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No Turkey This Thanksgiving
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We’ll have to rename the bird a Freedom Fowl or something similar.

The United Nations’ annual opening of the General Assembly each September affords heads of state and heads of government the opportunity to meet both formally and informally. The upcoming meeting between President Barack Obama and Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan promises to be particularly contentious. How exactly it plays out will inevitably demonstrate the astonishing power of Israel and its Lobby in Washington. Obama is expected to rebuke Erdogan over the issue of Palestinian statehood, which Turkey and most of the world support. Ankara has also stated its willingness to use its own warships to protect Turkish vessels in international waters that are seeking to sail to Gaza. They have good reason to do so. In June 2010, the Israelis boarded the unarmed Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara in international waters and killed nine Turks, one of whom was also an American citizen, most of whom were shot execution style. Israel could have defused the crisis by apologizing but refused to do so.

Turkey has been a NATO ally since 1949, hosting numerous American bases and the key intelligence listening post at Sinop, which had unique ability to monitor Soviet ballistic missile launches. Turkish soldiers in the Korean War were regarded as some of the finest engaged in that conflict. And they have fought and died to save American lives. The 5,000 men of the 1st Turkish Brigade were attached to 2nd then to the 25th US Infantry Divisions. In 1950, after the Chinese breakthrough, they fought a series of bloody rearguard actions covering the retreat of the American troops in which they suffered more than 3,500 casualties.

But American congressmen and pundits, particularly those who are particularly enamored of Israel, seem to have forgotten their history, if they ever knew it. In the September 16th Washington Post Morton Abramowitz, a former US Ambassador to Turkey, opined the following: Erdogan “now directly challenges our major alliance in the Middle East, and how far he will go is unclear…By threatening to militarily contest Israel’s blockade of Gaza…the Turkish government has laid down a serious challenge to American policy…Obama’s meeting with Erdogan on Tuesday is crucial. He can take a few important steps. He should immediately deploy 6th Fleet ships from Norfolk to the Eastern Mediterranean to signal that the United States will not tolerate even inadvertent naval clashes. He needs to make clear to Erdogan that the United States will not side with Turkey against Israel and that Turkey’s current strategy risks undermining regional stability.”

And there’s more. Seven United States Senators have send a letter to President Obama stating that “Turkey is shifting to a policy of confrontation, if not hostility, towards our allies in Israel and we urge you to mount a diplomatic offensive to reverse this course. We ask you to outline Turkey’s eroding support in Congress…and how its current ill-advised policy towards the State of Israel will also negatively reflect on U.S. Turkish relations and Turkey’s role in the future of NATO.” The Senators are Mark Kirk, Charles Schumer, Mark Warner, Scott Brown, Joe Manchin, Joe Lieberman, and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Abramowitz fatuously describes Israel’s blockade of Gaza as “American policy.” Both he and the Senators reveal their own ignorance apart from anything else. Turkey is portrayed as undermining regional stability, not Israel. Israel is described as our “major alliance” in the Near East, not Turkey or Egypt or Saudi Arabia, all of which are far more strategically valuable. And then there is the casual fact-free dismissal of Ankara’s importance. Turkey is an ally. Israel is not. Turkey has served United States strategic interests. Israel has not. Turkey has hosted American bases and committed its soldiers to support their American counterparts in combat. Israel has not. Israel has done little more vis-à-vis the United States than take in excess of a hundred billion dollars in taxpayer provided largesse, use Washington as a veto machine to protect its own interests, and betray all of that by spying and stealing defense secrets which were later traded to the Russians and sold to the Chinese. Oh yes, and Israel also was instrumental in Washington’s headlong rush to fight an unnecessary war in Iraq and is seeking more of the same against Iran.

