HOLLAND REPLIES TO STONE & SKLAR
To the uninitiated, the Oliver Stone/Zachary Sklar advertisement on
page 37 of the August 5/12 Nation appears to be a telling
critique of my Studies in Intelligence article on the CIA and the
Kennedy assassination. It is not.
Stone/Sklar challenge the notion of a KGB provenance for the Paese
Sera articles by citing unnamed Paese Sera editors. These
editors allegedly explain that the articles could not be
dezinformatsia timed to Clay Shaw's arrest, because they were
"actually assigned [six months before] in the wake of a right-wing coup
in Greece." This new information would be damaging to my argument save
for one thing--it can't possibly be true. Paese Sera published
the first article in question on March 4, 1967--three days after Shaw's
arrest--and the infamous colonels' coup in Greece did not occur until
seven weeks later, April 21, 1967. (For the record, my researcher
in Italy contacted two Paese Sera editors and one of the two
reporters who wrote the articles; the former professed not to remember
the articles and the reporter wanted to be paid for answering
Another novel concoction in the ad is provably false, again because
dates are stubborn things. Until now no one has ever claimed that
Garrison began to perceive a CIA hand in the assassination as far back
as November 1963. This revisionism is refuted by the documentary record.
In December 1966, early in his reinvestigation, Garrison handwrote a
three-page letter to Life journalist Richard Billings. "At the
base of everything," the DA predicted, will be "self-designated
revolutionaries from the lunatic fringe of the Cuban movement." Not a
word about the CIA. Immediately after Shaw's arrest, Garrison fervidly
claimed to journalists that the assassination was a "homosexual
thrill-killing." Again, not a word about the CIA.
Billings's diary gives us the precise date the New Orleans DA trained
his mercurial mind on the agency: March 16, 1967, two weeks after Shaw's
arrest, the day Garrison heard about an article that "supposedly
mentions Shaw's [CIA] work in Italy." On April 3 Billings observed,
"Garrison now is hot on the CIA angle." Correspondence in Garrison's
own papers proves he embraced Paese Sera's stunning
allegations, namely, that Shaw was an "Agency man" and a neo-Nazi intent
on restoring Fascism to Italy.
It's crucial to understand why Stone/Sklar are hellbent on backdating
Garrison's "gradual" thought process on CIA involvement: to paper over a
pivotal falsehood in Garrison's 1988 memoir (which Sklar edited). He
wrote that he didn't discover Shaw's "life as an Agency man in Rome"
until "well after" the 1969 trial. Why did Garrison lie?
Everything depends on the answer (for which go to
I find dumbfounding Stone/Sklar's trust in a single source, Paese
Sera. They regard its articles as gospel (as did Garrison) and have
never seriously attempted to corroborate the allegations (nor can they;
no reputable Italian newspaper ever printed remotely similar
allegations). On the rare occasion they pretend to provide
corroboration, they rely on outlandish sources. Their JFK: The
Documented Screenplay, for example, approvingly cites Executive
Intelligence Review, a Lyndon LaRouche publication. Worse, those
sources turn out to be circular, always boiling down to Paese
Sera! Reliance on one source is why Stone/Sklar perpetuate
outrageous assertions about such peripheral figures as Ferenc Nagy, whom
they smear as a "well-known fascist sympathizer" when he was actually
jailed by the Gestapo in 1944.
Ten years ago Stone testified--with "pleasure and pride"--in support of
a statute to unseal the secret files on Kennedy's assassination. Now
those files are largely open, and Stone doesn't like one of the
consequences: Jim Garrison stands revealed as the Joe McCarthy of the
1960s, an audacious liar who unfortunately held a position of state
THERE'S NO APARTHEID IN ISRAEL
It is painful for me, as a longtime activist for Israeli-Palestinian
peace (and one who remembers hours on picket lines to stop the selling
of krugerrands), to see the great Archbishop Desmond Tutu lending his
moral authority to the "divestment in Israel" movement and the analogy
it promotes between apartheid and the occupation ["Against Israeli
Apartheid," July 15]. This analogy obscures the cyclical nature of
Israeli-Palestinian violence and therefore serves as another roadblock
on the path to truth and reconciliation in the Middle East.
