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Don't Panic! October 30 2003

Your war questions answered

Why do some people strongly oppose deploying Turkish soldiers in Iraq?

Everything's going fine, dandy, super and terrific for us in Iraq. Seriously, things are way awesome there. It's a raging success. So successful in fact that the White House is on a desperate international search to find countries to bail us out — sorry — I mean, join the fun. It's not a real party unless all of your friends are there, right?

The most important invitee to recently RSVP "yes" to Operation Meso-PARTAY-mia is Turkey. In early October, its parliament voted the Turkish equivalent of "yea" to having 10,000 Turkish soldiers participate in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

Even though the Bush administration has so far acted in Iraq without regard for the considerations of our allies, it likes to pretend otherwise. Just as it did with all of that Coalition of the Willing b.s. from earlier this year, the White House can now cite Turkey joining up as an example of how quaint and polyglot the war is. And because Turkey is a Muslim nation, the U.S. can use their entry as ammo in the so-called battle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. "See, we're not fighting against Islam. If we were, would Turkey be helping us?" Never mind that the only people who'll be impressed by that argument are people who already supported the invasion.

Is Turkey doing this out of the goodness of its heart? Well, it just so happens that I have the power to look deep into the souls of other nations. After much giblet-gazing, I'm gonna have to say no, Turkey isn't doing this out of the goodness of its heart. Turkey wants to protect its relationship with the U.S. We've long been nice to Turkey, throwing them economic and military aid because its a secularly governed, anti-Communist Muslim nation that just happens to be wedged between Russia and the Middle East — two regions in which we've long had economic, political and military interests. Voting "yea" now is Turkey's way of saying, "Hey, baby, I'm sorry. Let's try to work it out." It's also Turkey's way of saying, "Hey, baby, please send us that $8.5 billion loan package you keep hinting about."

For the record, American and Turkish officials both deny that the aid package and the troops are in any way related. The very same officials also claim to buy Hustler for the articles.

Turkey also has political interests in Iraq that trump any concern it may have for Iraqis. That's why so many Iraqis are against having them join the party.

Thameer al-Dulemi, the secretary general of the Iraqi National League for Chiefs of Tribes, said he and his homies don't want Turks in Iraq. He then held his hands up by his head, made little horns with his fingers and said, "Tatonka." The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council also disapproves. The Iraqi National Congress, favorites of Pentagon-types like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, also disapprove.

Why the disapproval? Turkey, formerly the Ottoman Empire, was Iraq's colonial ruler for centuries. They don't want the old colonizer back. The biggest opposition within Iraq to Turkish involvement comes from Kurds. Turkey has a bone to pick with Iraq's substantial Kurdish population, and the Kurds know it. Turkey has long fought Kurdish separatists in its own country, killing loads of innocent civilians in the process and trying to eradicate Kurdish culture by banning the language.

Turkey wants in on Iraq so that it can go after Turkish Kurd fighters who've taken shelter in Iraqi Kurdistan. They also want to make sure that Iraqi Kurds don't try to break off into an independent Kurdish nation and try to take part of Eastern Turkey with it in the process. Iraqis simply don't want more outsiders coming in and messing with their business. But to Kurds, the prospect of having Turkish soldiers "peacekeeping" in Iraq makes them feel how Americans might feel if, to alleviate staff shortages, the Department of Homeland Security started hiring members of al-Qaeda to work U.S. airport security. Iraqis don't want their country torn apart because the White House wants some soldiers home before the next election.

andisheh@creativeloafing.com



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