‘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)?