Searching for the truth – Distrust everything, including this blog

I’m suspicious of all politicians. Success in politics requires compromise – and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to maintain moral integrity and stick to your principles in the face of bribes, threats, the power of vested interests, and the fickleness of public opinion.

money powerI have personal  first-hand experience in New Zealand of what the political and business establishment will do to get rid of threatening opposition. I know that those interests control the mainstream media and largely determine what news and views will be presented, and what suppressed.

So why do I continue to read and watch those obviously manipulated media? For me, an important principle is, Know your enemy. If you don’t know what they are saying and doing, how can you hope to counter them?

Furthermore, although they are controlled, those media often contradict each other, or provide information unwittingly that undermines the establishment position. Ignoring them as a source limits one’s ability to fight against them.

And what is the alternative? I love the Internet, and I am in awe of the volume of information available; its anarchic uncontrollable character; and the fact that I can find answers to my every question. The Internet has transferred some of the power out of the hands of governments and those who control them, and given it to those of us who are searching for the truth.

talking heads 3Nevertheless, we would be naïve to believe that those governments and corporate interests are not aware of the danger, and don’t seek to use social media for their own purposes.

Consequently, I am disappointed when I find companions in the quest for truth seeming to accept unquestioningly arguments and material disseminated on the blogosphere.

A case in point:An article recommended to me, entitled “Should US-Saudi Alliance Be Saved?” written by one Patrick J Buchanan. Read the piece if you want – maybe you already have. Anyway, some comments of my own:

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I must say the more I read about WWII and events leading up to it, the more I’m inclined to agree that it was an unnecessary war. Well, all wars are bankers’ wars, as they say. Oliver Stone made the case that dropping A-bombs on Japan was totally unnecessary. The more I see of Germany, the more I think the Allies smashed the country so they could lend them the money to rebuild afterwards – and probably the same was true for Japan.

I’m not so keen on Buchanan’s analysis in this instance though. He makes one or two valid points, but his argument is a bit muddied, I think, and his conclusion definitely questionable:

For sure, in the Kashoggi case, the US has a major conflict of interest – and economic realities will undoubtedly figure in any decision they take about what to do in the matter.

Left-or-Right-art-fixed

Oh, what is the truth, man? Let’s hear from the women?

I don’t understand, though, why Buchanan has to go back to Ottoman times tor his first parallel; part of the widespread anti-Turkey mindset? At least he didn’t go for the old chestnut of the Armenians (as an aside, I wonder why not?). Of course we know the Brits were just as self-interestedly hypocritical as Uncle Sam. There was plenty of international outrage in the 1860s and 70s re what the Russians were doing in the Caucasus, but not much came of that.

Diplomatic realities, of course, are diplomatic realities. What did the US have to gain by refusing to “recognize” the Soviet Union, or PRC China, for that matter? They exist, and you can’t really ignore that. Recognizing them didn’t stop all the anti-Communist propaganda of the Cold War, though. Nor did it stop the US from continuing to support the “Nationalist” regime in Taiwan.

I’m no fan of Winston Churchill, but, when dear old England was fighting for its life in WWII, I can imagine he might have considered running an investigation into Nazi Germany’s discovery of suspicious graves in Poland to be a debatable luxury. You can’t really blame the guy if he had other more pressing matters on his mind.

Buchanan does have a valid point about Chile, South Korea, the Philippines and Iran (and he could have added many more to the list). As we know, these were all more or less US puppet leaders. All that proves is that any administration in the US is totally devoid of morality, not just Trump’s. Absolutely the US was behind the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi in Egypt, just as they had supported Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship for nearly 30 years.

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So where do I sit?

Another thing I don’t understand is the criticism of Turkey I constantly hear: “There was a failed military coup attempt in 2016 and the government has used this an excuse to arrest thousands of people.”

Turkey had experienced four successful military takeovers between 1960 and 1997. It must be obvious that senior army officers would not risk their careers, never mind their lives, if they didn’t believe they had significant support, at least within the country, if not from outside its borders. Surely we would expect a far-reaching governmental investigation to follow a coup failure, and some pretty serious consequences for anyone found to have been involved.

As for the imprisoned journalists – I keep hearing this, and most of the figures seem to emanate from a shady outfit calling itself Reporters without Borders. The fact is, I live in Turkey, and I am surrounded by people who are shrill and ceaseless in their hatred and criticism of President Erdoğan, yet I don’t know anyone who has been arrested or imprisoned. The leader of the largest opposition party CHP is constantly criticising the government, and his speeches are always reported at length in mainstream media. International news media are never-ending in their attacks and black propaganda they circulate about Turkey’s government, and I have no trouble accessing their websites. Who are these imprisoned journalists, and what did they do to get themselves in trouble? Criticism is one thing, but supporting violence and armed rebellion against your country’s elected government is surely a different matter – especially in a region as volatile as the one where Turkey is located.

