“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Memo to Turk Soldiers: Surrender is Not an Option.

Interesting differences between British or Israeli reactions and that of the Turks regarding the capture and return of military personnel. Shall we say it is a little less touchy-feely?

Cold welcome for freed Turkish soldiers

By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Istanbul

The release of eight soldiers after two weeks held hostage by the PKK has not been celebrated in Turkey

Turkey has massed soldiers on the border with Iraq
Some here have branded them cowards - even traitors.

Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin told an audience at Ankara University on Monday that he could not be entirely happy about the soldiers' release.

They were captured in an ambush by the PKK close to the Iraqi border on 21 October. Twelve other soldiers were killed in what was the worst clash of its kind with Kurdish separatists in many years.

"No member of the Turkish Armed Forces should have found themselves in such a situation," the minister began.

"As a Turkish citizen I cannot accept the fact that they went with the terrorists that night. Our soldier is prepared to die if necessary when he is protecting the country."


The soldiers' families kept a very low profile while their sons were held hostage. The justice minister's statement prompted one mother to break her silence.

"Why is our family honour being trampled upon just because my son was taken hostage?" demanded Aynur Atakul in one Turkish newspaper.

"I sent my son to his military service in a dignified manner. Would it have been better if he had died there?"

Many comments left on the webpage of Hurriyet, Turkey's most widely-read newspaper, suggest precisely that.

"Shame, shame, what shame! Eight weak soldiers. I wish they had stood and fought and become martyrs," reads one typical entry.

"What were they doing when their comrades were martyred beside them? If I were them I would be unable to look anyone in the face after this," says another.

There are only a few expressions of sympathy with the hostages.

Barely a mention

The October ambush itself sparked mass street protests across Turkey against the PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union.

PKK fighters strike Turkey from bases in northern Iraq
When the coffins of the 12 soldiers were returned home, huge crowds turned out for their funerals. Newspapers and the airwaves were filled with calls for revenge strikes against PKK bases inside Northern Iraq.

But the eight missing men barely got a mention.

And when their release came, the official announcement - like that of their capture - was terse.

"During an armed clash with the PKK terror organization communication was cut with eight members of the Turkish Armed Forces," read a statement on the Chief of Staff's website.

"As of 4 November 2007 those eight soldiers have rejoined the Turkish Armed Forces," it read.

Unlike recent hostage crises involving Israeli and British military members, here in Turkey the government, military and media played this one very low-key.

One explanation is concern, in the current nationalistic climate, about the potential for clashes between Turks and Kurds in Turkish cities.

But some read more into the near-silence.

"The reflex of the mainstream press here is to turn a blind eye to anything they see as humiliating to national pride," explains Burak Bekdil, of the Turkish Daily News.

"The military did not want this debated in public, because people had already started asking questions about how the hell it happened," says respected columnist Mehmet Ali Birand.

"Something went dreadfully wrong for the soldiers to be taken by the PKK - and that reflects badly on the Turkish military," he says.

"The media played it down on purpose."

Voluntary surrender?

Four days after their release, the former hostages are still being questioned by military prosecutors. An already suspicious public is ready to believe the rumour that one of them has links to the PKK.

"Prosecutors will be focusing on whether or not the soldiers left with the PKK voluntarily," explains retired military judge Umit Kardas.

"If they did they could be charged with membership of a terrorist organisation."

"This has really shaken the military," he adds.

In a further blow to Turkish pride, pictures from the handover of the eight soldiers have now made their way into local newspapers.

They show three members of the Turkish parliament from the pro-Kurdish DTP party standing beside a poster of Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned PKK founder. In others, the MPs are seen greeting the hostage-takers with handshakes and kisses.

Though the DTP insist they were present for humanitarian reasons, to aid the soldiers' release, they are now being investigated on suspicion of supporting a terrorist organisation.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Plenty of ChickenTurkey Desk Jockeys to go around, eh?

  3. Last night I read an article about the large number of Turk workers in Kurdistan.
    Said the level of commerce between the two lowers the chances of a serious outbreak of hostilies far below what most people here believe.

  4. Turkish-Bred Prosperity Makes War Less Likely in Iraqi Kurdistan
    DOHUK, Iraq, Nov. 6 — Viewed from the outside, Iraqi Kurdistan looks close to war. Tens of thousands of Turkish troops are amassed on the border. And thousands of Iraqi Kurdish pesh merga fighters have taken up positions in the Mateen Mountains, ready for a counterattack, their local commanders say, should any Turkish operation hit civilians.

