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William Safire of The New York Times can sure be funny. The vehemently pro-Israeli columnist in the generally anti-Turkish newspaper would almost always be sure to say a bad word about Turkey, whenever the subject of Turkey would come up. Since the nation forged an alliance with his beloved Israel, suddenly Turkey became a good guy, in his eyes. (At least for this article, anyway.)

In the articles following, this page will deviate from the main topic, and get more into William Safire.

Byzantine Alliance


December 10, 1997

Byzantine Alliance
Turks and Israelis forge new ties.

Two meetings are taking place this week that will affect the power balances of tomorrow’s Middle East.

Most eyes are on Teheran’s Islamic conference, where leaders of 55 mostly Muslim nations listen impassively to a radical Ayatollah — whose internal theological authority they know is crumbling — rail at the “poisonous breath” of the United States and Israel.

Less observed abroad, but far more significant, is Turkey’s answer to fundamentalists and dictators: the first official visit to Turkey of an Israeli Defense Minister, accompanied by a large delegation of military officials, technicians and business executives.

Turkey is a secular Muslim country. As its neighbors that are Arabs — led by Iraq, Syria and Egypt — passed a resolution in Teheran denouncing the Turks for their growing ties to Israel, the Defense Minister of Turkey coolly replied, “We respect the Islamic conference, we belong to it, but we cannot allow it to dictate our relations.”

The man who has done most in the past eight years to bring about this tectonic shift is the former Israeli Air Force general David Ivri. Reached by telephone in Ankara yesterday, the nonpolitical General Ivri told me that “despite the passionate statements from other countries, this strategic tie is stabilizing. It’s not directed against anybody.”

Except aggressors.

Turkey needs some new friends in the world. It sees Syria playing host in Damascus to the P.K.K. Kurds trying to break off a large piece of Turkey. It sees Iraq and Iran developing fearsome new weapons and the missiles to deliver them. It sees Germany and Greece selfishly blocking its entry into European integration, and its importance to NATO diminished with the temporary reduction of the Russian threat.

What can Turkey get from its new bonds with Israel? It has already contracted for a $630 million modernization of its air force: 54 of its outdated fighters will be equipped with the latest avionics and radar systems, and a new deal is in the works for 48 more. That doesn’t turn them into F-15’s, but will enable them to knock down what nasty neighbors might send aloft.

Also, Israelis know how to build advanced tanks; talks are under way on a joint design for production in Turkey. Ground-to-air missiles are on the shopping list. Because the U.S.-Israeli military tie is not subject to political vicissitudes, Turkey will look to Israel to get American permission to sell Arrow anti-missile missiles (a joint U.S.-Israel defensive weapon coming on line in 1999), and to urge the U.S. to help Ankara.

Israel’s interest in the Byzantine bond goes beyond a chunk of future billions in military spending. Its airmen can now train in airspace that offers a land profile of battle sorties. Mit-Mossad intelligence cooperation is a prospect. And a nation of six million is more willing to take risks for peace with a nearby nation of 60 million as a strategic partner.

The Israelis will leave it to the Americans to remind Ankara, cracking down on Kurdish separatists and closing up the religious party, about the value of human rights.

The Turks know the U.S. will do that, too, despite our need for Turkish bases to maintain our no-fly zone over northern Iraq. Before Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz visits the White House next week, I expect him to throw the outspoken Kurdish dissident Leyla Zana out of prison, though that member of Parliament prefers to remain locked up for dramatic impact.

As General Ivri foresaw, the geopologic of Turkish-Israeli military, economic and technological ties (it’s impolitic to call the new relationship an alliance) is greater than Islamic solidarity or European clubbiness.. Common threats create mutual interests, and growing trust develops comrades in more than arms. In ancient times, the Jews and Greeks lost to the Romans, who were swallowed up into the Byzantine Empire, which was broken up by the Turks, Persians, Russians, Arabs and Venetians.

