Guilty and Guiltier – One law for the 99% and . . .


It’s just a beautiful game. Yeah, sure!

Well, at least he’s been sentenced to jail, even if he’ll never actually see the inside of a cell. Argentinian and Barcelona football superstar Lionel Messi has been handed a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud – and his father was apparently in on the business too whereby the Spanish government and taxpayers were defrauded of €4.1 million.

Pretty much everyone knows the round-ball game, most of its administrators and many of its top players are corrupt as hell – though fans touchingly continue to take matches and tournaments seriously. I can’t see it getting any better if courts don’t start treating the crooks they catch the same as they would the rest of us.

Tax evasion is bad enough when we wage and salary-earners, and pension beneficiaries, have no escape from the internal revenue sharks. But what about taking your nation into an unjustified and unprovoked violent invasion of another country far from your own borders, assisting in the destruction of that country’s infra-structure, collaborating in the deaths of tens of thousands of that country’s innocent citizens, and creating in the process a chaotic power vacuum that has totally destabilised the entire region? Thirteen years after the event, Former LABOUR Party Prime Minster Tony Blah expresses no regret for his genocidal actions – and Knight of the Realm Sir John Chilcot, after a seven-year investigation, stops well short of demanding that Blah be brought to justice for his war crimes.


What went on under the blanket?

As for multi-millionaire, Roman Catholic convert, man-of-the-people Tone, he has this to say: “The intelligence assessments made at the time of going to war turned out to be wrong, the aftermath turned out to be more hostile, protracted and bloody than ever we imagined…. and a nation whose people we wanted to set free from the evil of Saddam became instead victims of sectarian terrorism. For all of this, I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe.”

Well, we expect weasel words from politicians, so we shouldn’t be surprised – but notice that Blah ‘expressed’ sorrow and regret rather than actually feeling it. Is there an apology wrapped in all that BS or not? If so, it’s for stuff done in the passive voice, by agents unknown. ‘Our’ intentions were pure – is that the royal ‘We’? As far as I remember, United Nations inspectors were quite clear at the time. They had found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction; so whose ‘intelligence’ was being ‘assessed’ and by whom? Anyone with half a brain understands that PM Blah knowingly and deliberately misled the British Parliament and its constituents. And for what purpose? I would be interested to see a statistical comparison of the number of Iraqi citizens who died under the Saddam regime, and those who have died as a direct result of the Bush family invasions.

Still, that’s in the past, except for the ISIS/Daesh bogey spawned in the chaos created by poodle Blah and his owner George Dubya. However, it’s starting to look very much as though the world’s exemplary democracy, the United States of America is about to elect its first woman president. That’s Hillary Clinton, who knowingly and deliberately used her private email server for official business while she was Secretary of State; who lied about what she had done to investigators, and tried to cover her tracks.

In spite of that, the FBI investigation has decided that she should not face criminal charges. Apparently she and her ‘aides’ were merely ‘careless’ and despite ‘evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information’, there is ‘no evidence’ that Mrs Clinton had a deliberate intention.

Cartoonist Gary Varvel: The new Clinton scandals

How bad can Donald trump be?

Now I must admit to some confusion here. What exactly was the ‘carelessness’ the FBI are referring to? Was Mrs Clinton careless in her wrongdoing and in getting caught? Or was she careless in carrying out her duties as Secretary of State? If the latter, what confidence can anyone have that she is competent to be President of the world’s sole remaining superpower? And can anyone clarify for me what exactly a ‘potential’ violation is? It seems the USA has ‘statutes regarding the handling of classified information’ – and I am curious to know whether these statutes were violated or not. I imagine there must be some citizens and potential voters in the United States who would also appreciate clarification on that point.

I have read a number of articles recently describing a growing disillusionment with politicians around the globe, and an emerging trend among voters to punish them for their lies and deceit. The ‘Brexit’ vote in the United Kingdom and the general election in Australia are cited as examples of the trend. Sad to say, such negative voting probably won’t make the world a much better place in the short term – but if it gives corrupt and dishonest political leaders a headache or two, some might think it’s worth it.


