- The Washington Times - Monday, May 12, 2003

The article, “Turkey seeks to upgrade ties with Syria in postwar milieu” (World, Tuesday) helps prove what has long been apparent to those of us of Hellenic descent and Greek Orthodox faith: Turkey’s secularism and purported pro-Western leanings have never been anything more substantial than a mirage. For decades, Western powers have ignored Ankara’s consistent violations of human rights, religious freedom and international law because they wanted to indulge the fiction that Turkey was a secular democracy and a model for the Islamic world.

Yet, Islamic fundamentalism has been faring well in Turkey since at least 1994. That an Islamic-oriented party achieved its greatest political victory just one year after the horrors of September 11 further demonstrates the myth of Turkish secularism. If Turkey had been as secular as its apologists have insisted, how then could Islamic fundamentalism have fared so well so soon after the attack? Political Islam would have been thoroughly discredited in a nation that was truly secular and democratic.

Furthermore, the aforementioned article asserting Turkish-Syrian cooperation comes in the aftermath of other news reports indicating that Ankara has been cooperating with Tehran — this, after the Turks failed to support the United States in the conflict against the Iraqi dictatorship.

Indeed, Kemalist Turkey has more in common with militant Islam than is widely believed. State-sponsored religious discrimination is directed against the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, and Ankara actively encourages hatred against Greek, Armenian and Assyrian Christians by denying that genocide was committed against those populations by the Turkish regimes early in the 20th century.

Of course, to further explode the myth of this fictitious secular Turkey, there is the fact that Turkey invaded and continues to occupy a large part of Cyprus. In the aftermath of the ethnic cleansing of the native Greek Cypriot population from the occupied territories, the Turkish-appointed leadership has been presiding over the systematic destruction of numerous Greek Orthodox churches and monasteries.

In sum, the rise to power of an Islamic party in Ankara and an assertive foreign policy demonstrate that Ankara is neither an American ally nor a secular democracy. It’s about time that the myths began to unravel.

THEODOROSGEORGIOU

KARAKOSTAS

International Hellenic Media Watch

Milton, Mass.

Victims and victors

Instead of trying to convince African immigrants to this country that they are oppressed, blocked from opportunities white people freely enjoy and essentially slaves who got off the boat a little later than native-born black Americans, perhaps it would be wise for black leaders to try to understand why these immigrants feel successful, free and capable of making lives for their families here in America (“Black leaders say rift exists with immigrants,” Page 1, Friday).

African immigrants, like immigrants from other regions, know America is the land of opportunity. With a dedication to education and hard work and a commitment to strive for a better future for their families, immigrants are able to raise themselves up. They see the opportunities here and take advantage of them.

I recently spoke with an immigrant from India who came here 12 years ago with little more than $1,000 and a family to support. He worked, and still works, to build his business and has become quite successful by any standard. What he told me rings true: “When you come here from another country, the opportunities are obvious. Many people who are born here don’t see them.”

Immigrants, coming here with fresh eyes, can see America for the bountiful place it is. So should we all. We must stop relying on our leaders to bring us a piece of the pie and get it ourselves.

CHRISTINE BASHAM

Lexington Park, Md.

I was a student at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1980s and got to know a number of black students from abroad, principally the Caribbean and Africa. There was a great deal of antipathy between these students and American blacks. The foreign students could not identify with the race politics then (as now) so much in vogue on campus or with the grievances voiced by black student leaders.

Granted, these students generally were from their countries’ elites, but their own experiences while in the United States did not square with what they were hearing from the student leadership. In fact, they resented being considered members of an aggrieved minority or in need of special treatment. This rift was not discussed in public forums, but it was real and widespread.

It is unlikely that today’s black leadership, whose principal message is one of victimhood and powerlessness, will appeal to those who seek to embrace the American dream. Unfortunately, that dream seems more alive among immigrants than among large segments of those born in this country.

DAVID SHERIDAN

Los Angeles

Bennett’s indefensible behavior

So, Mona Charen (“The vicemongers,” Commentary, Saturday) is upset that Mr. Morals and Virtues, William Bennett, got caught with his hypocrisy showing.

For years, Mr. Bennett has been preaching on high about how liberals and Democrats have been taking the United States down the road to filth, degradation and immorality. Now, we come to find out that Mr. Bennett’s morals have come under question by blowing huge sums of money gambling at casinos.

Apparently, Mrs. Charen doesn’t believe that Republicans are capable of moral lapses, or doesn’t want to believe it. Michael Kinsley is right by stating that Mr. Bennett is a compulsive gambler, and the fact that Mr. Bennett doesn’t realize it makes it even worse. People who gamble as large a sum of money as has Mr. Bennett are “sick” individuals. Just because he has the money to cover his losses does not mean that there isn’t something seriously wrong with what he is doing.

Mr. Bennett preaches about the wrongs of other people, which in itself isn’t noteworthy, but if you are going to go after other people for their “lack of morals,” you in turn better not have any skeletons hiding in your closet.

Mrs. Charen’s defense of Mr. Bennett shows that she will defend him for purely political reasons. Would she and others who defend Mr. Bennett do the same if it were, let’s say, Bill Clinton in the hot seat and not Mr. Bennett? Hardly. She would be the one writing the column, ripping Mr. Clinton to pieces.

Mr. Bennett now says his gambling days are over. The only reason why it is over is the fact that he got caught. Even his wife didn’t know what he was doing and that’s who he hurt. His holier than thou attitude and his out-of-control gambling finally caught up with Mr. Morals.

Maybe Mr. Bennett will think twice before attacking someone else for a lack of morals or virtue, and maybe Mrs. Charen should think twice before defending somebody as hypocritical as Mr. Bennett.

GARY SARTORI

Concord, N.H.

Sen. Frist must act

In “Solving the judicial appointment crisis” (Commentary, Sunday), Gregory Page urges President Bush to use his appointment power to fill judicial vacancies during Senate recesses. This would be not only evasive (even if legal), but places the president in a position he need not be in. It is the Senate’s duty to confirm, not the president’s. It is obvious that the weakness of the Senate leadership under Bill Frist is the same as it was under Trent Lott — both menare affable enough — too affable. Neither is decisive and neither wants to offend the minority party.

They do this, however, at the greater risk of weakening their party’s majority status in their own chamber and across the country. The Senate majority leader needs do no more than call the question and then rule the filibuster out of order. The filibuster rule cannot be used to thwart the constitutional command of majority rule on a judicial vote. What is really going on here is a charade by Senate Republicans who harrumph in frustration, but in the “good ol’ boy” manner of the Senate protect the very rule they pontificate against. I see it. The American people see it. And the Democrats see it.

Mr. Frist, not the president, needs to either act, lead or get out of the way and step down for someone with more of a soul for the job.

PAUL JOSEPH WALKOWSKI

Dorchester, Mass.

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