    Michael Kamber for The New York Times
    A Turkish company is constructing a luxury hotel in Dohuk, where such companies are building the seven largest projects.
    But wander the markets and byways here and a different reality comes into view, helping to explain why, despite bellicose Turkish threats, an all-out armed conflict may be less likely than is widely understood: the growing prosperity of this region is largely Turkish in origin.
    Yet years of fighting the P.K.K., have made for strange bedfellows, especially in Bamarni, a village north of Dohuk. In the mid-1990s the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the dominant power in western Kurdistan, allowed the Turkish military to occupy several bases on the Iraqi side of the border, when both were fighting the P.K.K. The Turks now have about 1,500 soldiers at these bases, said a senior American military official in Baghdad who was not authorized to speak for the record.

    In Bamarni, Kurdish pesh merga fighters are now stationed at a camp beside a Turkish air base that is home to dozens of tanks and armored vehicles. Turkish soldiers routinely dash out in gun trucks to deliver food to soldiers operating tanks that oversee the air base. They also buy supplies at local shops, said Ahmed Saeed, a local political official at a Kurdish outpost nearby.

  5. Theirs is not to wonder why
    Theirs is but to do ...
    or die.

    Old School

  6. Theirs is not to wonder why
    Theirs is but to do ...
    or die.

    Old School

    That works good for subjects of a king, but we have a Republic with citizen-soldiers.

  7. Of course the Citizen-Victims of King George's Willfullness and Lawbreaking represent exceptions to the model of the Republic.

  8. "MKs Aryeh Eldad (National Union) and Yitzhak Levy (Mafdal) were equally vocal about the dangers posed by a weak prime minister seemingly desperate to boost his sagging approval ratings – which remain extremely low despite a boost from last week’s announcement of Olmert’s prostate cancer – and win accolades from the nation’s opinion-makers."

    Olmert's numbers are so low, even prostrate cancer is a plus!

  9. I was speaking of the Turks, Ms T

    Commenting upon the view from their perspective, not a post-modern US one.

    That was the point of the thread, no?

  10. If the drought breaks in Georgia USA, make sure you vote for the Govner

    State government at its best.

  11. Rudy has proposed and Mr Pete King, Rep from NY will be introducing a Federal Law that will stop States from being able to license people that cannot produce documentation of legal residence.

    Again, the Federals fail in their primary responsibility, securing the frontier, and the "Fix" is to devolve the power of the States, even more.

    While still not securing the frontier. If it is not a Boner Conspiracy, leveraging failure into increased power, it should be.

    The other thing I nticed, this morning, on FOX News ...

    The rioters in Pakistan, those wanting the Constitution reinstated, were grouped with the radicals fighting in Swat. Supporters, that was the word, I think. It was a spin, more than a direct quote.

    Could be a fore telling of the message to come.

  12. Meanwhile, Romney Surges in latest New Hampshire polls, especially the Rasmussan poll.

  13. If he can't win there, bob, he couldn't win anywhere.

    Nor'Easter conservatives, means liberals out here. They should know Mr Romney, as much as Mass. impacts upon NH.

    All their local tv is Boston centric, I do believe.

    Considerable advantage, if the over all message of his years as Governor was positive. Which it seems to have been.

  14. The Wall Street Journal had an article today, talked about on the Liddy show, about how oil is way overpriced. Record storage of oil around the world, he said, and reports are that exploration is at an all time high, and that proven reserves at an all time high too. The article said, according to Liddy, that the elements are there for a fall. Since I'm going to the Library I'll look the article up and report back.

  15. Surrender is an option in Pakistan. Musharraf has got real problems. After the Red Mosque was taken by the jihadis, and then retaken by the army, some sixty or so of the captured were released by the courts.

  16. Been beatin' the Pakistan/Warizistan is the "real" problem, goin' on three years. Got a lot of pooh pah from the self-annoitnted.

    Seems the real problems is in Pakistan, where they have the Bomb. And fanatically radical Generals, well, at least radical Generals, in the model of retired General Gul.

    That's why it's reported that the General President's power is centered in the Auxileries.

    Quite serpintine.

  17. Don't eat that "Liddy-line," Bobal. It's Crap.

    Inventories are falling all over the world, just like they are here (Down from 344 million barrels to 312 since the Spring.)

    Those "Reserves" are very Suspect. Opec's are probably way overstated, and, what there is, is largely "heavy" sour crude. Tough to swallow. Also, they're drilling like hell, but they're NOT finding much.