What’s Turkey’s problem?

erdogan danger

Turkey hasn’t used the Arabic alphabet for 90 years! Beware of Photoshop!

Some people don’t like Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. That’s ok, I guess. Outside of North Korea, there aren’t too many countries where the president gets a 100% approval rating. Even in the USA, the latest poll conducted by NBS News and the Wall St Journal showed Barack Obama with 51% support – and that’s not counting the people who don’t bother registering because of America’s electoral sham. Nevertheless, NBS and WSJ seem to think that’s pretty damn good. It’s the best he’s had for years.

But still, they’re only polling US registered voters. I haven’t seen any indication that anyone over there is asking whether the rest of the world want Hillary or Donald to take over the big job in November – or neither of the above. They don‘t care, do they? So why should Turkey care what Western media say about their president? Or perhaps more to the point, why do Western media think it’s any of their business?

England’s PM David Cameron went on record the other day saying that Turkey could expect to join the European Union somewhere around the year 3000. Apparently he was trying to reassure UK voters, prior to the British referendum on EU membership, that Europe is not about to be overrun by another horde of marauding horsemen from Central Asia. But, to be fair, that’s probably a more honest appraisal of Turkey’s chances than you’ll hear elsewhere.

Successive governments of Western Europe have kept Turkey dangling on a string for more than sixty years. They were quite happy to have Turkey play a buffer role against Soviet Russia during the Cold War, using its convenient location for siting several nuclear missile bases. They accepted Turkey as an associate member in 1963, and magnanimously permitted its government to apply for full membership in 1987. Well, that’s nearly thirty years now, and the odds against seem to be lengthening rather than shrinking.

Why? A recent article in Time Magazine provided some of the answers. ‘It’s time for Turkey and Europe to face reality’ said the headline, but the only argument of any substance was the Cyprus issue. Even that is debatable at best. The United Nations and Britain were supposed to protect the island’s independence, but failed to do so when Greece’s military junta attempted a takeover in 1974, forcing Turkey, as the third guarantor, to step in. UN attempts to find a solution have repeatedly foundered on Greek intransigence. Another dubious argument is geographical. Only 3 percent of Turkey’s territory is, strictly speaking, in Europe’ says the writer – yet the gnomes of Brussels would dearly love to have Ukraine in their club, never mind that two-thirds of that country lies east of Istanbul. Isn’t it time modern Europe let go of the ancient Greek and Roman definition of Asia starting at the Bosporus? So where does it start in Russia, which stretches 7,000 km east from Poland, beyond China, Korea and Japan?

We get nearer to the truth of the matter when the Time correspondent points out that, in 2014, 69% of Germans and 83% of French were opposed to Turkey joining the EU. Again we may ask why? And in a previous post, ‘Why do they hate Turkey?’ I addressed this question. In short, I believe there is a deeply ingrained fear and hatred of an abstract concept of ‘Turks’ going back a thousand years, fed and nourished regularly by political and religious leaders, and in modern times, by the mass media. Criticism of Mr Erdoğan is merely the latest manifestation of this – it really wouldn’t matter who led the country.


Who’s kidding who?

Istanbul has just finished playing host to the first World Humanitarian Summit under the auspices of the United Nations. Apart from Germany’s Angela Merkel, however, leaders of western First World countries were conspicuous by their absence. The number of refugees from the Syrian civil war now in Turkey is estimated at 2.7 million. Politicians and news media in the West persist in criticising Turkey while adding fuel to a humanitarian disaster that has been raging for more than five years. A spokesperson from MSF (Doctors Without Borders) said it was ‘unlikely that the same countries who are currently shirking their obligations to refugees would turn over a new leaf next week’. Oxfam’s chief executive spoke of a need totackle the repeated failure of governments to resolve conflicts and end the culture of impunity in which civilians are killed without consequence’.

So who are the real guilty ones? Associated Press reported on 29 April that a US AC-130 gunship, ‘bristling with side-firing cannons and guns’, fired on a charity-run hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz for 30 minutes before it was realized that the attack was a mistake and the real target was an Afghan intelligence agency building half a kilometre away. 42 innocent civilians were killed and an unknown number injured in the attack. The U.S. government has made “gesture of sympathy” payments of $3,000 to each injured person and $6,000 to each family of the killed.

msf hospital

Remains of Kunduz MSF hospital after US ‘mistake’.

