WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Rep. Chris Stewart (R, Utah) spoke to Kurdistan 24 at the showing last week of Bernard-Henri Levy’s documentary, Peshmerga, where the Congressman affirmed, “We still have a strong alliance with the Peshmerga and the Kurdish people.”
It is “an important alliance for us, and we want to maintain that friendship for stability in the region,” he said, even as he acknowledged “there will be bumps along the road.”
In remarks introducing Peshmerga to the audience at the US Capitol Visitor Center, Stewart described his visit to Erbil last summer and the considerable debt the US owes the Kurdish fighters, whom he hailed as “some of the strongest and fiercest allies that we have.”
“Erbil is a beautiful city and you feel very comfortable there,” he said. “It’s like walking around any city in Europe or in the United States.”
That contrasts sharply with Baghdad, where US officials are not free to roam the city at will.
While in the Kurdistan Region, Stewart travelled to the front lines to see some of the fighting around Mosul. “We drove through villages,” he explained, which the Islamic State (IS) had “completely demolished.”
All one could see of those villages was “a couple of the foundations of the buildings,” Stewart observed. “Everything else was completely demolished.”
Those who recall Saddam Hussein’s “Anfal” campaign will recognize that much of the Kurdish countryside was once reduced to a similar condition.
The Congressman noted that in the summer of 2014, IS had approached “the very, very edge of Baghdad.” If the city had fallen, “the region would have changed dramatically,” and, by extension, the world have changed “in ways that are difficult for us to appreciate.”
Without the “commitment of the Peshmerga” and their bravery, that might, indeed, have happened. “They defended freedom, as they defended their homeland,” he affirmed.
While paying tribute to Kurdish society and its fighters, Stewart also articulated the limits of American power.
“We can’t solve all the world’s problems” and “we can’t fix everything.”
“We can do some good,” and “we have a responsibility to do that, when we can,” the Congressman stated, but “we can only do that with the help of our allies.”
In other words, the US can help those who are prepared to help themselves. But when a society is hopelessly torn by civil strife, the US ability to assist that society is very limited.
Stewart’s remarks reflect lessons learned over the past fifteen years, when the Bush43 administration prematurely declared victory in Operation Iraqi Freedom and then set its sights on the grand project of transforming the Middle East through democracy.
As Stewart suggested, that could never have worked. However, the Kurdish situation is different. Where the US has partners who are prepared to “fight alongside us and whom we are willing to fight alongside,” he said, it is possible for the US to solve problems—or, more precisely, to help its partners address them.
“We’re grateful for those friendships and for those allies that we do have, and we’re grateful for the values we hold in common,” he concluded.
Stewart is an Air Force veteran, who hails from a military family. His father was an Air Force pilot, and Stewart proudly wears his father’s wings.
Stewart serves on the House Intelligence Committee and chairs the subcommittee on Department of Defense Intelligence.