South African apartheid was an internal system of racist exploitation
within a nondemocratic country. The original divestment movement
targeted corporations that profited from this exploitation. The Republic
of South Africa's right to exist was never challenged by these opponents
of apartheid, nor by the ANC, nor by neighboring African states.
In contrast, Israel itself is a democratic state with a popularly
elected government. Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands, including
the current brutal military occupation, is a fundamental piece of a
messy history of war, repression, terrorism, settlement building, hatred
and "moral legitimacy" on both sides. On the economic side, Israel's
corporate investors are generally injured, not benefited, by the
occupation, as Israel's economy loses all the benefits gained from the
Oslo peace process. And Israel's right to exist has been only grudgingly
acknowledged by a sector of the Palestinian leadership and a few
neighboring Arab states--only after decades of war, boycott and
In fact, the new campus movement for divestment has proved to be more
anti-Israel than pro-peace. Its rhetoric denies the legitimacy of an
Israeli state. It began on the UC Berkeley campus immediately after
Arafat's rejection of the Clinton/Barak peace, amid anti-Zionist
rhetoric, and it spread to other campuses long before the recent Israeli
military assaults on the West Bank. People involved with the Israeli
peace movement know that divestment will not bring peace or an end to
occupation any closer. Security is the core and very real issue of
Israeli politics: A campaign that even appears to threaten that security
would neutralize the peace forces and drives the Israeli center--crucial
to the peace process--to the right, just as the suicide bombings have
Any movement that denies the legitimacy of Israel or even appears to
threaten the security of the state further pushes the American Jewish
community to the right and into the arms of Republicans. Therefore, on a
strategic and on a tactical level this divestment movement will not
bring us closer to peace and justice.
On a moral level, one can support or defend anyone who on principle will
not invest in any defense industries or derive any benefit from military
contractors. An across-the-board movement to disinvest in all militarism
is, however, a far cry from singling out one state; especially when the
destruction of that state is routinely called for by nations with
significant weaponry. Treating one nation differently from all others is
not the basis of a moral stand.
RABBI MORDECHAI LIEBLING
Torah of Money Director
The Shefa Fund
TUTU & URBINA REPLY
Cape Town, South Africa; Washington, DC
There seems to be a basic confusion about present and past divestment
efforts. During the 1980s, it was precisely the Republic of South
Africa's right to exist as an apartheid state that was being challenged
by the divestment movement, the ANC and neighboring African countries.
Likewise, it is precisely the right of Israel to exist as an occupying
power that is being challenged at present. Then as now, divestment
efforts focused on all companies, not just the directly profitable ones,
since such tactics require breadth to succeed.
The target of current efforts should also not be obfuscated. It is
Israel's occupation, not its security, that is the focus of the current
divestment movement. In fact, it is Israeli security that is most
imperiled by the very occupation that students aim to dismantle. Just as
in the case of South Africa, it will probably take external pressure,
through divestment and other means, to compel the government to provide
peace and security for its own citizens, and justice to the
Palestinians. Israel is, indeed, being singled out, not for its
militarism but for its territorial ambitions and its continual violation
of international law.
When it comes to questions of existence, it is dangerously misleading to
invert certain facts. The Israelis have a sovereign and firmly
established nation; the Palestinians do not. Backed by the sole
remaining superpower, Israel commands one of the strongest militaries in
the world. It is the only country in the region with nuclear arms.
Within its 1967 borders, Israel's existence is recognized by the
international community, including the PLO since 1988, and as offered
more recently by all of its Arab neighbors. The Palestinians, on the
other hand, remain stateless and under military occupation, divided
between two isolated enclaves. Their sovereignty is a distant
aspiration, not a well-guarded reality. In the face of ongoing house
demolitions, the occupied territories are traversed by a growing grid of
restricted-access bypass roads. Palestinian livelihood currently sits in
paralysis, as seven of the eight major West Bank cities are under
tank-enforced curfew. But settler activity proceeds in fast forward.