Well, at least the US is kind of at war with Afghanistan. Their government seems to reserve the right to take out people they consider enemies wherever they are. 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama confirmed last week that an American drone strike had killed an Afghan Taliban leader IN PAKISTAN as part of a reconciliation process that leads to lasting peace and stability’. The deceased gentleman, Muhammad Mansour was apparently considered a threat to American forces in Afghanistan – where the latter have been working for peace for fifteen years. In another positive move towards global peace, Obama was reported on 23 May as announcing an end to the US arms embargo on Vietnam. Vietnam apparently, is emerging as ‘a key strategic partner for the United States’ despite being a police state whose president was formerly head of the Ministry of Public Security, a para-military outfit set up with the assistance of China and Soviet Russia. You can check out a recent report on the state of democracy in Vietnam here.

The justification for the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, you will recall, was the demolition of the Twin Towers World Trade Centre back in 2001. It seems certain, however, that the US government has been steadfastly refusing to release documents confirming the role played by Saudi Arabia in the New York attacks. Meanwhile, another recent Time article informed us that Americans want a military general in the White House. God bless them!

Armed Staff at School

ISD = Independent School District. So who’s got problems?

Still if that fails, there’s always Donald Trump. The likely Republican presidential candidate was quoted the other day as suggesting that some teachers in the United States should be armed with guns inside their classrooms. Even if you are one of those who think the big DT is crazy, the fact that he can say it and be reported in reputable news media suggests that it wouldn’t go amiss if some of the billions currently spent on military hardware were redirected to the homeland education system.

That’s not very likely, however. Worldwatch Institute reports that the 5% of the world’s population who live in America consume a quarter of the world’s fossil fuel resources; and together with Western Europe, 12% account for 60% of the world’s consumer spending. An article in The Guardian reported that the wealthiest 0.01% of US citizens own as much of the nation’s wealth as the bottom 90%. That figure may be marginally less in Western Europe, but nevertheless, it’s pretty evident that such inequality can only ultimately be sustained at the point of a gun.

Turkey’s problem could well be your problem too!

Give Turkey a break!

Came across this piece on ‘The Hill’ today. It was so unusually, surprisingly sympathetic to Turkey, I just had to pass it on . . .

“Turkey has become somewhat of a practicing target for criticism as of late.  For some politicians and political writers in the U.S and Europe, criticizing Turkey has become a hobby, while for others it has become more of a passion. The critics have blamed Turkey for not doing enough to fight ISIS and stop jihadi fighters from moving between the Middle East and Europe; for straying away from the path of democracy; and for putting freedom of the press under siege. Does all this criticism have merit?  Or, are the American and Europeans looking for a scapegoat for their failed policies in the areas of immigration and combatting terrorism? The reality may be more of the latter than the former.”

Read the whole article

Cultural Arrogance

A couple of weeks ago I published a post about a gang of high-level Western diplomats who invaded a sensitive court hearing in Istanbul. In an obvious and high-handed attempt to influence the judicial process in a country where they are privileged guests, the twelve consuls and ambassadors snapped group ‘selfies’ which they proceeded to post on Facebook.

If there was an award for cultural arrogance, that would surely have to be on the short list. I can’t imagine the reaction if such an invasion was organised by foreign diplomats at a court in London or Washington DC.

Following close on the heels of that outrage, here’s another group of contenders:

It was reported on Tuesday that nine people had been arrested in Lebanon on charges related to the kidnapping of two small children.


Where there’s a need, someone will supply a service

Normally such an event in a Middle Eastern country wouldn’t arouse much international interest – but in this case, those arrested include the Australian mother of the two children, four personnel from the Australian ‘60 Minutes’ TV news programme, and agents of a shady British ‘child recovery’ company.

Reports suggest that the Australian TV network paid ‘a six-figure sum’ to the British child-snatchers so that they could film the operation in Beirut. The operation went well, apparently, except that the heist was captured on CCTV cameras in the street, with the predictable result that all nine are now in custody facing charges that could bring them up to twenty years in a Lebanese prison.