As another aside, most of what I see in NZ and UK media these days seems to focus on royal marriages and babies! CNN’s only interest in the Kashoggi matter seems to be how it will affect the stock market. Al Jazeera is covering it very thoroughly and we know the US and the Saudis would dearly love to shut them down. What happened to Bradley/Chelsea Manning in the USA? Where are Edward Snowden and Julian Assange? And what happened to all the outrage over Wikileaks’s leaks after it became clear that the US government was going to pursue anyone disseminating the information? Who owns most of the private news media in Italy? I have to say I find the hysteria over journalists in Turkey to be totally hypocritical!

Finally, Buchanan’s conclusion: “Rather than resist Congress’ proposed sanctions, President Trump might take this opportunity to begin a long withdrawal from decades of entanglement in Mideast wars that have availed us nothing and cost us greatly.”

Is he serious? Cost the US greatly, for sure – but is he overlooking the oil? Why does he think the US is involved in the Middle East at all? Why did they create Israel in the first place, and why do they continue to support them, right or wrong? Why do they hate Iran so much? Why do they support brutal dictators in Egypt and Saudi Arabia etc? If not for Saudi oil it would have been much harder to apply pressure to socialist governments in countries like Venezuela. Why are they so keen to support Kurdish separatists in Iraq and Syria if not to establish a grateful oil-rich puppet state?

I expect more reasoned argument from those who set themselves up as alternatives to the mainstream press.middle road

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Giuliani: U.S. ‘Sympathizes’ With Attempt to Overthrow Iran’s Government

Well, they’ve done it before, in Iran and pretty much everywhere else in the world! The United States and their allies invaded Russia back in 1918, trying to overturn Russia’s revolution. They supported the exiled/defeated Chinese Kuomintang party after they fled to Taiwan in 1949. 70 years later, maybe the US is still hoping those guys will make a comeback! They organized a coup to get rid of Iran’s democratically elected government in 1952, and supported the puppet Shah for 27 years until Iranians threw him out.

Now, it seems Uncle Sam wants to bring that puppet government back – and they talk about democracy!!

Time report(NEW YORK) — Donald Trump’s attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, told members of Iran’s self-declared government in exile on Saturday that the U.S. sympathizes with their efforts to overthrow that country’s official government.

Funeral of John McCain, Washington DC, USA - 01 Sep 2018

Bringing democracy to the world – at gunpoint if necessary

The former New York mayor spoke to members and supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the biggest opposition group to Iran’s Islamic regime. Two U.S.-based members who joined the gathering have been targeted for assassination by alleged Iranian agents named last month in criminal complaints issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“So I say to the Iranian government, you must truly be afraid of being overthrown,” Giuliani said. “We will not forget that you wanted to commit murder on our soil.”*

After Saturday’s attack on a military parade in Iran that killed more than 20 people, security was tight surrounding more than 1,500 people who came to a midtown Manhattan hotel for the meeting.

Giuliani said the Paris-based opposition organization is the democratic answer* to an Iranian regime he called “a group of outlaws and murderers and people who pretend to be religious people and then have so much blood on their hands it’s almost unthinkable.”

Instead, Giuliani said, “Iran is entitled to freedom and democracy.”

Several months ago, Trump withdrew from a nuclear deal with Iran put in place by President Barack Obama and sanctions were reinstated.

The National Council comes to New York annually during the United Nations General Assembly, staging protests outside the world body against Iran’s leaders who are in town.

The U.S. government considered the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, linked politically to the council, to be a terrorist group the U.S. State Department removed from its list of such organizations in 2012.

Since the beginning of the year, Iranians have kept protesting and marching against the clerical regime, and the national currency has lost about two-thirds of its value, said Maryam Rajavi, leader of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, and the declared president-elect in exile of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

Speaking via video, she said: “The regime is surrounded, politically and internationally, and in economic terms it is on the brink of collapse.”*

The new Iran, she said, would be based on free elections resulting in the separation of religion and state, human rights including equal participation of women in politics and the abolition of the death penalty.*

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*“We will not forget that you wanted to commit murder on our soil.” – Which, of course, the United States would NEVER do!

*Overthrowing Iran’s “official government” with a “Paris-based organization is the democratic answer”! Democracy, American style!

*“a group of outlaws and murderers and people who pretend to be religious people and then have so much blood on their hands it’s almost unthinkable.” Seems to me that could perhaps better apply to the US government and its backers.