With more than forty new settlements constructed in the past seven
months, government tax incentives and state subsidies entice new
arrivals to the West Bank. Israel's right to exist is hardly at issue.
Palestine's is a different matter.
REPEAL THE BAN SO KIDS CAN EAT
I'd like to add one more priority to Ruth Conniff's agenda for welfare
reauthorization ["The Right Welfare Reform," July 22/29]: repeal the ban
on cash assistance and food stamps for people convicted of drug
This provision is particularly perverse, counterproductive and cruel. A
recent study by the Sentencing Project in Washington, DC, estimates that
in just the first three years of the ban, 92,000 women became
permanently ineligible for public aid, putting some 135,000 children at
risk of poverty, homelessness and further separation from their mothers.
Not surprisingly, given the way our criminal justice and drug war
policies work, fully half the women affected are African-American or
A few states (including, brazenly, South Carolina) condition assistance
on participation in drug treatment, as if treatment--especially for
mothers with young children--were in abundant supply. The TANF ban,
combined with public housing restrictions on applicants with criminal
records, makes it practically impossible for poor women convicted of
drug felonies to re-establish themselves in the "free" world.
HOIST WITH HIS OWN CANARD?
Michael Massing's June 10 "The Israel Lobby" repeats the outdated
canard that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee operates in the
shadows, and letters responding to the piece [Aug. 5/12], particularly
that by Edward Miller, show a complete disregard for the truth.
AIPAC is a grassroots, pro-Israel group whose members are dedicated to
strengthening the relationship between the United States and Israel.
AIPAC does not collect money from a single PAC, let alone "from over a
hundred Jewish PACs," nor does AIPAC "direct," "funnel" or "pour"
millions into candidates' campaigns. As a matter of policy AIPAC does
not rate or endorse candidates, and as a matter of law AIPAC is
prohibited from making political contributions or utilizing its
corporate resources to make in-kind contributions in connection with a
campaign for federal office. AIPAC is scrupulous in adhering to these
election laws. Indeed, as Miller points out, the Federal Election
Commission concluded as much.
In reference to that complaint, however, not one of the named plaintiffs
was a then-presiding public official. Furthermore, while the complaint
was brought in the name of several individuals who have made a second
career publishing the very canards repeated by Massing, the
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee funded and filed the
complaint. AIPAC itself never fought the complaint in court, as the FEC
determined there was no reason to take any action against AIPAC and that
as a membership organization, AIPAC is constitutionally permitted to
communicate with its members on any subject.
American Israel Public Affairs Committee
...OR INCLUDE VALIUM
I'm a new subscriber, and I'm upset already. I get so pissed off after
each issue, it takes me a week to settle down--then BOOM! another
Nation shows up and I repeat the cycle. Either make your mag a
monthly, or let's impeach the wackos in Washington so I can get a little
peace in my declining years.
The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of
the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of
international pressure--in particular the divestment movement of the
1980s. Over the past six months a similar movement has taken shape, this
time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation.
Divestment from apartheid South Africa was fought by ordinary people at
the grassroots. Faith-based leaders informed their followers, union
members pressured their companies' stockholders and consumers questioned
their store owners. Students played an especially important role by
compelling universities to change their portfolios. Eventually,
institutions pulled the financial plug, and the South African government
thought twice about its policies.
Similar moral and financial pressures on Israel are being mustered one
person at a time. Students on more than forty US campuses are demanding
a review of university investments in Israeli companies as well as in
firms doing major business in Israel. From Berkeley to Ann Arbor, city
councils have debated municipal divestment measures.
These tactics are not the only parallels to the struggle against
apartheid. Yesterday's South African township dwellers can tell you
about today's life in the occupied territories. To travel only blocks in
his own homeland, a grandfather waits on the whim of a teenage soldier.
