CONDOLENCES TO A FRIEND

“Good fathers make good sons.”

I have just learned that John Kenneth Galbraith has passed away in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the age of 97.

John Kenneth Galbraith was the father of that great American champion of Kurds and the Kurdish cause, Ambassador Peter Galbraith.

Peter Galbraith was the first American official to take serious notice of the Anfal campaign, during a fact-finding trip to Iraq as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He returned to South Kurdistan during the 1991 uprising, made a video record of his short trip, including images of Kurds fleeing the Iraqi army–a trip which he made without Senate approval. He escaped through Syria to alert the US government, and the world, to the crisis.

It was after the 1991 trip that Peter Galbraith was accused by official Washington of having become “too emotionally attached” to the Kurdish issue.

He also helped to negotiate the move of some fourteen tons of captured Ba’ath party documents to the National Archives in Washington DC for safekeeping, documents which helped to prove the veracity of Kurdish claims of genocide.

He wrote the “Prevention of Genocide Act,” which imposed harsher sanctions against Iraq than similar American laws imposed on South Africa, to include the barring of Iraqi oil imports, instructions for the US to vote against Iraqi loans at the IMF and World Bank, eliminated credits for Iraqi purchases of American food and eliminated similar credits to purchase American manufactured goods, and prohibited exports of all goods requiring export licenses. Additionally, the bill required the American president to certify that Iraq was not using chemical weapons against Kurds and not engaging in genocide of Kurds.

(For all of this information, and more, see Samantha Power’s “A Problem from Hell” America and the Age of Genocide and Jonathan Randal’s After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness?. For online information, a good intro is One Man’s Battle to Stop Iraq from CBC news.)

“Good fathers make good sons,” is the adage, but in the case of John Kenneth Galbraith, I would amend that adage to say, “Great fathers make great sons.” Peter Galbraith, friend of Kurds, is the kind legacy that John Kenneth Galbraith has bequeathed to the world, and to Kurdistan in particular. May his memory forever be revered.

To this friend of Kurds, and to the entire Galbraith family, I offer my deepest condolences on the loss of a great father.

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