Iraq: US intervention on behalf of Yazidis?

Well, this is surreal. In authorizing US air-strikes in northern Iraq, President Obama invoked the responsibility to protect the Yazidis from ISIS and avert a potential "genocide." Before the missiles fall, there will be air-drops of aid to the several thousand Yazidis besieged on a mountaintop in Sinjar, Nineveh governorate, driven from their homes below by ISIS militants. Said Obama: "Earlier this week, one Iraqi cried that there is no one coming to help. Well, today America is coming to help." (AP, AFP, NYT, Aug. 7) We have been noting for years the growing persecution and attacks on the Yazidis as jihadists have been unleashed in the decade since the US invasion, and warning of the threat of genocide. But too small to matter in the Great Power game, their plight was little noted by the outside world. Now their name is on the lips of the leader of the West, and in the global headlines.

"I don't see any attention from the rest of the world," a Yazidi identified only as "Karim" told the New Yorker in a report that appeared Aug. 6, three days after the Yazidis were driven from Sinjar. "In one day, they killed more than two thousand Yazidi in Sinjar, and the whole world says, 'Save Gaza, save Gaza.'" (CNN, Aug. 7) The figure may not be that high, but there is no denying the threat. Vivian Dakheel, the only Yazidi deputy in the Iraqi parliament, read a statement Aug. 5, warning of an imminent "genocide," saying: "ISIS has so far killed 500 Yazidis and took many women and girls prisoner in order to have them as bondmaids." (Azzaman, Aug. 5) Cries on behalf of the Yazidis were first raised by groups such as the Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq, whose Christina Patto said some 1,500 were killed as the residents were driven from Sinjar, scores of women and girls "captured and sold"; and that some 50 children have since died of thrist on the mountain. "Some families throw their children from the top of Sinjar mountain in order not to see them die from hunger or thirst, or not to be taken by the terrorists." (Patheos, Aug. 6)

The attacks have also been documented on a daily basis by the Yazidis' own nascent news service, Êzîdî Press, with short updates being posted several times an hour.

The region's Christians, also under threat from ISIS, have rallied to the Yazidis. There has of course been a mass exodus of Christians from ISIS-held territory. In an interview aired by MEMRI TV, Orthodox Archbishop Nikodimos Daoud of Mosul (speaking from refuge in Erbil, the Kurdish capital) said: "It's genocide, ethnic cleansing." He said he had remained silent for fear of provoking reprisals on Christians who had stayed behind in Mosul, but now they have all fled, faced with a choice of conversion to Islam or death. (AINA, Aug. 7)

Yes, we are well aware of the problems with MEMRI, which is an organ of Zionist propaganda. But MEMRI actually lifted the interview from Russia Today, the original source. Bishop Daoud also gave a graphic account of being driven from Mosul to Radio Austrailia July 30. "They take my church and my nursery and my house and my family house and everything what I have," he said ion convincingly stilted English. "They took and they steal everything from the Christian people—their gold, their money, cars, ID, passports—anything. Even they said to Christian people: 'You are dogs, you are dogs, you don't have anything in Mosul.' And they had in their hands guns and swords."

Chaldean Christian leader in the US Mark Arabo told CNN that 300,000 Christians have been displaced, and those left behind facing forces that are "systematically beheading children," with their heads placed on sticks in public places as a warning. He said even the promise of tolerance in exchange for payment of the jizya tax has proved false—even after paying, families still had their wives and daughters taken by the militants. Churches hundreds of years old have been blown up. He called it a "Christian holocaust," and said he was petitioning Congress for the US to provide asylum for refugees.

How many of these accounts are accurate has yet to be verified by rights groups. But there is no reason to believe local Christian and Yazidi leaders have been coached or groomed to expedite a war drive. So please… spare us any of the usual Idiot Left kneejerk jive about how the genocide threat is a manufactured propaganda charade. Any such talk in this context is repugnant. (At least the conspiracy theory that ISIS is a US pawn must now be starting to wear thin.)

All that said, it is axiomatic that imperialism never acts out of "humanitarian" motives (a point certainly not lost on the people of Gaza, whose recent slaughter was abetted by Washington). The Independent states rather obviously that the pending air-strikes "may also be designed to blunt the advance of Isis fighters towards Erbil, where some of the US advisors are stationed." That's a reference to the 300 "advisors" Obama sent in after Iraq's north fell to ISIS. Washington has long cultivated Iraq's Kurds as proxies, and is betting on the Kurdistan Regional Government as the best guarantor of a pro-West stability in the region, with the Baghdad government in virtual collapse. The fall of Erbil to ISIS would be a disaster for Western designs, as well (of course) as for the people of Kurdistan. The pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat informs us that US military advisors are "establishing a coordination center" with Peshmerga forces. The main activity at the moment seems to be "digging a trench line along the edge of the territory under Kurdish control" to block an ISIS advance.

Turkey has also pledged to back up the KRG, and has already sent its F-16s into the skies of northern Iraq. (Rudaw, BasNews, Aug. 7) Meanwhile, the Kurdish Ministry of Peshmerga announced that no agreement has been signed between the KRG and the Baghdad government to coordinate their forces against ISIS. (BasNews, Aug. 7) Another testament to the fact that the Kurds have become more critical to the Western alliance than Baghdad—this is even acknowledged in concrete terms by Turkey, the Kurds' traditional enemy.

As we've said in the context of Syria, more than once, as well as in other contexts: The oppressed are entitled to take their allies where they can find them. The threat of genocide in Iraq could not be more real, and the world owes the Yazidis, Christians and Kurds some kind of solidarity. Of course, the apocalyptic situation in northern Iraq is itself the product of Great Power adventures and intrigues, and the empire always brings imperial interests to the game…

  1. Yazidis and propaganda

    Talk about "bad facts." It seems the New Yorker piece on the Yazidis was written by none other than George Packer, who as late as 2005 finally choked down a little crow over his support of the Iraq invasion! (See SF Chronicle, Dec. 4, 2005) Just what the Yazidis need—the most prominent American journalist going to bat for them can be plausibly accused of being a "liberal hawk" attempting to exploit them for war propaganda!

    And on a lesser note… How can you get it so egregiously wrong, and still be upheld as a big star by the New fucking Yorker?! I was raising the alarm about the threat to the Yazidis seven years ago, before it suddenly got cool. And I vocally opposed the war from the start, of course. But do I get printed in the New Yorker?

    Note the subtlety of the propaganda system… It is necessary for the "humanitarian interventionists" to monopolize the issue of genocide-threatened peoples… leaving the Idiot Left to turn to kneejerk denialism in reaction.

  2. ISIS and conspiranoia

    We had hoped that the conspiracy theory that ISIS is a US pawn must now be starting to wear thin, what with the air-strikes and all. Some folks are still at it, however. A story on the Truth Seeker website informs us "ISIS Is A Zionist Plot; A Jew Is Leading The Group." And a new Facebook meme reads: "ISIS = MOSSAD / CIA / THE SAUDI ROYALS / MI6 / ZIONISM"

    No arguing with some people, I guess.