Kirkuk- Here is a quick teaser of images from my recent reporting trip to Iraq’s perennial fault line known as Kirkuk Governorate.
A decade ago the United States poured over the Kuwaiti border to destroy the Ba’ath Party led by President Saddam Hussein. This effort to remake the country was guided by a wholly unrealistic vision thought up by men and some women who had no intrinsic understanding (though they would heartily argue otherwise) of either the deep political dynamics or long view history of the human fabric stretching from the Levant to Iranian Plateau. These so-called “experts” worked to destroy an unsavory despot without regard for human life still living in Iraq as they concocted their “Special Plans.”
Iraq was talked about callously as a “major oil producer” whose massive reserves were underexploited by Western multinationals as if it were virtually a people-less sandscape that just required some quick political remodeling in order to get its petroleum gushing again.
So here is Kirkuk, a decade on, with virtually every major politcal-territorial question about its future in a federal Iraq unanswered. The United States and its military and business partners smashed Iraq and drove back across the Kuwaiti border leaving behind a vast haven for suicide bombers and unending sectarian violence.
On the way back to Turkey, I shared a minivan with a group of Turkish laborers who were heading home on break. One from Istanbul told me he had been laying sod at football fields being constructed in Samarra and Tikrit. With the knowledge that a good number of Turks had been killed working in Iraq in the early stages of the war, I asked the Istanbuli why he would risk working in the “Sunni triangle” to earn a few dinars. He looked up at the dusk sky, replying: “al-Qaeda does not decide whether I live or die. That is left only for God to decide.” This seemed to me a fairly stark rationale to justify working in a war zone. But then again, what was I doing there?