"Their minds are filled with big ideas, images and distorted facts.”
—Bob Dylan, “Idiot Wind” Blood on the Tracks (1974)
On 19 March 2003, the United States, the United Kingdom, and a “coalition of the willing” declared war on the Republic of Iraq. The ostensible justification of the war was to terminate the imminent international threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. None of the editors of this collection believed this warrant for the war, and we regretted the war’s lack of strict conformity to the standards of international law. But, unlike some critics of the American- and British-led invasion of Iraq, we looked forward to the termination of the political institutions of Ba'thist Iraq and the opportunities that would create for a democratic and just reconstruction. For the Ba'thists had organized a regime of mass destruction. It was habitually genocidal by the standards of the 1948 international convention, engaging in “the following acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such: (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” (Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, cited in Thornberry 1991).
Ba'thists intermittently exterminated Kurds, Shi'a, Marsh Arabs, Yezidis, and small Christian communities. They deported whole populations of villages and towns, razed villages, systematically practiced torture, and committed every other imaginable gross violation of human rights. The regime was equally politicidal; it sought to kill its political opponents, in whole or in part. Refusal to join the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party was sufficient to be defined as an enemy of the state and liable to torture, deportation, or execution. The regime was also misogynist, indeed gynocidal. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documented organized rapes of women held in custody, the ritualized beheading in front of their families of women defamed as prostitutes, and the relegalization of so-called “honor killings.” The minimal estimate of those murdered by Ba'th governments since the early 1980s is 300,000 people. This figure excludes those killed in direct wars with Iran, Kuwait, and the U.S. and its allies, and those killed in wars between Ba'thists and Kurdish insurgents before 1979. Peter Sluglett, a contemporary historian of Iraq, estimates that as many more people, up to 300,000, may have been killed in the spring of 1991 in Saddam’s counter-attack against Kurdish and Shi'a rebels (Farouk-Sluglett and Sluglett 2003, 289). Three hundred thousand dead from genocide is the figure publicized in 2003 by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Director of Human Rights, Sandy Hodgkinson (CBS News 2003). The remains of many of these victims lie in mass graves yet to be scientifically exhumed and properly documented—a task for which the CPA was disgracefully ill-prepared. Three hundred thousand is, however, a low estimate of genocide victims. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on 20 November 2003 that as many as 400,000 people are buried in the mass graves (USAID 2004). Others, including General Jay Garner, the first American-appointed authority in Iraq, suggest that the victims of Saddam’s regime number one million or more (Fineman 2003). The Kurdistan Regional Government estimates that 182,000 people were killed in the 1988 Anfal campaign alone (KRG 2004). Even by Hodgkinson’s conservative estimate, the death toll from genocide would constitute a staggering 1.25 percent of Iraq’s estimated population.
The regime’s genocidal, politicidal, and gynocidal nature should have been the enduring centerpiece of the global political and media attention paid to Iraq from 1968, or at least after 1979 when Saddam became its president-leader (al-Rais al-Qaid). Not so. Oil, weapons of mass destruction, sanctions, and Saddam’s self-styled roles as a champion of Palestine and a secularist opponent of Iranian Shi'a ayatollahs received far more extensive consideration. The liberal internationalist interventions against genocide and ethnic expulsion in the Balkans during the 1990s were not widely canvassed as equally appropriate for Iraq. It was felt sufficient to protect Kurds from the air, while Shi'a rebels and the Marsh Arabs were abandoned to Saddam’s Republican Guard in 1991 and only benefited from the Allied imposition of a no-fly zone, much too late, in the summer of 1992. Genocide, ethnic expulsion, and coercive assimilation were not seen for what they are: the worst of all governmental crimes, mandating uniform global revulsion and international sanctions.
Regrettably, it is not yet an axiom of democratic governments’ foreign policy that mass-destruction regimes be relentlessly and universally opposed and, where prudent and feasible, overthrown. In political judgment, and the public media, the control and termination of mass-destruction regimes should take precedence over the subsidiary, though not entirely unrelated, question of weapons of mass destruction. But, neither President Bush nor Prime Ministers Aznar, Blair, or Howard felt that a war overtly launched against Saddam’s mass destruction of the residents of Iraq would win domestic support. They calculated that the alleged existence of externally deployable weapons of mass destruction provided the best public rationale for an invasion. This judgment betrayed their convictions about their own citizens. They believed that only direct, credibly palpable threats to their domestic security would generate support for war, invasion, and regime change in Iraq.
