A journalist for the UK’s Telegraph newspaper recently interviewed members of an armed civilian militia based in West Texas. A spokesman for the group, Johnny Cochrane, was quoted as saying, ‘the greatest threat we face today is not terrorists; it is our own federal government’. Fireteam Diamondback is one of many such groups spread throughout mainland USA. ‘Our job as militia,’ said Cochrane ‘is to re-establish the government in a way George [Washington] and the boys intended. And to do that we can’t go and hide in the bushes; we have to take active participation in the overthrow that Thomas Jefferson point-blank told us was our duty as Americans.’ Ready for active participation at a moment`s notice, his personal Hummer is stocked for the coming conflict with ‘an AR15 assault rifle, a minimum 300 rounds of ammunition, a Cold Steel curved knife (“I can remove a human limb with that and the head of a white tail buck with one swat”), a Kimber .45 pistol and six spare magazines, a shotgun, first aid kit, combat boots and military-issue MREs (meals ready to eat) for three days.’
As far as I know, that article was not published in the New York Times, and probably most of our friends in the USA will reassure us that those guys are just fringe lunatics who don’t really pose a serious threat to the Obama regime or the security of the homeland. On the other hand, just last weekend the NY Times did publish an article headlined: Poles Steel for Battle Fearing Russia Will March on Them Next. The Times correspondent in Kalisz, Poland, interviewed 16 year-old Bartosz Walesiak, who said he had been interested in the military since playing with toy soldiers as a little boy, but had been motivated to join a paramilitary group, the Shooters Association, after Russia moved into Crimea. Young Bartosz was ‘one of thirty students who took an oath to defend Poland at all costs, joining nearly 200 other regional members of the association — young men and women, boys and girls — marching in formation around the perimeter of the dusty high school courtyard here. They crossed Polish Army Boulevard and marched into the center of town, sprawling in four long lines along the edge of St. Joseph’s Square.’
We sure are fortunate to have reputable newspapers like the Times keeping us up-to-date with these threats to world peace. How long before the US government is canvassing support for a coalition of sycophants and the jingoistic gullible to provide on-the-ground military support for the Polish Shooters Association and their high school student troops holding out against the evil Russian bear?
Maybe you think I’m being excessively cynical here. But I’d be prepared to bet that those Polish kids don’t have access to the kind of personal firepower available to Johnny Cochrane and his Texas militiamen. You might think those people at the New York Times would be better advised to keep an eye on problems in their own backyard. But that’s not what they do. Their expertise is far more attuned to identifying conflicts in other countries thousands of kilometres from their safe haven on 8th Avenue, Manhattan.
Take as another example, the editorial they published last Friday: Turkey’s Drift from NATO. The writer claims that the Turkish government is ‘not cooperating fully or . . . acting in outright defiance of NATO’s priorities and interests’. Their evidence for this is:
- They are allowing thousands of ‘Jihadists’ to cross their border into Syria to fight with ISIS/ISIL.
- They are not making military bases and troops available to the American-led coalition against ISIS.
- They are considering the purchase of a $3.4 billion air defence system from China.
- They are working on an agreement with Russia to build a natural gas pipeline through Turkey, bypassing Ukraine in defiance of ‘Western’ sanctions.
- They are working with a Russian company to build Turkey’s first nuclear power station.
Now in my humble opinion the credibility of a newspaper that relies on the word of a 16 year-old high school kid as the basis for an article about a foreign country would have to be seriously suspect. But this is the New York Times; and that’s an editorial, not just some correspondent/blogger venting his spleen. So let’s see if the piece stands up to closer scrutiny.
First of all, whose ‘priorities and interests’ are we talking about here? The citizens of NATO member countries who voted to send troops back to Iraq and Syria (maybe I missed that)? Or the US industrial/military/finance nexus, for reasons of their own, looking for someone to bomb? And if it’s the latter, why is Turkey obliged to cooperate?
Turkey has in fact been a member of NATO since 1952, before Germany joined, and 30 years before Spain. Probably against their better judgment, but out of a sense of solidarity, they sent troops to America’s Korean War. According to a recently published book the United States had ten military bases in Turkey during the Cold War. In addition they had five radar stations, six naval facilities and storage centres, ten ‘communication nodes’ and seven other ‘facilities’. The US had strike aircraft armed with tactical nuclear weapons based there, and almost 30,000 military personnel. Another writer on the subject, Robert E Harkavy, says ‘In the late 1950s, in response to the “missile scare,” . . . the U.S. based medium range ballistic missiles, Thor and Jupiter, in the U.K., Italy and Turkey.’ Making Turkey, I guess, a prime target for the USSR in the event of war with the West.