*“The regime is surrounded, politically and internationally, and in economic terms it is on the brink of collapse.” Certainly that’s what US leaders have been trying to do for 40 years. Interestingly, Iran seems to be winning support from some important members of the international community.

*”abolition of the death penalty” – Which, of course, they don’t have in civilized countries like the United States, oh no!

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Meanwhile, what does the Iranian government have to say for itself? And who would you choose to believe?

Report in Turkey’s Hürriyet Daily News:

Rouhani says Iran ready to confront US after military parade attack

President Hassan Rouhani said on Sept. 23 Iran was ready to confront the United States and its Gulf Arab allies, a day after an attack on an Iranian military parade killed 25 people, including 12 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards.

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More and more countries seem prepared to stand up against US bullying tactics

Speaking before leaving Tehran to attend the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York, Rouhani accused U.S.-backed Gulf Arab states of providing financial and military support for anti-government ethnic Arab groups in Iran.

“America is acting like a bully towards the rest of the world…and thinks it can act based on brute force,” said Rouhani, who engineered Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal that ushered in a cautious detente with Washington before tensions flared anew with President Donald Trump’s decision to quit the accord.

“But our people will resist and the government is ready to confront America. We will overcome this situation [sanctions] and America will regret choosing the wrong path.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Sept. 23 summoned the United Arab Emirates’ charge d’affaires over comments made about the bloodshed in the southwestern city of Ahvaz.

State-run PressTV said the action was taken over comments by an unnamed UAE official, without giving details.

The Gulf Arab state of Qatar, which is at odds with U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE, condemned the assault on the military parade, which wounded at least 70 people.

Gunmen fired on a viewing stand where Iranian officials had gathered to watch an annual event marking the start of the Islamic Republic’s 1980-88 war with Iraq. Soldiers crawled as gunfire crackled. Women and children fled for their lives.

It was one of the worst ever attacks against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, the sword and shield of Shi’ite clerical rule in Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

It answers to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and runs its own business empire in Iran, a major oil producer which has been relatively stable compared with Arab states that have grappled with unrest since uprisings in 2011.

Since pulling out of the big powers’ nuclear pact with Iran in May, Trump has reimposed U.S. sanctions meant to isolate Tehran and force it to negotiate tougher curbs on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Iran has ruled this out.

“America wants to cause chaos and unrest in our country so that it can return to this country, but these are unreal fantasies and they will never achieve their goals,” said Rouhani.

Shiite Iran is at odds with Western-allied Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia for predominance in the Middle East.

The regional powers back opposing sides in the conflicts in Yemen and Syria as well as rival political groups in Iraq and Lebanon, with the Guards defending Iranian interests.

“The small puppet countries in the region are backed by America, and the United States is provoking them and giving them the necessary capabilities,” said Rouhani.

An Iranian ethnic Arab opposition movement called the Ahvaz National Resistance, which seeks a separate state in oil-rich Khuzestan province, claimed responsibility for the attack.

“The Persian Gulf states are providing monetary, military and political support for these groups,” said Rouhani.

ISIL militants also claimed responsibility. Neither claim provided evidence. All four attackers were killed.

“Hopefully we will overcome these sanctions with the least possible costs and make America regret its aggressiveness towards other countries, and particularly Iran,” said Rouhani.

So who invaded Cyprus first?

It’s not the main topic of the news item, but it does make an interesting point about Turkey’s “invasion” of Cyprus back in 1974 . . .

Spooky pics of abandoned Cyprus airport frozen in time

nicosiaTHIS once bustling transport hub was suddenly abandoned 40 years ago, leaving jet planes and empty terminals as eerie signs of the past.

THIS airport was once a bustling, state-of-the-art transport hub on a popular holiday island. 

But for more than 40 years, time has stood still at Nicosia International Airport on Cyprus, which is now an eerie scene of decaying check-in desks and terminal equipment, and stripped-back jets stuck on the abandoned tarmac.

The airport became deserted after 1974, when it became a flashpoint for civil conflict on the Mediterranean island.

Cyprus had seen years of tensions between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots after it became independent from Britain.

In 1974, Greek nationalists overthrew the elected president of Cyprus and in the days that followed, Nicosia airport was briefly used to bring in troops from Greece.

The airport was also a scene of chaos during that time, as holiday-makers and other foreigners sought to flee the conflict.

Within days of the coup d’etat, Turkey invaded Cyprus, and the airport was severely damaged in a bombing campaign.

nicosia jetA demilitarised zone was created and Nicosia airport wound up right in the middle of it, which led to it being suddenly abandoned. The last commercial flight departed Nicosia in 1977.

After Nicosia airport was abandoned, authorities opened a new international airport at Larnaca, which is the island’s main airport that most Australians now fly into or pass through.

