And so to the North. One of the greatest pleasures in life is that of visiting liberated territory. Twelve years ago in Iraqi Kurdistan, I received a great deal of kindness and hospitality from the local population, who cheerfully shared the nothing that they had and put me up in the charred ruins that they then inhabited. This time was different. To move up into the Kurdish hills is not just to escape the baking heat and misery and dislocation of the plains. It is to travel years forward into a possible Iraqi future. The roads are smooth, the landscape cultivated, and - slowly but surely - the oil wells are pumping. There are three female High Court judges. Gas stations, clogged by long lines elsewhere, look as if they were in Holland or Connecticut. Well-dressed Kurdish police and militia stand guard at intersections, and Americans hardly bother to wear their flak jackets. It was easy to connect to the Internet and, finally, to have a long shower, before being offered a serious cocktail and a meal featuring five different kinds of lamb. At the reception given by President Mossoud Barzani, in a manicured villa and garden, as opposed to the shell-pocked ruin in which I had last seen him, I met my old friend Dr. Barham Salih, who is prime minister of the adjacent Kurdish region. Once highly clannish and even fratricidal, the Kurds have shown that they can transcend their differences once they have an autonomy worth defending. Barham was in tip-top form, wondering why the Americans didn't ask for a few companies of Kurdish fighters to take part in the hunt for Saddam. "No shortage of motivation," he remarks. But even here the conversation is overlaid by talk about interment and disinterment; not only has a new mass grave been opened at Hatra, near Mosul (this is the one apparently reserved for mothers and children), but a huge mound of cadavers has been unearthed in the far south of the country, near the Saudi border, and apparently the remains include many fragments of Kurdish dress. This could be the long-sought clue to the whereabouts of the thousands of male villagers of Barzan, taken away on trucks in 1983..."This is the environment my daughter and her family are living in for the next several months.
I think many peoples, such as the Palestinians, could also find peaceful autonomy, if given a real chance.