What’s the background? Well, the mother, Sally, from Brisbane, has two children, Noah (4) and Lahela (6) from her Lebanese ex-husband, and now has a baby with her new partner. Ex-hubbie apparently took his two children for a holiday in Lebanon, but then refused to return them. Sally decided to arrange a snatch-back, but couldn’t afford the company’s fee, and that’s where the TV people came in, on the understanding, no doubt, that they would film an action-packed, tear-jerking human interest story.


Let’s see ‘Reporters Without Borders’ sort this one out!

I don’t imagine they’ll be allowed their cameras in the prison where they’re being held, so it seems the only footage we’ll be seeing is the grainy CCTV clip showing two small children being torn away from their grandmother by strangers on a busy street, and bundled into the back of a van – pretty traumatic for the little kids, not to mention grandma. For sure, it raises some interesting questions about freedom of the media.

An Australian academic specialising in Middle East affairs has been quoted as saying the child-snatchers had seriously underestimated the difficulty of the task they were attempting to pull off. He says the area where the children were picked up is a Hezbollah stronghold, with a high level of security. In addition, he says the father of the children is related to the speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, so pulling diplomatic strings won’t be easy.

Apart from that, there seems to have been an assumption that those third world countries inevitably have inefficient law enforcement and primitive technology, so our intrepid Aussies would be in and out with the kids before the locals knew what was going on. Ah well, you live and learn, huh?

Twitter Democracy – Turkey under siege


President Erdoğan opens new Islamic cultural centre in Lanham, Maryland

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdoğan is currently visiting the United States of America. Yesterday he officially opened a large mosque and Islamic cultural centre in Lanham, Maryland, a small town just up the road from Washington DC.

President Obama apparently declined an invitation to be present at the opening ceremony – but it is to his credit, and to Americans as a people, that permission was given to build this complex. Of course the President of the United States has to walk a careful line, and needless to say there are plenty of US citizens only to ready to defame Mr Obama as a Muslim, and supporter of terrorists. Being photographed in front of a large mosque complex not far from the White House would undoubtedly have generated a good deal of negative publicity.

So the US President is well aware that not everything published in news media, at home and abroad, is 100% true. As Mr Erdoğan was departing for his American visit, there were some in Turkey saying that Barack Obama would refuse to meet him. That was nonsense, of course, as events subsequently proved. I watched a news programme on a Turkish TV channel the other day showing Mr Erdoğan speaking at the Brookings Institution in the US capital, and answering questions from representatives of the international news media.

Predictably, questions focussed on claims that Turkey’s president is a dictator, that he imprisons journalists who dare to criticise him, and that he is ordering his military to massacre Kurdish women and children in the south east of the country. President Erdoğan handled all of the questions knowledgeably and with dignity, even though he must be totally fed up with foreign media constantly harping on the same issues. He might have said that, were he actually a dictator, he probably wouldn’t have fronted up to such a meeting where he had everything to lose, and not much to gain.


‘Erdoğan murderer and thief’ Is this press freedom?

My newspaper today reports that Mr Obama told his own news media that he had spoken to President Erdoğan about his concerns over press freedom in Turkey. For his part, Mr Erdoğan asserted that the issue did not arise during their fifty-minute meeting. Interesting! Turkey’s president went on to say that there have been headlines in Turkish newspapers calling him a ‘murderer’ and a ‘thief’. He doubted if such ‘journalism’ would be acceptable in Western countries, and if Mr Obama had raised the matter in their discussion, he would certainly have made that point.

The following opinion piece ran in a Turkish newspaper, Sabah, last week, under the by-line of Mahmut Övür. I doubt if you will see it in any English language news source, so I’m translating it for your edification:

“In the last fifteen years Turkey has been struggling to overcome a century of resistance to change, and at the same time, has faced attacks from the forces of the globalised world.

