You have to check out Michael Totten’s great post.
I found a seat next to an old man and ordered a glass of (what else?) Iraqi style tea.
It’s hard to describe what happened next without sounding arrogant or full of myself. I don’t mean it that way. The same thing would likely have happened to you if we had switched places. Almost everyone in that tea shop – and it was a crowded place – gathered around me and wanted to shake my hand as though I were a rock star.
People in the cities are used to seeing foreigners. Hardly anyone ever stared at me on the streets or paid me much mind. But American civilians in black leather jackets aren’t a common sight in Tawela. It’s the kind of village where hardly anything ever happens, where hardly anything ever changes, so just the act of my showing up was (apparently) a huge deal.
I couldn’t talk to everyone. It would be dark soon and we needed to get down the wet mountain roads before nightfall. But I asked the old man sitting next to me a few questions through my translator Alan.
His name is Osman Sadeq Hakim and he told me he is 64 years old.
What was the hardest time this village has seen?
“When the Iran/Iraq war was here,” he said. “That was the worst time. Before the war there were 800 families. Most were displaced. Mine was one of them. The Iraqi army didn’t allow us to enter the village. We had to sneak in through the orchards.”
What are you most afraid of right now?
“Islamists,” he said bluntly without a moment’s hesitation.
Did Ansar Al Islam occupy this village?
“Yes,” he said. “We didn’t want them to stay but they forced themselves on us. They were not as strong here as they were in Biara, but they were still able to impose their rules on us.”
Who belonged to Ansar Al Islam? Were they from around here?
“Indians, Kurds, Arabs, and Persians. The Iranian government supported them against us.”
What do you think of the Iranian government?
“It is not a good regime. We do visit people from there, but we don’t do it officially.”
Were you affected by the Kurdish civil war? (The PUK and the KDP fought a stupid low-level conflict in the mid 1990s.)
“No,” he said. “We were like one family. We did not allow that war to come here.”
Should Iraqi Kurdistan declare independence from Baghdad?
“We are a different people. We have our own history and culture. We will join with the Iranian Kurds, Inshallah.”
A young man who spoke perfect English pushed his way through the crowd that had gathered around. He wanted to make sure he had a chance to speak to me. He crouched down so he could look me in the eye while I sat.
What do you think? I asked him. Should Iraqi Kurdistan declare independence?
“If the West stands with us, we want independence for all the Kurds in the world. We are one people. Kurds in Turkey, Syria, and Iran, are exactly like us.”
I wanted to know: What’s the one best thing the West can do for the Kurds? He told me the same old answer that has been bouncing around in this part of the world for decades:
“We want Kurdistan to be the 51st American state.”
Read it all. And someday I have GOT to try Iraqi style tea. So many troops from Iraq have mentioned that it’s wonderful and addictive. They are often given the tea by the liberated Iraqis who have befriended them (uh, you liberals will read that, “by the terrorized Iraqis who hate them and all of us…”)
Read Iraqpundit too.