Abramowitz wants to use the US Navy to protect Israel against the consequences of its own actions and is willing to attack an alliance member which is insisting on freedom of the seas and some accountability for the killing of its own citizens. Americans were once proud of the US Navy when it acted in that fashion, but apparently no longer, at least not in the White House nor among some retired ambassadors. The Senators are threatening to use all means possible to punish Turkey not because it has done damage to the United States but because of its strained relationship with a third country, Israel. The Senators even threaten reducing Turkey’s role in NATO. Excuse me, but NATO is an alliance with equal partners, isn’t it, not an American fiefdom?

So why all the defensiveness about Israel when Israel is a liability and Turkey a valuable asset strategically? Well, there’s an election coming up, which means that President Obama will do everything he can to appease Israel and its Lobby without any regard for the United States national interest or for old allies like Turkey. He will ignore world opinion by vetoing Palestinian statehood at the UN and he will make clear to the Turks and to everyone else who is listening that Israel always comes first, the single immutable factor in American foreign policy. Israel will always come first. And there will be plenty of congressmen and Morton Abramowitzes that will stand up and say that Obama is right to do so.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Turkey 
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  1. Pointsman says:

    You said it all, Phil. What the hell is going on with these congressmen? You’d think they were elected to the Knesset rather than the Congress of the United States of America.

  2. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    You forgot to mention Turkey’s stellar relationship with its Kurdish citizenry. And the Armenians. They are super qualified to play the role of moral authority in the Middle East.

  3. I have long wondered why it was called turkey in English, dinde (i.e., d’Inde, from India) in French, and presumably things similar to the latter in other Romance languages. Everyone has always known that it came from the New World.

    The Palestinian bid for UN membership at this stage may look like a gimmick, the American veto being the real point for future propaganda purposes.

    But the AIPAC and ADL crowd, representative of nothing and no one but itself, is no base of Obama’s, having campaigned almost insanely to prevent his nomination, and having done little, to put it politely, to secure his election. The adherents of that strange thing, Christian Zionism (what is it with America as a hotbed of heterodoxies?) did not vote for him last time and would never vote for him next time, no matter what he said or did. He beat AIPAC and the ADL for the nomination, and he beat the Left Behind lot at the election.

    So, what if Obama told them where to stick it, told them that it was payback time? What if he said that the security of American citizens, or even just their economic interests in the enormous number of countries supporting this move, simply mattered more? What if he pointed out that it was a very recent and thoroughly pernicious innovation for American foreign policy to be based on (rather adolescent) ideological rigidity rather than on cold, hard reality? What if he mentioned Nixon and China, or the gravely underrated Gerald Ford and Helsinki, with the countless lives saved by the sense to accept that the real world is the real world, whether or not one might happen to like it? And what if he asked what the Israelis had ever done for America?

    What would actually happen if there were no American veto after all?

  4. Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    If Turkey still had someone in leadership like Kemal Ataturk, we would not be having these problems with Turkey now. Unfortunately Turkey is presently regressing back to an Islamic state. Our mindless support of Israel doesn’t help the situation either. The President should force Israel to apologize to Turkey for the flotilla affair with a threat of a reduction in financial aid. I’m sure Israel would jump thru the hoop, even if it was only for appearances. Turkey is still an oriental country and still suffers from the concept of lose of face. An apology by Israel would probably reduce hard feeling by quite a bit. But U.S politicians
    are so terrified of the Israeli lobby, that any amends won’t be forthcoming.
    A sad state of affairs. Our politicians take an oath to the constitution and defense of the U.S. not to kowtow to Israel!

  5. TomB says:

    It’s just literally impossible I think to envision a more irrefutable, stark piece of proof that the Republican party has gone so far off the rails as to be insane than what it is doing vis a vis Israel: A so-called “conservative” party, whose candidates for President, with near unanimity, positively competing with each other in promising how much they are willing to sacrifice American blood, treasure, and interests for a foreign power.

    (With Rick Perry, incredibly enough, just yesterday, doing so while standing shoulder to shoulder even with members of that foreign power’s government.)

