get out.
+2 # Robinski 2016-08-31 06:45
I believe it is the objective of the US to keep the Middle Eastern nations autocratically run and in a state of chaos. The reasons are, first, that autocracies are easier to negotiate with than more democratic governments, where the rulers have to at least appear to include citizen interests in their deliberations. And, second, dealing with tenuous political systems is less time consuming and expensive than dealing with stronger, entrenched systems.
+2 # elkingo 2016-08-31 12:39
You nailed it in the last paragraph: incoherent. Not only US policy, but the entire situation "over there". US Special Forces fighting against a US sponsored coalition?! Large cohesive ethnicities spread over national borders? Sheer incoherence, beyond even Orwell,where "Love is Hate" etc.are even in their way a strange coherence, given the Kafkaesque/Alic e in Wonderland murderous society envisioned. And may I add encroaching in reality.

You are one of the few precious humane, forthright and humane/ethical writers left.
But how the hell can you call Assad, or for that matter Erdogan "legitimate"? Bad word choice?
+2 # WBoardman 2016-08-31 16:34
Is "legitimate" a bad word choice, elkingo wonders,
when referring to Erdogan and Assad.

Quite possibly.

All I meant by using it was that these are heads of state
established in their nations and recognized as such
by the outside world (sometimes with hostility, to be sure,
but each represents a regime that one might want changed).

The ethical umbra that sometimes comes with "legitimate"
was not part of my intent, but there it is anyway.

What would be a better word?
0 # elkingo 2016-08-31 12:46
Heads of state the world round are murderously psychotic -killing millions for irrelevant motives. We have got to recall all of them, and establish a unified, social-democrat ic single planetary state before it is too late. Grandiose? You bet. Imperative? No less.
+2 # elkingo 2016-08-31 13:16
Maybe this is a possible "nutshell". We covet oil which is manifestly fucking up the planet, threatening life itself. We have no aversion to killing myriad countless people (remember the children) for this purpose. We hob-nob with and support with monstrous foreign dictators and crush indigenous liberation movements.

Can this be called anything but murderously and suicidally insane? We must think in terms of the culturally psychotic: not siding with life against death. Not siding with love against hate.

Tennessee Williams said: "If people behaved like nations they would be committed to institutions." How 'bout that?
+2 # elkingo 2016-08-31 13:50
Bravo Durango Kid!
It's true: mindless growth for its own sake, which can only lead to disaster: the killing of the whole organism.

We have no notion of sufficiency, of enoughness, of the Golden Mean of ancient Greece. The operative notion is More: more for its own sake. How much more? More.

Global sustainability, anyone?

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