After conducting the invasion successfully on these premises, Coalition leaders found themselves coping with an unanticipated and increasingly embarrassing difficulty: the much-maligned UN inspectors had, almost certainly, successfully terminated Saddam's program to develop or redevelop arsenals of nuclear, chemical, and biological weaponry. The President of the U.S. and the Prime Ministers of the UK, Spain, and Australia and their confidantes then appeared either as awkward liars to their publics, or, almost as embarrassingly, as the dupes of their intelligence agencies, which themselves had probably been duped. The U.S.- and UK-dominated Coalition fought the war without significant advance institutional planning, either for the management of regime collapse, as Karin von Hippel’s essay here demonstrates, or for coherent, constructive regime change and transformation, as Peter Galbraith maintains in Chapter to. In consequence, the Coalition Provisional Authority), nicely satirized as “Can't Provide Anything,” initially presided over a chaotic mess, especially in predominantly Arab Iraq. They compounded that mess by creating a climate in which torture has been practiced by U.S. soldiers in Saddam’s own dungeons in Abu Ghraib. The sole facts that might be invoked in mitigation of this total betrayal of liberal democratic values were the shame aroused in the Western public and the partial holding to account of the perpetrators. That policy morass and its human repercussions have become the dominant preoccupations of the Coalition members’ media.
What was blown away by the winds of policy idiocy in Washington and Westminster, before and after the war, was the prospect of a better justified and far more effective intervention. Coalition leaders got the facts wrong, held distorted images of their own constituents and of Iraqis and Kurdistanis, and missed the important big ideas. The idiot wind reaped its harvest. Poor planning facilitated Ba'thist resistance to occupation. Failure adequately to secure either the external or the internal borders of the occupied territory made Iraq and Kurdistan vulnerable to every suicide-oriented Islamist. The coalition’s counterinsurgency policy was not coherently married to constitutional rebuilding and political reconstruction, which are the prime concerns of the writers of this collection. The CPA would eventually waver between rigor in eliminating Ba'thists from public life and rehabilitating them. Policy often seemed designed, at best, to facilitate a hasty exit with minimal losses of Coalition troops. This picture of disarray is, we suggest, far more accurate than the claim in much of the Arab media and some of the Western left that a coherent recolonization of Iraq is under way.
The editors seek to distance this book and its contributors from the thought patterns and agenda of certain neoconservatives in Washington and some New Labourites in Westminster. Bush’s and Blair’s appraisal of the nature of Saddam’s regime, including the view that it would redevelop weapons of mass destruction if it could, was broadly correct, although they radically overestimated its capacities to put up any sustained resistance to American military power. But, like many other observers, we deeply regret the fact that the removal of this genocidal regime was not the centerpiece of the case for war, or the focus of the limited strategic planning for the rebuilding of Iraq and Kurdistan. We accept—indeed, insist—that Saddam’s regime would have been both expansionist and committed genocide again had it been allowed to regroup and express its inner dynamics during the 1990s. We regard as naive the argument of some opponents of invading Iraq that Saddam was “boxed in” and no longer posed a real and imminent threat. It is now known that he was able to manipulate the UN sanctions regime, and the huge corruption in the oil for food program has retrospectively besmirched both the UN and the permanent members of the Security Council (including those who opposed the war on Iraq, notably France and Russia, and those who supported it, the U.S. and the UK).
The claim that Saddam was boxed in withstands scrutiny only as applied to external or inter-state relations. The regime remained exter minationist domestically, as was evident in the attacks in the marsh regions of the southern governorates in late 1998, a decade after the Anfal campaign against the Kurds. The termination of the Ba'thist regime was therefore a consummation devoutly to be wished. This normative logic has a corollary: the reconstruction of Iraq and Kurdistan needs to be done in such a way that there can be no repetition of genocide, ethnic expulsion, or coercive assimilation. This concern has often been lost sight of, or inadequately considered, since the “liberation” or “invasion” began on 19 March 2003.
