Solving the world’s problems – Different strokes for different folks

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Another creative response from the United States.

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Meanwhile, Turkey gets on with the job of dealing with 3 million refugees,

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and the European Union lends a helping hand.

According to the US Department of Defence’s annual budget, a single Tomahawk missile costs $1.59 million.

Combine that by the 59 missiles the US ordered to be fired off two warships in the Mediterranean Sea, and you’re looking at a bill of around $94 million. (Source)

And that’s not counting the cost of keeping a fleet of warships in the Mediterranean Sea. Why don’t they do something about poverty, health, education and equal opportunities in their own country?

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While the Tomahawk isn’t as devastating as some of the missiles carried on board manned aircraft, it is typically used when Western nations [especially the USA] want a long-range weapon that can be fired from safe territory.

But it seems the US Government is actually proud of what they’ve done:

“The United States blasted a Syrian air base with a barrage of cruise missiles Friday afternoon in fiery retaliation for this week’s gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians.

President Donald Trump cast the US assault as vital to deter future use of poison gas and called on other nations to join in seeking “to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria.”

A Homs governor has told the Associated Press that the missile attack at the Syrian base has resulted in deaths. Reuters reports six Syrian soldiers were killed and seven wounded at the air base.

Russia responded, saying the US strike on Syria is “aggression against a sovereign state” and violates international law,” reported AP.

Probably the only thing that will stop Russia from supporting Syria militarily is the likelihood that the US government will nuke them if they do.

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PS – 100 tonnes of bombs and they only killed 6 people. Now there’s a precision strike for you!

The Non-people – Let’s say that they are dead

I wrote this back in 2003. I wasn’t writing a blog in those days, so it didn’t get much circulation. I’m posting it now in response to three items that crossed my screen this morning:

  • A reply to my post about Turkey’s human rights record – expressing deep sadness and frustration at the writer’s powerlessness in the face of US aggression and lies;
  • A clip my sister sent me with a Scottish woman singing/reciting a beautiful song/poem about Donald Trump;
  • Another reply from a woman who lost a child to the injustices of the US health system.

“It doesn’t snow that often in Istanbul, so it’s a novelty, especially for an ex-pat Aucklander. I love looking out of the window at the flying flakes, the trees with their branches laden and bent, the lawn white, and the Bosphorus beyond looking infinite, the Asian shore lost in mist.

When I got up this morning, the world was white, and the house was cold. My heating hadn’t come on. I had to go downstairs and bleed some air out of the heat pump. Now I’m comfortable behind double-glazed windows, radiators warming every room, enjoying the framed pictures on every wall, unreal, like old greeting cards of northern winters celebrating a southern Christmas.

I had to go out. My weekend morning routine is a leisurely breakfast with plenty of freshly brewed coffee, and it’s not complete without a warm-from-the-oven baguette from the bakery in Sarıyer, and a local paper. It’s ok though – once you don overcoat, scarf, gloves, woollen beanie, boots . . . snow adds a new dimension to the short walk to the village. Wish I’d got up earlier, though. It’s less picturesque after a few hours of traffic have churned the virginal white to brown slush.

No sign of my local charities today. There’s an old chap with a set of scales who bases himself all day on the esplanade near the supermarket. Too proud to simply beg, he accepts offerings from passers-by in return for reading their weight with doubtful accuracy. I always make a show of putting down my shopping bags, and getting him to read the kilos, in return for which I slip him one Turkish Lira. He shakes my hand and thanks me effusively. But I haven’t seen him for a few weeks. Wonder where he goes in winter?

Outside the bakery sits a woman in late middle-age. She makes little nest for herself with flattened cardboard cartons. On a good day, she may score a wooden fruit box from the grocer across the road. “Allah razi olsun,” she says, in return for my greeting and my lira; “God bless you.” But she wasn’t there today either. Too cold, I suppose.

So I got home, with my loaf and my ‘Milliyet’. The house felt marvellously warm as the radiators began to do their job. I fiddled around in the kitchen preparing a plate of olives, cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, scrambled egg . . . a glass of fresh orange juice (with coffee to follow), then settled down with newspaper spread out on the table.

Arab childI’d noticed, as soon as I took it from the newsagent that this morning’s paper looked different. Half of the front page was filled with the photograph of a doe-eyed Arab girl, about five years old, hair covered with a black embroidered headscarf, but her face open and innocent. “Ölü çocukların sessiz çığlıkları” read the restrained headline – little more than a caption, in fact: “The silent cries of the dead children.” It’s the title of a brief poem printed beside the photo:

‘Shall it be said of them that they are dead

Their hearts have long since stopped

Shall it be said of them that they are dead

The pupils of their eyes show no sign of life

Then let’s say they are dead

Like mighty ships at anchor

In great harbours

No sign of life in the pupils of their eyes

Shall it be said of them that they are dead?’