To clarify, Turkey has been facing constant condemnation in relation to freedom of the press and freedom of speech. With Deep State, PKK, DAESH and other terror organisations attacking from within, and newspapers, TV networks, and social media like Twitter and Facebook from abroad, Turkey has been engaged in an ongoing battle. From time to time it has had to put limits on these freedoms.


State of emergency in Brussels

While all this has been going on, there has been strong criticism in particular from the EU and the USA via the press and politicians, mounting a campaign to the effect that ‘There is no freedom of the press or freedom of speech in Turkey’.

Under the guise of promoting freedom, they are implementing a deliberate policy of vilifying Turkey. In other words, since 2010 they have put Turkey in a state of siege.

Now one ugly incident has brought this plan out into the open. The other day President Erdoğan went to the USA to attend a NATO Security Summit.

This meeting was very important for a number of reasons and it happened at a very critical time, while Turkey has been the object of criticism over matters related to freedom of the press and freedom of speech, and its management of internal conflicts.

In the forefront of the critics were former US ambassadors to Turkey. What happened all of a sudden? A new campaign was started on Twitter, symbol of freedom in the modern world: #WeLoveErdogan. The #WeLoveErdogan hashtag attracted enormous interest in a short time and raced to first place on the TT list with 300,000 tweets.


Democracy in Turkey in the good old days – 1980

So, what did Twitter do, this symbol of global democracy? This Twitter, which had stirred up so much controversy because it had been closed down for a short time, couldn’t stand this hashtag for more than two hours. They closed it down and, in a move worse than censorship, replaced it with a disgraceful tweet #TurkishdictatorintheUSA which received a mere 900 hits.

What can we say about this? We know that some of our own ‘intellectuals’ will remain silent, but I wonder what the freedom-fighter politicians in the EU who are so ready to criticize Turkey, will have to say?

Is freedom to be defined only by their narrow limits? We know that the West is quick to forget democracy and freedom when it suits them. So they could ignore the military coup in Egypt. And they could ignore the massacre of 400,000 people in Syria.

We saw the same thing when terrorism hit them at home. After the bombings in Paris and Brussels they announced a state of emergency, and they poured soldiers into the streets – but if we do a tenth of that, we are called a dictatorship.

Of course the EU represents a system of values, but those values should not apply just to some people, and some countries – they should apply to all humanity . . . Our world cannot accept this double standard.

Turkey knows itself. We have some serious problems, particularly in our legal system. We still do not have a modern, democratic constitution. But this does not mean that democracy in Turkey is as bad as those other countries are trying to make out. We have made great progress and we are continuing to move forward.”

Well, there are always critics who will accuse this man of paranoia, and of embracing unfounded conspiracy theories. On the other hand, what are we to make of recent rumour-mongering in neo-con US media that there is a possibility of a military coup in Turkey to overthrow its democratically-elected government? Turkey’s military high-command felt obligated to issue a statement denying the existence of such a possibility. In fact, one of the major achievements of Turkey’s AK Party government has been distancing the military from direct involvement in the nation’s politics, and returning the armed forces to the proper role they play in all democratic countries – subservient to the elected government, not above it.


Edward Snowden vs Hillary Clinton

There is a saying in Turkish, ‘Hem suçlu, hem güçlü’, which can be rendered in English as ‘The person who is most guilty is often the most noisily indignant in attacking others.’ I have been following the intricate proceedings of an FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of her private email server to carry out official business when she was Secretary of State. In updating the issue, a Time article made references to earlier times when Mrs Clinton and her President-at-the-time husband were found to have engaged in, to say the least, extremely dubious behaviour. There was the ‘Whitewater’ case, where there was evidence of White House involvement in deliberate blocking of investigators. Later, there were President Clinton’s official pardons, issued on his last day oin office, to wealthy supporters previously convicted of tax evasion.

That Brookings Institution where Mr Erdoğan was interrogated by the foreign press is known as one of the United States’ foremost think tanks. According to Wikipedia, among its major sources of funding are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, and the State of Qatar. It has been influential in guiding government policy on financial deregulation and ‘tax reform’, and has published books including one entitled America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Maybe you’ll tell me they are working towards a better world for all of us – but I’m not so sure.


