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A purely analytical perception...


TURKEY
A LAND AT THE CROSSROADS

Continued from page 1

The Iraqis have also lost wars to Israel three times and to the United Nations once; they tied Iran in a long war of attrition in which both sides were severely bloodied.  They, too, have had it with Kurds, who would probably have been eliminated already were it not for United Nations oversight.  The Iraqis have bombed them, strafed them, gassed them and tried to atomize them just before Desert Storm.   Now they are harassing them to death.  

Iran is a different story.  They were hurt big-time in their war with Iraq, and they have been treated like the plague by most civilized countries.  Iran's attempts at winning converts to their cause have met with as much success outside of their country as the planting of grape vines did in Iceland in the early 1900s.  Even the Taliban of Afghanistan determined it was better to eliminate a few friendly Iranians than to put up with their constant harangues.  The American Devil, located half a globe away, is easily distracted by an Iranian smokescreen on Iran's triangular border with Iraq and Turkey.

 

Turkey is finally tired of being picked on by all comers. In effect, they have told the Common Market to get lost,[1] and have entered in various agreements with the devil incarnate, Israel.  Germany told the Turks that they would not supply them with tanks, and the Turks said in effect, "Shove it.  Israel has shown that they make better tanks than Germany and will even give us a joint production deal besides.  And guess what else?  Israel needs water, so we can trade water for tanks.  Who could ask for a better tradeoff than that?"  The Arabs, of course, are not at all happy with this arrangement and fear the two nations could ultimately have something in mind for lunch -- maybe Syria.

 

If there is one thing that the Middle East understands, it is becoming someone else's lunch, and Syria's historically intransigent government has sent out urgent messages that they would be interested in talking peace sooner rather than later.  In addition, no matter what the rest of the world thinks, the United States believes that Turkey has been a good friend.   However, one should remember the fact that the United States has been know to be fickle; during the Cold War it discarded Pakistan like an old shoe when the latter ceased to serve a purpose.  We do not believe that Turkey will suffer the same fate because of its logistical importance, barring a catastrophe that changes the region's geography. The United States found Turkey to be of critical importance during both the Iraq war and the disintegration of Yugoslav.

 

While NATO member Greece was not enthusiastic over the Gulf War and dead set against attacking their friends the Serbs, Turkey helped NATO right down the line and literally received a kick in the pants for their efforts.  They receive endless tongue-lashings from Germany and France over their treatment of the Kurds, their treatment of the Greeks and their treatment of their own people.  Like reformed drunks preaching the evils of alcohol, these two nations forgot their roots.  The German record on civil rights during World War II is something that the world will never forget, and the French made the German’s look good (if that is possible) with their resort colony on Devil’s Island.  These hypocrites deserve each other, and maybe the next time around, the United States and Britain won’t be there to pull militarily inept France’s fat out of the fire.

 

The French, who for the most part don't even like themselves, cannot be expected to be fond of anyone else, at least under those circumstances.  Their dream of a greater Europe eclipses logic. The French strangely consider the Greeks acceptable only because they are European.  Similar logic led the Vichy Regime during the Second World War to nearly destroy their entire country.  And is not the European Union just a ploy to give the Germans economically what they couldn't earn militarily: a bloodless victory in Europe?  What a grand deal and such logical allies.

 

Turkey, which has the largest standing army in Europe, has about had it with coming to meetings with the European Union, hat in hand, only to be continually rejected.  They have made it clear that if something doesn’t happen soon, they will be headed off in another direction.  On the other hand, Turkey doesn’t have a lot of choices in the region they share with barbarians.  Thus, Turkey’s arrangements with Israel, another pariah, seemed to send just the right message to everyone.  

 

However, it now appears that even Poland will gain admittance to the European Union, long before Turkey ever gets a seat at the table.  Turkey's Government has determined that the U. S. and Israel will suffice as all the allies it needs.  If a way can be worked out to compromise the Greek, Cyprus and Kurdish questions without giving away the store, then all could eventually be made right with the world.  In the meantime, Turkey is more or less marking time.  The world was impressed recently when duel earthquakes affected Turkey and Greece, and both sides immediately sent aid to the other.  This moment of generosity and concern may defrost the feelings between the two countries a bit. 

