Monday, March 17, 2008


"One important question that needs to be resolved concerns the status of an alleged secret directive of the Turkish Army permitting the use of chemical and biological measures in counter-terrorist activities."
~ Country Study No. 3: Turkey, The Sunshine Project.

Over the weekend, the WaPo had a follow-up to their recent report (with photos and video) on the PKK.

Those you would expect to complain, have complained:

Burak Akcapar, deputy chief of mission at the Turkish Embassy, said the story "was sympathetic and glorified an infamous and deadly terrorist organization. The PKK was portrayed as humane fighters in an epic struggle despite the fact they have been engaging in brutal terrorism." [ . . . ] Akcapar and others criticized a picture of a guerrilla feeding an orphaned bear cub with a baby bottle. "I don't understand why a terrorist is carrying a baby milk bottle."

Yeah, that baby bottle and the feeding of an animal certainly go a long way to show the humanity of the freedom fighters of Kurdistan and of course Akçapar is incapable of understanding it.

As should be expected, the propagandist Akçapar failed to mention the confessions of certain Turkish military officers, such as Erdal Sarızeybek and Altay Tokat. He failed to mention Turkish military massacres, such as the one at Guçlukonak, Hantepe, or Beytüşşebap. Nor does he mention the Turkish military's massacres and destruction of cities, such as happened at Lice, or in the Şirnex (Şirnak) region.

As a reminder, Turkey's drug income or it's continuing pivotal role in the world's drug industry, and all the side industries that go along with it.

On the other hand, others, like Henri Barkey and Omer Taspinar liked the piece. From Barkey:

"Wow. Good for you guys for doing it. The reporter was describing what he sees. I took it as such." Barkey, who has lived in Turkey and visits every year, also said that the story didn't explain the origins of the PKK or its place among the Kurds. "There was no context. But not every piece is going to go through a litany of charges. For someone like me who is well versed, we don't get to see much about how these guys operate, how they bury their dead, why they're so difficult to defeat. . . . Purely for information that I hadn't seen for a long, long time, it was a very useful piece."

Note for Barkey: They're not only guys. And from Taspinar:

"I don't think the piece is biased. It obviously has some sympathy for the guerrillas but also gives background enough to balance."

Of course, this admission from the WaPo is a bit disappointing:

The story was shortened considerably; top editors wanted to hold the package to one inside page. A few more background paragraphs wouldn't have made a difference to the Turkish government, but Post readers would have had a fuller picture of the PKK.

Although I thought the WaPo article was one of the best pieces on the PKK in Western media in a long time, it would have been better to have a fuller picture of the PKK by giving more background as to why PKK arose in the first place.

In other news, there was an interesting analysis of the recent TSK fiasco against the PKK from some Turkish Marxists. Funny . . . they're calling the February operation a fiasco, too:

The incursion of the Turkish army into northern Iraq has ended in a terrible debacle for both US imperialism and Turkey. The two allies are now at loggerheads once again, after the thaw in their relations achieved at the White House talks between Bush and Turkish prime minister Erdogan on 5 November 2007. The Turkish government and the army are the object of unprecedented criticism by the bourgeois media but also by ordinary people.

"Unprecedented criticism" is right. I don't know of any time that there was so much criticism of both the government and the TSK in the history of Turkey. I mean, when both CHP and MHP are going after the Paşas, then you know it's bad. Of course, it's highly likely that they know all about the deal between Erdoğan and Büyükanıt.

The whole episode of the Turkish incursion was played out as a miserable mismanagement of a crisis situation by the two allies, the US and Turkey. Although the latter had been bombing the PKK bases in the north of Iraq since 16 December last year, an incursion into the region of Turkish combat troops on 21 February came as a surprise to the whole world, especially in the midst of winter, given the circumstances of the extremely rugged and mountainous terrain. The operation was greeted with unreserved support by the US, no lesser a figure than Condoleezza Rice in person immediately voicing “absolute solidarity” with the Turkish war effort. The US had already extended lavish support to the several rounds of Turkish bombing efforts by providing real time intelligence and clearance to enter Iraqi airspace, as well as clear diplomatic approval, but nothing that was said had been as strong as Rice's words. And yet only five days later, the support turned out to be relative!

Well, the invasion wasn't such a surprise to everyone, nor was the December bombing. It was only a surprise to those who don't pay attention.

The aims of the Turkish military incursion were never stated clearly. This led to exaggerated expectations on the part of Turkish public opinion that the PKK was going to be dealt a serious, if not final, blow. Jingoistic media discourse of the kind “Objective Kandil” further reinforced these unrealistic expectations. This explains the bitter disppointment felt by the Turkish public at large, poisoned as it has been by chauvinistic propaganda for years now. It would not be realistic to think that the Turkish army had really set its eyes on dealing the PKK a definitive blow. The top brass, after all, has repeatedly made clear over time that military incursion into Iraq will not finish off the PKK, which by most estimates has a total of around five thousand guerrillas inside Turkey and over the border in Iraq.

Whatever the targets originally set, the Turkish army cannot be said to have achieved any serious military results in this week-long incursion. Official army figures for PKK casualties stands at around 230, while admitted army casualties amount to a mere 27. The PKK, for its part, claims that Turkish casualties rise to 125 and its own loss is only nine. No matter where the truth lies regarding this aspect of the matter, the fact that the Turkish military totally failed in achieveing its own targets is clearly proved by the case of the Zab base of the PKK.

Actually, people may have gotten the idea that TSK was going to fight until PKK was annihilated because of Büyükanıt's own words last October:

On Saturday Buyukanit, in a speech to mark Monday's Republic Day, said the army would fight until it had destroyed the PKK.