In modern times, the Turks and Jews are protecting themselves against the Persians of Iran and Arabs of Iraq and Syria, who are supported by the Russians, Greeks, and Goths and Romans of Europe. The Venetians seem to be out of it, as are the Americans. 

  A Small Backdrop on Relations



Relations between Turkey and Israel go back to March 1949, less than a year after Israel came into existence, when Ankara recognized the Jewish state. Establishing formal ties to Israel sent a strong message about Turkey's international orientation, bringing it close to the West even as it alienated the Arabs; as Gamal Abdel Nasser explained in 1954, "Turkey, because of its Israeli policy is disliked in the Arab world." But the Turkey-Israel tie at that time was mostly symbolic and despite efforts to make it substantial, had little content. Relations diminished in the aftermath of 1973, when Turks, bowing to the Arab oil weapon, distanced themselves from Israel. Coolness toward Israel remained for about a decade afterwards, eroding only as did the Arabs' wealth and clout. Israel and Turkey quietly enhanced intelligence cooperation in the aftermath of Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon but formal and public relations remained cool.



Safire Renews Attack During Gulf War II


As the TAT site is "going to press," "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is underway... and Turkey's name is currently mud for not whole-heartedly supporting every move of the United States. The kinds of quotes heard on American television are: "Since Turkey Screwed Us..."
"Because Turkey Jerked Us Around..."
"If Turkey hadn't messed with us..."
"Turkey tried to bribe us into letting them invade Iraq by offering us
Airspace rights..." (All from Fox News, as cited in an editorial by Sedef M. Buyukataman entitled, "Examine the Facts.") Turkey's unusual decision not to wag her tail the moment the United States snapped her fingers is a move that will (as Ms. Buyukataman wrote) "not only cost Turkey billions of dollars in foreign aid but also countless dollars in tourism, foreign business opportunities and, as the following months will show, by making the job of anti-Turkish lobbies a hundred times easier."

What does all this mean? Time for Billy Safire to go on the attack again.

William Safire

In an April 3, 2003 opinion for The New York Times ("On Rewarding Friends"), the former speechwriter for Richard Nixon wrote, "But trust is shot. With our ships laden with troops and tanks offshore, Turkey suddenly embraced neutralism. Generations of Americans with memories of gallant Turks fighting alongside us in the Korean War — and saving refugees after the first gulf war — are being replaced by a generation that will remember the slamming of Turkey's door in our faces."

He concluded his piece with, "Peoples have memories that profoundly affect international ties. Those memories are being forged right now, and Americans won't forget our friends."

How odd. All these many years, Turkey would obsequiously do whatever the United States wanted — the U.S. could perhaps find no greater ally. It's peculiar that William Safire suddenly recalled the gallantry of the Turks from the Korean War, as he forever has had the worst case of amnesia when it came to writing anything positive about the Turks. For half a century, Turkey has been America's greatest friend and ally (besides Britain), and when Turkey decides to look out for her own interests before the United States', Billy Safire threatens he will no longer regard Turkey as a friend. What a phony.

Josh Marshall wrote in a March 26 2003 article for The Hill entitled, "Don’t place blame on the Turks": "The drive for Baghdad, they now tell us, just proved what we should have known all along: that our so-called “friends” and allies were never really our friends at all. The most pernicious and self-serving of these arguments is that aimed at America’s erstwhile allies, the Turks. Beside Britain, no country was thought more likely to be at our side when the bombs started falling. And resentment toward them has been ferocious."

The same writer exposes William Safire's hypocrisy with the following article:

  Is William Safire just another Tricky Dick?


Ten days ago Safire fired off a barrage of accusations against America's erstwhile ally, Turkey ("Turkey's Wrong Turn," March 24, 2003). He blamed Turkey's refusal to give the US a northern front on an amalgam of incipient Islamism and greed for northern Iraqi oil. He said Prime Minister Erdogan had turned Turkey into "Saddam's best friend."

Thus Safire wrote ...

Adding diplomatic insult to this military injury, Turkey massed 40,000 troops on its border with Iraq, hoping to grab the oil fields of Kirkuk if Iraqi Kurds rectified Saddam's ethnic cleansing by daring to return to their homes.