Ottoman siege of Vienna 1529 – and they still haven’t forgiven Turkey

A recent comment on another of my posts suggested that Europe has never got over its humiliation at Gallipoli in 1915. I would go further, and suggest that the West has never got over being expelled from Anatolia and Istanbul by Turkish nationalists in 1923. That they still harbour historical resentment related to the centuries they lived in fear of being overrun by the Ottoman Empire (whom they preferred to call ‘Turks’). That there is a residual memory of the fear and hatred incited by the 11th century Pope, Urban II, who, for his own interests and those of his church, launched nearly four centuries of military aggression (a.k.a. the Crusades) against the Muslim world.

Terrorism is no new phenomenon. I applaud the Obama administration for allowing the building of that Islamic cultural centre. In the final analysis, bridge-building and education will do more to ensure world peace than stirring up hatred and fear, and seeking revenge for past wrongs.

Diplomacy and Democracy in the Western Alliance – Do as I say, not as I do!

Last Friday two high profile Turkish journalists appeared in an Istanbul court to answer charges of procuring information vital to state security, political and military espionage, publishing state secrets and disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization. Serious charges indeed, which relate to an incident where trucks allegedly carrying weapons were seen crossing the border from Turkey into Syria.


Pretty undignified for high-ranking diplomats, if you ask me

What was particularly surprising about the court hearing was that Consuls-General from ten European countries accompanied by their colleagues from Canada and the USA, plus the German Ambassador from Ankara, turned up to observe proceedings. Not content with quiet observation, the diplomatic ladies and gentlemen snapped a selfie of their group which the French Consul-General apparently uploaded to his Facebook page.

Needless to say, Turkey’s President, Tayyip Erdoğan, was not pleased. ‘Who do you think you are?’ he is reported to have demanded, apostrophizing the group in characteristic fashion. ‘This is Turkey. You can do what you like in your consular buildings and compounds, but elsewhere you need permission!’

Well, whatever the rights and wrongs of the charges against Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, Mr Erdoğan is absolutely right here. Foreign ambassadors and consular staff have diplomatic immunity to go about the business of representing their countries’ interests wherever they are posted; and that even includes the right to be whisked out of harm’s way in the event of being caught out doing something they shouldn’t. A blind eye is generally turned to what may or may not be going on behind the walls of embassies and consulates.


Champions of press freedom in the West – and where are they now?

It is, however, generally agreed, I believe, that diplomatic rights stop short of allowing privileged foreign personnel to participate in direct political activity, especially when the issue involves national security. If the governments of Western nations believe Turkey (or any other country) is using its courts to stifle dissent, and imprisoning its citizens without due process of law, there are acceptable channels through which to express their disapproval.

Obviously foreign politicians can and do say what they like in the safety of their own countries. Diplomats can seek an audience with the host country’s leadership to make their official views clear. But do they have the right to congregate with others of their species at a high profile trial in an attempt to intimidate, or influence proceedings by their presence? I don’t think so.

Let’s take a hypothetical example. Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for three years, knowing that, as soon as he sets foot outside the premises, he will be arrested by the local police and extradited to Sweden to face what he claims are trumped-up charges of rape; and he believes he will thence be shipped to the United States to face more serious charges that could see him imprisoned for life.


London bobbies standing guard outside the Ecuadorean Embassy, London

Now there are quite a few people who believe that Assange and Wikileaks did us all a great service by bringing out into the open, amongst other things, shocking documents and videos showing how the United States military had been conducting its occupation of Iraq. How would it be, I wonder, if the Turkish Ambassador rounded up a dozen or so like-minded embassy staff from, say, Middle Eastern and South American countries, and hung around outside in a demonstration of solidarity with Assange and his Ecuadorean protectors, while conducting photo ops, and publishing selfies etc on social media? Or if governments of the same nations instructed their diplomats in Washington DC to stage a similar event in support of Chelsea/Bradley Manning, currently serving a 35-year jail sentence for supplying the actual leaks to Assange?


