Our latest TV drama series fix is the American political thriller ‘Homeland’. Now I have to tell you my first impression wasn’t positive. My Turkish Muslim stepson gave us the first series as a gift, and I took a look while Dilek was visiting family in the USA.
Eh! I thought. Just another gung-ho American production glorifying their military/intelligence prowess and demonising Muslims – but I was wrong, and now we’re hooked. We’re way behind current on-screen activity – still working our way through the second series – so have no fear of spoilers.
The two main actors, Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, and the show itself, have won numerous awards. Interestingly, according to the Wikipedia entry, much of the negative criticism comes from Muslim sources, who seem to consider ‘Homeland’ Islamophobic. Well, that’s not how it strikes me – and I’m watching it sitting alongside my Muslim wife.
US Marine sergeant Nicholas Brody (Lewis) was held captive for eight years and tortured by Al Qaeda in Iraq, before somehow finding his way back to homeland America. How did he survive so long? How did he get away? Was he ‘turned’? Is he now a traitorous terrorist seeking to slaughter his own people? What about Carrie (Danes)? Do you have to be insane to work for the CIA? Is she in love with Brody, or just using feminine wiles to get at the truth?
I’m not here to answer any of those questions – merely to register my appreciation for a US-made TV drama series that manages to address some of the real issues in the current ‘clash of civilisations’, and to explore some of the complexities involved in reaching a true understanding of what the hell’s going on in the world these days.
Sergeant Brody is given respite from ill-treatment while a prisoner in Iraq in return for teaching English to the son of Al Qaeda head honcho, Abu Nazir. After becoming attached to the little guy, Brody discovers his mangled corpse amongst the rubble of an American drone strike. US government response to reports claiming civilian casualties is that they are merely ‘propaganda’. US Vice-President Walden is the official spokesman on the matter. Brody knows he is ‘a liar and a murderer’ and says so, loud and clear.
Acting on a tip-off, the CIA mount an operation to take out Abu Nazir on a public street in Beirut. Clearly they take it for granted that they have every right to do so – assassinate a foreign national in a foreign country without consulting the local government. A top CIA man leaves the country with stolen property in a diplomatic bag – acting indignant, and threatening an international incident when searched by Lebanese authorities at the airport on departure. It all rings pretty true, and does seem to present the situation in a fairly balanced way.
Somewhat less balanced was an online rant I came across the other day, courtesy of Huffington Post. A gentleman (I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here) by the name of Doug Bandow had penned a piece entitled ‘Dump New Ottomans from NATO: Shoot Down of Russian Plane Shows Turkey to be Dangerous Ally’. I guess pretty much everyone in the world is aware that on Tuesday 24 November a Turkish air force F-16 downed a Russian Su-24 bomber ignoring repeated warnings that it was violating Turkey’s airspace.
According to Bandow, ‘No one believes the Putin government had the slightest hostile intent against Ankara. Downing the plane was gratuitously provocative and not necessary for Turkey’s defense. . . Ankara,’ he insists, ‘demonstrated where it stands. With the Islamic State and against the West.’
Interesting that this guy is including Vladimir Putin’s Russia in the group he’s calling the ‘West,’ suggesting that ‘Moscow is a better and more reliable partner than Turkey in the Middle East.’ Putin himself, it seems, is not so sure, naming the United States as ‘one of the threats to Russia’s national security.’ But leave that aside. The official US report confirms Turkey’s claim that the Russian pilot was warned repeatedly before his plane was shot down. The absence of a direct threat to Ankara is a red herring. The Russian plane was using Turkish airspace to get a better line for a bombing attack on ground targets in Syria. Syria is a war zone, and Turkey is understandably sensitive about foreign military aircraft straying into its territory. Who was being provocative there?
