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Turkish Delight?

As bad as it is when these people move nations out of the “Don’t like the US” into the “Hate the US” column, the real international damage is when they take a close ally, long-time friend, commercial customer and move them directly to the “Hate the US” column.

These people have managed to take the Turks for granted, and expended no effort in understanding the little things that make Turkish politics easy to navigate with a minimum of effort. There are a few “hot buttons” in Turkey and you press them at your own peril, because the reaction will be extremely negative.

Most people forget that until after World War I, the Ottoman Empire was the Middle East. The Turks ruled over everything south of Russia from India to Egypt. Having backed the wrong side in that war, the price was the breaking up of the empire into the countries that are causing all of the problems today.

The Ottomans were not enlightened rulers and tended to show the same general regard for the rights and lives of subject peoples as the US showed Native Americans. Anyone who objected to the Empire was suppressed. The Turks are still in denial about this, as was the US for a very long time.

This leads us to the two current problems that may get the US expelled from Turkey, which would be a disaster for the troops in Iraq. We currently fly supplies into Iraq and fly out the wounded through Turkish airspace. We use bases in Turkey as part of this process. If we have to re-route, we have a problem.

I am not an expert on the Ottoman Empire. I cannot give you a definitive answer on how the Armenian problem in the Empire started, or who committed the first murder, but there is no doubt that over a million Armenians died during and after World War I. Turks were also killed, but the death toll of Armenians is generally agreed to have been much higher than that of Turks. The Armenians say it was genocide, ethnic cleansing on a massive scale. Turks say the Armenians were acting as agents of the Russian Empire. There are no unbiased outside sources of information.

McClatchy Newspapers reports that a House panel approves Armenian genocide measure

WASHINGTON – A bitterly divided House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved an Armenian genocide resolution, as lawmakers overcame presidential and diplomatic resistance to commemorate an early 20th century catastrophe.

By a 27-21 vote, closer than expected, the panel approved the resolution declaring that “the Armenian genocide was conceived and carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923.” Upwards of 1.5 million Armenians died during the period, according to some estimates.

“Nations of the world have periods in their history that they can’t overlook; we acknowledge and we confront them,” said Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif. “My Armenian friends believe this was a genocide, and so do I.”

The nonbinding resolution further calls upon President Bush to use the word “genocide” when he issues his annual Armenian message next April. The president, though, will not do so, even if the full House of Representatives approves the resolution in coming weeks.

This is the Congress of the United States voting on the history of another country, and that country doesn’t like it.

Reuters reports that Turkey’s president warns Bush over Armenian vote

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s president has written to U.S. President George W. Bush warning of the damage to bilateral ties if Congress backs a bill recognizing the 1915 massacres of Armenians as genocide, his office said on Tuesday.

Congress should have passed a very binding law getting US troops out of Iraq before they decided to get involved in this dispute.

If that wasn’t enough trouble, there is the second problem, the Kurds. The people who drew the borders ignored the Kurds. They left Kurds split up among Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. The Kurds want their own country and the neighborhood is nervous.

The Turkish military is under attack by the PKK, a Kurdish group that is using bases inside Iraqi Kurdistan as safe havens. The US and Iraqi governments don’t seem to be doing much about them and the Turks are running out of patience.

The Associated Press writes Report: Turkey hits rebels in Iraq

SIRNAK, Turkey (AP) — Turkey is shelling suspected Kurdish rebel camps across the border in northern Iraq, a newspaper reported Wednesday, but the government appeared unlikely to move toward sending ground troops until next week.

A member of the governing Justice and Development Party said a request for parliamentary approval for a cross-border ground offensive was unlikely to come to the floor before the end of a four-day religious holiday on Sunday. He asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that preparations for the parliamentary authorization were under way but he did not say when a motion could reach the floor.

A large-scale military incursion would disrupt one of the few relatively peaceful areas of Iraq and jeopardize Turkey’s ties with the United States, which has urged Ankara not to take unilateral steps.

Turkish troops were also shelling suspected PKK camps in the regions of Kanimasa, Nazdur and Sinath, in northern Iraq, from positions in Turkey’s Hakkari province, just across the border, Hurriyet reported. Tanks were positioned near the town of Silopi, in Sirnak province, the paper said.

The paper said the government would impose an information blackout on its preparations for a possible cross-border offensive.

In the event that parliament gives its approval, the military could choose to immediately launch an operation or wait to see if the United States and its allies, jolted by the Turkish action, decide to crack down on the rebels.

Just what no one needs, another front in the Iraq War.


1 hipparchia { 10.11.07 at 12:20 am }

if nancy pelosi and harry reid and bill nelson and mel martinez had just listened to me back when i first started writing to them, we wouldn’t have had to worry about this turn of events.

2 Fallenmonk { 10.11.07 at 6:22 am }

You just have to wonder how much of the dynamics and history of the Middle East Bush and his sycophants understand. From the outside it sure looks like they are totally clueless.

3 Michael { 10.11.07 at 8:29 am }

I’m afraid I can’t agree with your take on this, Bryan. Turkey is overreacting to the acknowledgement of what they and everyone else in the world has long known to be the truth. The Turks seem to feel that as long as nobody uses the “G-word” about the Armenian massacre, it never happened and they don’t have to acknowledge even a tenuous responsibility for it. The trouble is, everyone knows that it did happen, and that the Turks were responsible. Acknowledge that and move on–and demonstrate that the Turkey of today is not the same as the Ottoman Empire of nearly a century ago. (That, I would venture to guess, is the hard part–a lot of the same mechanisms are still operating in Turkey, and that makes them look bad now, as opposed to in the past.)

