A recent New York Times article says that the United States is “worried” about Turkey’s reluctance to base thousands of American troops on Turkish soil. Good! The United States should worry more about the moral implications of wreaking even more devastation on one of the poorest people in the world. Iraq’s economy has plummeted 75% since 1991. It spends a mere 10% of the money it spent on its military 10-years ago and its remaining weaponry is 1970-vintage, and mostly Soviet-bloc junk, and its people are starving, mostly thanks to the UN embargo. But overriding all this is the complete lack of proof for the U.S. case that Iraq poses a nuclear threat. In the Middle East there is only one nuclear threat, and that country is a sacrosanct ally of America. So Turkey, keep saying no to the US. Remember your Ataturk. Be tomorrow’s country, not today’s!
Remember too that not all Americans want war – this one, for example. I agree completely with 83% of the Turkish people. No war against Iraq. (I say “against” rather than “with” because Iraq has virtually no ability to even mount a defense against the devastating U.S firepower.) The U.S. case for attack would be laughed out of any secondary school social studies classroom. All the buzzwords used by Washington: regime change, nation-building, saving the people of Iraq, and so on, are fig leaves used to hide the real U.S. intent: oil and imperialism, once called “manifest destiny” when the U.S. annihilated its Native-American Indian population. And the so-called Iraqi weapons-of-mass-destruction? No evidence, despite the protestations of President Bush and his recent “sharing” of so-called CIA evidence with the weapons inspectors.
The Times quotes an American official that in Turkey “we are dealing with a new and inexperienced leadership” who has “failed to prepare its public for a war.” Perhaps, but that new leadership sees clearly the overwhelming risks to Turkey of a massive, lengthy American presence in the country, to say nothing of the cold-blooded, immoral grounds for war. After all, Iraq is Turkey’s neighbor, an Islamic, secular, literate population, in some ways, like Turkey itself.
The American promise of hundreds of millions of dollars to “improve” Turkey’s bases and ports is a Trojan Horse. Fifty-two years ago the U.S. commenced to do the same in Korea, and they are still there, “improving” away. As far as the U.S. skill in nation-building, take Vietnam, for example. Nothing more need be said about that.
But there is even more American money on the table to buy Turkey’s compliance – $14 billion of grants and loans at favorable terms, “maybe more,” says the Times. Bribes, pure and simple, and a particularly obscene use of national treasure given the abject poverty, starvation, and sickness in most of the non-Western world. But more particularly, help and support from the U.S. is not necessarily a good thing for Turkey. Witness the recent debacle regarding the European Union.
Prime Minister Gul is right to tour the Middle East at his own initiative. Instead of viewing his efforts cynically, as does the United States, consider rather that he is pursuing to the utmost the maxim of Ataturk, “Peace at home. Peace in the world.”
Today marks a golden opportunity for Turkey to rise to a level of importance, even greatness, not seen since Ataturk. The country’s geo-political position, Islamic tradition, and military strength make the timing and potential of a strategic initiative to its Middle Eastern neighbors dramatically relevant. U.S. dollars, no matter how many, are insignificant compared to this opportunity. For if Turkey is not “European” enough to warrant membership in the European Union, then it should pursue its own initiative in its own, extraordinarily vital backyard. Let the EU and NATO deal with their own southern flank defense problems. After all, not only is most of Turkey not in Europe, none of it is even remotely near the North Atlantic Ocean.