The Huffington article goes on to make a number of outrageous statements about Turkey’s relationship with the West. ‘Ankara never has been a true friend of the West,’ Bandow says, citing the Cyprus issue as his main argument. He mocks Turkey’s revered founder, Kemal Atatürk, comparing him to North Korea’s Kim dynasty. His point that Turkey was only vaguely democratic in those days may be true, but ignores the fact that it was an attempt at the time by the military regime in Athens to annex the island of Cyprus that provoked Ankara’s response. In fact, Turkey was on the front line of NATO’s defenses against Soviet expansion through the Cold War. The existence of several nuclear-armed missile bases within its borders must have put Turkey high on the USSR’s list of targets to hit in the event of hostilities. That’s a big thing to ask of a friend, never mind a mere ally.
Coming nearer to the present, Bandow concedes that the AK Party swept away ‘a coalition of feckless, corrupt and discredited parties’ when it was elected to power in 2002. He acknowledges that such coalitions were ‘hyper-nationalist’ and punished anyone with ‘liberal sentimentalities’. However, like most of the AK Party government’s opponents, his follow-up arguments are riddled with contradictions, meaningless assertions and logical non-sequiturs. One example: ‘President Erdoğan also is moving Turkey in a more Islamist direction. Although no one expects him to turn his nation into another Iran or Saudi Arabia, he has done more than end strict Kemalist secularism.’ What does this nonsense actually mean? If you were looking for further elucidation in the following sentences, you would search in vain.
‘Ankara,’ Bardow says, ‘has attempted to manipulate the U.S. into ousting Syrian president Assad, who controls the important ground forces containing ISIL’. On the contrary, US President Obama, as long ago as August 2011, was calling for Bashar al-Assad to resign.
Another ludicrous claim in the article is that ‘Turkey is the latest example of alliance members seeking to drag the U.S. into conflicts of no interest to America’. What conflict? Is this guy actually suggesting that Turkey wants to fight a war with Russia? I would say the likelihood of Ankara having authorized its air force to shoot down a Russian plane without getting the ok from Washington is on the negative side of zero. So what conflict is he talking about? There are times while reading this article when I wondered if Bandow’s brain is actually connected to his typing finger.
Far from being a reluctant participant in conflicts, the Huffington article goes on to say, ‘American policy in the Mideast has failed catastrophically: persistent intervention has triggered sectarian war in Iraq, turned religious minorities into refugees, spawned the Islamic State, empowered Iran, turned Libya into another failed state filled with conflict and terrorists, discouraged a negotiated settlement in Syria, backed the least effective Syrian insurgents, inadvertently armed the most dangerous insurgents, and conducted a largely ineffectual campaign against ISIL without apparent end.’
In spite of which, Turkey is the bad ally! In fact, Turkey’s most serious internal problem, how to deal with its Kurdish citizens, had quietened down considerably by the turn of the millennium. It was George W Bush’s lying, murdering invasion of Iraq in 2003 that stirred things up again. The US administration enlisted the help of Iraqi Kurds in their ousting of Saddam Hussein – and what did they promise in return? An independent Kurdistan that would gratefully share its oil oil-riches with its big Western benefactor?
So who is this guy Bandow? Well, certainly a rabid Republican, and no friend of the Obama administration. According to his Huffington bio, he is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute – a kind of Libertarian ‘think tank’ founded by major Republican Party sponsor Charles Koch, one of the world’s ten richest human beings as a result of his oil and chemicals empire.
According to Wikipedia, Bandow was out of the club for a spell, having resigned from Cato in 2005 after he was found to have been involved in a bribery and corruption scandal involving American ‘lobbyist’ Jack Abramoff. Evidently such qualities are not totally at odds with the principles of the Cato Institute, however, and Bandow was accepted back not long after. Another of Doug’s interests is an organization calling itself the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. Interestingly, there is a link to this group on his Wikipedia page, but it goes nowhere, and the other page seems to have been removed.
Well, I have to confess, I don’t know what this guy Douglas Bandow is up to, but it seems to me he is a mouthpiece for some shadowy organisations that make liberal use of words like freedom, democracy and religion while using their immense money power to implement a hidden agenda of their own. I read a news item today claiming that ISIS/Daesh are using quotes from Donald Trump’s speeches in their current recruitment campaign.
So maybe there’s nothing very complicated at all about what these jerks are doing. They just want us all fighting each other so we’ll buy more weapons from them. What do you think?