- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 14, 1999

Columnist’s criticism of Turkey was justified

Ted Galen Carpenter certainly hit a raw nerve with his commentary of Nov. 18, “Wearing blinders on Turkey?” as evident by the many angry letters that followed on Nov. 24 (“Column attacking Turkey is blind to the facts”). The letters attacked Mr. Carpenter’s truthful and honest assessment of Washington’s double standard in dealing with the Cyprus situation and its impact on relations between Greece and Turkey, both NATO countries.
In 1974, Turkish troops invaded Cyprus on the pretext of protecting the 19 percent Turkish minority. As a result, the Turkish minority today occupies 40 percent of the island, and 30,000 Turkish troops remain, not to mention an unknown number who have shed their uniforms and become Cypriot citizens. This situation has remained virtually unchanged for 25 years, a situation brought about by a combination of British colonial rule and Greek-Turkish animosity.
Under the 1878 Cyprus Convention, Britain assumed administration of the island, which remained part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1923, under the Treaty of Lausanne, Turkey renounced all claim to Cyprus, and in 1925, Cyprus was declared a British colony. When Cyprus won its freedom in 1960, relations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities deteriorated rapidly because of British-mandated flaws in the island’s constitution that gave disproportionate rights to the Turkish Cypriot minority. Those flaws in the constitution gave the Turkish minority a guarantee of the vice presidency and the right to block passage of certain types of legislation. I sincerely doubt that the U.S. government would give any 19 percent minority in this country a guarantee of the vice presidency and the right to veto congressional legislation.
When, in 1963, the president of the republic offered some amendments to facilitate the functions of the state, the Turkish community rebelled, and Turkey threatened to invade. The ensuing intercommunal struggle culminated in an attempted coup against the elected government in 1974. The coup was instigated, in league with the military junta then in power in Greece, by a group whose aim was enosis, or the union of Cyprus with the mother country. The Turkish reaction to the coup attempt was to invade and occupy the northern 40 percent of the island, with resultant mass displacement, deaths and disappearances among the Greek Cypriots. Some 200,000 Greek Cypriots were forced from their homes, and more than 1,600 civilians are still missing and presumed dead, including five Americans. On Sept. 22, 1996, Brian James wrote in Night & Day, a British publication, “Their homes are plundered, their children banished. The Christian Greeks of north Cyprus live in fear of the Muslim Turks. And they blame the British for abandoning them.
This was not the first time Turkey had threatened to invade Cyprus; but on previous occasions, the U.S. government, knowing the consequences, placed the 6th Fleet between Turkey and Cyprus. However, in 1974, Turkey saw its golden opportunity when America’s attention was focused on the possible impeachment of President Nixon. In an effort to head off the crisis, the former prime minister of Greece, Panayiotis Kanellopoulos, spoke with Henry Kissinger, then secretary of state, and urged him to place the 6th Fleet between Turkey and Cyprus, as it had been previously, to avoid the tragic results we are witnessing today. Mr. Kissinger ignored that sound advice, possibly because of his pro-Turkish bias and also because of his friendship with then Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, whom he met when they were students at Harvard. Mr. Ecevit once again is prime minister of Turkey and arrogantly has rejected any talk of a negotiated settlement that would bring justice to the island.
Public Law 105-292, the International Religious Freedom Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton, was enacted to put oppressive governments on notice that the United States would not stand idly by while religious groups were being persecuted. But the United States remains silent when it comes to abuses by Turkey toward its Greek Orthodox Christian minority in Istanbul, where the population of 225,000 has been reduced to fewer than 1,500 because of persecution and harassment, where ethnic Greeks are forced to take Turkish names in order to get decent jobs or apartments, where the Patriarch (the primary spiritual leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide) is required to get a permit from the Turkish government before a single repair can be made to church facilities, and where His All-Holiness’ quarters have been bombed not once, but many times. The magnificent Orthodox Christian Cathedral, Aghia Sophia, has been converted into an Islamic museum. Posted on the inner walls of the cathedral are sayings of Mohammed, while many beautiful and historic icons that originally adorned the walls are covered by whitewash. Yet none of the Christian communities in the West has expressed outrage concerning the desecration of what was once considered to be the eighth wonder of the world.