‘When the photograph of this little girl arrived at the reporters’ department of ‘Milliyet’ yesterday afternoon we were in a meeting.

It was taken in Baghdad yesterday during Friday prayers by Reuters correspondent Shuayib Salem . . .

The little girl’s name was not attached. Maybe it’s Ayshe, Fatma perhaps, or Emine . . . No one knows her name; in my opinion, no one wants to know.

Because, for the movers and shakers sitting in warm rooms in the great capitals of the world, whose names we read in newspapers, whose faces we see on television, it’s necessary that she should have no name, no identity. It’s necessary that she should remain a statistic . . .

In that way, it’s easier to accept the suffering . . .’

That was the front page. I don’t usually read every word – my Turkish is still a bit slow. I brewed my coffee and savoured the taste and the aroma as I flipped through the rest of the paper: movie reviews, apartments to rent, cartoons, football . . . On page 16, news that eighty thousand Turkish troops will be going to Iraq[1], along with fifty thousand from the US; three hundred US aircraft will be based on Turkish soil.

And it occurred to me that I don’t know the name of the old chap with the scales; nor the woman outside the bakery in her cardboard nest – the man and woman who weren’t there. For sure it’s easier that way.”

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[1] In the end, those Turkish troops weren’t sent.

Analysis: What is Turkey trying to achieve in Iraq?

This article appeared in Al Jazeera today. I’m abridging it a little:

“Any attempt to change Mosul’s demographic composition would be a direct threat to Turkey’s security, analysts say.

“Only weeks before Iraqi troops and their local and international partners start their push to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), the leaders of Turkey and Iraq have been caught in a war of words that could derail the Mosul liberation efforts.

730768b961374fc195b9f53e9633b8c6_6Mosul, home to up to 1.5 million people, has been the headquarters of ISIL’s self-declared caliphate in northern Iraq since 2014. The battle for the city, expected later this month, is likely to shape the post-ISIL Iraq.

Turkey’s President Erdoğan also said that Turkey is determined to participate in the operation to retake Mosul from ISIL, with or without Baghdad’s approval. Turkish media later reported that Turkey is planning to participate in the Mosul operation with an invitation from the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Masoud Barzani.

Turkey’s parliament voted two weeks ago to extend the deployment of an estimated 2,000 troops across northern Iraq by a year to combat “terrorist organisations”. Around 500 of these troops are stationed in the Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq, training local fighters who will join the battle to recapture Mosul.

Abadi’s government requested an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the issue, and both countries summoned each other’s ambassadors in a mounting diplomatic standoff. “It is hard to take Baghdad’s threats seriously,” Ali Faik Demir, an expert on Turkish foreign policy from Istanbul’s Galatasaray University, told Al Jazeera.

“A country that cannot protect its territorial integrity and eliminate terrorist elements within itself cannot threaten a neighbour for protecting its own interests. Especially when that neighbour was invited in to the country by Mosul’s former governor to train Sunni militias who are preparing to fight ISIL.”

According to analysts the legitimacy of the government in Baghdad is slowly eroding amid sectarian tensions, foreign interventions and the ISIL occupation. Abadi, say analysts, is trying to use Turkey’s presence in Northern Iraq to fuel a new brand of Iraqi nationalism to keep at least certain parts of the country intact in the post-ISIL era.

” Turkey is concerned that once ISIL fighters are pushed out of Mosul, the government in Baghdad will make it difficult for Sunni residents of the city to live there. Erdogan previously said that Mosul, which was seized by ISIL two years ago, belongs to “its Sunni residents”.

Analysts believe that Turkey’s concerns about the future of Mosul should not be interpreted as an attempt to reshape a sovereign country’s demographic make-up. “We have to remember Iraq’s current borders were drawn in the Sykes-Picot agreement,” Demir said.

“Those borders are nothing more than arbitrary lines drawn in the sand by the British. So the situation can only be analysed realistically from a city-centric perspective. Mosul is a historically Sunni city and any attempt to change its demographic composition would be a direct threat to Turkey’s security,” he said.

Analysts emphasised that Turkey’s uneasiness about the prospect of having sectarian militias help Iraqi army in the Mosul liberation operation should not be dismissed simply as a desire to protect fellow Sunnis in the region. “If [these forces] push into Mosul, where will the Sunni residents of the city go?” asked Demir. “Of course they cannot go to Syria, so they will move north, into Turkey. ”

Turkey is already hosting 2.7 million refugees, he said.  “Turkey simply cannot absorb another wave of refugees, so the Turkish government and military need to take necessary precautions to make sure residents of Mosul can stay in Mosul after ISIL is ousted from their city.”