 

Turkey's gross domestic product is up there with China's, and its substantial fresh water resources could turn the Middle East into a garden.  Its healthy oil industry is able to support its national own national interests, and its pipelines are critically placed to bring oil and gas from both the Middle East and Russia into Europe.  Moreover, Turkey doesn't depend on oil at all; even its cars use natural gas, and pollution, which used to be a major problem for the country, now seems to be getting under control.  Other countries could learn a lesson from the manner in which the Turks have solved this sticky problem by exchanging some of Turkey’s abundant lignite coal for natural gas.

 

Startlingly, in spite of the foregoing, Turkey has continually suffered from runaway inflation that has been out of control since 1980.  During this period of time, inflation has averaged a shocking 60.34% a year.  In an emerging country like Turkey, inflation is to multinational investment what the bubonic plague is to tourism.  Most infrastructures depreciate as the currency becomes increasing devalued, and public companies tend to avoid situations that throw earnings into a cocked hat.  For this reason, Turkey has been more or less like a hunchback at the senior prom.  No one really wanted to ask her to dance.

 

Because Turkey seemed to have everything else under control, Multinationals came to the conclusion that Turkey’s rampant inflation could indeed co-exist with sustained double-digit growth in their GNP.  One reason for Turkey's prolonged double-digit growth is that the Government has consistently tried to catch up with the economies of Continental Europe.  In addition, global business has concluded that Turkey is a very stable country with little chance of being taken over by extremists.  It is a place that is geographically strategic, economically viable and of substantial military importance.

 

Thus, many of the multinationals came to the conclusion that if you are in the game, you have to be here.  Turkey's laws, including its tax code, are business-friendly.  Its internal market is also substantial: with 63 million citizens, it is one of the most populated nations in Europe.  In addition, Turkey's population has one of the lowest average ages of any European nation, and while it calls itself both a republic and a democracy, its society is also tinged with socialism.  Its welfare system is a cradle-to-grave operation, and all employees must be covered by the country's social security system.  Along with their employers, the employees must also make contributions to the system.  And therein lies the rub.

 

Social Security in Turkey covers everything from soup to nuts, maternity, health insurance, disability, on-the-job accidents, sickness, medical retirement and death.  Historically, the plan has been extremely generous, with men being able to retire on a relatively handsome pension after 25 years on the job and women after 20 years.  Thus, a young man that went to work at the age of 17 and skipped college could be enjoying the fruits of his labor at 42; a woman could give up work at an even earlier age.  This kind of socialism did not please big business, which was having its fill of that problem with dire results in highly socialized Europe.

 

But Turkey’s demographics were different.  This formula was only possible because of the substantial number of young wage earners who were available to support those who retired.  Unfortunately, the handwriting is now on the wall; families are having fewer children and the economy is maturing.  What is more, talented people who have been expertly trained for critical jobs are being lost to the foreign job market at a time when global competition is at it fiercest.

 

With that in mind, the government has proposed a total revision of Social Security, and labor -- as could have been anticipated -- is up in arms about the situation.  No longer will benefits be based on the number of years a person has worked, but they will follow the path of most other nations in that a man must work until he is 60 and a woman until she is 58.  In a country where most people do not get a college education, the problem is substantial, but as the Prime Minister of Turkey stated, "We are determined to solve the Social Security Institution's (SSK) problems, because Turkey's economy cannot be saved with out doing this."

 

Turkey wants to become a full-fledged member of the European Union.  All the members of the club except Greece are in favor of letting them in.  Even Greece would vote Turkey in if the latter would concede to a democratic Cyprus ruled by the Greek majority.  On the other hand, membership in the European Union is one of the less pressing problems on the plate of this NATO member in good standing.