But intrepid travellers who venture to neglected Nicosia airport can see how its has become frozen in time, with derelict rows of seats in the terminals, stained carpets on now-empty corridors, and decrepit jet planes stuck where they last came to rest all those years ago.

Source

And another related snippet from the BBC . . .

Varosha – The abandoned tourist resort

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Famagusta before the Greek military coup – and subsequent Turkish invasion

Miles of sand where it’s just you and nature. Dozens of grand hotels where you’ll have the pick of the rooms.

Just remember to pack your bolt cutters to make a hole in the fence – and watch out for the army patrols with orders to shoot on sight. 

Before the division of Cyprus in 1974, Varosha – a resort in Famagusta – was booming. The rich and famous were drawn by some of the best beaches on the island. Richard Burton and Brigitte Bardot all dropped by – the Argo Hotel on JFK Avenue was said to be Elizabeth Taylor’s favourite.

But 40 years ago, after years of inter-ethnic violence culminating in a coup inspired by Greece’s ruling military junta, Turkey invaded Cyprus and occupied the northern third of the island.

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Incidentally, before taking matters into their owns hands, the government of Turkey had asked the UK government, as guarantors of Cyprus’s independence, to intervene  – which they declined to do.

Turkish diaspora see Erdoğan as ‘healer’ of frustrations

Extracts from an interview with Professor Ayhan Kaya

From the start I have challenged the rise of “civilizational” discourse, which originates from the “clash of civilizations” paradigm introduced by Samuel Huntington, based on the idea that Muslims and Christians cannot live together simply because they are from two different civilizations. Civilization cannot simply be reduced to religions, it is much more of a material process related to urbanization, industrialization, etc.

1*0Fe6fTDdKidxPXKCNrljtgLook at what happened in Palestine. Israel killed more than 60 Palestinians and this shows there is no global justice. One of the reasons why there is more radicalization among Muslim-origin youths towards Islamism is the belief that there is no global justice.

Right-wing populist parties are instrumentalizing the fear of refugees and fear of Islam for their own use. In our interviews in six countries with supporters of right-wing populist parties, we saw that they are not actually too hostile to refugees. Rather, they are hostile to settled migrants.

In our research in different European countries we saw what Erdoğan signifies for many members of the Turkish-origin public. He is seen as the person who can heal the sources of their problems. What many see in the image of Erdoğan is a strong personality who can challenge European leaders.

We don’t really see much radicalization among Turkish-origin youths in terms of jihadism. We see that more among members of the North African diaspora. I think one of the reasons for this is the Ottoman past. The Ottomans were never colonized, which gives them a difference in terms of their identification compared to North Africans. 

The misperception about Islamophobes in Europe is contributing to the rise of anti-Westernism among Turkish politicians, some of whom have started to suggest there is a “war between the crescent and the cross.” This is completely wrong; the war is between the rich and the poor, the center and the periphery.

Read the whole article

Soner Cagaptay – Zionist Israeli Puppet?

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Turkey

Friends again – that’s diplomacy

The headline on Time‘s news feed read: Political Scientist: How President Erdogan Is Turning Turkey into Putin’s Russia”.

Well, that’s a pretty strange claim for a number of reasons, but I live in Turkey, and if anyone is magically turning it into Russia, I want to know about it – so I took a look.

The “political scientist” writer is a Turkish guy, long-term resident in the United States, called Soner Cagaptay. That’s an unfortunate name for a start. He must experience a lot of problems with monolingual, monocultural Americans who struggle to pronounce English words – and have no interest at all in familiarising themselves with the marvellously phonetic Turkish alphabet. For your information, “Soner” doesn’t rhyme with “boner”, and his surname should be pronounced “Charp-tie”.

zionist puppetBut that’s his problem – or one of his problems. Another big problem for Mr Cagaptay must be reconciling his academic integrity with the political agenda of his paymasters. After all, his CV claims a PhD from Yale, and teaching posts at Princeton and other top universities in the USA. I assume you don’t scale those heights by churning out sensationalist propaganda based on unsupported assertions. “Political scientist” may be one of his jobs – but I suspect a good chunk of his income derives from the fat wallets of bankers and industrial tycoons with major interests in controlling the Middle East for their own profit.

So what does this guy have to say about Turkey?

He starts by claiming the country is profoundly polarised, governed by a right-wing regime funded by resources far outweighing those devoted to opposing him.

WRONG.These days, despite the tireless efforts of anti-Erdoğan forces, Turkey is less polarised than it ever was. One of the larger opposition parties has thrown its weight behind Mr Erdoğan’s campaign for re-election. If “left” and “right” have any political meaning, surely “left” means taking a serious interest in the plight of society’s poorer members – in which case Turkey’s AK Party government is more “left” than any in earlier decades. Furthermore, it is clear that significant resources are being channelled by forces outside Turkey to getting rid of the country’s popular president.