The Turks' excuse for seizing today's moment of liberation to bite off a rich chunk of their neighbor is this: they insist that Iraqi Kurds plan to set up an independent state, which would then supposedly cause Turkish Kurds to secede and break up Turkey.

That's strictly Erdogan's cover story for an oil grab, undermining the coalition's plans for an Iraq whole and free.

Now, as I
noted in The Hill last week, Safire's argument was really little more than a bundle of slurs built on a series of fairly straightforward logical contradictions. The long and the short of it was that Safire was just letting the Turks have it because they refused the United States. That required taking them down two or three notches.

But if Turkey really was refusing us because it craved the oil fields of Kirkuk, would Safire really be in much of a position to criticize them? Not really, since he's spent the last eighteen months dangling the lure of Iraqi oil in front of the Turks as their reward for helping the US topple Saddam.

For instance, just after 9/11, Safire wrote a column in which he was supposedly "channeling" his one-time boss Richard Nixon about the wars on terrorism and Saddam ("The Turkey Card," November 5th, 2001).

Here's a snippet from the 'interview' ...

Q: The Turks have already volunteered about a hundred commandos -- you mean we should ask for more?
Nixon: Get out of that celebrity-terrorist Afghan mindset. With the world dazed and everything in flux, seize the moment. I'd make a deal with Ankara right now to move across Turkey's border and annex the northern third of Iraq. Most of it is in Kurdish hands already, in our no-flight zone -- but the land to make part of Turkey is the oil field around Kirkuk that produces nearly half of Saddam Hussein's oil [italics added].

Q: Doesn't that mean war?

Nixon: Quick war, justified by Saddam's threat of germs and nukes and terrorist connections. We'd provide air cover and U.N. Security Council support in return for the Turks' setting up a friendly government in Baghdad. The freed Iraqis would start pumping their southern oil like mad and help us bust up OPEC for good.

Q: What's in it for the Turks?

Nixon: First, big money -- northern Iraq could be good for nearly two million barrels a day, and the European Union would fall all over itself welcoming in the Turks. Next, Turkey would solve its internal Kurd problem by making its slice of Iraq an autonomous region called Kurdistan.

Now, that was "Nixon" talking. And even though it was pretty clear these were slightly more coarse and candid expressions of Safire's own thinking, maybe you figure it's unfair to identify him directly with these ideas. But how about another column ("Of Turks and Kurds," August 26th, 2002) from just last summer, in which Safire speculated on what the Turks might gain from getting involved in the regime change game ...

But many Turks, having just defeated their own Kurdish terrorists headquartered in Damascus, are still transfixed by the chimera of Kurdish separatism. They worry that when Saddam is overthrown, Iraqi Kurds will split off into an independent Kurdistan, its traditional capital in oil-rich Kirkuk, which might encourage Turkish Kurds also to break away. But that defies all logic: would the Kurdish people, free inside a federated Iraq and with their culture respected in Turkey, start a war against the regional superpower?
Turks also worry about the million Turkomen in northern Iraq. It should not be beyond the wit of nation-builders to ensure that minority's rights and economic improvement. Turkey has a claim on oil royalties from nearby fields dating back to when Iraq was set up [italics added]. As a key military ally in the liberation and reformation of that nation, and with judicious U.S.-guaranteed oil investments, Turkey should begin to get its debt paid.

See the game Safire has been playing? First, he tries to get the Turks on the regime-change bandwagon with the lure of Iraqi oil. When they refuse the temptation, he accuses them of cravenly lusting after the very thing he unsuccessfully tried to tempt them with. Yesterday in the Times he was actually
at it again. What sort of weird combination of disingenuousness and projection is this? Tricky Dick? How 'bout just plain ... well, this is a family website. But you get the idea.