 

One of the tenets of the EU is a stance against the death penalty.  Turkey, it seems, was pursuing a militant Kurd who undoubtedly had a lot to do with killing many Turkish Citizens.  The Turks did what anyone else would do; they kidnapped him from their historic enemies, and tried him for murder.  Abdullah Ocalan was tried and convicted; the penalty was an automatic death sentence.  The Turks are asking why their normally swift justice system has not acted.  But there are political motivations that underlie the situation.

 

In the meantime, The European Court of Human Rights, of which Turkey is a member, has rendered a stinging recommendation on recommended due process guarantees for Ocalan, including:

 

1.                 Free access to counsel of his choice;  

2.                 Presence of his counsel during all statements made by the accused;  

3.                 Notification to family members or next of kin of the accused;  

4.                 Regular and unscheduled reviews of interrogation tactics and conditions of incarceration;  

5.                 Medical tests by independent physicians aimed at preventing acts of torture;  

6.                 Identification of places of interrogation that are "terrorist" and dispersed from one end of the country to another;  

7.                 No long-term imprisonment in complete isolation;  

8.                 Publication of Turkish Government prison plans designed for prisoners who are deemed "dangerous" for the state, with "special holding conditions;"  

9.                 Taping and videotaping of all interrogations conducted by anti-terrorist teams.

 

While we are extremely sympathetic to Turkish sensitivities, we can certainly see where the European Court for Human Rights is coming from.  Ocalan was questioned for a week without his Turkish lawyer being allowed to be present, and foreign monitors will not be allowed to attend court hearings to determine the fairness of the Turkish Court's actions.  Ocalan has already been convicted in absentia on charges of treason and separatism.  Thus, two trials will be conducted in tandem.  Finally, Ocalan's European based lawyers were refused access to the country.

 

Turkey is stacking the deck, which doesn’t really set them apart from any other nation.  However, as far as the Turkish people are concerned, Ocalan is one seriously bad character.  If an accused, admitted to killing thousands of Americans, attempting to carve out a state within America's historic borders, began dealing with every enemies of the United States and accepting arms from Iran, Iraq and Syria, would American courts be more lenient?  You bet they wouldn’t be.  But it all depends on whose feet are being held to the flame when you talk out of two sides of your mouth.  It is easy for the fat cats in Europe, comfortable in their easy chairs, to look down on Turkey when they have a history of much worse.

 

Nevertheless, Britain and Germany, two of Turkey's best friends, have quietly sent messages to Ankara that the execution of Ocalan will temporarily kill off any chances of EU membership.  Turkey has not protected human rights.  Britain's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Joyce Quinn, dug in the knife, saying that the English would donate almost $1 million to help train police and prison officials and to support other measurers aimed at improving human rights, specifying that, “An important part of the process of deepening Turkey's relations with the European Union is addressing the issue of human rights, and this is something which…concerns us deeply."  She twisted the knife again with the condition that the aid package must also be used to address children's rights and extend managerial training to non-governmental groups.  This is another country that could make what Turkey is doing to Ocalan look tame.  One only has to tour the Tower of London to find devices that were meant to inflict pain for whatever reason that seemed to make sense at the time.

 

This was a simply a replay of the formal statement made in 1997 by the 15 nation group of the EU, which informed Turkey that it would not only have to get its record on human rights straightened out, but it would also have to resolve its disputes with Greece.  However, Turkey has a strange hodge-podge of laws that were meant to prolong tradition, create democratic principals and yet deter a lot of flack from the electorate.  Once you are convicted of an infraction, it is written in the "book of life," and the Constitution prescribes the penalties.  Amnesty is a word that does not exist in the Turkish language; this is one of the things that makes resolution of the Kurdish problem so difficult.



[1] Once told to get lost, and concerned about losing such a strong NATO Ally, The NATO people talked to the Greeks about toning down the rhetoric against Turkey, and both sides -- although not bosom buddies-- are at least talking.

 

 

 

 

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