Some opponents of the war had entirely rational and well-considered fears about the unilateral use of American power and very reasonable observations about the failure of the U.S.A. and its allies to address other palpable injustices in the Middle East. These critics were right to question whether a preventive war was necessary to destroy a regime believed to have immediately externally usable weapons of mass destruction. But, the case for an interventionist war against a genocidal and expulsionist regime would, we think, have been far more difficult to refute. In apparent naïveté, George W. Bush sought to remind Americans and others that Saddam had “gassed his own people.” He may have been unaware that in the late 1980s officials in his father’s administration had falsely suggested that Iranian forces had executed those poisonous atrocities. The elder Bush had followed the Reagan administration’s tacit determination after 1980 to back Saddam against Iran’s ayatollahs as the lesser of two evils. So, some of his officials had been reluctant to accept that Saddam had gassed any people and claimed preposterously that Iranians had gassed their own military allies, very close to their own border, and then brought the destruction of Halabja to the attention of the world’s media in a clever and diabolical public relations conspiracy. That Saddam gassed people and committed genocide should not be in question (although reasonable people differ in their estimates of the number of killings). Reading the documentation and data of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, and the annual reports of Max van der Stoel, the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Iraq between 1992 and 1999 will quell any doubts among skeptics (see especially Human Rights Watch 1993). These reports are readily confirmed by the burial specialists in nongovernmental agencies (NGOs) who should be engaged in the exhumation of mass graves in Kurdistan and Iraq, for example. Archeologists for Human Rights, or by simple conversations with survivors and eyewitnesses. Those who deny genocidal gassing by Iraq have been eloquently and effectively refuted (Casey 2003). The Ba'thists own record-keeping in any case convicts them. But there was something very misleading in President George W. Bush’s claim that the victims of the gassing were Saddam’s “people.” Tikrit’s Sunni Arab Ba'thists were not gassed. Kurds were.
The Ba'thist regime was both ethnically and religiously exterminationist. It embedded a remarkable but horrifie series of syntheses. It bellowed a nominally pan-Arab nationalism, invoking all the defeats suffered by Arab peoples in our times, but sat astride a minority Sunni Arab tyranny and made no efforts to achieve Arab unification except through the conquest of Kuwait. It proclaimed itself modern, socialist, and secular, but its party structures were eventually subordinated to a clan of Saddam’s cousins. It systematically atomized most of its internal opponents through standard totalitarian routines before its logic drove it toward territorial aggrandizement, declaring war on Iran in 1980 and occupying Kuwait in 1991. From the reservoirs of the treasury of a postcolonial rentier oil-producer, it lavishly funded its party, its army, its police, its intelligence services, its domestic repression, and its external military adventures. Its skills in financial and moral corruption enabled it to manipulate the UN sanctions regime. Its attempted conquest of Kuwait proved to be its eventual undoing, although Saddam enjoyed a reprieve of a dozen years.
The Ba'thists came to power in 1968 through a coup. Their success was unusual because it was a comeback; they had been displaced in a prior coup in 1963. The chaos, incompetence, and malevolence they had displayed had produced widespread popular approval for their forcible exclusion from government. But, returned to executive control, they learned how to hold onto power. They took management guidance from the KGB’s Yuri Andropov. They sought to make themselves coup-proof in the same manner as the Marxist-Leninist tyrannies of the Soviet bloc, checking and balancing party, army, and state institutions with multiple and rival intelligence services reporting to the dictator, in the manner memorably described in Kanan Makiya’s Republic of Fear, previously published under the pseudonym of Samir jil-Khalil (al-Khalil 1990). The regime was a stunning and stupefying hybrid. At its peak stood one party, one ethnoreligious minority, one region, one clan, one family, and one strongman.
Ideologically, it was nationalist, socialist, anti-imperialist, racist, and opportunistically Islamist. Economically, it was a rentier oil state, a quasi-Soviet planned system, and welfare statist (or, rather, bribery statist) in its moment of affluence. Its alliances and its military armory before its invasion of Kuwait in 1990 had included tacit or explicit support and the purchase of weapons of mass destruction from the U.S., the USSR, and the major states of the European Union. Avowedly secular, it launched the terminal ambitions of the Anfal campaign against the Kurds by invoking the eighth sura from the Qur’an that sanctions the spoliation and looting of nonbelievers. According to sura 8: 12, Allah declares: “I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, maim them in every limb.”