    It all seems so fantastical one can only hope it’s as bubble-like as it should be, taking only one right person at the right time to burst it by merely noting this is indeed the bottom-line truth in front of the American people.

    Unfortunately neither Obama nor Ron Paul are those people, and there seems no-one else on the horizon to be that person either.

    I understand why Obama isn’t that person, but why not Ron Paul? At some point given his inability or unwillingness to just simply state this truth loudly, starkly, repeatedly, why is it wrong to regard him as being a net negative? As essentially … providing legitimacy to the proposition that we should so sacrifice ourselves for a foreign power by treating it merely as a slight misjudgment, to be mildly criticized using only the gentlest of words that don’t even approach its core truth?

    And I’m not even suggesting that he should be calling out some of the folks behind this crap as traitors, which surely is the case. But instead just simply saying in a debate that his opponents are in favor of sending American boys to get maimed and killed and stabbing the American economy in the heart for another country’s interests, period.

    Since Ron doesn’t really seem to be all that interested in such a thing, so indicating to me at least he’s also not all that interested in really getting elected, what’s the alternative to rooting for Obama? At least he shows that he doesn’t *like* serving Israel night and day, and so far at least it seems he’s drawn a line in the sand this side of attacking Iran.

    Life, after all, is often about choosing from less than perfect options.

  6. Pointsman says:

    marketfrankford wrote : “You forgot to mention Turkey’s stellar relationship with its Kurdish citizenry. And the Armenians. They are super qualified to play the role of moral authority in the Middle East.”

    True. The Middle East is a moral sewer, and moral arguments for our relationships in the area are mostly laughable. Turkey oppresses Kurds, Israel oppresses (and dispossesses) the Palestinians, Egypt oppresses most of its own citizens. All are torture happy (the Israelis are world renowned experts in torture and assassination).

    America will be much more American again when it ends these morally degrading arrangements and gets its nose out of that part of the world.

    But Mr. Giraldi wasn’t making a moral point. He was making the practical and obvious point that from the Cold War to the Gulf War to the”Global War on Terror”, Turkey has easily been more useful and valuable to the United States than Israel. Turkey has been a net asset. Israel has been a colossal liability.

  7. tbraton says:

    “They are super qualified to play the role of moral authority in the Middle East ”

    You forgot to mention that, after having successfully purged its country of most Christians, it is understandable why Turkey is so anxious to join the overwhelmingly Christian EU. For the last 37 years, Turkey has continued to demonstrate its ability to live peacefully with Christians on the island of Cyprus. Cypriot Turks comprised about 18% of Cyprus’ population before Turkey invaded in 1974, engaged in ethnic cleansing, and militarily occupied 40% of the island. The Turks, however, show little tolerance for the over 20% of its population that is Kurdish, a people who were there long before the Turks arrived around the 13th century from central Asia. Using Cyprus as an example, it seems the Kurds are not only entitled to their separate land but about 40% of the Turkish mainland.

  8. Pointsman says:

    Yet another reason why half the electorate thinks that neither political party represents their interests.

    Perhaps 2011 will be the year that Americans take back their government from alien interest groups.

  9. So we have two states, both founded on the bloody mass expulsion of the ancient indigenous Christian populations, and both divided between secular ultranationalists and the forces embodied by the AKP in one state’s case, Shas in the other’s. But I respectfully submit that, from your own American point of view, one of those states is an American ally and the other is not. This article comprehensively sets out which is which.

  10. Turkey is no different than Pakistan, they have been extorting billions from Western Countries playing the Secular/Islam card. To boot, Turkey has never been a reliable Western Ally, they fought against the west in WW1. stayed Neutral in WWII and had no qualms in supporting Hitler by exporting chromium supplies to Nazi Germany.
    During the 1973 MidEast War – Turkey refused US Military overflights to resupply Israel, but had no issues with granting the USSR overland military convoy rights to resupply Syria and Iraq.
    and of course in 1978, the Turks had no issues with granting once again Soviet Military overflights to supply the pro-Soviet Ethiopian communists under Col. Mengistu. I can go on and on and on about the unreliability of this so called loyal ally(Turkey).