More than an emergency is needed to get to a hospital; less than a crime
earns a trip to jail. The lucky ones have a permit to leave their
squalor to work in Israel's cities, but their luck runs out when
security closes all checkpoints, paralyzing an entire people. The
indignities, dependence and anger are all too familiar.
Many South Africans are beginning to recognize the parallels to what we
went through. Ronnie Kasrils and Max Ozinsky, two Jewish heroes of the
antiapartheid struggle, recently published a letter titled "Not in My
Name." Signed by several hundred other prominent Jewish South Africans,
the letter drew an explicit analogy between apartheid and current
Israeli policies. Mark Mathabane and Nelson Mandela have also pointed
out the relevance of the South African experience.
To criticize the occupation is not to overlook Israel's unique
strengths, just as protesting the Vietnam War did not imply ignoring the
distinct freedoms and humanitarian accomplishments of the United States.
In a region where repressive governments and unjust policies are the
norm, Israel is certainly more democratic than its neighbors. This does
not make dismantling the settlements any less a priority. Divestment
from apartheid South Africa was certainly no less justified because
there was repression elsewhere on the African continent. Aggression is
no more palatable in the hands of a democratic power. Territorial
ambition is equally illegal whether it occurs in slow motion, as with
the Israeli settlers in the occupied territories, or in blitzkrieg
fashion, as with the Iraqi tanks in Kuwait. The United States has a
distinct responsibility to intervene in atrocities committed by its
client states, and since Israel is the single largest recipient of US
arms and foreign aid, an end to the occupation should be a top concern
of all Americans.
Almost instinctively, the Jewish people have always been on the side of
the voiceless. In their history, there is painful memory of massive
roundups, house demolitions and collective punishment. In their
scripture, there is acute empathy for the disfranchised. The occupation
represents a dangerous and selective amnesia of the persecution from
which these traditions were born.
Not everyone has forgotten, including some within the military. The
growing Israeli refusenik movement evokes the small anticonscription
drive that helped turn the tide in apartheid South Africa. Several
hundred decorated Israeli officers have refused to perform military
service in the occupied territories. Those not already in prison have
taken their message on the road to US synagogues and campuses, rightly
arguing that Israel needs security, but that it will never have it as an
occupying power. More than thirty-five new settlements have been
constructed in the past year. Each one is a step away from the safety
deserved by the Israelis, and two steps away from the justice owed to
If apartheid ended, so can the occupation, but the moral force and
international pressure will have to be just as determined. The current
divestment effort is the first, though certainly not the only, necessary
move in that direction.
'NO ONE WILL CARE...'
On behalf of the members of our organization, each of whom is a survivor of torture, we wish to express our appreciation to Alexander Cockburn ["Beat the Devil"] and Patricia J. Williams ["Diary of a Mad Law Professor"] for their comments on torture and the US government, in your November 26 issue. Both of us are, unfortunately, well acquainted with our government's involvement in torture. The eagerness with which some in the media are willing, if not eager, to support its use does come as a distinct disappointment, as does the silence of Congress on the subject.
It is not uncommon for the tortured to be told by those who torture them, "Even if you survive to tell others what we did to you, no one will listen; no one will care." We are gratified to know that The Nation does care. Sadly, it seems that we cannot expect the same of the Bush Administration or most in Congress.
SISTER DIANNA ORTIZ, OSU
DR. ORLANDO TIZON, PhD
Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC)
HELP FAMILIES OF 'DISAPPEAREDS'
I just read Miriam Ching Louie's "The 9/11 Disappeareds" [Dec. 3]. Is there an address to which donations to the Asociación Tepeyac can be sent?
Contact information for Asociación Tepeyac de New York: 251 West 14 Street, New York, NY 10011; phone (212) 633-7108; fax (212) 633-1554; e-mail AsocTepeyac@tepeyac.org.
Ian Urbina's "US Bows to Turkey" [Nov. 12] certifies that some may get everything wrong indeed. Here are some essential facts on Turkey:
§ Turkey is a pluralistic secular democracy under the rule of law. It is party to the European Convention on Human Rights and is subject to, among others, the Council of Europe, the UN and OSCE monitoring on human rights.