However, as one of the Democrats on the committee observed during the debate on the resolution yesterday, denial of genocide isn’t just the last stage of genocide: it’s the first stage of the next genocide. He went on to quote Hitler appropriately: when he was trying to convince his followers that they could, indeed, get away with what they were planning, Hitler famously observed “Who now remembers what happened to the Armenians?” This resolution comes at least sixty years too late.

4 Jack K. { 10.11.07 at 9:33 am }

…listening to this story this morning, I was mulling over the oddity of the Foreign Affairs committee’s timing and the clear indication that this was – as you put it – one of Turkey’s “hot buttons”. What struck me most profoundly, though, was the suspicion that this effort in the House to hang the ‘genocide’ tag on Turkey (with pretty good odds of a negative reaction) would give Bush a new pile of chips in the Iraq Texas Hold ‘Em game. If Turkey does start denying basing, operational, and transit rights to the US in response to the resolution, somewhere down the road Bushco and the rest of the war supporters will have the space to claim that this action by a Democratic Congress is what lost the war…

5 John B. { 10.11.07 at 10:29 am }

One part of the story you overlook is the cheap, domestic political motive House members have in going on record with resolutions about “the history of another country.” Armenians and Kurds and Greeks and a lot of other ethnically sensitive Mediterraneans have descendants and relatives in the U.S.

Turks? Not so much — thanks mostly to our own sordid history of racialist immigration policies.The ONLY reason for Congress to entertain such a resolution is so Members can truckle with voters in their local districts.

Another omission is the additional threat this represents to NATO. As it is, the Greeks in Greece hate the Turks in Turkey, and vice versa. Both nations belong to NATO. Neither misses the opportunity to tweak the other’s nose when it suits their own domestic political agenda. Every time they do it, though, NATO commanders have to work like bees to calm everybody down and put away those F-16’s we sold to both sides.

It’s all smoke and mirrors, designed to distract the people with hot-button irrelevancies and make us forget why we really elected men and women to Congress and what we expected them to do.

6 Bryan { 10.11.07 at 4:00 pm }

Michael, you can’t disagree with me, because I’m not taking a position on the question. I lived in California, so I’ve been bombarded by this issue, the same way the Cubans in Miami bombard everyone on Castro.

Based only on numbers killed and displaced, the US should be talking about American genocide in Iraq. The American government is using the same excuse the Turks use – it is a war, and people die in wars.

The US should wait until it has a short period of sanity before it starts making moral judgments about other countries. In the meantime, historians can do their jobs and present a clearer view of what happened without political embellishment.

The Turks won’t come clean; the Japanese won’t come clean; the US won’t come clean; and the list continues.

Frankly a declaration by a Congress that got its knickers in a wad over a MoveOn ad, doesn’t have much credibility.

7 Bryan { 10.11.07 at 4:29 pm }

Our congressclowns listen to us, Hipparchia – surely you jest. I’m surprised they still manage to find the state.

Fallenmonk, the ham-handed way they tried to get Turkey involved in Iraq with a bribe, was beyond stupid. Of course there had to be some financial consideration, but talking openly about a wad of cash for a specific policy makes anyone who advocates for the policy look corrupt, even if they aren’t.

Oh, yes, Jack, this was a gift to the Hedgemony, a custom built excuse. Now, when Turkey invades northern Iraq, it is the fault of Congress.

John, all Orthodox Christian communities hate the Turks, all ethnics groups in the Balkans, Arabs – everyone who lived under the Ottoman Empire. Sephardic Jews are the only group that likes them, based on their acceptance after being expelled from Spain and Portugal in the 15th century. There’s a large Turkish community in western New York, but that’s about it. The suffer from being the object of Lord Byron’s hate.

8 whig { 10.12.07 at 3:11 pm }


I think this is a good resolution. Genocide is genocide, and would that we’d recognize our own crimes and apologize for them.

9 Amy { 10.12.07 at 4:20 pm }

Jack ,you are absolutely right.
I came to this country 14 years ago from Azerbaijan. Running from Armenian started war (Karabax-that is where I am orijinally from) against my country that has left thousands of azerbaijanies,also armenians dead. The attacks of russian backed armenian forces killed more than 3 thousand people just in one town -Xojali-mostly children,elderly and women. There is a documentary of those events. I will never forget tragedy of those days -something that happened 14 YEARS ago,but not a century. I have witnessed armenian millitants’ barberian crimes. I cannot even describe the pain and dissapointment that this resolution has caused to millions of Azerbaijanies who think of America as their friend.

10 John A. { 10.12.07 at 11:38 pm }

We should not allow Turkey to blackmail American foreign policy using threats.

Maybe they aren’t as close allies as they pretend to be.

11 Bryan { 10.12.07 at 11:56 pm }

John, for reasons I won’t go into, even after all of the years I’ve been out of the military, Turkey has been a very reliable ally, especially during the Cold War. They fought with the US in Korea and provided us with bases and transit when those were not popular actions in their country.

There were ways of doing this diplomatically, but no one tried.