Furthermore, Holmes says, ‘Some of the more secretive aspects of the US presence included CIA operations and the establishment of a special warfare department.’ She quotes from a book by Daniele Ganser, NATO’s Secret Armies, which you can download here. It’s a scary read, and obligatory for anyone really wanting to understand the workings of NATO.
In recent years, the Turkish government has three times invoked Article 4 of the NATO charter, requesting discussion on: the Iraq War in 2003 and twice in 2012 over acts of aggression against Turkey by Syrian forces. As far as I am aware, NATO took no action to support one of its most loyal members.
On the subject of Turkey’s ‘porous’ border with Syria, more than a million refugees have crossed over, desperately seeking sanctuary from the four-year civil war. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has repeatedly called on richer countries to help out with this humanitarian disaster. According to the European University Institute the most porous border is actually the Mediterranean Sea. Refugees are constantly attempting to cross to European countries in unseaworthy boats. Some do succeed, and I have it from a reliable source that they are contributing to EU economies by supplying cheap labour in dodgy industries not much favoured by local citizens. Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, however, are having to absorb the bulk of the displaced Syrians – and short of ordering them back at gun-point, what would you have Turkey do? Incidentally, the border between Turkey and Syria is 822 km long, and far from Turkey’s main centres of population, industry and civilisation.
The Turkish government has not, in fact, refused to assist the US coalition (let’s call it what it is). They have, however, insisted that their participation is conditional on the coalition’s having a plan for dealing with the chaos in the region, especially the civil war in Syria – and so far no such plan has been spelled out.
What about that missile deal with China? Surely that’s a bad thing? Depends on your point-of-view. US free-marketeers are quick to assert their right to purchase from the lowest bidder. Is that right exclusive to US business interests, or does it extend to others? The Chinese have apparently included in their deal provision of technical expertise that will allow the Turks to begin manufacturing components on their own soil. American and European arms manufacturers are understandably miffed at the idea of missing out on a lucrative contract, and have announced their refusal to integrate the Chinese weapons into their system should Turkey go ahead with the purchase.
Incidentally the US ran a $342 billion trade deficit with China in 2014. Trade with that country had more than doubled in ten years since 2004. A Huffington Post article listed iconic American products currently manufactured in China, including: Barbie dolls, Converse All Star sports shoes, Levi jeans, US Olympic uniforms, television sets, iPads, bicycles and, in 2010, $3.2 million worth of American flags. Among the US’s loyal allies, China is Canada’s second-largest trading partner, and Australia’s Number One! It’s ok for them but not for Turkey?
Then there’s that gas pipeline from Russia. In defiance of Western sanctions. In fact most of the gas flowing through that pipe will go to EU countries that import more than 30% of their gas and oil requirements from Russia. In the days before Muammar Gaddafi was violently removed from office, France and Italy were his biggest customers for oil. It does seem that the United States and its European allies are trying to hold Turkey to standards they don’t expect of themselves. So Turkey is working with a Russian company to build their first nuclear power station. Well, I have to tell you I’m not a big fan of using nuclear energy to generate electricity, especially in a country criss-crossed by several seismic fault lines. But that’s not what the NY Times editor is complaining about. Energy-poor countries in the developed world generate electricity using nuclear power (eg France, Germany, Japan) – and Russia is Turkey’s nearest neighbour with the technological know-how. Who else is offering to help? The European Union has been holding Turkey at arms-length for more than 50 years. A little goodwill flowing in an easterly direction might strengthen the bonds of friendship.
And by the way, look at a map and ask yourself why Russia might be uncomfortable about the European Union’s efforts to add Ukraine to its membership. The United States have been punishing Cuba for 50 years for getting too cosy with Soviet Russia. Incidentally, the USSR actually did offer to join the NATO alliance in the 1950s, but was rejected.
Our American friends may be right in playing down the threat of Johnny Cochrane and his Texas militiamen. At the same time, they might be wise to weigh up the degree of trust they can put in their own news media, starting with the New York Times.
 Social Unrest and American Military bases in Turkey and Germany Since 1945, Amy Austin Holmes (Cambridge University Press, 2014)
 Strategic Basing and the Great Powers, 1200-2000 (Routledge, 2007)