US ‘concerned about quality of democracy in Turkey’

The headline was in our local English language daily, so I checked it online just to be sure. Well, as usual, there’s a context. The words were spoken at a US Dept of State press conference on Thursday. In fact the spokesman was doing his best to be diplomatic in the face of questioning clearly aimed at getting him to come out and criticise the state of democracy in Turkey. So, credit where credit’s due – he didn’t.

And well he might not! Whatever pious voices the US reporters might raise against Turkey, it’s pretty clear that they would be better advised to deal with the blows against democracy being struck by their own government at home and abroad.

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Thanks to a CIA-backed coup in 1952 to overthrow the democratically elected prime minister

For example:

“An executive at the Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank on April 13 pleaded not guilty to involvement in a multi-year scheme to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran.


“Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a deputy general manager at Halkbank, entered his plea through his lawyer at a hearing in Manhattan federal court.

“U.S. prosecutors accused Atilla of conspiring with wealthy Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars of illegal transactions through U.S. banks on behalf of Iran’s government and other entities in Iran.”

Well, if these Turkish guys were actually trying to evade US sanctions against Iran (and I’m not saying they were), they were undoubtedly doing it for the benefit of their own country and not just Iran. Turkey had been suffering economically for more than 30 years by loyally supporting the US government’s sanctions against Iran. These sanctions were imposed after a grass-roots Islamic revolution in 1979 overthrew the US-puppet Shah who had been misgoverning the country for 27 years on behalf of his western masters. Who’s wrong here?

If you guys are really so keen on democracy, can you please tell us exactly how such interference in the affairs of a sovereign nation fits into your plan for democratising the universe? And how are things progressing in Afghanistan?

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And $2 million for each bang

“The United States on Thursday dropped “the mother of all bombs,” the largest non-nuclear bomb it has ever used in combat, on an ISIS tunnel and cave complex in eastern Afghanistan. The bomb, officially called the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), was dropped from a MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said, according to the Associated Press. The target was near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.

“President Donald Trump said Thursday the bombing was a “very successful mission,” according to Reuters, and he touted the mission as evidence of a stronger foreign policy under his administration. It was not immediately clear how much damage the bomb did, how many militants were killed, or whether any civilians were killed.

“The GBU-43 is a GPS-guided weapon that weighs an enormous 21,600 pounds (9.5 tonnes), according to an article from the Eglin Air Force Base. Each one costs $16 million, according to military information website Deagel. During testing in the early 2000s, it created a mushroom cloud that could be seen from 30 km away, according to the Air Force story.

“The U.S. military says it has 20 MOAB bombs and has spent about $314 million producing them, according to CNBC.

“While not all details from Thursday’s blast have been made public, the bomb is very powerful. “What it does is basically suck out all of the oxygen and lights the air on fire,” Bill Roggio, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Air Force Times. “It’s a way to get into areas where conventional bombs can’t reach.” (Source: Time)

Another article in Time informed me that Turkey is one of five countries where ISIS gets many of its foreign recruits:

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Britain and France’s secret plan for post-WWI Middle East – and where did Kurdistan fit in?

“Turkey has its own fraught relationship with an ethnic minority agitating for independence. The Kurds are an ethnic group that number between 20 million and 40 million who straddle the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. Denied their own state when the borders of modern Turkey were established following World War I, they are now the world’s largest stateless ethnic group. Kurdish fighters have spent decades fighting the Turkish government to carve out an independent state for themselves, and some have resorted to terrorism; over the past three decades, more than 40,000 people have been killed in clashes between Turks and Kurds.

“Complicating matters is that Kurds in Syria are one of the most effective forces fighting both Assad and ISIS. Their success could create an independent Kurdish state inside Syria, which might encourage a larger share of Turkish Kurds to take arms with the same goal. So one of the greatest terrorist threats against Turkey is also a threat to ISIS.