Cagaptay goes on to speak of Mr Erdoğan’s “surging authoritarianism”, which he attributes to the president’s desire for “the country’s educated and creative elites to pack their bags and leave.” “Erdogan,“he says, “knows that an opposition led by powerful elites poses a permanent threat to him.”

WRONG AGAIN. What Mr Erdoğan surely knows is that for twenty years well-educated types and liberal urban professionals” have been bleating and complaining about everything he has done for the country, without showing any ability to organise themselves into an opposition capable of achieving victory at the ballot box. Most of them would love to return to the good old days when military coups were staged regularly to overthrow democratically elected governments and restore power to those “elites”.

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What a terrible country! I need to get out now!

Many distinguished professors are said to be leaving the country, and their students are flocking away to Oxford University in “alarming”numbers. Among these are “many old-money Turks who espouse liberal values”. According to Cagaptay, in one of the few statistics he actually provides (though no source is given), in 2016 “Turkey was among the top five countries globally to experience the highest outflow of millionaires.”

Some truth here, perhaps. Certainly the biggest complainers I meet in Turkey are people living in nice houses, driving late-model cars, with well-paying jobs or private incomes – in short, people who you would think would be grateful for a government that has, Cagaptay admits, “made strides towards that goal [of making Turkey great again],by delivering economic growth. When he came to power in 2003, Turkey was country of mostly poor people. Now it is a country of mostly middle-income citizens.”In 2001, before the AK Party came to power, Turkey was, in fact, a country of millionaires, because it cost a million Turkish Lira to buy a newspaper or get on a city bus.

turkey economyBut those, I’m sure, are the real reasons Cagaptay and his money-masters oppose Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government so rabidly. They don’t want to see genuinely populist governments succeeding in their aim of creating a more egalitarian society. Why did the United States government oppose Fidel Castro’s Cuba for 50 years with such determined ferocity? Why have they repeatedly used military and economic power to overthrow elected socialist governments in Central and South America? Why did they use the CIA to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister in 1952? Why did they support the dictatorship of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak for 30 years? Then support the ousting of Mohammed Morsi, elected democratically after Egypt’s Arab Spring?

The real goal of Cagaptay’s financial backers becomes clear in his closing paragraphs: “They want to transform Turkey from an economy that exports cars [and other real things] into one that is a hub for software, IT, finance, and services — in other words an information-based economy and a star power.” There you have it. An economy like the USA, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and other “First World” states where money rules, the country is governed by a wealthy elite with no patriotic loyalty, who have exported offshore their manufacturing sector, created systemic unemployment and keep most of their fellow citizens struggling to survive in a condition little removed from slavery.

How do I know this? Soner Cagaptay’s ubiquitous CV proudly boasts that he is the Beyer Family fellow and director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. ”So I took a look at their website. Now I want you to know that I am as liberalminded as the next guy. I have very few prejudices and I have never been anti-Semitic. I know, and have known some very nice members of the international Jewish community. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help noticing a striking feature of the WINEP’s Directors. Check the surnames: Kassen, Berkowwitz, Weinberg, Leventhal, Adler, Bernstein, Freidman . . . to cite just a few.

Well, that’s no big deal, you say – and maybe not. But I checked out some of the owners of those names:

President Shelly Kassen– chaired the religious school committee at The Conservative Synagogue, very active in the America Israel Public Affairs Committee, recipient of the United Jewish Appeal/Federation Community Service Award in 2007.

Her husband of 30 years, Michael Kassen, former president of the American Israel Public affairs Committee, America’s pro-Israel lobby; has always been involved in the Jewish community, since his childhood in Cleveland, where his parents were active in the local Jewish federation. The couple has always been involved in a Jewish federation, first in Boston and currently in New York and Westport. Check out this speech if you want to know his politics.

Chairman Martin Gross– president of Sandalwood Securities, Inc. of Roseland, New Jersey, which he founded in 1990. Gross began in fund management in 1983. Previously, Gross “practiced tax and corporate law in New York City, and worked in the corporate finance department of L.F. Rothschild, Unterberg, Towbin[1]. A member of the New Jersey and New York Bars, he has written numerous articles for The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and other financial publications and often lectures at industry (what industry?)conferences.

Chairman Emeritus Howard P. Berkowitz – Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director at HPB Management LLC. Mr. Berkowitz was the Managing General Partner at Hpb Associates Lp since 1980 which he also founded. He has managed investment funds since 1967, when he was a Founding Partner at Steinhardt, Fine, Berkowitz & Company. He served as Managing Director of BlackRock, Inc. BlackRock, Inc. is an American global investment management corporation based in New York City. Founded in 1988, initially as a risk management and fixed income institutional asset manager.