    Almost all of the Major oil fields are either plateaud, or in Decline. To Wit: The Gulf of Mexico, the North Slope, Cantarell (Mexico,) The North Sea (both Norway, and the U.k.,) Venezuela, and Iran are all in Decline. Saudi Arabia is flat, with 5 of her 6 Giants either flat or declining, and Russia is Flat.

    All, in all, we're (the world) Consuming about 2 Million Barrels/day more than we're producing, and it's NOT going to be better at any foreseeable time in the future.

  18. The only article I found was "Why Coal Is to Get Additional Attention" Maybe Liddy was reading from yesterday's.

    'The International Energy Agency painted a tough energy outlook for coming years, with tightening oil supplies and a surge in global-warming emissions as China and India burn more coal to power their booming economies.

    The industrialized world's energy watchdog also predicted fast growing China will displace the U.S. as both the world's biggest polluter this year and the largest energy consumer by 2010, based on current trends.

    ....Aging and less productive oil fields and resistance among major oil exporters to build spare oil capacity will make crude oil and natural gas more expensive and prompt developing countries to turn increasingly to the world's dirtiest fossil fuel. The IEA's annual World Energy Ourlook also details a continued surge in oil demand that could result in a serious supply crunch around 2015....'

    article continues in this pessimistic vein

  19. The Real Danger of Pakistan's Chaos
    Douglas Farah
    ...But the most dangerous element of Pakistan’s chaos is its secret nuclear program and unauthorized proliferation, which did not stop with the house arrest of A.Q. Khan in 2004. The ISI and Pakistan’s nuclear agents remain loyal to the highest bidder, with a predisposition toward radical Islamist movements.

    Musharraf’s inability or unwillingness to purge the ISI, the intelligence service’s continued support of the Taliban, and the growing presence of radical Islamists in the mid-level ranks of the nation’s intelligence services, mean that an uncertain situation is much less certain.

    It even less clear now that it was a few months ago who is really in control in Pakistan and who controls the nuclear arsenal. There is certainly no guarantee that secularists or moderates have any control at all over the arsenal.
    There is little between the Islamists and the bomb. That has been the case for some time. Now there is even less.

  20. All's well at the WSJ, Rufus!
    Plenty of Oil, and amnesty's not a problem, except for the troglodyte PaleoNazis on the Far Right!
    Carry on Boys!

  21. Nuclear security in Pakistan

    Are you worried about the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons?

    This article from today's Los Angeles Times gives a description of the situation.

  22. We are F..... DOOMED!
    Moron Nation;
    In a presentation similar to ones provided to congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle in recent days, Ayres illustrates how independents — who were responsible for ousting the GOP majority in 2006 — are unmistakably supportive of swift action to cut carbon emissions and require cuts in carbon dioxide emissions by cars, factories and power plants.

    Ayres seemed most surprised that independents and, to a lesser extent, Republicans wanted the U.S. to act even if China and India, two big polluters with rapidly growing economies, did not.
    GOP Warms to Gore's Cause...

    WEATHER CHANNEL Founder: Global Warming 'Greatest Scam in History'...

    Elementary school students join fight against global warming...

  23. That's what I've been sayin', doug.

    It's not a matter of right or wrong
    It's a matter of what's gonna be.

    On that long march to the sea.

  24. Comment at Doug Farah link above:
    One of the difficulties in all of this is that the media doesn’t clearly identify the goals of the protestors. In fact, the protestors themselves are not clearly identified. The latest AP story refers to them as activists, rights workers and lawyers. So we assume they are all “good guys.”

    Well … one of the groups protesting is Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which is led by Imran Khan.

    And what does PTI want? It wants Pakistan to become “a self- reliant modern Islamic Republic.” Note the words “Islamic Republic.” That does not bode well.

    Regarding terrorism, PTI says, “The present campaign against terrorism runs the risk of polarizing the world and raising the specter of a clash of ideologies.” That, too, does not bode well.

  25. The Shame Movement is sweeping America!

    Pursing lips and casting conscious eyes downwards with each commercial, magazine cover and chit-chat!

    Operational costs of alarmism are low, the margins high. The media age can create pernicious "black swans" as easily as the industrial age created its own evils. Suppose it starts innocently enough, as text and pictures, and suddenly becomes cultural practices, speeches made by authorities and regulations and laws and products sold by large organizations favorable to spirit of the times.

    The media age gives new instruments of power to the executive...can't wait until Media Matters can act as the informational bag-man for the government...