“At the same time, roughly 2,100 Turks have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS. Since 2015, more than 400 people have been killed in terrorist attacks throughout the country. In other words, Turkey’s terrorism problem is only becoming more complicated.”

And made a whole lot more complicated by US interference in regional affairs. For a start, it wasn’t just Turkey that stood in the way of a Kurdish state. It was the victorious allies, Britain and France who drew the borders of Iraq and Syria for their own selfish reasons at the end of World War I. And if they’d had their way, the Turks would have been an even larger stateless group! Further, there is no doubt that most of the Kurdish people in Turkey do not support PKK separatist terrorism. They are getting on with the business of making a living, and a better life for their kids in the cities of Turkey – with the assistance of the present government. And the process is not helped by the US government supporting Kurdish revolutionary separatists in Syria in the so-called fight against ISIS. Yankee go home! Just let the locals get on with sorting out their own problems!

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Well, I don’t get to vote in the referendum, but if I did . . .

Dear Americans, you may think you have the best of intentions, but . . .

“Misdirected coalition strike kills 18 partner forces in Syria

“A coalition air strike accidentally killed 18 members of a U.S.-backed Arab-Kurdish alliance fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) near a key town in northern Syria, the U.S.-led coalition said on April 13.”

Who needs enemies when you’ve got a friend like the USA?

“The President of the Universe holds no real power. His sole purpose is to take attention away from where the power truly exists…”

Once again, hats off to Douglas Adams. He saw it all!

“But it was not in any way a coincidence that today, the day of culmination of the project, the great day of unveiling, the day that the Heart of Gold was finally to be introduced to a marvelling Galaxy, was also a great day of culmination for Zaphod Beeblebrox. It was for the sake of this day that he had first decided to run for the Presidency, a decision which had sent waves of astonishment throughout the Imperial Galaxy – Zaphod Beeblebrox? President? Not the Zaphod Beeblebrox? Not the President? Many had seen it as a clinching proof that the whole of known creation had finally gone bananas.

Zaphod grinned and gave the boat an extra kick of speed.

Zaphod Beeblebrox, adventurer, ex-hippy, good timer, (crook? quite possibly), manic self-publicist, terribly bad at personal relationships, often thought to be completely out to lunch.

President?
 No one had gone bananas, not in that way at least.
 Only six people in the entire Galaxy understood the principle on which the Galaxy was governed, and they knew that once Zaphod Beeblebrox had announced his intention to run as President it was more or less a fait accompli: he was the ideal Presidency fodder.

There was a mood of immense excitement thrilling through all of them. Together and between them they had gone to and beyond the furthest limits of physical laws, restructured the fundamental fabric of matter, strained, twisted and broken the laws of possibility and impossibility, but still the greatest excitement of all seemed to be to meet a man with an orange sash round his neck. (An orange sash was what the
President of the Galaxy traditionally wore.) It might not even have made much difference to them if they’d known exactly how much power the President of the Galaxy actually wielded: none at all. Only six people in the Galaxy knew that the job of the Galactic President was not to wield power but to attract attention away from it.

Zaphod Beeblebrox was amazingly good at his job.”

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” Chapter 4

Reaching out to the Muslims

Well, it seems like al-Qaeda have resurfaced after a period out of our headlines. Maybe people were getting bored with ISIS – or were just plain confused about who they actually were, given all the acronyms that seemed to refer to the same shadowy outfit: ISID, ISIL, DAESH etc. Then there are YPG and SDF . . . And that’s just in Syria! It’s all a bit much, really. Let’s just get back to basics and bomb the sh** out of al-Qaeda. At least we knew who those guys were . . . Didn’t we?

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Got those mothers!

So it seems that’s what we’re doing. By “we”, of course, I mean the Western alliance; the Christian, democratic, freedom-loving Western alliance. That’s us, right? Me and you?

