By FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY
Former military analyst for the Pentagon
A recent article by Patrick Cockburn, one of the ablest reporters covering the Middle East, provides an excellent character portrait of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. It is certainly consistent with what little I have been able to learn about this fascinating politician. Regardless of what you may think of Erdogan, and he has many detractors (I am not one), he is certainly establishing himself as an influential world leader who must be reckoned with in an emerging multi-polar world.
Cockburn’s report is must reading, because Erdogan has maneuvered himself onto the moral high ground in a very serious crisis he did not create. Consider please the following:
By standing tall against Israel’s murderous commando attack on the unarmed ship in international waters that was carrying aid to the besieged inhabitants of Gaza, and by promising to be on another ship trying to break the blockade, Erdogan has set an example that contrasts sharply with the latest generation of pusillanimous leaders in the United States. They have refused to condemn Israel’s attack, even though a US citizen was among those murdered — thus continuing the pattern of unprincipled moral weakness that began when President Johnson refused to act decisively after the Israelis deliberately attacked the USS Liberty in international waters in June 1967, murdering over 30 American sailors.
Not surprisingly, Erdogan has become the newest bête noire of the neocons. They have embarked on a concerted effort in their media outlets to smear him as well as to trash our relations with Turkey, starting with screeds in the Wall Street Journal and Weekly Standard. Their hypocrisy is stunning. Many of these same neocons assiduously cultivated the so-called strategic Israeli-Turkish alliance in the 1990s and, in fact, lobbied Congress on the behalf of Turkey. AIPAC is lobbying Congress for a resolution of support for Israel’s attack, or failing that, is pressuring congressmen to not criticize Israel. AIPAC and the neocons are also stoking up the Armenian lobby to criticize the modern Turkish Republic for the genocidal crimes which occurred during the waning days of a decrepit Ottoman Empire. This is logically equivalent to criticizing German Chancellor Angela Merkel for Adolf Hitler’s crimes. Some congressmen have already made strong public statements of support for Israel, and by extension a condemnation for Turkey, while the majority — like the good Germans of the 1930s — have done likewise by remaining silent. Israel just hoisted Obama on his petard (again) by requesting increased arms aid from the United States which, of course, will be rubber stamped by a compliant Congress. Meanwhile, according to the Jerusalem Post, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army, just threatened to sink any Turkish warships carrying Erdogan, if it was escorting another flotilla of aid ships trying to break the blockade of Gaza. The threat is serious, because it was made on Israeli Army Radio, an outlet for policy pronouncements intended to lather up the Israeli citizens for battle.