  11. Bravo! Turkey actually is doing Israel a favor, by trying to end the occupation of the Golan Heights and the West Bank, and by seeking UN membership for Palestine with “1967” borders.
    Pathetic the number of Israeli stooges in the US Senate and House.

  12. David Lindsay – – The foolish Greek effort to conquer Western Anatolia brought disaster to the Orthodox Christians in what remained of the Ottoman Empire.

    And yes, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank has been a disaster for the Christian communities of the WB.

  13. bazaarland, is Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia or Bosnia-Herzegovina (all right, a weak link) part of the West? They all fought on the same side as Turkey in World War One. As did parts of what are now Denmark, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Italy, Belgium and France.

  14. Pointsman says:

    @bazaarland: “Turkey is no different than Pakistan, they have been extorting billions from Western Countries playing the Secular/Islam card.”

    Actually Turkey is quite different. Aid to Pakistan dwarfs aid to Turkey, and when it comes to extorting money from “Western Countries” nobody comes anywhere near Israel:

    In per capita terms, there is a stunning difference in the scale of aid to Israel versus to the rest of the world. And note that Turkey doesn’t even appear on the Top 10.

  15. tbraton says:

    “In per capita terms, there is a stunning difference in the scale of aid to Israel versus to the rest of the world. And note that Turkey doesn’t even appear on the Top 10.”

    I thought Turkey was supposed to be the great economic success story. Why are we giving any aid to Turkey? But, then, that question really should be asked about any country to which we give aid.

  16. James Canning, the Greeks had been there five times as long as the Turks and were enormously numerous, with any number of places in present-day Turkey mentioned in Homer and the like, and with several of Saint Paul’s Epistles addressed to such communities. I appreciate that there are always at least two sides to any of these stories, but the foundation of the Turkish Republic on the expulsion of the Greeks and the Armenians is one of the clearer-cut ones.

  17. @statpack, actually Turkey and Pakistan are quite the same in many aspects. On one hand they both like to talk about their secular “nature” to external audiences (Of course both are propped up by their armed forces) and internally both countries have secret service agencies, which finance and support Islamic Terrorist Organizations (for both domestic and foreign purposes). If you however are more concerned about the amount of billions that were extorted and the “financial year” that the aid was recorded into the US government leger. Well that is another argument for another day.

  18. Pointsman says:

    tbraton: “I thought Turkey was supposed to be the great economic success story. ”

    It is. In fact, Turkey has been taking nothing and repaying earlier grants for many years. Israel is still on the take of course. Big time.

  19. Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Disregarding the immediate consequences to our servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan, enraging the Arab Street, the hypocracy for having advocated a Palestinian state, and the longer term threat to our homeland security, President Obama will no doubt capitulate to AIPAC. However, Israel has a vibrant democracy and many Israelis and Israeli peace groups advocate a two state solution. Accordingly, I’d like to see more information and opinons on Jewish Americans who support a Palestinian state and are sympathetic to Abbas for seeking UN membership. For example:

  20. David Lindsay – – I think it was a disaster for Turkey to expell the Greeks, and of course they had “been there” for thousands of years longer than the “Turks”. Expulsion etc of the Armenians was also a disaster for Turkey, in my view.
    I think the “Turkish” genetic element in the population of Anatolia, prior to the First World War, was a minority contribution. This of course was also the case in the Balkans, and had led to the indepedence of a number of states carved from the Ottoman Empire.

  21. David Lindsay – – An interesting footnote is that the “Young Turks” who sought to reform the Ottoman Empire before it collapsed completely, were keenest on keeping the European provinces. And the entry into the First World War was based on a mistaken belief Germany could help the Turkish empire to retain its Arab provinces.

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