And it’s with some satisfaction we note that the United States military is back to doing what it does best – taking out al-Qaeda operatives threatening Homeland, USA, just a short 9,220 km hop, step and a jump away from Washington DC, in Syria (that’s 5,763 miles for those of you who still insist on using those medieval measurements).

Colonel John Thomas (no connection with the male appendage of the gardener in “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”), spokesman for US Central Command, apparently told Reuters: “’US forces conducted an airstrike on an Al-Qaeda in Syria meeting location March 16 in Idlib, Syria, killing several terrorists.’ He later clarified that the precise location of the strike was unclear — but that it was the same one widely reported to have targeted the village mosque in Al-Jineh, in Aleppo province.

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There’s DC – there’s Aleppo. You can see why we’re nervous, right?

‘We are going to look into any allegations of civilian casualties in relation to this strike,’ he added, when asked about reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that 42 people had died, most of them civilians.”

Several news sources, however, including the BBC, reported that the al-Jineh mosque “had been packed with worshippers for evening prayers. Forty-two people, mostly civilians, died in an air strike. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the raid by unidentified planes was in al-Jineh, Aleppo province.”

Back to Colonel Thomas: “We did not target a mosque, but the building that we did target – which was where the meeting [of militants] took place – is about 50ft (15metres) from a mosque that is still standing.”

Now, I have to tell you, I’m a little confused about how the Colonel can be so sure the mosque is “still standing” when he admits that “the precise location of the strike was unclear.” Nevertheless, I’m sure the families of the dead worshippers will be comforted to hear that the US military is going to “look into the allegations”.

Election Turkey – 1999

1999 electionGoing through some old papers the other day I came across a graphic I’d cut out of a newspaper back in 1999. It was a map of Turkey with the results of that year’s parliamentary election showing regional distribution of seats for all political parties. I’m attaching a more recent version in the interests of readability.

Five parties won seats in that election, and three independents. The largest share went to the 74 year-old Bülent Ecevit, whose Democratic Left Party (DSP) won 22% of the vote, and formed a coalition government with Devlet Bahçeli’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP – 18%) and Mesut Yılmaz’s Motherland Party (ANAP – 13%).

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Some changes after all the votes were counted, I guess

It was a measure of the people’s desperation in the face of 100% annual inflation and ongoing war in the southeast, that they brought back Ecevit – who had last served as Prime Minister 20 years before – and relegated the three parties most recently governing the country to the role of minor players.

Also noteworthy:

  • The Republican People’s Party, these days the most vociferous critics of the present government, failed to pass the 10% threshold and won no representation.
  • The Kurdish Party (HADEP) also failed to pass the threshold – which is possibly an argument for lowering the bar to 5%.
  • The western parts of the country, currently committed CHP supporters, in 1999 were firmly behind Ecevit’s DSP.
  • The Islamic Virtue Party (FP – 15%) had re-emerged under yet another new name after being repeatedly closed down and banned by the secular establishment.
  • Conspicuous by its absence is the Justice and Development Party (AKP) – which came into existence in 2002 as a result of voter disillusionment with the ongoing parliamentary shenanigans – and has now provided by far the country’s longest continuous period of stability since the death of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Turkey and The Netherlands – What’s going on?

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Muslim women mourning over victims of the Srebenica massacre

It seems to be blowing up into a major diplomatic issue, doesn’t it! Turkey’s President Erdoğan was reported yesterday as having raised a matter that the people of the Netherlands would no doubt prefer to forget. During the Bosnian War, in July 1995, more than 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks, mainly men and boys, were massacred. Between 25,000 to 30,000 Bosniak women, children and elderly were forcibly transferred and abused. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ruled in 2004 that the massacre constituted a genocide, and the ruling was upheld by the International Court of Justice in 2007.

