The Kurds fall for it again

April 10, 1991|By Newsday

Put not your faith in princes.

Niccolo Machiavelli THE KURDS of Iraq made a fundamental political error: They trusted George Bush's clumsy, imprecise rhetoric and their own hopes of liberation more than a cold assessment of their chances to overcome Saddam Hussein's fierce desire to survive in power. They are paying for that misjudgment dearly.

But Bush should not escape all blame. Despite his protestations, the president indeed held out an unreasonable hope to the Kurds when he was rallying the world against Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. He exhorted Iraq to overthrow the dictator, with a less-than-explicit but thoroughly transparent promise that an internal rebellion would be abetted, if not rewarded. But when the rebellion came, Bush stood aside, silent.

Now Kurds are streaming by the thousands into Iran, which is welcoming them with food and shelter for its own ulterior political motives. And thousands more are tramping through the frozen mountains on the Turkish border, hoping that Turkey will change its mind and let them in. The least that this country can do is to use its influence on the coalition it led against Iraq to marshal humanitarian support for the displaced Kurds. Just as it acted through the United Nations to summon the military coalition, the United States can use the UN's refugee agencies to deliver needed emergency relief to the Kurds.

It is the second time in less than 20 years that the Kurds have been seduced by the elusive glitter of United States' vague promises. If nothing else, Americans bear a debt of conscience to them.

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