The desecration of Christian holy places in Turkey has been repeated in the occupied areas of Cyprus. According to an April 25, 1999, Nicosia publication, some 500 churches in the areas of Cyprus occupied by Turkey since it invaded in 1974 have been destroyed, looted or used for other purposes, such as warehouses and stables. More egregiously, the altars have been turned into public toilets. Some of the churches that have been destroyed date back to the 12th century. Most of their priceless relics have been looted and sold on the international black market. At least 41 churches have been turned into Muslim mosques, and the outspoken Turkish Cypriot newspaper Avrupa (Europe) reported that the Aghia Anastasia church on the northern coast will be converted into a casino. One of the favorite ways of desecrating 12th-century icons is to gouge out the eyes of the saints.
Turkish atrocities are not limited to Christians; the Turks have been equally brutal with the Kurdish population in Turkey and neighboring Iraq. The Kurds, who number up to 36 million, were promised by the British after World War I that their land would become an independent state. Though the United States tacitly approves of an independent Kosovo consisting of fewer than 2 million ethnic Albanians, the administration does not support a Kurdish homeland. The hypocrisy of the Clinton administration is even more evident in the U.S. reaction to persecution of the Kurds by Iraq. When Iraqis kill Kurds, that’s bad, so we bomb. When Turks kills Kurds, however, that’s OK; we look the other way because Turkey is our ally.
Unfortunately, The Washington Times also has been party to the one-sided view of Turkey’s abominable human rights record. On July 20, thousands of demonstrators joined hands to form a human chain around the United States Capitol to send a message to U.S. lawmakers that 25 years is too long to wait for justice in the face of Turkish ethnic cleansing and occupation of Cyprus. The marchers then proceeded along Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. As a longtime subscriber, I thought a protest of this magnitude surely would have some coverage in The Washington Times. I saw none, even though The Times often has reported on much smaller demonstrations.
The seriousness of the Cyprus situation cannot be ignored. This ongoing dispute, exacerbated by disagreements over air and sea rights in the Aegean, has brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war several times. As Mr. Carpenter correctly pointed out, U.S. willingness to overlook Turkish human rights violations, military aggression and intransigence regarding Cyprus has shown a definite pro-Turkish policy. What few friends the United States has around the world are rapidly learning that friendship means about as much to the Clinton administration as personal friendship means to Mr. Clinton. . Greece fought on the side of the Allies in the two world wars, but Turkey fought on the side of Germany in World War I and adopted a position of benevolent neutrality toward Nazi Germany in World War II. Greece survived 400 years under the brutality of the Ottoman Empire. Today my fear is that just as the United States betrayed the Serbian people twice in this century (once in World War II by supporting the communist dictator Marshal Tito and again from 1992 until today) we will betray Greece.
What should our policy be? Strict evenhandedness and participation as an unbiased facilitator to help find a just solution to the problem. In his article, Mr. Carpenter essentially restated the views of John Quincy Adams, who in 1821 cautioned our young republic not to take sides in foreign conflicts “… even [under] the banners of foreign independence.” It is ironic that Mr. Adams’ words of caution were against involvement in what he felt was a just cause but in which he nevertheless thought the United States should not be a party: the Greek war of independence from Turkey. Unlike Mr. Carpenter’s detractors, I am sure Mr. Adams would agree that Mr. Carpenter is correct in pointing out the error of America’s pro-Turkish bias.

COL. GEORGE JATRAS
U.S. Air Force, retired
Sterling, Va.


Editor’s note: Mr. Jatras served as a U.S. Air Force military adviser with the Joint United States Military Advisory Group in Athens,from 1971 to 1973.

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