§ Over the past seventeen years, we've had to fight the PKK terrorist organization, which attempted to divide our country and destroy the fabric of our society.
§ The terrorist PKK does not represent the Kurds, who constitute the majority of its victims. Our citizens of Kurdish origin prosper in every walk of life in Turkey. They enjoy the same rights of representation and regularly assume the highest offices, including in our Parliament.
§ Our Parliament decides whether our land and facilities may be used for military purposes by foreign troops. The Incirlik base is no exception.
§ In addition to the recent sweeping constitutional amendments, we have made important reforms in the way our economy is run. The benefits of those will be seen in the period ahead. Despite our economic turbulences, we have maintained our perfect credit servicing record.
§ Finally, Turkey has never, ever asked anything in return for its support for the campaign launched against terrorism, including our decision to give troops to "Operation Enduring Freedom." This is an outcome of our longstanding, principled policy to combat terrorism. And the sentiments of the Turkish people toward the September 11 attacks have probably been best conveyed in the letters, flowers and the fireman's helmet left at the gate of the US Embassy in Ankara.
SALIH BOGAÇ GÜLDERE
Counselor, Turkish Embassy
A few comments from the Turkish Embassy merit response.
Indeed it is true that Turkey has been subject to international monitoring of human rights, the result of which has been a rather abysmal record. Even the State Department's Human Rights Report for Turkey discusses continued "serious human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, including deaths in detention from excessive use of force, 'mystery killings,' and disappearances. Torture remained widespread.... Security forces continued to use arbitrary arrest and detention. Prolonged pretrial detention and lengthy trials continued to be problems."
The consequences of these abuses and Turkish military behavior have been dire. As early as 1997, before the current market crash in Turkey and recent upswings in its military budget, the CIA's State Failure Task Force reported that Turkey was a nation in danger of collapse, due in large part to its ongoing war effort.
It is also certainly true that for the past seventeen years the Turkish Army has been fighting the PKK, an organization that has engaged in serious human rights abuses against civilians. But the PKK implemented a unilateral cease-fire starting in 1999, and their repression by the Turkish military has steadily risen. Is this the logic of self-defense?
The biggest stretch of all is the claim that Kurds have full and equal rights in Turkey. The nation's first Kurdish woman elected to Turkish Parliament, Leyla Zena, now sits in prison on a fifteen-year sentence for having committed the crime of speaking Kurdish from the floor of Parliament. In October a Turkish radio station was closed down for having played a love ballad in Kurdish. What was true in the 1999 Human Rights Watch Report is no less true in the current political climate: "Turkish journalists face fines, imprisonment, or violent attacks if they write about the role of Islam in politics and society, Turkey's ethnic minority, the [Kurdish] conflict in southeastern Turkey or the proper role of the military in government and society."
Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)
US TERROR IN CHILE
It is most appropriate to be reminded of acts of terrorism promoted by the United States ["Indict Pinochet," Nov. 5] by citing the CIA's covert operations in Chile (1970-73).
Since September 11, 1973, Chileans have been honoring the memory of thousands who were killed and are still missing after Gen. Augusto Pinochet, with US support, put an end to Salvador Allende's democratic government of the Unidad Popular. And as you point out, an "infamous act of political terrorism committed in our nation's capital" occurred three years later: the car-bombing murders of Orlando Letelier (who had served in Allende's cabinet) and his American associate Ronni Moffitt.
Those involved were a US terrorist, Michael Townley (who operated in Chile), and three anti-Castro Cubans, all supposedly following orders from Pinochet himself.
One would have expected that the FBI and the CIA had some idea of how these terrorists found their way to the nation's capital and detonated a bomb in broad daylight not far from the center of the national government.
By the way, the Director of Central Intelligence at the time was George Bush, the father of the current occupant of the White House. Christopher Hitchens's "Minority Report" in that same issue gives other insightful views on the Nixon-Kissinger plan to destabilize democracy in Chile.