Turkish Coalition of America Syrian Refugee Campaign

I’m passing this on because it’s such a worthy cause:

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Children working on art projects at one of ReVi’s schools in Izmir

Since the launch of TCA’s Syrian Refugee Campaign in June 2016, TCA has distributed humanitarian grants to several organizations working directly on the ground with Syrian refugees in Turkey. These organizations include Refugee Volunteers of Izmir (ReVi), Butun Cocuklar Bizim (All Children are Ours), and Sureli Destek (Periodic Support).

With the grant, ReVi has opened schools in the Kadifekale and Basmane distircts of Izmir, which teach over 120 children age 5 -12 years old. None of these children had previously attended school before beginning classes at ReVi. ReVi is also helping families work from home through knitting and bracelet making. They provide workshops to teach families how to make bracelets and provide materials like wool and beads at no cost. They then purchase the products from the families and sell the items through their online store http://revistore.org. Through this wonderful program, many families are able to make enough money to pay their rent.

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Children at a school supported by Bütün Çocuklar Bizim

Working together, Butun Cocuklar Bizim and Sureli Destek have distributed food, supplies, diapers, and school bags to Syrian families living in the Fatih, Okmeydani, and Kucukcekm
ece districts of Istanbul. Many of the families have young children and rely on income from daily odd jobs to get by. Often, children as young as 8 years old are forced to work 12-14 hours a day to support their families. When asked, many of these children have conveyed their desire to attend any kind of school. Butun Cocuklar Bizim and Sureli Destek are working make sure all children who can enroll in school are registered and begin classes in the coming weeks.

To donate to TCA’s Campaign to Raise $100,000 for Syrian Refugees in Turkey, please click here. TCA will match every dollar contributed up to $100,000 as part of this campaign. The Turkish Coalition of America is a Section 501(c)3 nonprofit and your donations may qualify as a charitable deduction for federal income tax purposes.

Turkish Coalition of America

Joe Biden’s Turkey tightrope

The vice-president has the difficult task of reassuring Ankara that Washington is committed to its NATO ally.

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JB: Sorry I’m late. Wish I could have come sooner 🙂 RTE: What’s six weeks between friends?

Septuagenarian US vice-president is currently in Turkey, smiling for the cameras and his home audience, and talking down to Turkey’s leaders while delivering veiled threats about “friendship”. This article on politico.com has some interesting insights into the relationship:

ISTANBUL — Smoke rose over the Islamic State’s Syrian stronghold of Jarabulus Wednesday morning as Turkish tanks rolled across the border in a major operation that could pit two U.S. allies against each other.

The campaign began just hours before U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Ankara to discuss the fallout of last month’s failed coup. But while Turkey was moving against the Islamic State with Washington’s support, its operation was aimed not only the jihadists, but also the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.

Speaking in Ankara, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the attack on Jarabulus — the last stretch of northern border territory held by the jihadists — had begun at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, targeting “terror groups which constantly threaten our country.”

After a suicide bombing killed 54 guests at a Kurdish wedding on Saturday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu vowed to “cleanse” the country’s border region of ISIL, which had previously used Turkey’s porous frontier as a gateway to its self-declared caliphate.

Erdoğan added that the operation would also target Kurdish fighters in Syria. Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG militia an extension of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), whose three-decade war against the Turkish state has killed some 40,000 people.

The trouble for Turkey is that while the U.S. and the rest of NATO have listed the PKK as a terror group, they see the YPG as their most effective ally in the fight against ISIL. Earlier this month, with American support, the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) — a coalition dominated by the Kurds — retook the strategic city of Manbij in northeastern Syria.

But while Manbij’s liberation was greeted with enthusiasm in the West, it caused consternation in Ankara. It meant that the Kurds had moved West, across the Euphrates river, which Ankara had once declared a “red line.” It also meant that they were free to move north towards Jarabulus, a town just south of the Turkish border.

Had the Kurds been able to capture Jarabulus and surrounding areas, they would have connected the two Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria, creating a de facto autonomous state along Turkey’s border. This would have fulfilled a longstanding dream of the Kurds but it would have been anathema to Ankara, which fears that an autonomous Kurdish entity in Syria would pour oil on the flames of its own Kurdish conflict.

Turkey is determined for Syria to retain its territorial integrity and will take matters into its own hands if required to protect that territorial unity,” Erdoğan warned on Wednesday.

Turkey is killing two birds with one stone,” said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat and visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe. “The military objective of this operation is ISIS, but the political objective is the Kurds.”

After bombarding Jarabulus for two days, Turkish tanks and special forces entered Syria alongside several hundred Syrian rebel fighters. By early Wednesday afternoon, the joint operation had succeeded in retaking two villages and the Syrian rebels reached the center of the town under Turkish and U.S. air cover.

Syrian Kurdish leaders responded with anger. Salih Muslim, the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), wrote on Twitter that Turkey was now in the “Syrian quagmire” and would be defeated like the Islamic State. Redur Xelil, a spokesperson for the YPG militia, denounced Turkey’s intervention as an act of “blatant aggression.”