Founding President and Chairman Emeritus Barbi Weinberg – Past vice-president of AIPAC, major contributor to the World Alliance for Israel Political Action Committee and the Women’s Pro-Israel National Political Action Committee.

Well, maybe Mr Cagaptay believe all the stuff he spouts about Turkey – but I have my doubts. Four short years ago, he was saying this about Turkey’s attitude towards a possible Kurdistan on its southern border: “The takeover of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has cemented the rapprochement between Turkey and the region’s Kurds, casting them as best friends in the increasingly unstable Middle East. The relationship has improved so much that if the Kurds in Iraq were to declare independence, Turkey would be the first country to recognize Kurdistan.” I wonder what he is saying now, after Turkey criticised the US government for supplying weapons to its Kurdish “allies” in Syria, and has been carrying out a military operation to drive them out of the area.

democracyOur learned “political scientist” also boasts that he has provided private briefings about Turkey to such champions of democracy and world peace as US Vice President Joe Biden, Presidential Envoy in Syria, Brett McGurk, former US Ambassador to Ankara, John Bass (currently, I believe, in exile in Afghanistan), former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton . . .

President Erdoğan is “turning Turkey into Putin’s Russia”? What does that even mean? One thing Mr Erdoğan does have in common with the Russian President is a total belief in the sovereign right of his own people to govern themselves free from outside interference. I only wish the leaders of my own country, New Zealand, had as much strength of character.

To end this piece, I want to share with you a delightful little clip I came across on Youtube: Vladimir Putin performing in public his own interpretation of Fats Domino’s great song, Blueberry Hill.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IV4IjHz2yIo

That guy went way up in my estimation!

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[1] known for its merchant banking investments, particularly in high-technology companies. In the early 1980s, the firm emerged as the leading underwriter of initial public offerings, surpassing the elite investment banks (at the time, including Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley).

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth

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The Auckland War Memorial Museum on its spectacular site

I took a trip down memory lane on my recent visit to New Zealand. The War Memorial Museum is arguably Auckland’s most iconic building – if you ignore that upstart Sky Tower with its money-laundering casino. Surrounded by 75 hectares of sculptured gardens, sports fields and semi-wilderness, the museum’s hilltop setting offers a tree-framed view over the harbour to Rangitoto and other islands of the Hauraki Gulf – these days marred somewhat by giant cranes and other paraphernalia of the port container terminal.

According to Wikipedia, the original building, opened in 1929, was constructed partly with the same English Portland stone used for Buckingham Palace and St Pauls Cathedral – requiring a six-week sea-voyage to the uttermost end of the Earth. Quite an expense for a tiny country.

The main hall on the museum’s ground floor is devoted to the indigenous cultures of New Zealand and its regional neighbours – the Māori and their Polynesian cousins who navigated the trackless immensity of the Pacific Ocean centuries before Dutch and English explorers “discovered” it. Taking pride of place in this section are a meeting house, and a 25-metre long war canoe carved from a single log of totara.

Wharenui Ak museum

Restored carvings in Hotunui

As a child I remember the effect of the elaborate carvings in the meeting house muted by a coat of dull red paint applied in the 1950s. Now, I am pleased to learn that a major project is under way to remove that offensive monochrome and restore the splendour of the originals.

A meeting house (wharenui) was the centre-piece of a Māori tribal village, a communal meeting place whose carvings and other works of traditional art recorded the history and origins of the people of the land. Living people shared the house with the spirits of their ancestors, and the house was given a name recognising this metaphysical dimension of its existence.

Auckland Museum’s wharenui is Hotunui, the name of an ancestor of the Tainui people who arrived with the great migration around a thousand years ago. The word can also be translated as “a great mourning, a yearning of the heart”, which may be significant in the light of what I learned of the house’s history. Apparently, it was one of two such meeting houses built in the 1870s by the Ngāti Awa people of Poverty Bay. The government had carried out large-scale confiscations of land after the Te Kooti uprising in the 1860s. According to Te Ara Encyclopedia, The carving of both [houses] was led by Wēpiha Apanui and his father, Apanui Te Hāmaiwaho. Hotunui was, in part, a tribute to Te Hura Te Taiwhakaripi, one of the leaders in the wars of the 1860s. One of the poupou (uprights) in the porch is a carved representation and commemoration of Te Hura, so that the tragedy of the confiscation suffered by Ngāti Awa is memorialised in the meeting house.”