OF OIL AND AFGHANISTAN
Warm thanks for Michael Klare's "The Geopolitics of War" [Nov. 5], which provides a much-needed historical background for the current war on Afghanistan. Two brief comments may supplement his fine work: Klare's list of Carter's militarization of the Persian Gulf in 1979, in the wake of the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, omits one particularly notorious action--the decision to invest millions of dollars in military aid in the oppressive but convenient dictatorship of Mohamed Siad Barre in Somalia. As the New York Times reported at the time, this client relationship was meant to replace the strategic and intelligence base the United States had lost in Iran. The dismal continuation of that story, where any pretense of "nation-building" has long been abandoned, may well be instructive for what we can expect from the current pageant of US policy in Afghanistan.
And speaking of Afghanistan: Klare argues that the war against Osama bin Laden is primarily an attempt to safeguard a friendly government in oil-rich Saudi Arabia. But Bush Administration officials have cautioned us not to expect the bombing in Afghanistan to produce bin Laden's capture or death. The prime strategic importance of Afghanistan is that it provides the only convenient land route for the oil pipeline Unocal wishes to build to extract the vast oil reserves in Uzbekistan. Unocal reluctantly suspended its $2 billion pipeline project last year, when the Taliban became intransigent. The Bush Administration was unable to win further concessions from the Taliban even after paying them $43 million last spring, ostensibly to congratulate them for their helpful initiatives in the "war on drugs." It would appear that Big Oil's man in Washington has resorted to a more conventional method for guaranteeing access to oil.
I certainly agree with Neil Elliott on the significance of the US alliance with Mohamed Siad Barre of Somalia in the wake of the Iranian revolution. On Afghanistan, however, I choose to differ. The United States is very eager to tap into the oil and gas reserves of the Caspian Sea basin, but the top priority for Washington has always been to build a pipeline from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan across the Caspian to Baku in Azerbaijan and then on to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean. This pipeline would make it easy to ship Caspian energy to Europe and the United States. The proposed pipeline through Afghanistan to Pakistan might be of economic benefit to Unocal, but it has little strategic significance for the United States. So I remain persuaded that the strategic epicenter of this war is Saudi Arabia, not Afghanistan.
MICHAEL T. KLARE
What have we here (on page 13 of your Fall Books issue)? The van of an Anglophilic booklover from Belgium (according to the letter "B" in the white oval)?
Alongside the White House and the Capitol building on the alleged terrorist hit list for September 11 was another, little-noticed target: Incirlik, a US airbase in southern Turkey. In a recent raid on a suspect's apartment in Detroit, the FBI found extensive drawings and materials relating to the base. Why Incirlik?
For the past ten years the base has been home to several thousand US military personnel and the fifty US fighter planes used for bombing the northern no-fly zone in Iraq. But it was during the Gulf War that the base earned its notoriety in the region. Throughout the war, Incirlik served as a headquarters of US operations, providing the launching pad for major troop offensives and thousands of bombing missions.
Built in 1951 by US Army engineers as a cold war outpost, Incirlik is one of the most strategically important footholds for the United States in the Middle East. It is not only within striking distance of Iran and Syria but also a short flight from the oil- and gas-rich former Soviet republics. Recent events have further enhanced the base's value; Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has even floated the idea of shifting the center of future regional operations there. With the imminent possibility of stepped-up attacks on Iraq, this shift could occur sooner rather than later.
The recent history of Incirlik offers a small window on the moral incoherence and dubious alliances that characterize US foreign policy in the region. Since Turkey reviews US access to the base every six months, it has had a powerful lever with which to influence the United States--and in turn, the United States has made costly compromises to preserve its access. "If a Turkish Ayatollah Khomeini came to power tomorrow," a high-level military official recently commented to me, "the US would still stay on bended knee to avoid losing that base."