This was not merely bloodthirsty theological poetry; Islam was pressed, when convenient, into the service of the Arabization of Iraq. Even though most Kurds were and are Sunni Muslims, the regime treated them as “infidels” when that was useful. Coup-proof, Soviet-style; affluent when the oil was flowing, unlike Soviet puppet regimes; racist and expansionist, invoking both Arab and pre-Arab civilizational justifications (one division of the Republican Guard was named after Hammurabi, and Saddam erected Assyrian artifacts on the citadel of Erbil), this horrific hybrid would not have fallen through domestic opposition in its Sunni Arab heartlands, ideological doubt, or loss of élan. Like the Nazi dictatorship it resembled, it could lose power only though defeat in war. That is why the editors of this book, like most residents of Iraq, be they Arabs, Turkomen, or Kurds, Muslims, Christians, Yezidis, or Jews, liberals, old communists, or Shi'a fundamentalists, welcomed the repercussions of the war that President Bush and Premiers Blair, Aznar, and Howard fought for the wrong public reasons. There could be no empathy or nostalgia for Saddam. The sole internal constituency opposed to what became a war of liberation was the much-reduced base of the Ba'thists among Sunni Muslims.
This book, our collective contribution to debates over this most controversial war and its consequences, focuses on the future of Kurdistan in a new Iraq. It does not address, except as necessary, the rest of the former Iraq. After the first, introductory chapter, it also generally ignores the other territories of what some fear and others hope might constitute Greater Kurdistan (except parenthetically, or through historical references). Our book is an appraisal of the immediate past of what is officially called Iraqi Kurdistan by some and “Northern Iraq" by others; it evaluates Kurdistan’s likely and desirable futures and its relations with the rest of Iraq. The book offers both analysis and prescription. It is not neutral. It takes the existence of Kurdistan as a political entity as a desirable given, although our contributors have different conceptions of how the relationships between Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq might and should be remade. Some authors envisage variations on autonomy; others foresee variations on a federal unit, a fcderacv in an otherwise unitar) state, or a sovereign Kurdistan. They anticipate many different possibilities in the rest of Iraq. None excludes bleak futures. The history of Iraq does not inspire facile optimism. Although the premises of our contributors are not neutral, we hope readers will agree that none of our contributors betrays scholarly standards in the conduct of argument, or the presentation of evidence.
Our normative arguments are directed toward avoiding any repetition of Iraqi regimes' treatment of their largest national minority, the Kurds; and, equally, toward assisting the equal, fair, and proportional treatment of all the peoples of Iraq, whatever their national, ethnic, or linguistic origins, or their religious or nonreligious convictions. Our contributors contest the premise that Iraq has been, is, or should be one nation, or that it has, or should have, just one people. We are not motivated by what some dismiss as fashionable, pious, or politically correct multiculturalism, but rather by enlightened realism. Iraq’s sociology and ethnography are incontrovertibly bi-national, arguably pluri-national. They are certainly multiethnic and religiously plural. Our contributors recognize and commend the international and domestic recognition of Iraq’s deep diversity. The tone and the arguments herein are at odds with those of certain Arab liberals and integrationist American administrators and academics who, like some authorities under the British mandate, want to invent a single Iraq where all the people are “just Iraqis.” We think that they are confusing, either guilefully or naively, state-building with nation-building (Connor 1972). They are at their most naïve when they compare the post-World War II reconstructions of Germany and Japan with the task of reconstructing Iraq. For Germany and especially Japan were essentially homogeneous nations, and their cultural unity facilitated their reconstruction from the ravages of fascism. Iraq has no analogous cultural unity.
An Iraqi state can be rebuilt, although that is by no means guaranteed. It may even be rebuilt as a democracy, as a secular state (or, at least, as a religiously pluralist and tolerant state), as a state that treats women as equals and not as chattels, and one that develops and cherishes all its citizens and children equally. It may be rebuilt as a federation. All of this will be extraordinarily difficult to deliver. But such rebuilding will not work if Iraq is reengineered around the illusion that it has been, is, or can be one nation. Our contributors’ conviction is that, although dual and multiple identities play a role in the past and future of Iraq’s peoples, it would be irresponsibly utopian to assume that most, let alone all, of the denizens of Iraq can easily be assimilated 0/ merely integrated into a common identity, especially after their differentiated experiences of Ba'thism. If the genocidal destruction of European Jewry helped produce Israel rather than integrationist-minded Jews, no one should be surprised that the Anfal campaign has produced Kurdistan and Kurds rather than inte-grationist-minded “Iraqi Kurds.” If ethnic expulsions and their repercussions produced present-day Bosnia-Hercegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia, then no one should be surprised that Kurds, Arabs, Turkomen, and Christians dispute the “right of return,” settlements, historical claims to indigenous status, and requirements of truth and reconciliation. If pleasant islands can be as ferociously contested as Ireland, Fiji, Cyprus, and Sri Lanka, then why should anyone expect the cramped river beds of Mesopotamia and the freer mountains of Kurdistan to be sites of utopian forgiveness and reconciliation? Given that Beirut, Belfast, and Jerusalem are hotly claimed by rival national or ethnic communities, why should anyone be surprised that Kirkuk might become an epicenter of urban violence if past expulsions, expropriations, forced settlements, and gerrymandering are not properly redressed through demonstrably fair processes? If contemporary peoples have nowhere extensively voluntarily assimilated in their own homelands, why should any reasonable person expect Kurds, Arabs, Turkomen, and Assyrians to set exemplary standards in interethnic and interreligious relations? If in the last two decades your own people—if you belong to one, or just one—had been assaulted, robbed, deported, and forced to speak and write another language, would you now recommend that they turn the other cheek and become “just” citizens of a state “for all” and adherents of “constitutional patriotism,” merely because a small minority from among their erstwhile oppressors promise a new era?
These rhetorical questions are intended to convey this book’s message that there can, with difficulty, be a new Iraq, but there cannot be “just Iraqis.” There must minimally be Kurdistanis, as well as Arab Iraqis, if there is to be a durable, let alone flourishing, political reconstruction. It is our conviction that the recognition of Kurdistan and its just constitutional treatment will be the decisive test of whether there can be a renewed and democratic Iraq. Kurdistan may continue to disprove the thesis that people of predominantly Muslim beliefs cannot become democratic, secular, or tolerant of other nationalities and other ethnic, religious, and linguistic communities. But Kurdistan can pass these tests only on one condition: if it is given sufficient freedom to demonstrate its capacity to do so, by the rest of Iraq, by Iraq’s neighbors, and by the great powers.
Only one editor of this book, Khaled Salih, was born in Kurdistan, and he is now a Swedish citizen who was a beneficiary of political asylum. Most of our contributors have had first-hand experience in Kurdistan. Collectively, we refute the proverb that the only friends of the Kurds are the mountains of Kurdistan. The rest of our contributors might be regarded as honorary Kurdistanis, but are neither Kurdish by ethnicity nor Muslim by religion. Readers will assess whether the distance that creates makes their arguments more or less compelling.
This book emerged from two conferences, one held before the war at Odense, Denmark, at the University of Southern Denmark in December 2002, and one held in Washington, D.C., in September 2003, nearly six months after the war had begun. The University of Southern Denmark, the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences and its Solomon Asch Center for the Study of Ethno-Political Conflict, the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Washington Kurdish Institute, and Baban Computers of Erbil jointly funded the conferences. Scholars and practitioners at the first conference addressed the ten years of existence of the Kurdistan Regional Government and Kurdistan National Assembly (www.kurdistan.sdu.dk). This conference was held both to review the longest period of self-government in the history of modern Kurdistan and to assess, warily, the likely future of a post-Saddam Kurdistan if war were to occur. Presentations at this first conference were made by, among others, Brendan O'Leary, Ofra Bengio, Sophia Wanche, Khaled Salih, and Peter Galbraith. The second conference addressed the future of Kurdistan in a reconstructed Iraq. Brendan O’Leary, John McGarry, and Paul Williams made presentations there. Later contributions were sought from Michael Gunter and Molly McNulty, who participated in the Washington conference, and from Gareth Stansfield, who recently published the first comprehensive book on the Kurdistan Regional Government. Subsequently, Galbraith, O’Leary, and Salih were asked to constitute a constitutional advisory team that assists the Kurdis.tan Regional Governments and the Kurdistan National Assembly. In consequence, this collection has emerged from both pre- and postwar reflections and from the practical experiences of researching and advising in Kurdistan. As we go to press, all the contributions retain their urgency and, we think, have a pressing coherence. But we freely admit we would welcome the eventual redundancy of our arguments.