-- Josh Marshall, Talkingpointsmemo.com, April 3, 2003


It would appear The New York Times published the following reply on March 31, 2003:

Democratic Turkey

To the Editor:

Re ''Turkey's Wrong Turn,'' by William Safire (column, March 24):

It is strange that the moment Turkey proves beyond a doubt that it is much more democratic than many give it credit for is when it is harshly criticized for not being less democratic.

Perhaps those who purport to be friends of Turkey should reconsider whether they are really interested in a democratic Turkey or a vassal state of the United States.

Sunnyvale, Calif., March 26, 2003



The alternate news outlet, Counterpunch, charges Billy Safire and The New York Times for making up a tale accusing a Taiwanese-American of being a spy for the Chinese: Sliming Wen Ho Lee



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...Is to expose the mythological “Armenian genocide,” from the years 1915-16. A wartime tragedy involving the losses of so many has been turned into a politicized story of “exclusive victimhood,” and because of the prevailing prejudice against Turks, along with Turkish indifference, those in the world, particularly in the West, have been quick to accept these terribly defamatory claims involving the worst crime against humanity. Few stop to investigate below the surface that those regarded as the innocent victims, the Armenians, while seeking to establish an independent state, have been the ones to commit systematic ethnic cleansing against those who did not fit into their racial/religious ideal: Muslims, Jews, and even fellow Armenians who had converted to Islam. Criminals as Dro, Antranik, Keri, Armen Garo and Soghoman Tehlirian (the assassin of Talat Pasha, one of the three Young Turk leaders, along with Enver and Jemal) contributed toward the deaths (via massacres, atrocities, and forced deportation) of countless innocents, numbering over half a million. What determines genocide is not the number of casualties or the cruelty of the persecutions, but the intent to destroy a group, the members of which are guilty of nothing beyond being members of that group. The Armenians suffered their fate of resettlement not for their ethnicity, having co-existed and prospered in the Ottoman Empire for centuries, but because they rebelled against their dying Ottoman nation during WWI (World War I); a rebellion that even their leaders of the period, such as Boghos Nubar and Hovhannes Katchaznouni, have admitted. Yet the hypocritical world rarely bothers to look beneath the surface, not only because of anti-Turkish prejudice, but because of Armenian wealth and intimidation tactics. As a result, these libelous lies, sometimes belonging in the category of “genocide studies,” have become part of the school curricula of many regions. Armenian scholars such as Vahakn Dadrian, Peter Balakian, Richard Hovannisian, Dennis Papazian and Levon Marashlian have been known to dishonestly present only one side of their story, as long as their genocide becomes affirmed. They have enlisted the help of "genocide scholars," such as Roger Smith, Robert Melson, Samantha Power, and Israel Charny… and particularly  those of Turkish extraction, such as Taner Akcam and Fatma Muge Gocek, who justify their alliance with those who actively work to harm the interests of their native country, with the claim that such efforts will help make Turkey more" democratic." On the other side of this coin are genuine scholars who consider all the relevant data, as true scholars have a duty to do, such as Justin McCarthy, Bernard Lewis, Heath Lowry, Erich Feigl and Guenter Lewy. The unscrupulous genocide industry, not having the facts on its side, makes a practice of attacking the messenger instead of the message, vilifying these professors as “deniers” and "agents of the Turkish government." The truth means so little to the pro-genocide believers, some even resort to the forgeries of the Naim-Andonian telegrams or sources  based on false evidence, as Franz Werfel’s The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. Naturally, there is no end to the hearsay "evidence" of the prejudiced pro-Christian people from the period, including missionaries and Near East Relief representatives, Arnold Toynbee, Lord Bryce, Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and so many others. When the rare Westerner opted to look at the issues objectively, such as Admirals Mark Bristol and Colby Chester, they were quick to be branded as “Turcophiles” by the propagandists. The sad thing is, even those who don’t consider themselves as bigots are quick to accept the deceptive claims of Armenian propaganda, because deep down people feel the Turks are natural killers and during times when Turks were victims, they do not rate as equal and deserving human beings. This is the main reason why the myth of this genocide has become the common wisdom.