As tensions rise between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds, Ankara’s foray into Syria may be yet another headache for Biden, who has the difficult task of reassuring Ankara that the U.S. is committed to its NATO ally amid surging anti-American sentiment following the July 15 coup attempt.

Turkey blames the coup on Pennsylvania-based preacher Fethullah Gülen and has demanded his extradition — a request that has so far been met with reluctance from U.S. authorities. Erdoğan has also long criticized the West’s support for Syria’s Kurds, describing it as the equivalent of holding “live grenades with the pins pulled.”

In Ankara on Wednesday, Biden launched a charm offensive, praising the bravery of the Turkish people during the coup attempt, lauding their efforts against the Islamic State and declaring that the country had “no better friend” than the United States. He also warned the Syrian Kurds that they would lose U.S. support if they did not retreat to the Euphrates’ eastern bank.

His speech was well received. But with two of their allies on a collision course, the U.S. will have to watch Turkey’s next steps closely.

Read the whole article

The Sykes-Picot Agreement -Who’s to blame?

This Thursday, May 19, will mark one hundred years since the concluding of an agreement signed in secret by the three Entente Powers in the First World War. Britain, France and Czarist Russia, anticipating victory and the final demise of the Ottoman Empire, drew up a document carving up the Ottoman domains and divvying them up amongst themselves.

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Colonel Sykes

When the victorious Bolsheviks made the agreement public after the Russian Revolution of 1917, it was something of an embarrassment for the British and French governments. Nevertheless, they went ahead with their plans, and the post-war Treaty of Sevres was an attempt to implement the provisions determined by Mr Sykes and M. Picot.

There is a debate going on in Western media at present over the extent to which those two gentlemen are to blame for the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. There seems to be a significant body of opinion on the affirmative side, arguing that the post-WWI division of Ottoman territory was based on self-interest, without regard for on-the-ground realities. The result, they say, was the current national borders that pay little or no attention to the ethnic and religious composition of the local people. This is one of the key wrongs that the ISIS/Daesh people claim they want to set right.

On their part, the opposition play down the importance of Sykes-Picot on the grounds that: A. It was never fully implemented; B. Messrs Sykes and Picot didn’t really know what they were doing; and C. Hatreds and conflicts in the region go back millennia. Implicit in this position is the argument that the Western allies should not be held responsible for Middle Eastern chaos.

So who’s right? As usual, there are elements of truth on both sides, but neither adhere to the legal principle of ‘The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.’

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Monsieur Picot

First of all, there can be little doubt that Sir Tatton Benvenuto Mark Sykes, Baronet, and François Marie Denis Georges-Picot were acting on the authority of their respective governments. You can’t weasel your way out of that, guys.

Second, while it is true that the Sykes-Picot agreement was not implemented in full, it wasn’t for want of trying by the French and British governments. The 1918 Mudros Armistice that ended WWI hostilities was followed by occupation of the Ottoman capital Istanbul, and military invasion of Izmir and the Anatolian Aegean region by Greece. The 1920 San Remo Conference and the subsequent Treaty of Sevres pretty much followed the Sykes-Picot formula.

The fly in the ointment was Mustafa Kemal Pasha, later Atatürk, who led his Turkish nationalist forces to victory, expelling the Greek army from Anatolia, liberating Istanbul from enemy occupation, and establishing the Republic of Turkey. The 1924 Treaty of Lausanne obliged the 1915 conspirators to except the Anatolian heartland from their plans. Nevertheless, boundaries in the rest of the Middle East were redrawn more or less according to Sykes-Picot. Britain and France got their imperial ‘spheres of influence’, established puppet local governments, and laid the groundwork for the Zionist state of Israel – the main stumbling block to peace in the region.

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The fly in the ointment

As for the claim (said to have been uttered by US President Obama) that regional hatreds and conflicts ‘date back millennia’, this is, at best, a blurring of the truth with ambiguous words. It may be that Biblical conflicts were fought two thousand years ago – but the Pax Romana enforced a peace that lasted pretty much until the oil age that began around the beginning of the 20th century. The creation of Israel in 1947 established a Jewish state that had not existed in any form for 1,815 years. Various Islamic empires controlled the Middle East, North Africa and even Spain for much of the time from the 7th century to the 20th. Admittedly control was established initially by conquest, but thereafter, citizens were allowed to follow their own religions and speak their own languages. The current mix of religions and cultures in the Middle East is surely testament to this.

Of course, it is unfair to lay the blame for present conflicts on two imperial civil servants. Debate over the role of the Sykes-Picot Agreement is surely a red herring. Blame clearly rests with the imperial governments of Britain, France and Russia, who used their military and economic power to force their will on helpless and trusting people – and the emergent United States Empire that continued (and continues) that legacy into the 21st century.