Turkish Official Accuses U.S. Of Committing Genocide in Iraq

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Harut Sassounian Commentary 2004 December

Turkish officials seem to have the nasty habit of accusing everyone else of genocide, except their own country -- the real culprit! A couple of years ago a major controversy erupted when Bulent Ecevit, the former Prime Minister of Turkey, accused Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians. Even though Ecevit and other Turkish leaders repeatedly and profusely apologized for the use of this very offensive word, they paid a heavy price for that indiscretion. They ended up antagonizing their supporters in Israel and in the American-Jewish community.

A similar scenario is developing now, except that this time the Turks are accusing the United States of genocide.

Mehmet Elkatmis, Chairman of the Turkish Parliament's Human Rights Commission, accused Washington of committing genocide in Iraq, and behaving worse than Adolf Hitler. The Los Angeles Times reported the Turkish official's words last week under the headline: "Turk Compares U.S. to Hitler." The Times quoted Elkatmis as saying: "The occupation has turned into barbarism. The U.S. administration is committing genocide in Iraq.

Never in human history have such genocide and cruelty been witnessed. Such a genocide was never seen in the time of the pharaohs nor of Hitler nor of Mussolini." Elkatmis is a prominent member of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party.

Elkatmis was further quoted by the Anatolia news agency as saying: "The Americans first committed genocide against the American Indians, then against the Vietnamese; they used the nuclear bomb in Japan, and are the main culprits in the Palestinian tragedy. The Americans are guilty of crimes against humanity since hundreds of thousands of people were killed in Iraq. It is time for the world to think of taking actions to prevent such unspeakable cruelty, barbarism and terrorism." Elkatmis even raised the specter of Americans using chemical and nuclear weapons in Fallujah, Iraq, given the large number of civilian casualties in that city. The Times said the American Embassy in Ankara rejected these accusations, saying "they were potentially damaging to Turkish-U.S. relations." The newspaper quoted a U.S. diplomat as saying: "Such unfounded, inaccurate, exaggerated claims are not good for relations, especially at a time of strain when Turkish public opinion is so critical of what the United States is trying to do in Iraq." According to the Turkish media, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said: "The Turks know well the meaning of genocide and are appropriately very sensitive when that word is used. Therefore, they should not resort to exaggeration in their criticisms." These anti-American accusations have created a new crisis in U.S.-Turkish relations, exacerbating the tensions caused by the Turkish government's earlier refusal to allow U.S. troops to enter Iraq from Turkey. While anti-American sentiments have been growing in Turkey, accusing the U.S. of genocide could antagonize the Bush administration.

Elkatmis is not the only Turkish official, however, to make such anti-American statements. Bulent Arinc, the Speaker of the Turkish Parliament, said that he agreed with Elkatmis and accused the U.S. of violating international law. Prime Minister Erdogan himself "called on Muslims to unite in the face of 'ruthless' U.S. power," according to Bloomberg. He also described the insurgents killed by U.S. troops as "martyrs." The Turkish press reported that Erdogan, during a recent phone conversation with Vice President Dick Cheney, harshly criticized the U.S. attacks on Fallujah. U.S. officials described Erdogan's highly critical words to Cheney as "going outside the bounds of proper diplomatic discourse."

Turkish newspapers have been publishing scores of anti-American commentaries in recent days. Erhan Bayurt wrote in Zaman: "The U.S. has openly violated human rights and principles of warfare under international law." Another Zaman commentator, Ekrem Dumanli, described how an Islamic preacher in his Friday sermon cursed both Israel and the United States to the wild cheers of the gathered worshippers in a Turkish mosque. The Turkish Daily News reported that 1,500 worshippers leaving Istanbul's Beyazit mosque last Friday shouted anti-U.S. slogans and burned American and Israeli flags. Similar anti-American protests were held in at least seven other Turkish cities, including Ankara. Nihail Karaca, in her column in Zaman, described American soldiers as "monsters." She accused the American people of being "accomplices in a crime against humanity" by re-electing George Bush.

It is ironic that while the Bush Administration is overly sensitive not to offend the sensibilities of the Turks by opposing all references to the Armenian Genocide, Turkish officials do not seem to have any qualms in accusing the United States directly of genocide! Why is the world's only superpower behaving with such reticence after handing out billions of dollars in foreign aid to Turkey during the past 50 years? This is a perfect example of the tail wagging the dog!

It remains to be seen whether the Bush administration would publicly rebuke these Turkish officials or would it once again act deaf and dumb. If American officials could muster a little courage to respond to these offensive Turkish accusations, they could allow a vote on the genocide resolution in the House and the Senate, thus pointing the finger back to Turkey as the country that has committed real genocide!