In this insightful report from The
Wall Street Journal Europe, one is reminded of how
no matter what Turkey does, the deeply-ingrained bias of the Western media
will somehow manage to bring up ways to criticize the nation.
The best thing Turkey could do for its image is
allow the Islamists to take power, reinstitute the oppression of women, and call for the
destruction of Israel. At least that's what an observer from Mars would be likely to
conclude after comparing the press treatment of Turkey and the rest of the Muslim world.
Indeed, what ought to be a relatively uncontroversial process—the trial and punishment
of a confessed terrorist—has become an occasion for the Western media to highlight all
the supposed shortcomings of the Turkish judicial and democratic system.
Turkish prosecutors requested the death penalty yesterday as they wrapped up their case
against Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan. On Monday the Turkish military's general
staff rejected Ocalan's calls for a "peace process," saying they would not
accept his "terrorist organization" as an interlocutor. Predictably, the press
leapt to attack. Britain's Guardian, for example, carried a sympathetic interview with the
brainwashed little girl who set herself on fire in London following Ocalan's capture. A
commentary in the same paper took it for granted that capital punishment is an injustice,
and referred (without apparent irony) to the "civil conflict" being exacerbated
by the trial.
But why does the left hate Turkey? Because Turkey flouts the rules. Not international law,
to be sure—last time we looked countries still had a right to defend themselves against
attack, and to try people responsible for murdering thousands of their citizens. Rather,
Turkey flouts the kind of politically correct principles the left would like to establish
as the norms of international behavior: Force is never the solution; terrorists and
dictators are always to be negotiated with; groups (not individuals) are bearers of
rights; and cultural expression is always a good thing.
Citizenship is not about race
In the Ocalan case, then,
Turkey's affronts began with the very act that sent the terrorist on the run.
Instead of pleading with Syrian dictator Hafez Assad to be nice, or worse yet
offering him "land for peace" (as the new Israeli government, at U.S.
urging, proposes to do), the Turks simply told him to shut down the PKK or else.
Knowing that the Turks aren't in the habit of making threats (much less empty ones),
Mr. Assad took them seriously. Force (or at least the threat of it) was the
solution, as it was again when, after unsuccessfully lobbying its NATO allies to
turn over its public enemy No. 1 for trial, Turkey had the audacity to simply seize
him in a foreign country.
And now that the accused, who knows his forces are being decimated by the Turkish
military and that his own life is in danger, makes an offer of "peace,"
the left is upset that the Turks have decided not to legitimize him a la Arafat.
Presumably they think the Kurds would be better off in a backward and poor
independent state (bordering Iraq and Iran) led by outdated Marxist revolutionaries
and learning only a useless language. In fact, there is no "Kurdish"
language, but a bunch of different dialects, which might explain why Ocalan ran the
PKK in Turkish.
What principles is Turkey asserting instead? Actually, principles that used to be
considered liberal: That citizenship is not about race (and that the world should
not be divided into a multitude of ethnically and linguistically pure statelets);
that individuals, not groups, are entitled to rights; that people ought to be
punished for violating those rights (even if they have "political" reasons
for doing so); and that democracies work better when there is a common language of
public discourse, something with which many minorities, as shown by the backlash
against bilingual education in the United States, agree.
None of this is meant to suggest Turkey is an ideal state. But in their attacks on
Turkey its Western critics often attack the very ideals to which it should, and
usually does, aspire.
--From The Wall Street Journal Europe
June 10, 1999
Naturally, the left hardly has a monopoly in the practice of hating Turkey.