"We feel the pain of our martyred heroes deeply. But that pain increases our determination to fight," the text of his speech read. "Those who make us suffer cannot even imagine the suffering we will inflict on them; on this we are determined."

The Marxists have a prediction:

2007 was marked by the serious tension in Turkey due to the prospect of the election of a major leader of the pro-Islamic government party as president, a process interrupted by a military pronunciamiento but finally consummated after the electoral victory of the government party. 2008 promises to be an explosive year, next to which the tensions of 2007 will look pale.

It's really a very interesting analysis, so make sure to take a look at the whole thing.

Meanwhile, for all those who stupidly claim that Kurds are equal and that Kurdish language is no longer illegal, Osman Baydemir is going to trial for having published a storybook in Kurdish and Turkish.

Others don't seem to be fooled by Katil Erdoğan's BS Kurdish reform package. From AFP via The Kurdish Globe:

For political analyst Dogu Ergil, the planned measures show Erdogan's unwillingness or inability to address the basic demand of Kurds to be accepted for their ethnic roots and be allowed to participate in Turkey's affairs as Kurds.

"Turkey has a system which is based on a Turkish ethnic identity and sees Kurds as a dependent component that has to suffice with what it is given and told to do," he said. "Unless Turkey addresses this issue, nothing can resolve the tensions between the state and society."

The measures are "an indication that the government does not want to or is unable to take a serious and bold step on the Kurdish issue" for fear of a nationalist backlash, Ergil said.

[ . . . ]

"Turkey is fighting a monster of its own creation, a Frankenstein, right now," Ergil said. "The government believes that it will be very difficult to deal with the nationalist masses and such an effort will not have any significant return for them."

And from DTP:

Turkey's main Kurdish party, the Democratic Society Party (DTP), which enjoys considerable support among the Kurds, was also unimpressed by Erdogan's plans.

"The essence of the Kurdish problem is creating a nation based on a single language, a single religion and a single ethnicity," the party's deputy parliamentary group chairman Selahattin Demirtas said.

"One cannot solve the Kurdish problem with factories and Kurdish broadcasts," he added.

Finally, there have been numerous reports in the past of TSK's use of chemical weapons against PKK. Now it appears that there is some suspicion of the use of chemical weapons against South Kurdistani civilians during the recent operations. From VOI, again via The Kurdish Globe:

Safia Al-Sehail told Voices of Iraq VOI, "There is a necessity for the Red Cross, FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization - UN), and other organizations that care about nature to have a presence at the Iraqi side of the border with Turkey."

"Animals at the protected Merga-Sor reserve went extinct, because of the Turkish operation," Al-Sehail said.

As the head of a parliamentary committee that has been sent to the area to investigate the facts on the ground, Al-Sehail said that the committee's report, which will be submitted to the Iraqi parliament, government and Presidency Council, "will include recommendations for the government, international agencies, United Nations, and European Union (EU) to aid those areas that have been bombarded."

She added "We saw destroyed bridges, gardens, and farmers that have been attacked on their lands, and we met hundreds of displaced people due to the Turkish invasion to some villages at Erbil and Duhok provinces in Kurdistan region, the northern and northeastern parts of Iraq."

"We met people who now cannot breathe easily, with tearing up red-eyes, severe flu cases for children and the elderly, in addition to abortion cases, all because of the Turkish military operations," Al-Sehail asserted.

"Samples from the area have been gathered and sent to Iraqi laboratories for checking," Al-Sehail noted, asserting "a report in this respect will be issued within the coming days."

Reference this report, from The Sunshine Project:

On 23 July 1989, the Turkish newspaper Ikibine Dogru published an article on chemical weapons in which it reproduced parts of an alleged secret security directive (reproduced on the following page) of the Turkish Armed Forces permitting the use of chemical and biological weapons in the war against Kurdish fighters. The same parts of the directive were also reproduced in a book on chemical and biological weapons published in 1992 by the Kurdish author Celadet Celiker.

According to excerpts reproduced in Ikibine Dogru, the directive was issued on 25 February 1986 and was signed by Necdet Öztorun, at that time commander of the Turkish Army. In paragraph 5) it describes permitted methods to destroy tunnels, including:

(d) Can be filled with poison gas.

(e) Can be rendered unusable by breeding specially bred poisonous insects.”

In another section, the same document reads

c. Gas bombs and …

d. NBC Weapons: fog, fire making substances, tear and emetic gases are being used when necessary by friendly forces."

It is an open question whether or not the directive that was reproduced in Ikibine Dogru is indeed issued by the Turkish Armed Forces or whether it is a forgery. We located the alleged author of the directive, Necdet Öztorun, who is now working at Isik University. Öztorun did not respond to requests for further information. Considering that the Turkish government never explicitly denied the existence of this directive, it appears to be likely that the directive was indeed issued by the Turkish Armed Forces. Whether or not it is still in force remains unclear.

And from the introduction of the report:

One important question that needs to be resolved concerns the status of an alleged secret directive of the Turkish Army permitting the use of chemical and biological measures in counter-terrorist activities. Absent a clarification from the Turkish government it remains an open question if this document is a forgery or authentic and, if so, if remains in force. If this directive is genuine, the current Turkish government should initiate an independent investigation of this matter and must ensure that no offensive biological weapons activities are conducted, prepared or permitted in Turkey.

The Turkish Armed Forces used and likely still use so called ‘non-lethal’ chemical weapons such as tear gas in military combat. In at least one incident tear gas grenades were used in a military operation against armed Kurds that left twenty dead. This violates the Chemical Weapons Convention which prohibits explicitly “to use riot control agents as a method of warfare”.

Why am I not shocked?

More on Turkey's use of chemical weapons against Kurdish guerrillas at WMD Insights.

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