Talking Turkey About Iraq

Dave Lindorff

Want another sign of how bad things are getting for the U.S. occupation in Iraq? Let’s talk Turkey, then.

Just for a moment, let’s imagine a hypothetical situation. Say the U.S. was occupying Syria, and needed some help with the occupation?some troops who might help to put the occupied Syrians at ease. Would we invite in neighbouring Israeli troops to help us? Unlikely you say? Or let’s try Poland. Say we were occupying Poland and wanted some help there. Would we invite German troops in? No way.

Kurdish crowds protest about the possibility of Turkish troops being sent to Iraq

Yet here we are in Iraq, losing a soldier a day, getting attacked somewhere between 50-100 times a day somewhere, resentment at the occupation growing, and domestic frustration and anger mounting at the cost of maintaining an army of 130,000 in the country. Where do we turn for help? Well, we tried the United Nations, but they quite understandably want nothing to do with the mess we’ve created. So we turn to Turkey.

Excuse me, but Turkey was a brutal occupier of the land now known as Iraq for over four centuries. Its abuse of Arab peoples is the stuff of popular legend. On top of that, a third of the country is Kurdish, and there is a blood feud between Turks and Kurds that runs back farther even than that?one which includes a very current history of slaughter of Kurds by the Turkish military, both in Iraq and in Turkey itself where Kurds are a brutally oppressed minority. Add to this the fact that Turks are for the most part Sunni Muslims, while the majority of Iraq is Shiite. The Shias, long oppressed and subjugated by Iraq’s Sunni minority, most recently at the hands of Saddam Hussein, are not going to be happy campers, watching a powerful Turkish Sunni army strutting around Baghdad.

If anyone needed a reminder of how unpopular the Turks are in Iraq, today’s car bombing of the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad should do the trick. The suicide attack, which wounded two people, was greeted in the city with jubilation and dancing in the street.

The pressure being placed by the Bush Administration upon Turkey to send troops into Iraq to help the U.S. with the occupation of that country is also a threat to the government in Turkey, where the majority of the public wants nothing to do with this foreign adventure. Turks and their parliament last spring resoundingly defeated efforts to drag their nation into the war against Iraq, and in fact Turkey, a member of NATO, actually ended up denying the U.S. military the right to land its troops and equipment at Turkish ports, forcing the surprised Pentagon at the last minute to drop plans for a full-scale northern front at the start of the war?an
astonishing diplomatic affront by a supposed ally.

By pressuring Turkey to join in the occupation despite overwhelming public opposition, the U.S. could end up with a government in Turkey down the road that will be openly hostile to U.S. interests. All this because the Bush Administration, in its unseemly and illegal rush to a unilateral invasion, so damaged American relations with its usual allies that it really has nowhere else to turn for help in Iraq.

I suppose one could argue that having Turkish troops in Iraq is better than having Indian Hindu soldiers there?another really dumb idea that almost happened until the Indian government thought better of it (and which could still come to pass). While one is tempted to think that the planners in the Bush Administration?Pentagon, State and National Security Council alike?are ahistorical idiots and yahoos, coming up with bright ideas like this one, I suspect this is not the problem. Clearly there are some yahoos at work there, not least our Yahoo-in-Chief who still cannot pronounce nuclear or even eat a pretzel while watching the tube, but the decision to bring Turkish troops into Iraq is not an act of stupidity. Ill-conceived as it is, this is an act of desperation.

The sorry reality is that the U.S. has nowhere else to turn for help at this point. The trouble is that once those Turkish troops move in, things are bound to get dramatically worse in a hurry. First of all, the Turks will quickly find themselves also under attack like the Americans, at which point they will begin to respond with the same kind of overkill that American soldiers have been using. And when Turks start killing Iraqis, all hell will break loose.

We might as well have turned to the Israeli Army for help. Who knows, the way things are going, the Bush administration may end up trying that bright idea too.


Published Tuesday, October 14th, 2003 - 12:52pm GMT

Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

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Dave Lindorff



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