by Gordon Taylor | 12/18/2007 01:04:00 AM

Think in this year what pleased the dancers best:

When Austria died and China was forsaken,
Shanghai in flames and Teruel retaken,

France put her case before the world: "Partout
Il y a de la joie." America addressed
The earth: "Do you love me as I love you?"
--Auden (1938)

Of course, it's always 1938 on Planet Earth. While someone else is "yawning, or opening a window, or just walking dully along," as Auden put it in another famous poem, there are always people elsewhere being blasted, or butchered, or just plain screwed in some ignominious way. Tonight while some Americans are preoccupied with political spin and nuance, and others are otherwise numbed by some other part of the media onslaught, there are a few shepherds and farmers (and yes, some guerrillas) over yonder in Iraqi Kurdistan who just got their homes blasted apart.

You think Americans had nothing to do with it? Boy, are you ignorant. Here is Mizgin, to set you straight. This is one case in which I have absolutely nothing to add. She has said it all. If our monitors start smoking from the heat, I guess that's our problem. Mizgin is far more of a radical than I will ever be. But she has good reason--and evidence galore.

Right now there are so many stories to cover in the Turkish/Kurdish landscape that I cannot begin to summarize them. Turkish writers, academicians, and journalists continue to be brought up on charges that Franz Kafka could not concoct. The police commit murders with impunity. Right-wing extremists kill liberals and are slapped on the back by the police. Political parties are closed in retaliation for helping their constituents. Newspapers are shut down for stating the obvious. Soldiers are attacked by guerrillas, taken prisoner, marched to Iraq, repatriated, and then court-martialed by their own army for "leaving the country without permission." And all the while, with straight faces, the government continues to insist that they will join the EU.

One story, however, I do intend to cover. It more than anything else reveals the rot at the center of the Turkish state. It's about a bookstore, a town, and a couple of hand grenades. Stand by; I'll get it done when I can.

P.S. As I write this (1:35 AM PST), Kurdish news sources are reporting that 500 Turkish commandos have crossed the border into Iraq.




Blogger Bastoche on 12/18/2007 12:26 PM:

The Washington Post reports this morning that indeed the US is supplying the Turks with “real-time intelligence” on possible PKK locations in northern Iraq. What’s going on? In his 17 December column in The Guardian Simon Tisdall claims that the air strikes indicate a “rapprochement” between Ankara and Washington. And Juan Cole speculates today that “the Shiite al-Maliki government and perhaps Shiite Turkmen opposed to the Kurds must be involved in all this somehow.”

Tisdall emphasizes Turkey’s irritation that the US hasn’t clamped down more aggressively on PKK activity inside Iraq, but Cole alludes to what might well be an even more important factor: Kirkuk. Could Washington, by allowing the Turkish Air Force free access to its targets, be sending its Kurdish allies an additional and very important signal? Though it hasn’t been scheduled yet, a referendum on the status of Kirkuk will take place sometime in 2008, and it’s very possible that the province will end up as part of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The Turks do not want to see this happen, since they suspect that the Kurds will use the immense potential oil wealth of Kirkuk as a springboard for complete independence from Iraq. The Kirkuk problem thus has the potential to disrupt regional stability, and Washington knows it. And so, by giving tacit approval to the Turkish air strikes, it might very well be sending to the Kurds an indirect but powerful message: Should they win the referendum in 2008 and gain control of Kirkuk, under no circumstances are they even to think of using their new province as a platform for independence. A Kurdish Declaration of Independence would incite to action both Ankara and the Shiite government in Baghdad (and Tehran wouldn’t be particularly pleased either), destabilizing the region incalculably and perhaps irreparably. Better now, in this limited way, to send the Kurds a signal that such a gesture will not be tolerated.

Assuming that any of this is on target—what a tangled web we’ve helped to weave in Iraq.

And, Gordon, sorry to hear that you won’t be making it to our little gathering in DC. You’ll be missed.


Blogger Gordon Taylor on 12/18/2007 1:26 PM:

Hi again. That's a fascinating analysis, one which could very well be true. But somehow I can't imagine that our gang in Washington is capable of that much subtlety. Just as likely, I feel, is that the Turks (by which I mean the Turks who hold the real power--the Generals) simply said, "Either you let us bomb or you can forget about using Incirlik." That's the trump card they always hold: Incirlik airbase. I don't think there's ever any real "rapprochement" with the Generals. When I think of them I think of the giant steel ingot exhibited by Krupp at the Great Exposition of 1851. They just sit there, immune to human consideration, gathering rust.


Blogger Bastoche on 12/19/2007 7:55 PM:

Just as likely, I feel, is that the Turks (by which I mean the Turks who hold the real power--the Generals) simply said, "Either you let us bomb or you can forget about using Incirlik."

A good point, and one that touches on a crucial aspect of the situation: the importance of Turkey as a geopolitical ally of the US. Juan Cole thinks that “Turkey is trying to drive a wedge between the US and Barzani.” To some extent I agree, although I’d put it differently. Everyone knows that Washington values its alliance with the Kurds because in the morass that is Iraq the Kurds provide a bedrock of stability. But the Kurds seem to think that because they are favorites of Washington they can flout Ankara’s claims regarding both the PKK and Kirkuk. By sending planes and troops into Kurdish territory with Washington’s tacit support, the Turks are reminding the Kurds that even though the US values its relationship with Irbil, it values its relationship with Ankara as much if not more. And I think Buyukanit has made his point. The Kurds might gain Kirkuk in next year’s referendum, but they must not think of it as their foundation for ultimate independence. They must temper their ambitions and respect the concerns of their neighbors, Turkey and Iran. Barzani certainly seems to understand that the geopolitical stakes are high. Last week he was assuring everyone that the Kurds have no intention of establishing an independent state should Kirkuk become part of Kurdistan, adding, “I am an Iraqi. I am an Iraqi citizen of Kurdish origin.” Now that Buyukanit—again, it seems, with Washington’s tacit approval—has made it clear that the Kurds must attend to Turkey’s concerns, I have a hunch that Barzani is going to be dealing out—to Ankara, to Tehran, to Washington, to his Shiite allies in Baghdad—a hefty number of such assurances as the referendum approaches.

I admit that this is a speculative reading of the events. Unfortunately, if it at all catches the truth of the matter, it indicates that Buyukanit (and Erdogan and Gul) intend to rely not on diplomacy but on flourishes of military might to deal with their Kurdish problem.


Blogger Gordon Taylor on 12/20/2007 1:27 PM:

Yes, there's virtually nothing in your analysis that I would disagree with. You could call it a dance, with everyone delicately maneuvering, trying to avoid all-out war. Or you could call it a Three Stooges routine, with first one, then the other, then the other, bashing each other in the head. As for the Generals, you wrote:
it indicates that Buyukanit (and Erdogan and Gul) intend to rely not on diplomacy but on flourishes of military might to deal with their Kurdish problem.
I would point out that the Generals have never used anything but military might to deal with their Kurdish problem, and they certainly never use diplomacy. If they choose, they will allow the politicians to pursue it, but to the Generals this is strictly a matter of the "indivisible unity of the state." They never negotiate on that. If you oppose, you are hammered into submission by one element or other of the state security apparatus. The elected government is mere window-dressing. Remember: Buyukanit is merely the latest Armed Forces commander. In a couple of years he will retire, and another will take his place. In a way, he too is a prisoner: of a whole culture, a machine, an entity that has no way of changing its outlook. More on this later.