Possibly Mr Erdoğan is embellishing the truth a little when he accuses the Netherlands of direct responsibility. There’s no evidence to suggest that Dutch soldiers actually killed or raped anyone. Nevertheless, the United Nations had declared the Muslim enclave of Srebenica a “safe area” under their protection, and a battalion of Dutch troops (UNPROFOR’s 370 Dutchbat soldiers) was responsible for ensuring the safety of the inhabitants. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, they weren’t able to do so, and courts in the Netherlands have subsequently held the Dutch government responsible for the killings of of 300 Muslim Bosniaks. At this stage it seems unclear who was responsible for the other 7,700 deaths. (Source Wikipedia)

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Whose fault is that? 68% of Dutch people say they have no religion, and 25%  claim to be atheists

You may say that’s a low blow from Mr Erdoğan. It’s old history after all. What we’re talking about here is politicians from Turkey wanting to go to the Netherlands to talk about a political issue when that country is days away from a particularly sensitive parliamentary election. That may be so, however:

  • On 16 April there will be an important national referendum in Turkey to approve or reject proposed changes to the country’s constitution.
  • There are nearly 400,000 Turks in the Netherlands – the largest minority ethnic group. Many of them hold dual citizenship and are entitled to vote in Turkey’s elections.
  • Politicians from Turkey had no interest in influencing the local Dutch election. Their aim was to speak to local Turks about a domestic issue in Turkey.
  • European governments, news media and the European Union itself have been, and still are, active in speaking out publicly against the Turkish government’s proposed changes to the constitution. Most recently, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe published a report asserting that the proposed changes will weaken democracy.

The report criticized the proposals for “letting the new president exercise executive power alone, with unsupervised authority to appoint and dismiss ministers, and to appoint and dismiss all high officials on the basis of criteria determined by him or her alone, allowing the president to be a member and even the leader of his or her political party, that would give him or her undue influence over the legislature and giving the president the power to dissolve parliament on any grounds whatsoever, which is fundamentally alien to democratic presidential systems.”

obamapowerJust out of interest, I googled “US presidential powers” . . . and what do you think? They can do all that and a whole heap more besides, including bomb other countries without having to get Congressional approval, and without even declaring war on them. So why pick on Turkey?

This time last year I expressed some surprise that the UK Consul-general in Istanbul, Leigh Turner, and a gang of his peers from Europe, Canada and the USA had fronted up to a court room where two Turkish journalists were being tried on “charges of procuring information vital to state security, political and military espionage, publishing state secrets and disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” This was a mere four months before another gang, of rebel army officers, attempted to overthrow by force of arms Turkey’s democratically elected government. Those foreign diplomats were not only, by their presence en masse, attempting to pervert the course of justice in their host country, they also (some of them at least) snuggled up to the defendants and took “selfies”  which they then posted on their twitter accounts. When Turkey’s government closed the court hearing to the public, European media began screaming about democratic rights – after the situation had been brought about by the outrageous behaviour of their own “diplomats”.

Leigh Turner

Can’t even SPELL freedom, let alone know what it means!

And now, their cronies in Brussels are rallying round the Netherlands government, who did what? Turned back a plane carrying Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, refusing him entry to their country – then actually stopped the car of Family Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, took her into custody and deported her. Why? Because they wanted to speak to Turkish voters and put an alternative case to the one being promulgated by European press and politicians about Turkey’s upcoming referendum.

Put the two scenarios together and tell me honestly which is worse? Tell me who are the democrats and who the hypocrites?

Sad to say, there can be no winners in a situation like this. The Dutch Prime Minister is refusing to apologise, and his Turkish counterparts are in no mood to forgive these insults. That same Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, is now suggesting that if the European Union does not honour its side of the deal, the migration agreement struck last year between Turkey and the EU could be nullified.

‘We see that the European Union has been stalling us. But our patience is not unlimited. Our citizens also have expectations. If visa liberalisation does not come, we will take steps regarding the migration deal,’ Çavuşoğlu told reporters on March 14.

Turkey agreed last year to work to keep migrants from crossing into the EU in return for funds to help it deal with some three million refugees.

