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    Middle East
     Oct 16, 2007
Page 1 of 2
Turkey fears Kurds, not Armenians
By Spengler

Turkey’s integration into the global economy was sealed last week by a billion-dollar offer by the American private-equity firm KKR for a local shipping company. Days later, Turkish troops shelled Kurdish villages in northern Iraq and prepared an incursion against Kurdish rebels, a measure that would undermine Turkey’s economic standing. Whether Turkey will fling away its new-found prosperity in a fit of national pique is hard to forecast, but that has been the way of all flesh. Europe plunged into World War I in 1914



at the peak of its prosperity for similar reasons.

News accounts link Turkey’s threat to invade northern Iraq with outrage over a resolution before the US Congress recognizing that Turkey committed genocide against its Armenian population in 1915. American diplomats are in Ankara seeking to persuade the Turks to stay on their side of the border. Why the Turks should take out their rancour at the US on the Kurds might seem anomalous until we consider that the issue of Armenian genocide has become a proxy for Turkey’s future disposition towards the Kurds. “We did not exterminate the Armenians,” Ankara says in effect, “and, by the way, we’re going to not exterminate the Kurds, too.”

Nations have tragic flaws, just as do individuals. The task of the tragedian is to show how catastrophic occurrences arise from hidden faults rather than from random error. Turkish history is tragic: a fatal flaw in the national character set loose the 1915 genocide against the Armenians, as much as Macbeth’s ambition forced him to murder Banquo. Because the same flaw still torments the Turkish nation, and the tragedy has a sequel in the person of the Kurds, Turkey cannot face up to its century-old crime against the Armenians.

Shakespeare included the drunken Porter in Macbeth for comic relief; in the present version, the cognate role is played by US President George W Bush, who has begged Congress not to offend an important ally by stating the truth about what happened 100 years ago. The sorry spectacle of an American president begging Congress not to affirm what the whole civilized world knows to be true underlines the overall stupidity of US policy towards the Middle East. It is particularly despicable for a Western nation to avert its eyes from a Muslim genocide against a Christian population.

It offends reason to claim that the Turkish government’s 1915 campaign to exterminate the Armenians was not a genocide. Documentary evidence of a central plan is exhaustive, and available to anyone with access to Wikipedia. It was not quite the same as Hitler’s genocide against the Jews, that is, the Turks did not propose to kill every ethnic Armenian everywhere in the world, but only those in Anatolia. But it was genocide, or the word has no meaning. To teach Turkish schoolchildren that more Turks than Armenians died in a “conflict” is a symptom of national hysteria. Hysteria, however, does not occur spontaneously in countries with Turkey’s record of national success. One must dig for the root cause.

Turkey’s tragedy is that the 11th Seljuk conquerors of the Anatolian peninsula became masters of a majority Christian population, a cradle of Greek culture for two millennia, in which the oldest and hardiest ethnicity, the Armenians, held fast to the Christian religion they adopted in 301 AD. Even after the forced conversion of Anatolia to Islam, the Ottoman Turks comprised a minority. Turkey, so to speak, was ill-born to begin with, and the Armenian genocide touches upon a profound and well-justified insecurity in the Turkish national character.

After the loss of the European part of its empire in the Balkans, in the midst of World War I, the Ottoman Empire feared for its hold upon Anatolia itself, and decided to settle the long-unfinished business of conquest with a conscious act of genocide. But the Turks lacked the resources to do so in the midst of war, and Turkey’s military leaders enlisted Kurdish tribes to do most of the actual killing in return for Armenian land. That is why Kurds dominate eastern Turkey, which used to be called, “Western Armenia”. The Armenian genocide, in short, gave rise to what today is Turkey’s Kurdish problem.

Commentators close to the Bush administration allege that Democrats in Congress are exploiting the Armenian issue in order to sabotage America’s war effort in Iraq. Ralph Peters writes in the October 14 New York Post, for example, “The Dems calculate that, without those [US] flights and convoys [through Turkey], we won't be able to keep our troops adequately supplied. Key intelligence and strike missions would disappear. It's a brilliant ploy - the Dems get to stab our troops in the back, but lay the blame off on the Turks.”

I am shocked, shocked to learn that the Democratic Party is engaged in politics. Col Peters, though, misses the big picture. With or without the Armenian resolution, conflict had to erupt with Turkey. Far more threatening to Turkey than the resolution on Armenian genocide was the 75-23 vote in the US Senate last month in favor of dividing Iraq into Sunni, Shi’ite, and Kurdish zones. Republicans as well as Democrats supported this resolution, and with good reason. I have advocated the breakup of the Mesopotamian monster named “Iraq” for years, and do not think this step can long be withheld.

Kurdish nationhood will be the likely outcome of Iraq’s breakup. Ethnic Kurds comprise a full fifth of Turkey’s population, and the existence of a Kurdish nation will exercise a gravitational pull upon Kurds in Turkey. Turkey fears with good reason for its

Continued 1 2 

 


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