Deyan Ranko Brashich

The Kurds held a referendum on independence last week and the Catalans did the same this past Sunday. Time and again people vote for independence, for self-determination playing the old whack-a-mole game, a repetitious waste of time. Worse still, if you’re not careful playing the game badly, ineptly leads to bloodshed and civil war – the Catalonian referendum reportedly tallied 1,000 injured while the Kurdish effort shut down international airports, closed borders and mobilized troops proving, yet again, that it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.  

For those of you ignorant of arcade games, you play “whack-a-mole” with a large box with five holes holding plastic moles that pop up and down randomly. “The object of the game is to force the individual moles back into their holes by hitting them directly on the head” with a rubber mallet. That’s it – that’s the whole point of the game – just a “repetitious and futile task”.

The game changes when you start using a steel hammer and smashing things up, then the game is played for real, for keeps.   

The problem with the game is that there are no rules. You can’t call randomly hitting a mole with a rubber mallet a rule. The same is true with the rules for forming a new secessionist independent state. There are no rules, and the unwritten ones that are in play are contradictory and cancel each other out – democratic and human rights self-determination is trumped by the self-interest of the Great Powers – the guys pulling the strings of power and influence in the Security Council of the United Nations.

Take the case of the late and not-so-lamented Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Notwithstanding its Constitution and the United Nations Charter it was allowed to disintegrate by today’s Great European Powers, the EU and NATO aided and abetted by the United States. The failure of playing the referendum game cautiously lead to a bloody year long civil war and ultimately to Bosnia and Hercegovina a new nation state.

However, keep in mind that Serbia, a former constituent republic, had a semi-autonomous province Kosovo with a predominantly Albanian Muslim population within its borders. Kosovo has declared independence which, as of now, is only partially recognized. Should Kosovo’s self-determination and independence be allowed?

No, if you apply international law.

Yes, if you follow world opinion and “Yes” if you listen to the Great Powers and “Yes”, once again, if reason prevails allowing Serbia to stop financing a failing state and leaving it to its own devices.

Spain now in the throes of its own referendum blues has refused to recognize Kosovo – its constitution like Serbia’s prohibits regional self-determination and independence. Catalonia, an autonomous region of four northeastern provinces, has been demanding independence and has repeated once again for a second time a prohibited non- binding referendum with 90% of the votes favoring independence. Should 8 million Catalans have independence?

Yes, based on self-determination and democratic principles.

No, as in Kosovo’s case, based on international law and a resounding “No” based on the European Union’s condemnation of England’s Brexit vote which endangers its very existence.

Kurdistan, the semi-autonomous region of Iraq, is dominated by the Kurds, a distinct ethnic grouping which is “culturally, historically and linguistically classified as belonging to the Iranian peoples”. Many would disagree and would deem them unique but diffused and scattered in other regions as well, in Turkey, Iran and Syria.

The Kurds have had the misfortune of finding themselves geographically in the Middle and Near East subject to the nation making powers of the Great Powers since the end of the First World War. Their interests and the interests of their unique identity have always been subject to the interests of the Great Powers and of the majority populations in which they find themselves besieged. For those reasons and those reasons alone, they have failed to achieve independence and ethnic identity as a nation state.

The United States has invested heavily in Iraq. It has spent much with little if any to show for it. It is and will remain a failed state for years to come. To allow for a free and independent Kurdistan to exist would destroy all that 15+ years has failed to do – in this case, a double negative does not a positive make. So the question is again raised in this version of the whack-a-mole game: Should the 6 million Iraqi Kurds have independence?

Yes, based on self-determination and democratic principles.

No, as in Kosovo’s case, based on international law and a resounding “No” based on the international community’s [United States’] opposition and the fact that it endangers the very existence of Iraq as they would like to have it.

The questions that I have asked begs the real question: Are Catalans and Kurds willing to exchange steel hammers for the rubber mallets they have been using to play the whack-a-mole independence game and risk civil war and bloodshed for independence? 


Deyan Ranko Brashich is a contributor writing from New York. He is the author of Letters from America, Contrary Views and Dispatches. His contact and blog “Contrary Views” is at

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