The deal included a 6 billion aid package to help Turkey care for millions of refugees hosted in the country. However, Turkey has so far received only 677 million, with Brussels citing demands that Ankara loosen its tough anti-terror legislation. The agreement also allowed for the acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area.” None of which have eventuated – nor, if you want my opinion, are they ever likely to.

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The borders of Europe

It’s very nice for those politicians and media moguls in Western Europe sitting comfortably and complacently thousands of kilometres from the horrors taking place in the Middle East. Turkey, on the other hand, has to confront them on a daily basis, since they are happening just beyond their back fence.

“The U.N. Human Rights Council warned on Tuesday that a “tidal wave of bloodshed” over more than six years of war in Syria had effectively turned the country into a “torture chamber.”

‘As the conflict enters its seventh year, this is the worst man-made disaster the world has seen since World War II,’ Agence France-Presse quoted Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, as saying about the conflict that has killed 320,000.”

As I was traveling to work yesterday I noticed the minibus driver had a quotation displayed on the inside of his windscreen:

“Belki de haklısın . . . Sıfır’ın gücü yoktur; ama unutma ki, sıfır’ın kaybedecek bir şey de yoktur!”

“Maybe you’re right – Those who have nothing, have no power. But don’t forget, they also have nothing to lose!”

Smug self-righteousness is a sad and dangerous game to play.

Bonkers for BUNKERS: Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich | Paraguay Compounds?

Look out, New Zealand. Your years of quiet, isolated complacency are coming to an end. I’m reblogging this from Lara Trace Hentz.

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The swimming pool at Larry Hall’s Survival Condo Project. These days, when North Korea tests a bomb, Hall can expect an uptick in phone inquiries about space in the complex.

(New Yorker excerpt) …On a cool evening in early November, I rented a car in Wichita, Kansas, and drove north from the city through slanting sunlight, across the suburbs and out beyond the last shopping center, where the horizon settles into farmland. After a couple of hours, just before the town of Concordia, I headed west, down a dirt track flanked by corn and soybean fields, winding through darkness until my lights settled on a large steel gate. A guard, dressed in camouflage, held a semiautomatic rifle.

He ushered me through, and, in the darkness, I could see the outline of a vast concrete dome, with a metal blast door partly ajar. I was greeted by Larry Hall, the C.E.O…

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For Trump, the enemy within is US intelligence

Here’s an interesting piece from the Bangkok Post. Not a source I read regularly, I have to tell you. Maybe I’ll check it out more often. Thanks to my old friend Rob in New Zealand for the link.

cia-loves-u-760208“If you look at the fireworks between President-elect Donald Trump and the American intelligence community under Barack Obama — about whether the Russians hacked the US election in favour of Mr Trump — it’s helpful to research history for clues that may explain how a president-elect could have become so hostile to America’s own spy agency.

“In 1950, President Truman appointed a soldier, Gen Walter Bedell Smith as director of the CIA shortly after the invasion of South Korea. The CIA had been created with the National Security Act of 1947, in part because of American unpreparedness for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.

“A crucial turning point came with the Vietnam War, when the well-trained and often idealistic CIA spies were practising real-life social engineering and counter-insurgency tactics in the dangerous environments of South Vietnam — risking being shot every day — when the anti-war movement in the US took serious hold and began to reach its full bloom.

“It became impossible for American politicians to continue to support that war. The victory for the peaceniks meant defeat for those government employees who served as instruments of US policy and who bore the gritty, tragic hardships and sorrows of the war — the effects of which resonate to this day (including in my own family).

“That was the moment when the true rulers of the United States — the one per cent of super wealthy families and the military-industrial corporations they own and control — grasped who their real enemy was — the domestic US population, the only group of people in the world with the means to foil their plans.”

Intrigued? Read more here

And furthermore . . .

CIA chief Mike Pompeo visits Turkey to discuss policy on Syria and Isis

You can read The Guardian’s take on that here.