Little of this information, needless to say, is available to the public in the exhibition hall. It seems, by the early 20th century, Hotunui had fallen into disuse and a state of disrepair – not surprising, since the Māori themselves were in danger of disappearing as a race at that time – and it was removed to the newly opened museum in Auckland, to represent a world that no longer existed.

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Māori war in canoe in better days

The canoe, Te Toki a Tāpiri (the Battle-axe of Tāpiri) is a survivor of days when Europeans were a small minority in the country. According to Te Ara, it was built by the Ngāti Kahungunu tribe in 1836, and passed through the ownership of several other tribes before it ended up in the hands of the government”. The museum website is a little more informative, acknowledging that the canoe was confiscated by government forces during the Waikato War in the 1860s[1]. Attempts at the time to blow it up apparently failed, and the canoe was left to slowly moulder away. In my school days the wars that were fought between various Maori tribes, the British Army and settler militias, were known as “The Māori Wars”. More recently, some have argued that it would be more appropriate to call them the Pākeha Wars, since the Pākeha (the Māori name for Europeans), were actually invading their country. These days a compromise seems to have been reached where they are referred to collectively as “The New Zealand Wars”.

Canoe and meeting house eventually found their way to the Auckland Museum, originally built to serve as a memorial to soldiers who had lost their lives in the First World War. The top floor of the building now commemorates all the wars in which New Zealanders have been involved since the country became part of the British empire in 1840.

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Biography of Māori “rebel” leader, Te Kooti

Brief mention is given to those “New Zealand Wars”, including one particularly poignant quotation attributed to Te Ua Haumene, a Taranaki Māori converted to Christianity, in the early days of colonisation, by Methodist missionaries. With the increasing arrival of European settlers and land “purchases”, Te Ua turned to armed resistance, inspired by a visions of the archangel Gabriel who “assured Te Ua that he was chosen by God as his prophet, commanded him to cast off the yoke of the Pakeha and promised the restoration of the birthright of Israel (the Maori people) in the land of Canaan (New Zealand). This would come about after a great day of deliverance in which the unrighteous would perish.” A forlorn hope, as it turned out, but perhaps understandable in the circumstances.

The words of Te Ua displayed in the museum read: “Pākeha say, ‘Take our religion and our form of government, develop the economy and learn to read and write, and you will be citizens of the greatest empire in the world.’ We try to do all that. But when the British bring in a professional army to back up a faulty purchase of land, nothing of what we have been told appears true anymore. Pākeha seem to want to make the country theirs alone. The only thing we are expected to contribute is the land. Outnumbered, outgunned, unable to trust the law, we turn to religion.” Does that sound familiar?

The Boer War, 1899-1901, was the first where the New Zealand government sent troops to fight on foreign soil. The Auckland Museum’s display includes a quote from a local newspaper, The Waikato Argus, dated 31 January 1900. “It is the destiny of the British nation to spread good and just government over a large portion of the earth’s surface. Wherever her flag floats, equal justice [is] meted out to all . . . There is only one sentiment throughout the Empire – we must win regardless of the cost in man and treasure!”

Well, the British Empire did win, of course. According to a table on display, the British fielded 450,000 troops against the Boers 55,000. British casualties included 21,942 soldiers and 350,000 horses killed. The Boers lost 5,071 fighting men, and 27,921 civilians who died in concentration camps established to combat the guerrilla tactics of the outnumbered and outgunned Boers. In addition, 30,000 farms were burned, and 3,500,000 sheep were destroyed.

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Concentration camp for Boer civilians, 2nd Boer War

What is perhaps more interesting is that The Boer War, as it is known in general British histories, was actually the second war fought between the British and the Boers. The first, a relatively brief affair in the summer of 1880-81 had resulted in a humiliating loss for destiny’s Empire. Contrary to the Waikato Argus editor’s altruistic rhetoric, Wikipedia itemises three key factors for British interest in South Africa:

  • The desire to control the trade routes to India
  • The discovery of huge deposits of gold and diamonds
  • The race against other European powers for expansion in Africa

So it goes – and that brings us to the next exhibit, and the original reason for the Museum’s construction: The First World War; known at the time as “The Great War”, and “the war to end all wars.”

I am currently reading a history of this war written by John Keegan[2], celebrated by The New York Times as “possibly the best military historian of our day”. The first sentence of Keegan’s book reads: “The First World War was a tragic and unnecessary conflict.” So it’s a little sad that military and civilian casualties totalled 41 million, of which 18 million died. The New Zealand government despatched more than 100,000 young men (from its one million people) to battlefields on the other side of the world – and more than 18,000 never returned.