The most scandalous of these compromises involves the US role in northern Iraq. The ostensible humanitarian purpose of the northern no-fly zone is to safeguard 3.3 million Iraqi Kurds. Unfortunately, US concern for the Kurds extends only to those being attacked by our enemy Saddam, not to those being attacked by our ally Turkey. Over the past fourteen years more than 23,000 Kurds fighting for greater autonomy and self-determination in southern Turkey and northern Iraq have died at Turkish hands. When Turkey sends US-made F-16s or thousands of troops to attack the Kurds across the border, as it did last December, Washington looks the other way. It's an "obscene piece of hypocrisy," writes John Nichol, the British pilot who was shot down in 1991 and tortured by Iraqi forces. "Turkish authorities ground our aircraft so that their own can attack the very Kurds that [we were] protecting just a few hours before." One investigation by Air Force Times revealed that the Turks were grounding more than 50 percent of US missions.
Incirlik is a factor on other fronts as well. Last year our House of Representatives was poised to vote on a resolution to recognize the 1915 Turkish massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians. As the bill gathered support, Turkish officials threatened to end US access to Incirlik. President Clinton quickly persuaded the bill's sponsor to drop it.
After September 11, Washington immediately turned to Turkey, the only Muslim nation in NATO, for public support. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit enthusiastically stepped forward, while also criticizing past US softness toward terrorism as an attitude of "let the snake that does not bite me live for a thousand years." Meanwhile, despite the fact that more than 70 percent of Turkish citizens oppose US military action against Afghanistan, the government has already begun making widespread arrests of human rights workers and leftists protesting the recent airstrikes.
Emboldened by a sense of indispensability, Turkish generals have been appearing regularly on television boasting that Turkey will be admitted to the European Union, a long-sought goal. But the constitutional reforms recently passed by the Turkish Parliament duck the main human rights requirements demanded by the EU as a condition of admission. "It's a step backward," says Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch. Where real improvements might previously have been possible, the Turks are now advancing mere "cosmetic measures to ease relations with international partners." The death penalty and basic limitations on the right of ethnic minorities to free expression are safeguarded, and provisions in the Constitution that facilitate the widespread use of torture remain unchanged. The few improvements Turkey has made do not apply to the southern Kurdish regions, where almost all of the cases of torture occur.
Despite its abysmal human rights record, Turkey is one of the largest recipients of US arms, which average more than $800 million annually. This number is sure to grow now that Washington plans to pay for Turkish support with increased weapons transfers. Soon after George W. Bush announced that he would ease restrictions, Turkish military officials called an emergency meeting to speed up negotiations on a range of major purchases, including a $4.5 billion deal to buy 145 King Cobra attack helicopters from US defense contractor Bell Textron. The deal had been blocked by a dispute over whether a portion of the source code for the helicopters' mission computers could be withheld for security reasons. Since US officials have not ruled out an invasion of Iraq as part of its antiterrorist campaign, Incirlik's value is at a premium. "Now more than ever, no one needs to mention the base by name," remarked Kate Kaufer, analyst for the Arms Trade Oversight Project. "It forms the backdrop to all these military transactions."
Not everyone in Turkey will fare as well as the military. Already in a deep recession, the Turkish economy took a further dive last February, leaving some 600,000 Turks without jobs. Unemployment has risen by 42 percent in the past year, while the Turkish lira has shed half its value. IMF austerity formulas such as tighter controls on unions and social spending come at a particularly vulnerable time. Suicides, domestic violence, prostitution and petty theft are all up. Turkey is currently the single largest debtor to the IMF, owing more than $9.6 billion, which gives the Bush Administration leverage to use for its own strategic purposes. When Turkey needed an emergency bailout this past summer, it was Bush who did the bidding. After September 11, Turkey again turned to the United States to pressure the IMF for a delay of loan repayment.
Recently, at a reception in the US Embassy in Ankara, Gen. Carlton Fulford Jr., deputy commander of US forces in Europe, spoke of the ever-growing closeness of US and Turkish armed forces. He closed by saying that this relationship "will only get stronger in the days ahead." The question not answered was: at what cost?
When the Clinton Administration privatized the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) last year, critics warned that the new company would seek to back out of a historic but unprofitable dea