Ahem. Sorry for that inelegant header, but this is gonna be an untidy post that covers a lot of rough ground, so hang onto your hats, kiddies.
First up, a little video from that shootdown of a Russian Sukhoi yesterday:
Turkey claims that the plane violated Turkish airspace, but in fact it was over Syria at the time. This makes the shootdown a grave faux pas on the part of Turkey, although the ass-covering is already in full swing. No doubt the government in Ankara would like to claim all of this area as their own.
It’s worth noting, as an aside, that all of Syria was once under Ottoman Turkish rule — prior to World War I. The legendary siege of Musa Dagh, in which six Armenian villages took refuge from the Ankara-ordered genocide on the plateau of a coastal mountain and fought off several Turkish military incursions, was in the Syrian part of Turkey a hundred years ago. It came under French control at war’s end, but was later transferred back to Turkey.
How much — or rather, how little — has changed in a hundred years’ time. It seems that Turkey is still trying to get the rest of formerly-Ottoman Syria back under its thumb, and that the French are rather more in collusion than opposition to that ambition.
And they are not the only ones, either. How else to explain NATO’s shameful conduct, knowing that it could crush Daesh anytime it wants, but apparently doesn’t want to?
How could Isis [Daesh] be eliminated? In the region, everyone knows. All it would really take would be to unleash the largely Kurdish forces of the YPG (Democratic Union party) in Syria, and PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ party) guerillas in Iraq and Turkey. These are, currently, the main forces actually fighting Isis on the ground. They have proved extraordinarily militarily effective and oppose every aspect of Isis’s reactionary ideology.
But instead, YPG-controlled territory in Syria finds itself placed under a total embargo by Turkey, and PKK forces are under continual bombardment by the Turkish air force. Not only has Erdoğan done almost everything he can to cripple the forces actually fighting Isis; there is considerable evidence that his government has been at least tacitly aiding Isis itself.
It might seem outrageous to suggest that a Nato member like Turkey would in any way support an organisation that murders western civilians in cold blood. That would be like a Nato member supporting al-Qaida. But in fact there is reason to believe that Erdoğan’s government does support the Syrian branch of al-Qaida (Jabhat al-Nusra) too, along with any number of other rebel groups that share its conservative Islamist ideology. The Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University has compiled a long list of evidence of Turkish support for Isis in Syria.
And then there are Erdoğan’s actual, stated positions. Back in August, the YPG, fresh from their victories in Kobani and Gire Spi, were poised to seize Jarablus, the last Isis-held town on the Turkish border that the terror organisation had been using to resupply its capital in Raqqa with weapons, materials, and recruits – Isis supply lines pass directly through Turkey.
Commentators predicted that with Jarablus gone, Raqqa would soon follow. Erdoğan reacted by declaring Jarablus a “red line”: if the Kurds attacked, his forces would intervene militarily – against the YPG. So Jarablus remains in terrorist hands to this day, under de facto Turkish military protection.
How has Erdoğan got away with this? Mainly by claiming those fighting Isis are “terrorists” themselves. It is true that the PKK did fight a sometimes ugly guerilla war with Turkey in the 1990s, which resulted in it being placed on the international terror list. For the last 10 years, however, it has completely shifted strategy, renouncing separatism and adopting a strict policy of never harming civilians. The PKK was responsible for rescuing thousands of Yazidi civilians threatened with genocide by Isis in 2014, and its sister organisation, the YPG, of protecting Christian communities in Syria as well. Their strategy focuses on pursuing peace talks with the government, while encouraging local democratic autonomy in Kurdish areas under the aegis of the HDP, originally a nationalist political party, which has reinvented itself as a voice of a pan-Turkish democratic left.
They have proved extraordinarily militarily effective and with their embrace of grassroots democracy and women’s rights, oppose every aspect of Isis’ reactionary ideology. In June, HDP success at the polls denied Erdoğan his parliamentary majority. Erdoğan’s response was ingenious. He called for new elections, declared he was “going to war” with Isis, made one token symbolic attack on them and then proceeded to unleash the full force of his military against PKK forces in Turkey and Iraq, while denouncing the HDP as “terrorist supporters” for their association with them.
There is a saying in Kurdistan, that nation without a country: “The Kurds have no friends”. Certainly that’s true of Turkey, and NATO too. For all the media’s glorification of the Peshmerga and other Kurdish fighting forces, they get no support from NATO, and indeed, NATO member countries have been actively prosecuting anyone who tries to join them and fight on their side, as one young woman in England recently found out the hard way.
Meanwhile, for all the media hand-wringing about allegedly Syrian terrorists, and about terrorist “returnees” who come back from Syria and Iraq allegedly radicalized by Daesh to commit atrocities on European soil, and of girls who travel to Turkey only to cross over into Syria and become brides to Daesh fighters (some of whom are western boys who came over the same way), there’s remarkably little being done to stop them. Somehow they never seem to get caught, even though they can be seen on so many surveillance cameras in the airports from whence they departed. One terrorist returnee after another has somehow, mysteriously, evaded the police of France and Belgium, and who knows where else in Europe, too. Something is starting to stink over there.
And meanwhile, on this side of the pond, we’re starting to take in a slow trickle of Syrian refugees. But a key component of the exodus is missing: Young single men, the same that the media keep yattering on about as being “potential terrorists”. Sure, they’re at risk for joining Daesh or some such…but a great many more of them are trying their damnedest to escape those same terrorists. The overwhelming majority of these young guys travelling through Europe alone are running from Daesh, not to them. Otherwise, they’d get conscripted or killed by them. Their families send them ahead to establish roots in Europe — or across the pond — and then, when they’ve earned enough money, to send it home so that the rest of their family can also emigrate. These “single” men, therefore, are not as alone as they seem, and if they are taken in as refugees and treated as they should be, the chance that they will “turn terrorist” is virtually nil. They are trying to save their lives and those of their families from the nihilists, not throw good blood after bad.
That’s why I’m disgusted and disappointed in our new government’s refusal to take these guys in. They’re missing a golden opportunity to hit Daesh exactly where it will hurt them most: in terms of recruitment. And in so doing, they are objectively serving Daesh’s interests, just as much as the divide-and-conquer factions on the right are doing every time they whip up scary anti-refugee sentiment. If you’re so much against them, guys — why are you doing so much for them?
That question is, of course, rhetorical. The military-industrial complex rubs its hands every time the Hardcore Stupid shoot off their big, hateful yaps.
Meanwhile, here is what they are really fighting against. Look long and hard at this, because Karma will quiz you on it later:
He’s a Syrian refugee, he has damn near nothing…and he still cooks for the homeless on Saturdays in Germany. His family are still waiting to be rescued.
This is the real face of Syria, people. Look hard at it and do the right thing.
UPDATE: The navigator of the Russian Sukhoi was rescued and says that the Turks gave no warning before shooting. The pilot was killed by Turkmen rebels on the ground as he was parachuting. There is now talk that this shooting was a planned provocation, and it’s certainly smelling like sabre-rattling on the part of the Turkish government.