Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ending Iraq War by Accident

Turkey is a stalwart US ally. Apart from its NATO membership, it has an important role in the US war in Iraq, mainly furnishing air bases and a transport net that are key to logistic support for US combat operations. Two things drive the Turks absolutely crazy; one is anti-Turkish Kurdish partisans operating in their country; the other is rubbing the Turk's noses in the genocide of Armenians that occurred a little under 100 years ago during a civil war in the Ottoman Empire. The US has managed to stick its finger into the Turkish eyes on both of these sensitive issues.

Unintended consequences of the steady US armament of Kurdish tribes recently, first against Saddam, followed by the employment of Kurdish militias against Sunni and Shiite insurgents, has enabled emboldened Kurdish guerillas to attack the Turkish Army in Turkey on a larger scale. Objective of these Kurdish attacks is to unite Kurdish tribes in Turkey with those in Kurdistan. Recently, 27 Turks were killed by the Kurd forces on Turkish soil. Turkish military reprisals have begun with an artillery bombardment of Kurdish lands, helicopter gun-ship attacks against guerilla staging areas and the movement of 60,000 Turkish forces to the Kurdish/ Turkish borders. Historically, Turks inflict pain. There is not much history to support they endure pain. My prediction is that before this skirmish is over, there will be many more than 27 dead Kurds.

There are sizable Kurdish minorities not only in Turkey, but in Iran and Syria. Big powers played the Kurds against these nations as well as Saddam over the years. And the US was up to its ears in the game in the last half of the 20th century; as a result the tribes loyal to the major Barazani group still do not trust the USA. The US has support mainly from Talibani Kurds. Oil development contracts with Kurds and Texas Hunt/ Halliburton oil outfits could be in jeopardy if turmoil spreads. Israeli dreams of pumping oil by pipeline from Kurd lands through Jordan to Haifa, Israel, promoted by hopeless Henry Kissinger, might go aglimmering.

The Turks were not supportive of the US invasion of Iraq. They refused to cooperate with the US to invade from Turkey and specifically refused to permit the 4th Infantry Division to deploy through Turkey into Iraq. Since then the influence of Turkish Islamic parties has increased to a clear majority and support of the US is being questioned more seriously. The Turks greatest fear, that the Iraq War would destabilize the area by stirring up Kurdish nationalism, has come to fruition. The US is biting its nails over this predictable dilemma. Thank you moronic neocons for another disaster!

Into this tense situation steps the US House of Representatives with its slap happy resolution to condemn Turkey for an Armenian genocide that occurred between 1915 and 1917 under the Ottoman Empire. Maybe I am old fashioned. Why involve the US in marking any massacres committed by other countries in other countries? When in Berlin years ago I asked a Berlin taxi driver where the controversial German Holocaust memorial would finally be situated. He replied with a sardonic smile, RIGHT NEXT TO THE US EMBASSY. This national indulgence really took off in the USA when President Reagan provided the American Jewish community with the historic US Mint building for a holocaust museum in Washington, DC which, contrary to the agreement, was promptly razed by the group to put up a modern building. Its construction set off a furious cottage industry to build Holocaust Museums in nearly every major city of the USA. These shared chambers of horror honor those who were mercilessly murdered by the Nazis, but why such an excess of museums? It was an hysterical, over-the-top building program that diminished and degraded the impact of the tragedy by making it a common street corner side show exhibition. Their widespread existence has not precluded man's inhumanity to man in the slightest. These memorials/museums belong in Israel and Berlin, where they now impressively stand.

For better or worse the US population appears to have a morbid proclivity to champion the remembrance of other nations' massacres. Now can we expect Congress to pass pointless resolutions on Darfur, Cambodia, Rwanda, Grozny and Fallujah? Maybe even on the ancient massive atrocities committed by Tamerlane, Ghengis Khan, and Attila the Hun. If your cup of misplaced pity still is not filled, try to take a bite of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but do not choke on Pearl Harbor and the Bataan Death March in the process. Learn lessons: the past is past; do not let it flog the future. The US legislative concern over Armenians killed nearly 100 yrs. ago makes no sense. It is absurd. Congress should focus on ending two wars, an out of control budget, massive corruption and a decaying national infrastructure for starters.

California congressional representatives Pelosi and Lantos insured last week that a US House resolution condemning the Turks for Armenian genocide passed from committee to the floor for vote. As of this writing no date has been set to bring it to vote on the floor. Bush administration is doing it best to prevent this from happening and for a change is on the right side of the issue. Armenians throughout the world have self righteously sought to embarrass Turkey over the issue. It was a cause celeb by the internationally famous French Armenian vocalist Charles Aznavour in the mid 20th century. My visit to Yerevan in Armenia in the 60s brought me to the national museum where on entering the building, you were greeted by very large painting of a beautiful Armenian maiden in national costume lying in a pool of blood draped over a pile of scattered Armenian books. Standing over her is a brutish Turkish soldier with a bloody yataghan in his hand, so it is certainly an emotionally charged issue, intentionally perpetuated, that has a life of its own.

Representative Pelosi admitted that she championed the Armenian cause mainly to satisfy the demand of an Armenian constituency in California. This is ward healing politics at its worse with national interest be damned. Representative Lantos declared the same reason, but Lantos had other reasons. He is a holocaust survivor from Hungary. He is a secular Jew who regularly champions human rights issues, so genocide was the kind of issue on which he morally and emotionally is fixated. As an American lawmaker, his first responsibility is to the US interests. He was expected to reflect: to focus on how his political actions deleteriously impacted on Turkish /US relations.

US military organizations have begun planning how to support the logistical operations in Iraq if Turkish facilities are denied. There are really no good options. Cost of supporting the operations will explode as vulnerabilities to logistic trains expand. If the Turks react strongly, Pelosi and Lantos could have inadvertently complicated the Iraqi war to the degree that it can not be sustained without even more huge, unacceptable costs that finally force a welcome end. So there might be a long term bright side to Congress' obvious foolishness. What an ironic outcome... Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET
* Photograph: Mustafa Kemal Ataturk [Atatürk](1881-1938) the founder of the Turkish Republic and its first President

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