By Gene Rossides
August 7, 2006
Recently I wrote an Op-Ed article on a June 8, 2006 speech on Cyprus by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried. I pointed out it was an important speech for what he said—and more so for what he omitted to say.
I stated that “Mr. Fried’s speech illustrates the problem which the Greek American community has faced for decades regarding Cyprus: namely, the State Department’s double standard for Turkey on the rule of law and basic American values, which damages U.S. interests in general and U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus in particular.”
On June 19, 2006, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman addressed the Eighth Turgut Ozal Memorial Lecture of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. That Institute is an active pro-Turkish organization.
Mr. Edelman is a career foreign service officer who has held key positions in the State and Defense Departments. He served from July 2003 to June 2005 as U.S. Ambassador to Turkey. From February 2001 to June 2003 he was Principal Deputy Assistant to Vice President Richard Cheney for National Security Affairs. It was Vice President Cheney who administered the oath of office to Mr. Edelman as the new Ambassador to Turkey. Mr. Edelman was also on Cheney’s staff during President H. W. Bush’s tenure 1989-93.
Ambassador Edelman arrived in Turkey in July 2003, three months after the infamous March 1, 2003 vote in the Turkish Parliament denying by 4 votes access through Turkey of the U.S. Fourth Mechanized Division to open a second front against Saddam Hussein.
Then Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz had irresponsibly offered Turkey 29 billion dollars for the second front. The New York Times reported that Prime Minister of Turkey Erdogan thought he could get more and stated he wanted 6 billion dollars more! The U.S. refused. The New York Times also wrote that a U.S. Treasury negotiator called Turkey’s action “Extortion in the name of alliance.”
Under Secretary Edelman’s remarks regarding Turkey contain false and misleading statements with serious errors of fact and omission. I will only deal with a few of them.
A number of Under Secretary Edelman’s references to Ataturk are contrary to the historical record. His laudatory comments on Ataturk play well in Turkey, but the rest of the world is familiar with Ataturk as a dictator and mass killer of Armenians, Greeks and Kurds. John Gunther in his well-received book, Inside Europe (1938 edition p. 378), refers in his opening sentence to Ataturk as “The blond, blue-eyed combination of patriot and psychopath who is dictator of Turkey.”
The Armenians know Ataturk for his role in the Armenian Genocide and as a Young Turk. The Young Turks were the forerunners of Hitler’s infamous SS troops. The Greeks knew Ataturk as the butcher of Smyrna and for his role in the Pontian Greek Genocide. The Kurds know Ataturk for his initiating in 1924 the attacks on the Kurds which amounted to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Two million Christians were killed by Turks in the 20th century, mostly when Ataturk was dictator of Turkey. Ataturk ranks with Hitler and Stalin as a brutal dictator.
Ataturk’s reforms were designed to break the power of the Ottoman rulers, not to bring democracy to Turkey. To state, as Edelman does, that: “Among his (Ataturk’s) many lasting accomplishments, he made Turkey a secular democracy,” is pure Orwellian doublespeak.
Under Secretary Edelman then discusses the role of Mustafa Ismet Inonu’s presidency following Ataturk’s death. He states that a key Inonu accomplishment was the “introduction of democratic elections and opening Turkish politics to a multiparty system. Inonu recognized that a loyal and constructive opposition is important for the democratic functioning of a nation.” To suggest, as Edelman does, that Inonu was building on the dictator Ataturk’s foundation is nonsense. Ataturk had had no real interest in democratic institutions.
Under Secretary Edelman misstates the historical record when he states that:
“During World War II, Inonu initially viewed neutrality as a way to preserve Turkey’s sovereignty. However, by the end of the war he realized it was more important for the Turkish nation to join the Allies in defense of their shared values.”
The historical record is otherwise. In World War II, Turkey abandoned its treaty with Britain and France to enter the war and remained neutral, and profited from both sides! In fact, Turkey supplied Hitler with chromium, a vital resource to Nazi Germany’s armaments industry and war effort. See F. Weber, The Evasive Neutral p. 44 (1979).
