Wednesday, November 7, 2007

You Really Should Read James Carroll 's Columns

Today I want to promote the columns of James Carroll, columnist for the Boston Globe. He almost always seems to hit the nail spot on its head and get to the heart of matters. For example, consider his most recent column on Turkey and the war in Iraq:

HERE IN TURKEY, Condoleezza Rice offered sage advice to Turkish leaders ahead of the Washington meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan. "Effective action means action that can deal with the threat," she said Friday, but won't "make the situation worse." The Turkish military, with a deployed force of up to 100,000 soldiers, is poised to attack positions of militant Kurdish separatist fighters in the Kandil Mountains of northern Iraq. Their cross-border forays into Turkey over the last five weeks have killed dozens of Turks, both soldiers and civilians. Iraqi Kurds tacitly support their fellow Kurds, and Americans have done nothing to dissuade either group. Erdogan is under enormous pressure to respond to such attacks, but Rice highlighted "the need to look for an effective strategy, not just one that's going to strike out, somehow, and not deal with the problem."

As viewed from Turkey, American responses throughout this crisis range from duplicity to double standards. The cautionary message that Rice conveyed to her foreign ministry counterparts here, and that Bush is expected to echo, defines the exact opposite of policies pursued to this day by the Bush administration itself. The conditions that created the terrible prospect facing Turkey - an immediate war with rebel Kurds based in Iraq -- have been wholly manufactured in Washington, which displays an unending capacity to "make the situation worse." Turkey, a staunch US ally, urged restraint four-and-a-half years ago when Bush rolled his dice in Iraq. But when the gamble was lost, it was nations in the Middle East - not America - that paid. Turkey's turn to pony up has come.

The mood here is somber because when war begins, it will be real. Turks understand that the United States, thousands of miles away, is only virtually at war. US soldiers are killing and being killed, to be sure. Yet the main result of their presence as an occupation force has been to ignite and sustain a set of civil wars - now including Turkey's - that have nothing to do with America. Indeed, despite the neo-con rhetoric of "fight them there instead of here," the US occupation of Iraq defends against no direct threat to America. As Saddam's weapons of mass destruction were a paranoid myth, so is the much-hyped dread of "Islamofascism," a phenomenon that, if it did exist, would threaten Islamic peoples and values far more than anything in the West. The problem, of course, is that militant Islamic extremists, however defined, are empowered by the US occupation, not disarmed. Iraq has become a West Point for suicide bombers. Even then, the threat remains local. And although all the belligerents target the American occupiers, and will do so as long as the occupation continues, America has no authentic enemy among Iraq's sectarian belligerents. Turkey does.

In the United States, meanwhile, confusion reigns. After effectively voting against the Iraq occupation last November; after denouncing it in successive polls; after seeing the Bush administration reject its own review panel's call for a shift to diplomacy; after the touted "surge" led to more of the same; after the shock of current oil prices made the real Bush agenda in Iraq plainer ever; and after Dick Cheney and George Bush made the mad prospect of attack on Iran seem possible - the American public has sunk into a dispirited, and perhaps guilt-induced, detachment from the entire mess. (Again last week, Congressional Democrats, debating appropriations, dared look the Pentagon in the eye - and promptly blinked.) No such detachment is possible here in Turkey.

Before Bush's war changed everything in this region, Turkish hopes were high. An expansive European Union beckoned. Turks were poised to play a historic role as the bridge between Islam and the West. But then they found that, in the "us against them" war on terror, no such bridge was wanted. Europe got nervous about Turks already in its cities, and lately European countries have taken actions Turkey regards as friendly to the Kurdish rebels it is fighting. Now come warnings that, if Turkey responds to its made-in-Washington terror threat exactly as Washington does - "to strike out, somehow" - then Turkey can kiss EU admission goodbye.
The question is sharper here than at home: How much higher can the rubble pile of Bush's wreckage mount before Americans emerge from the stupor of shame to stop him?

That is a helluva a good question: when will the US emerge from our stupor of shame?




There is some truth to this article, but there are some areas I have problems with.

First, the Kurds, who call parts of Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria home don't necessarily act as one. Their home countries have played them against each other and they have done each other bad on their own. The two main Kurdish parties in Iraq can hardly stand each other; the only thing keeping them joined at the hip is the fact they are this close to having an autonomous homeland and a steady income stream(oil). There are plenty of indications the Iraqi Kurds are plenty worried the Turkish Kurds will upend their apple cart and would have no problems selling them out.

Second, much of my research in this area points to the idea the EU was never really interested in allowing Turkey into their club, especially the French. The EU has been stringing Turkey along about adding them for years and now that the EU is having reservations about letting some third tier European countries in, Turkey has little or no chance to get in(and never did) and this had nothing to do with the current Kurd or Islamist terrorist situations.

I have posted before why we cannot totally get out of Iraq and this administration in uncharacteristic candor has it right when equating this situation with what has gone on in the Koreas for the past fifty plus years. Call it peacekeeping, occupation, imperialism or whatever; unless we want to put every security arrangment we have on the books right now in question(and believe me Russia is putting the screws to us in this area also), then we will be unable to leave in entirety for a very long, long time.

One question for you, csm. Do you feel it worthwhile for this country to help the Kurds get that homeland they never have had, and if not, how does this jive with your posting about democracy in Pakistan and our backing Musharraf?

csm said...

Sorry for the long delay in responding, but I was enjoying a much-needed respite...

Anyway, Bawdy, you ask if I feel it worthwhile for this country (I assume the USA) to help the Kurds get a homeland they never have had... and my answer would be that I do not think that every nationality, religious sect, or group of peoples must have a homeland. If they never had one why would we spend any time at all in trying to give them one? Of course, I think it is our duty as the steward of Democracy to champion basic human rights for all regardless of where people live.

And, then you ask how that would jive with my posting about democracy in Pakistan and our backing Musharraf? The two things could not be more dissimilar. Well, that is a bit of an over-statement, but the two things are very different. As the champions of Democracy there is NO WAY we can be non-hypocritical and still support Musharraf's actions in Pakistan. If you do not believe that, then I am interested in your reasoning.