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Post In Defense of the Kurds: Mike O'Callaghan
Created by John Eipper on 01/05/19 4:32 AM

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In Defense of the Kurds: Mike O'Callaghan (Tamara Zuniga-Brown, USA, 01/05/19 4:32 am)

I had the great privilege of teaching/helping the Chaldean Church in Iraqi Kurdistan open the doors the first Catholic University in Erbil (CUE) to all--about 27 miles away from the battle raging for Mosul. Archbishop Warda's vision to bring hope to religious ethnic minorities facing extinction and be an integral part in rebuilding fractured communities through an education in English is an indomitable and desperately needed mission indeed.

Without the Kurds giving refuge and providing support to the diverse mass of persecuted ethnic religious minorities fleeing Nineveh and Sinjar in 2014, they wouldn't have stood a chance--nor would have yours truly. So, tragically, the threat of eradicating the delicate balance of diversity permissible in that part of the world for over 2000 years is looming faster than ever with each mercurial presidential decision-making Tweet.

Having lived in Iraqi Kurdistan for a few short months, I can only speak from my positive experience there. But, as my father mentioned in his posting, Mike O'Callaghan was a great and long-time supporter of the Kurds--for good reason. Mike was a dear family friend, Korean War amputee, former Governor of the great state of Nevada, Director of FEMA, and patron of orphanages in Nicaragua to name but a few of his achievements. Over decades traveling back and forth to Iraqi Kurdistan, and in his position as executive editor, Las Vegas Sun, Mike continued raising awareness, showing his admiration and strong support for the Kurds, and defying policies directed against them (see first link)

These words written in his op-ed column, "Where I Stand", November 2002, could not ring truer today:

"Right now, there are several good reasons that we cannot allow the Kurds to be pushed aside by either Baghdad or Ankara. They have suffered terribly at the hands the Iraqi regime, have been bullied by the Turks and betrayed by the United States. Now the whole world is watching to see if US policy will sacrifice them again."

The following link is a 1992 NYT Op Ed by Abe Rosenthal. It provides an excellent sketch of the democratically minded Kurds, of Mike O'Callaghan's unwavering support, and of Washington's attitude: http://www.nytimes.com/1992/05/15/opinion/on-my-mind-the-absent-americans.html

Subsequent links are for those with time and interest in Mike O'Callaghan's historical and unique insight that led to his unfailing support and admiration of the Kurds over decades of persecution, struggle, and war:

https://lasvegassun.com/news/1998/nov/19/where-i-stand----mike-ocallaghan-missiles-for-sadd/

https://lasvegassun.com/news/2002/nov/15/where-i-stand----mike-ocallaghan-dont-repeat-this-/

https://lasvegassun.com/news/1999/jun/13/where-i-stand----mike-ocallaghan-fly-our-flag-with/

https://m.lasvegassun.com/news/2003/oct/17/where-i-stand----mike-ocallaghan-cant-rush-constit/

I wish I could talk to him now--and to Bob Gibbs, too. I feel many of you might wish the same.  As soon as Bob learned of my efforts in Iraqi Kurdistan, he immediately became a great source of support for me. I miss them both and can only imagine what they would have to say about history continuing to repeat itself, especially, with the events of the past months: the lack of support for the Kurdish referendum (Sept 2017) and the latest surprise decision to withdraw from Syria.

Keeping promises, upholding agreements, and validating the enormous sacrifices of allies with dignity and respect is simply the right thing to do. We would expect no lesser treatment. In my humble opinion, the Kurds are more than deserving.

JE comments:  "Now the whole world is watching to see if US policy will sacrifice [the Kurds] again."  Seventeen years later, the world has found its answer.

So good to hear from you, Tamara!  All the best for 2019.  I hope our paths cross again soon.


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  • Gov. Mike O'Callaghan, Humanitarian (Timothy Brown, USA 01/06/19 4:15 AM)
    Many of our colleagues in WAIS may not be aware that Tamara Zúñiga-Brown is our daughter. Nor may they, or even most of today's Nevadans, be aware that Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) was Mike O'Callaghan's Lt. Governor, his high school student and life-long protege.

    My book, Diplomarine, is dedicated to Gov. O'Callaghan and his wife Carolyn and introduced by Senator Reid, "our mutual friend and mentor, the late Gov. Mike O'Callaghan."


    Leda and I proud that our daughter Tamara is following in O'Callaghan's humanitarian footsteps.


    JE comments:  And I am proud that Brown père et fille are both WAISers!  Tim, I had a curiosity about the close bond between Gov. O'Callaghan, a Catholic of Irish background, and Sen. Reid, a Mormon.  We don't normally see these kinds of political bedfellows, although things are, well, different in Nevada.  Can you tell us more?

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