Freedom of speech American-style

Maybe the US government would laugh. Maybe they wouldn’t – but the fact is, whatever they may think about the state of democracy and freedom of speech in the USA, foreign governments would know better than to interfere in that country’s internal politics. So why do those Western countries think Turkey does not deserve the same respect? Unfortunately, ‘respect’ is the key word here. Those countries are so used to criticizing and belittling Turkey, they seem to feel they are absolved from normal standards of diplomatic behavior.

Moreover, whatever Western governments think about the state of democracy in Turkey, these foreign diplomats were permitted to sit in on a highly sensitive trial. They were not prevented from gathering in a group demonstration clearly intended to express support for the defendants and, by implication, criticism of the legal system and the government of Turkey. I suspect there are not many countries in the world, including some that claim the democratic moral high ground, that would permit such obvious and public meddling in their internal affairs.

And then there is the question of whether these two defendants are merely professional journalists doing their job of keeping the public informed – or whether they had some ulterior motive. Well, surely that is a matter for Turkey’s courts to decide. The story behind the criminal charges does beg some questions that foreign media and governments seem to be avoiding.

A couple of trucks were apparently stopped by police on Turkey’s southeast border, and alleged to have been carrying weapons. The government denied this, claiming the trucks were carrying humanitarian aid. The opposition CHP Party suggested that the government was supplying weapons to forces of ISIS/Daesh and Al Qaeda, and accused them of high treason. Can Dündar, a well-known opponent of Turkey’s AK Party government, and recipient of an award from Reporters Without Borders, published a piece referring to video evidence supporting the claim that the trucks had been carrying arms and munitions.

My questions are: If those were military vehicles crossing the border on official government business, who authorized the search? And who carried it out? And who filmed the trucks’ cargo? And how did the film get into the hands of a journalist in Istanbul? Given that anti-government militants in Syria have been waging a civil war for five years, who has been supplying them with weapons for the fight?


Who’s really supplying the military hardware?

And of course I have some opinions of my own. First of all, assuming the government of Turkey had in fact dispatched those truckloads of weapons to Syria, who would be the most likely recipients? It is outrageous to suggest that Turkey’s government is actively supporting ISIS or Al Qaeda. It is far more likely that, given Ankara’s clearly stated desire for Bashar Al Assad to step down as President of Syria, military support would be directed to the anti-Assad rebels. Second, even if they have been providing some assistance, it is not possible that Turkey alone could have supplied sufficient weaponry to keep this war going for five years. It is well known that military hardware has been channeled through Saudi Arabia and Qatar – and America has made no secret of its desire to see the back of Assad. Finally, it must be true that a person or persons high up within Turkey’s military leaked information about those vehicles to news media, and organized the border search, with the aim of embarrassing Turkey’s government. What’s your definition of high treason?

I would be interested to hear from those Western diplomats what action they think their own governments would take in a similar situation? It has come to light that Turkish police had detained and extradited a Belgian national who went on to carry out one of the recent bombings in Brussels. It seems that Belgian security forces failed to act on the warning received, and they are placing the blame on their Ambassador in Ankara. If their communication channels are really so dysfunctional, and their envoys in foreign countries are acting on their own initiative, it seems to me Western governments need to get their diplomatic personnel under control.

Turkish firm wins contract to build Moscow airport terminal

I’m passing on this news item without comment:

Reuters, 18 March 2016

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Turkey’s Renaissance Construction has won a tender to build a terminal and tunnel at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, Mikhail Vasilenko, Sheremetyevo’s chief executive, said on Friday.


Sheremetyevo International Airport

The choice of a Turkish firm is unusual because Moscow imposed sanctions on Ankara after Turkey downed a Russian warplane near the Turkish-Syrian border in November.

Vasilenko did not disclose the price or any other details, but Sheremetyevo said in January that the construction of a passenger terminal and a tunnel by 2018 would cost $630 million.

Building a cargo terminal, for which a separate tender is expected, would cost an additional $70 million, it said.

Turkish companies were banished from Russia’s construction, tourism and hotel business from Jan. 1.

However, Renaissance Construction and Limak, the other Turkish firm which tendered, had submitted their bids from their Russian-registered subsidiaries, state-controlled Sheremetyevo said previously.

(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; Writing by Polina Devitt; Editing by Alexander Smith)