The Kurds call themselves the other Iraq. They even have an advertising campaign:
Have you seen the Other Iraq?
Fewer than two hundred US troops are stationed here.
Arabs, Kurds and Westerners all vacation together.
What this Kurdish PR campaign omits is that the hospitable Kurds hire the U.S. generals and diplomats who helped them – the former U.S. government officials who made the other Iraq possible.
I bet you didn’t know there is another other Kurdish Iraq. It’s based in Washington, D.C., in a beautiful, revamped multi-million dollar building. It uses a plagiarist as its spokesperson. It hires former military generals who commanded U.S. troops and rewards former diplomats with oil deals. It maintains several homes in the Washington area and runs up Newt-Gingrich-sized jewelry store accounts. It gives away $25,000 watches for gifts.
The equivalent of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather is playing out in the Kurdish region of Iraq. Its two main political families grow wealthier by the day on the oil riches. They build huge mansions back home with large staffs and private jets. They own radio and television stations and control the media. The Talabani and Barzani families have made a temporary peace as they divide up the riches of power and use former American generals and diplomats to tend to the details of keeping Washington happy enough so the Kurdish gravy train does not run off the tracks. That makes our generals and diplomats working for these two political gangs the equivalent of the corrupt New York police official who Michael Corleone dispatches in the novel.
The two main Kurdish political parties have friendly former U.S. general officers, starting with Jake Garner, on their payroll to do their bidding in Washington. They are the best ex-generals (and a few diplomats) that money can buy.
The generals who sent our young soldiers to war in Iraq are cashing in by serving the interests of families who are fundamentally refusing to share Iraq’s oil wealth which is leading to more conflict and death. It is a mindlessly corrupt former U.S. general officer corps that will do anything for cash and a business class ticket.
And now there is trouble back home. The wealth is not being shared beyond these two political families. The gleaming new business hubs of Kurdistan offer little to those who are not members of the clans. The people who are not affiliated with either clan are protesting the mansions and brazen corruption that is the new Kurdistan, increasingly with violence.
When things get out of hand, the Kurdish leaders call in the vaunted peshmergas to take care of the troublemakers. Protests, after all, are bad for business, and business is booming in Kurdistan.
There is no democracy, only corruption. One Kurdish candidate says, “Money is everything on the ground. They buy votes. It’s the only reason they are in power. …No banks. Envelopes. If you are not with the Kurdish party, you have nothing. There are no government books. No accounting. It’s a cash society.”
Most average Kurds do not get to live in huge mansions or stay in luxury hotels made possible by American blood and tax money and our pliable former military officers and fast buck ex-diplomats.
Iraqi President Talabani’s slipping of cash to wounded warriors during visits at Walter Reed is an image of a man who had the most to profit from U.S. intervention handing out tips to American soldiers who sacrificed body parts to make his oil empire possible.
We at the National Security News Service helped unearth the scandal that became David Barstow’s Pentagon consultants’ story a few years ago. We know a great deal about American general officers who peddle their reputations to sell wars and military hardware. These guys are nothing more than mercenaries who wrap themselves in the flag and get wealthy on the backs of the men and woman they once commanded.
The photographs of our very best generals and diplomats rushing to the Kurdish faction to cash in make this tawdry tail even uglier. General officers get a decent pension. They get medical care and PX privileges.
How much money is enough? When does going on the payroll of Kurdish political bosses or others profiting from the wars become conduct unbecoming?