Hitler’s armaments chief, Albert Speer, provided Hitler a memorandum in November 1943 on “Alloys in Armaments Production and the Importance of Chromium Imports from the Balkans and Turkey,” which stated that the loss of chromium supplies from Turkey would end the war in about 10 months. See A. Speer, Inside the Third Reich pp. 316-17, 405, 550 n.10 (1970).
In effect Turkey’s supply of chromium to Nazi Germany prolonged World War II by 7 months. All battlefield and concentration camps deaths in the last seven months of World War II lie at Turkey’s doorstep.
With the defeat of Germany imminent, Turkey declared war on Germany two weeks before Germany’s surrender. Turkey did this to claim a seat at the conference table after the war. It had nothing to do with Edelman’s assertion it was for “defense of their shared values.”
The lack of objectivity of Under Secretary Edelman is seen from the fact that he fails to discuss or even refer in his speech to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and the occupation of 37.3% of Cyprus, now in its 33rd year, with 40,000 Turkish troops and several hundred U.S.-supplied tanks illegally in Cyprus; with 120,000 illegal settlers from Anatolia in violation of the Geneva Convention; and the Turkish barbed wire fence across the face of Cyprus.
Under Secretary Edelman also omits any reference to Turkey’s horrendous human rights record against its citizens generally and against its 20% Kurdish minority. I would urge the Under Secretary to read the State Department’s annual human rights country reports on Turkey and Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports on Turkey to learn the horrendous extent of human rights violations by successive Turkish governments and the number of political prisoners and journalists in jail.
Executive Branch Appeasers
Under Secretary Edelman is part of the handful of Executive Branch officials and former officials who have led the effort to appease Turkey and apply a double standard on the rule of law and democratic values to Turkey to the detriment of U.S. interests and to the detriment of the Turkish people generally. He stands with Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and Dan Fried in espousing policies for Turkey that are harmful to the U.S.
Turkish troops have got to go
Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-FL), a leading member of the House International Relations Committee (HIRC), said it best regarding Cyprus when she stated that the “continuing presence of Turkish troops on the island” is unacceptable and “they’ve got to go.” (Emphasis in original) I urge Under Secretary Edelman to take note.
Fundamental reexamination of U.S. relations with Turkey
Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), another key member of the HIRC, put it succinctly recently at an American Hellenic Institute briefing and luncheon on Capitol Hill on the commemoration of the 32nd year of Turkey’s aggression against and occupation of 37.3% of Cyprus. The title of the briefing was “Cyprus: 32 Years Later- What is needed for a solution.”
Congressman McCotter’s important remarks called for a fundamental reexamination of United States relations with Turkey. He stated:
“It’s my belief in the larger picture, what the United States has to do is fundamentally reexamine its relationship with the nation of Turkey. In the past the United States believed Turkey was a key ally for United States interests in the region. What that then caused are obvious to you fellow supporters of Cyprus.
In this day and age with Turkey increasingly looking to the European Union and the United States looking to countries in the Middle East to further the interests of democracy, it is critical that the United States recognize that it is not inherently dependent upon the good graces of the Turkish government for any success we have in the region.
This fundamental reassessment and realignment of our priorities in the region will then have one distinct and ineluctable benefit to the friends of Cyprus. It will help lead to ultimate justice for the individuals both with families still with us and the victims of the invasion. A nation that denies it’s past, is a nation that precludes its future. If the United States comes to the realization that our interests, as it has always been, is in dealing with other just nations to advance the cause of constitutional government and human rights, I believe that this course of action will be beneficial to everyone. I will continue to press for that course of action, and I will not allow intervening events to ever obscure that fundamental truth.”
I urge readers to write to President George W. Bush and ask him to conduct a fundamental reexamination of U.S. relations with Turkey.
Gene Rossides is President
of the American Hellenic Institute and
former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury