MAKING HASH OF TURKISH DEMOCRACY: George W. Bush Overrides Decision of Turkish Parliament
James Ryan Istanbul, Turkey 16 September 2005
Let the dismemberment of the Republic of Turkey continue!
Two-and-a-half years ago, on March 1, 2003, the Turkish Parliament spoke. No military support or access to Turkish ports would be allowed in support of America’s invasion of Iraq. Humanitarian aid, and only humanitarian aid, would be allowed entry and transshipment. The Turkish people rejoiced. The new Turkish ruling party (AKP), elected only a few months before, was profoundly embarrassed. But democracy had spoken, loudly and clearly. After all 90% of the Turkish people were then opposed to the war, and their parliament had responsibly expressed that sentiment. Democracy in Turkey was served. But this story does not end here.
For an unhealthy serving of crow was on the menu that evening for the newly elected Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. For he had made many promises to his American counterpart, George W. Bush. And one was to deliver Turkish support for the American war. In fact, the southern Turkish port-city of Iskenderun was even then overrun with Americans, a division of troops afloat immediately offshore waiting for the word. But because of the Parliament’s decision, the word never came, so off they sailed, denied a northern front in Iraq. And Turkey stood condemned by the likes of Paul Wolfowitz for disloyalty, and, presumably, for having a democracy that worked, at least on this occasion. But this story does not end here either.
Now Mr. Erdoğan is a religious man and the leader of the religious ruling party. And he has obviously sworn allegiance to a higher power, George W. Bush. Erdoğan was never particularly concerned that his fellow Muslims in Iraq would be the victims of an unjustified war. Nor did he even attempt to seek political protection under the cover of the UN’s refusal to sanction Bush’s war. Nor was he concerned that most of his people opposed the war. Nor was he concerned that 2.5 million Turkish-speaking Turkmen lived in Iraq. Nor was he concerned that these ethnic Turks are concentrated in the Kirkuk area, a region heavily contested by the Kurds, whose terror organization, the PKK, has beset Turkey for years. So Mr. Erdoğan, either supremely confident or supremely arrogant or supremely indebted to George W. Bush, seemed unconcerned with any matters putting the safety and integrity of the Republic of Turkey first. But Mr. Erdoğan is a religious man, perhaps even an honorable man, and he had made a promise to George W. Bush.
It turns out that this week has not been a good one for the Erdoğan regime, nor for Turkish people, nor for Turkey. First, the Turkmen city of Telafer was leveled by a combined assault by American and Iraqi (mostly Kurdish Pesmerga) forces. Hundreds of arrests of Turkmen, primarily fingered by informants, were arrested or worse. And what has the Turkish government done? The best the Turkish foreign minister could muster was a weak assertion that he had no doubts that everyone in Iraq knew that Telafer was a Turkmen city. Next, the US House of Representatives voted to move forward with petition that Turkey committed a genocide against the Armenians during World War I. Tom Lantos, representative from California, made it clear that this was a payback for the refusal of Turkey to support the US invasion. And now the real story of treachery begins.
It seems that the Turkish government HAS been supporting the US war effort all along. In direct contravention of the parliamentary ruling in 2003, US war material HAS been flowing through Iskenderun and from there convoyed into northern Iraq. And not humanitarian aid either. So much for the respect of Turkish law. So much for Turkish democracy. So much for the Turkish government operating in the best interests of the Turkish people. This is no surprise, for Mr. Erdoğan is widely thought to be in President Bush’s pocket. But defying Parliament is not an ordinary crime, not even in Turkey. So much for Prime Minister Erdoğan and his religious government. But perhaps not... the Turkish people seem as anesthetized to governmental lies and malfeasances as their American counterparts. We shall see, for this story does not end here.