This is America's nightmare.
Just before Christmas, Turkish warplanes (F-16s made in the USA) and helicopter gunships bombed 200 Kurdish targets in northern Iraq, killing 150 people, after dozens of Turkish soldiers were blown up by a large contingent of Kurdish terrorists.
There are reports that some 60,000 Turkish troops are massing on the border for a land invasion of "Kurdistan". The bombings continue today.
It is a thorny dilemma, emblematic of what is so schizophrenic up about our policy in the Middle East. In the 1980s, the US gave Saddam chemical weapons to gas the Kurds. Then we gave the Kurds arms and money to rise up against Saddam; now the Bush administration is giving the Turks military intelligence, money and arms to blast the Kurds.
Ironically, the Turks and the Kurds are the only people in the Middle East who seem to be able to tolerate Americans and now they are in a slowly escalating war with each other.
Bill Clinton, in prescient talks to 50 wealthy supporters at a fundraiser last summer, off limits to the press, said:
"The two wrinkles in her policy that some of the purists won't like, but I think she is absolutely right, are that she would leave some troops in the Kurdish area in the north because they have reconciled with each other and they enjoy relative peace and security...And if we leave them...not only might they be gone into a long civil war...the Turks might be tempted to attack them because they don't like the fact that the PKK guerrillas sometimes come across into northern Iraq and hide after staging attacks in Turkey."
"We don't want that," the former President went on to say.
Last June, in answering questions at a leadership conference, Hillary Clinton made headlines in the largest newspaper in Turkey with her mildest of answers about the Kurds, calling them close US allies. None of this was reported in the US press.
But Bill Clinton, in his "off the record" remarks, carried Hillary's statement much further and will cause much consternation in Turkish ruling circles.
The Turks, our most loyal Muslim allies (most of the arms and weapons that the US needed for our invasion and occupation in Iraq came overland through Turkey) have been worried about this flip-flopping American policy for some time.
Opposition to an independent Kurdish state has been a longtime linchpin of American policy in the region, going back to the Clinton era, because of fears that it would threaten Turkey, a major regional ally, which has a large Kurdish minority of more than 10 million who seek independence.
In March of 1995, 35,000 Turkish troops invaded northern Iraq using the US imposed "No Fly Zone" as protection for its own jet fighters, a move which annihilated dozens of Kurdish villages and killed tens of thousands of Kurds.
Not surprisingly, Turkey used Pentagon supplied weapons to attack the Kurds in this latest foray and the Kurdish rebels used US bombs and other US weapons to blow up the Turkish military convoy. America is supplying arms to two "friendly nations" at the same time to fight each other!
This is nothing new. America in recent decades has a zany history of arming third world countries and then of sitting back and watching their arms be used against each other and us. Let us not forget that the Taliban weapons used against American troops were largely manufactured in the United States to help defeat the Soviet occupation. Many of Saddam's weapons were originally supplied by the US to help Iraq in its war against Iran.
George Bush is in a tricky position. According to a headline in the Washington Post, the US, "HELPS TURKEY HIT KURDS IN IRAQ" by providing real time intelligence to the Turkish military.
Previously, the US warned Turkey not to invade Iraq, as this would interfere with our invasion of Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Kurds - with large oil reserves now pledged to US companies - have a history of divided loyalty. One large faction was allied and close with Saddam Hussein; another sizably large group was allied with Iran and still another group was allied with the Kurdistan Workers' Party. During the invasion, the US could not figure out which group to back and, ironically, ended up supporting the Iranian faction to rebel against Hussein.
Naturally, as the Arab proverb says, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." But the conundrum is: which of my friends do I support if they start fighting each other and will I lose my one friend if I support my other friend?
It's awfully messy out there. And watch the price of oil skyrocket.