To pay a debt of honor: The wounds of the valiant Peshmerga

We cannot allow mere money to keep those who fought our fight against terrorism from receiving the medical treatment that will return them to normal, productive lives.

October 5, 2017 21:23
2 minute read.
PESHMERGA FORCES ride on military vehicles in the town of Bashiqa

PESHMERGA FORCES ride on military vehicles in the town of Bashiqa, after it was recaptured from the Islamic State, east of Mosul, last year.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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They are the Peshmerga. Few in the Western world knew this word until fairly recently. Now, it is common knowledge that the Peshmerga – the name means “those who face death” – is the valiant Kurdish fighting force that has assured victory over Islamic State in the Middle East.

How heroically they have fought. While the Iraqi Army often abandoned the battlefield – leaving hundreds of millions of dollars of US-provided arms in the hands of ISIS – and the Western powers hesitated, the Kurdish Peshmerga painstakingly won victory after victory. Names like Kobani, Sinjar, Mosul, Bashiqa, Teleskof and Nawran, Peshmerga victories all, will tell the tales of courage and skill for generations yet unborn.

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It has all come at great cost. Nearly 2,000 Peshmerga laid down their lives.

More than 10,000 have been wounded.

Yet it is the fate of 120 seriously wounded Peshmerga that stands now as a challenge to Western gratitude and to Western rhetoric about Kurdish valor.

The sad truth is that many Kurdish losses might have been prevented had the United States in particular not dithered in providing support. Though the US Congress did see its way toward providing $450 million in food, salaries and small arms, it believed itself prevented from going further by its own laws and by treaties with the Iraqi government in Baghdad. This meant that while ISIS forces often fought with the latest US munitions – the gift of fleeing Iraqi troops – the Peshmerga fought with outdated weapons.

They won their victories nevertheless, but the injuries of survivors were often horrific. Some Kurdish veterans live out painful existences today with their tongues shot out, needing shrapnel removed from places a skillful surgeon alone can reach, desperate for pelvis replacements and bone grafts.

Only money keeps them from treatment.

The Peshmerga are not supported by the kind of sophisticated medical facilities enjoyed by, say, the US Army.

The Kurdish regions have been too much under siege since the days of Saddam Hussein, too focused upon the insurgency of ISIS. It has fallen, then, to other nations to care for those who have fought the fight of freedom for all nations.

Fortunately, some countries have come to the aid of the dreadfully wounded Peshmerga. Turkey has taken the most souls into its borders and hospitals, with India, Jordan, Hungary, Germany, Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Belgium doing the same. So far, the US has not taken any.

We cannot allow mere money to keep those who fought our fight against terrorism from receiving the medical treatment that will return them to normal, productive lives. We must, in the words of Abraham Lincoln,“care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

There is suffering in this world we cannot relieve. The agonies of these 120 Kurdish warriors for freedom, though, we can heal. Give to the Barzani Charity Foundation (

It is not too much to ask of a people who owe the Kurdish Peshmerga so great a debt.

The author is a New York Times best-selling author and a popular speaker who also leads a media training firm based in Washington, DC. Learn more at StephenMansfield.TV.

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