Ebril, Kurdistan (TFC) – Andrew Hall and Chris Willis are currently in Kurdistan assisting the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in its battle against the Islamic State. They are just two of the hundreds of American and British veterans that have returned to assist the Kurds after NATO has seemingly abandoned them. Both of the soldiers who are now “advisers” for the KRG fought in Iraq during the US-led invasion.
While they were there, they met the Kurdish people and fell in love with the culture and camaraderie. They’ve spoken of how much they respect the culture for its emphasis on family and friends over material possessions. So as NATO bombs Kurdish positions to the west of Iraq, the two Americans have traded in their M-16s for AK-47s and joined the Kurds on the battlefield.
The immediate question many of our readers would pose is, “why fight a war that the US shows no interest in winning?” The question probably contains the answer. For those just getting their feet wet, it’s important to know who the Kurds are, because they aren’t Iraqis. Not really. They exist in the northern part of Iraq and also across several other countries. When the West literally drew lines in the sand and divided up the Middle East, they focused on the placement of natural resources instead of the ethnicity of the people who live there. Rather than the typical Shia-Sunni divide found all over the Middle East, Kurds identify as Kurds first and then identify with their religion. There are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Atheist Kurds. They are easily the most secular group in the Middle East. The women have rights. The women even serve in the armed forces in combat. They are not “backwards.” They have been allies to the United States since 1991 and have now been forgotten by the US because their whispered goal of an independent Kurdistan doesn’t necessarily match the US goal of dominating the Middle East.
So why would US veterans go assist them for free? Because nobody else will. The troops aren’t acting in the interests of large corporations. They aren’t repeating the mantra “Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die.” They have reasoned why. They know that the Kurds need help. They know that the Kurds are one of the only major players in the Middle East that could provide a beacon of liberty. It was providing that beacon of liberty in Iraq that drew many to enlist all those years ago. They’ve made the decision to fight on the side of reason and enlightenment in a region that has become overrun with barbarism.
Communicating with Chris and Andrew isn’t exactly easy but we’ve received some photos from Kurdistan already and they seem to be good spirits. Because of the US government’s designation of certain Kurdish groups in Turkey, the pair were very clear in stating that they were working with the Kurdish Regional Government and that they would not be crossing into Syria and Turkey.
Regardless of how you believe the Islamic State formed, it’s probably evident to everyone by now that even if it was a US-supported organization that was to be used to destabilize President Assad in Syria and cause “red on red” fire in Iraq, it is now a monster that has grown out of control. The fight against the Islamic State will continue regardless of US government involvement. The people, independent of government orders, have decided what to do. They’ve decided that allowing the genocide of the Kurds is not in anyone’s interests. They’re willing to fight to stop it.
Jeremy Deeter with the Activist Liason Network was able to have a brief interview with the men and has produced the video below. The soldiers have set up a fundraiser to help purchase better protective equipment, food, and to cover travel expenses. The whole scenario brings up a very interesting question. Are state armies becoming obsolete? If we can supply and fund our own soldiers on the battlefields of the world in the interests of protection and justice rather than in the interests of corporate bottom lines, can we as a people change the foreign policy of the United States?