We owe warm thanks to Peter Agree of the University of Pennsylvania Press for his early support. The final text was edited with the assiduous, skilled assistance of Grey Osterud in Newton, Massachusetts. Salih and O’Leary, working on a mountain in Kurdistan, and McGarry, living in a functioning binational and bilingual federation, finalized this collection via email shortly after the Erbil bombings killed many people whom we had come to know and admire from Kurdistan’s principal political parties. We dedicate this book to the memory of one of the most distinguished victims of those bombings. Sami Abdulrahman shared the dream of a free Kurdistan with most of the people with whom he served, but as a realist he would have been content with a free Kurdistan in a free Iraq. The cause for which he lived and died still lives.
al-Khalil, Samir (pseudonym for Kanan Makiya). 1990. Republic of Fear: Saddam’s Iraq. London: Hutchinson Radius.
BBC News. 2001. “Iraqi Kurds’ Story of Expulsion.” 3 November, .
Casey, Leo. 2003. “Questioning Halabja: Genocide and the Expedient Political Lie.” Dissent 50(3): 61-65.
CBS News. 2003. “Powell ’88 Attack Proves War Case.” Halabja, 16 September. accessed 1 April 2004.
Connor, Walker. 1972. “Nation-Building or Nation-Destroying?” World Politics 24: 319-55-
Farouk-Sluglett, Marion and Peter Sluglett. 2003. Iraq Since 1958: From Revolution to Dictatorship. London: I.B. Tauris.
Fineman, Mark and John Hendren. 2003. “Garner: ‘A Million Iraqi Corpses Possible.’ ” Los Angeles Times, 3 July.
Human Rights Watch. 1993. Genocide in Iraq: The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds. New York: Middle East Watch Report, Human Rights Watch, July, .
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). 2004. “Anfal Campaign.” , accessed 1 April 2004.
United States Agency for International Development (USAID). 2004. “Iraq’s Legacy of Terror: Mass Graves.” accessed 1 April 2004.
Thomberry, Patrick. 1991. “The Convention on Genocide and the Protection of Minorities.” In International Law and the Rights of Minorities, ed. Patrick Thomberry. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 59-85.
The Denial, Resurrection, and Affirmation of Kurdistan
Brendan O’Leary and Khaled Salih
“Nature knows neither an equality of individuals nor an equality of nations; equality is a creation of law and its greatest benefit for those subject to it.”
—Karl Renner (1918)
“There is no such place as Kurdistan”
In January 2004, one of us traveled from the city of Erbil, known in Kurdish as Hewlêr, the site of the Kurdistan National Assembly, into the Republic of Turkey to begin a journey to London. The border checkpoint is at Ibrahim Khalil in Kurdish, or Habur in Turkish. By prior agreement, he was not required to go through tire usual rigors of inspection by the Turkish military, who are usually more discourteous, inquisitorial, and disobliging than the conventional border police and visa inspectors. No such luck awaited another traveler, a professional consultant who held a U.S. passport and had hitched a ride in the same vehicle. As he later explained in Diyarbakir airport, situated in what is officially southeastern Turkey, a predominantly Kurdish region, he had been detained for two hours. Two military officials had instructed the consultant, in English, to open and switch on his laptop computer, but not, as he initially surmised, as an instance of now routine international security procedures. Instead, they ordered him to use the “find facility” on his computer to search for the word “Kurdistan.” To their evident satisfaction and feigned dismay, the term occurred in a number of the consultant’s Microsoft Word documents. “There is no such place as Kurdistan,” one of the soldiers declaimed. He repeated this assertion throughout the interview—despite the fact that, within two hundred meters of the unofficial hut where such interviews are conducted, there is a public sign, in English, Kurdish, and Arabic, that welcomes …