Erdogan’s Impunity
Brian CLOUGHLEY | 05.02.2016 | WORLD

Erdogan’s Impunity

Entirely coincidentally, on January 29, just at the time when western nations were at last paying a little attention to Turkish President Erdogan’s persecution of so many of his citizens, the Turkish government alleged that a Russian aircraft had violated Turkish airspace.

Western media headlines were predictable, as was the reaction by NATO, which is ever-ready to grasp at straws to attempt to justify its existence even after so many years of demonstrating a dismal combination of incompetence and belligerence.

After NATO’s 2011 blitz on Libya, the US Supreme Allied Commander Europe (the military head of NATO) at the time of the onslaught, Admiral James G (‘Zorba’) Stavridis, announced proudly that «NATO’s operation in Libya has rightly been hailed as a model intervention». The fact that his savage campaign reduced the country to its present catastrophic shambles and provided a base for Islamic State barbarians has caused him neither remorse nor repentance. This bloodstained oaf is now «Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, the oldest school in the United States dedicated solely to graduate studies in international affairs». Irony has no boundaries.

It will be remembered that Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft last November, alleging that the plane had flown through its airspace for seventeen seconds and therefore presented a shocking menace to Turkish sovereignty. No matter the absurdity of the Turkish stance at the time, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spouted the usual nonsense about «unacceptable violations» as if the fleeting passage of an aircraft along any border could possibly present any sort of threat. He actually declared that «For us, this does not look like an accident, it is a serious violation».

Had it not been for the fact that the Turkish shoot-down resulted in the death of a Russian pilot, the affair would have been laughable.

This time, in the January 29 incident, Turkey did not attempt to shoot down the aircraft that it alleged had flown momentarily in its airspace. This was wise, as the plane that was supposed to have committed the violation was not a ground-attack bomber without air-to-air missiles, but a more modern machine that would have deflected Turkish-fired missiles and blown an attacking aircraft out of the sky. But Erdogan immediately hyped the tiny incident (if indeed it actually took place) as if Turkey was being threatened by an enemy intent on its destruction.

The Turkish President’s reaction to this miniscule affair was to declare to the media that «Such irresponsible steps do not benefit either the Russian Federation, or Russia-Nato relations, or regional and global peace».

Surely he can’t be serious? An alleged airspace violation lasting for a period of perhaps a half-dozen heartbeats is a problem for «global peace»? The immediate conclusion is that the man is a fool.

But he is not a fool. He is a crafty manipulator of world opinion that is only too ready and anxious to be convinced that any Russian action, anywhere, is a threat to the West.

At the time of the first alleged violation of Turkish airspace it happened that the BBC was reporting, that «The European Commission has called on Turkey urgently to address significant failings on human rights and democracy».

Then Human Rights Watch observed in its 2015 Report that «The Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – elected president in August 2014 – are undermining the gains of the past decade with steps that erode human rights and the rule of law in Turkey... the government intensified its interference in the criminal justice system, reassigning judges, prosecutors, and police, attempted to exert greater executive control over Turkey’s already politicized judiciary, and clamped down on Internet freedom».

These condemnatory comments about Erdogan’s government by the European Union and Human Rights Watch were serious and demanded action. But Erdogan’s only actions at the time were to increase persecution of Turkey’s oppressed Kurds and to shoot down a Russian aircraft.

As a Kurdish member of Turkey’s Parliament put it: «Erdogan wants to play the role of a dictator in Turkey. He is seeking to break the will of the Kurdish people...»

Erdogan is not only seeking to break the will of the Kurdish people (in which endeavour he will never succeed, as the Kurds are a resolute and admirable people), but he is trying to break the will of citizens who question his increasingly dictatorial stance. He wants to destroy all those who speak against him. And he appears to be succeeding. Not only that, but his domestic persecution is ignored by most western media outlets, which are usually eager to criticise foreigners who do not follow western rules.

In January it was reported, that «US President Barack Obama has listed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan among the five world leaders [with whom] he has the closest personal ties», but Mr Obama has chosen to ignore the fact, that «two Turkish journalists face life in prison over a story alleging that the Turkish government was arming Islamist militants in Syria». The editor of Cumhuriyet newspaper and a reporter were charged with espionage and President Erdogan declared that they «would pay a heavy price», even before they appeared before a court.

There was not a word of criticism from any western government about this mockery of justice by the President of a NATO country who personally ordered the shooting down of an aircraft that allegedly violated his country’s airspace for seventeen seconds and is now complaining about another alleged fly-by that would have lasted – at most – for a similar time. The US and NATO have been supporting President Erdogan without reservation. They have thus awarded him impunity which indicates exemption from judgement following allegations of having committed crimes against humanity.

And on February 1 there came the news, that «the United Nations’ top human rights official has called for an inquiry into the alleged shooting of unarmed civilians by the army in the south east of Turkey». He asks «the Turkish authorities to respect the fundamental rights of civilians in its security operations».

No chance of that.

The «Turkish authorities» – President Erdogan and his adherents, in other words – have no respect for fundamental human rights. But he is opposed to Russia and in the eyes of his Western admirers can therefore do no wrong.

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