Why the war?One item in the museum’s display asks the obvious question, “Why go?”, and gives two answers: “Loyalty to Britain was strong and people believed going to war was the right thing to do. The war was also a chance for a great adventure.” One returned soldier is quoted as saying, “it was a case of Duty.” A contemporary poster published in The London Times gave three further reasons: “To save [Britain’s] good name. To save her life and her Empire [and] To save the freedom of the people in all Europe”; and encouraged young men to “FIGHT then – for your life. FIGHT – for your honour. FIGHT – for freedom. FIGHT – for mankind.” So clearly propaganda played an important role.

What receives less emphasis is that not all young men were so gung-ho about participating in an Imperialist war. There were many who believed, and more who came to that belief during the conflict, that the war was being fought for economic reasons, and that the common soldier had more in common with his “enemies” on the field than with his own political and industrial leaders.

Once conscription was introduced, however, there was no option of refusing to go. In theory, conscientious objection on religious grounds was acceptable – but almost impossible in practice. Those men who did actually refuse were cruelly treated by their governments. Flogging as a means of enforcing discipline had been banned in Britain’s armed forces in 1881, but remained on the statute books until 1947, and was still used in prisons – where an uncooperative soldier could easily end up. Once in the army, desertion, cowardice or dereliction of duty were offences punishable by execution. Lack of enthusiasm for the war effort was a disease that couldn’t be allowed to spread.

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240 young men who never returned to the small town of Thames

Many servicemen from New Zealand and Australia had their first taste of combat on the Gallipoli Peninsula in what is now Turkey. Few of them could have located the place on a map. I, and most of my fellow citizens grew up with the legend of Anzac, commemorated every year on 25 April, the day when the invasion landings began. According to a laconic text in the museum display, “New Zealanders fight the Ottomans at Gallipoli . . . Their first campaign is a shambolic eight-month operation that ends in stalemate and evacuation.”

Shortly after first coming to Turkey, I went with a party of Turkish students to the cemeteries of Gallipoli and the town of Çanakkale, where an event takes place every year on 18 March commemorating the Ottoman success in turning back the combined naval fleets of Britain and France. You will search hard to find reference to this in British or New Zealand histories. From an Ottoman perspective, the British naval defeat was the critical event – the “shambolic” beach invasion a bloody exercise that had little chance of success from the outset. Was the result a “stalemate”? The British strategy (conceived by Winston Churchill) had been to bring battleships in front of the Ottoman Palace, force their government’s surrender, take them out of the war and establish a supply route to Russia.  The aim was to strengthen the Russian military effort and force the Germans to fight on two fronts. In the light of that goal, the campaign must surely be seen as a failure.

That was then, this is now. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Are we any better off in the present age of information? So help us, God!

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[1] A detailed history of Te Toki a Tapiri can be found here.

[2] The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 1998)

Can Turkey do anything good?

I’m translating for your information an article I came across in our Turkish daily this morning

No one knows we are looking after 3.5 million refugees

On Wednesday, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mehmet Şimşek, participated in a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The session, chaired by well-known New York Times writer, Thomas Friedman, was titled “Finding a new equilibrium in the Middle East”

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Wilful ignorance? Or just plain ordinary ignorance?

[Others on the panel were Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, Adel bin Ahmed Al Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, and Ursula von der Leyen, Federal Minister of Defence of Germany; Member of Board of Trustees of the World Economic Forum.]

When Mr Şimşek mentioned that Turkey was currently hosting 3.5 million refugees from Syria, and if you included those from Iraq, the total reached 3.7 million, Friedman expressed surprise.

“Did you say 3.5 million?” he asked Şimşek.

Isn’t it rather strange that Friedman, who knows the Middle East very well, and has been writing about the region for years, wouldn’t know this figure?

Clearly, we have been unable to sufficiently publicise how many refugees we have in our country, and what we are doing for them.

Certainly, there is no excuse for Friedman’s not knowing the actual extent of the refugee crisis caused by the ongoing war in Syria. Spokespersons for the United Nations Refugee Agency have been speaking out on the issue for years and calling on First World nations to provide more assistance.

On the other hand, “experts” in the west seem to know some things about Turkey with absolute certainty:

  • They “know”, for example, that Turkey is responsible for the genocide of one-and-a-half million Armenians in 1915.
  • They “know” that Turkey invaded the island of Cyprus in 1974, divided it in two, and refuses to leave.
  • They “know “that Turkey has been buying oil from ISIS terrorists and supplying them with weapons.
  • They “know” that Turkey has more journalists in prison than any other country in the world.

Pretty much anything bad about Turkey, Western media are happy to circulate uncritically – but when it comes to giving credit for positive actions and achievements . . . ZILCH!

So, is Turkey at fault for not getting its message across? Or is it that Western interests don’t want to know? Draw your own conclusions.