Friday, February 17, 2006

Rant of the Day, Friday, February 17, 2006 In the early 1980s I served my first tour of duty in the Republic of Turkey, where I was assigned to a US Army artillery group stationed outside of Istanbul. On one of my first visits to the city, I saw a hotel named “Missouri.” Later, I found a restaurant and a street named “Missouri.” I thought this was odd, because while many foreign cities have city streets named “Roosevelt” or “Kennedy” (including Istanbul) I couldn’t fathom the Turkish fascination with Missouri. Later, I discovered the secret. Turks and Russians are traditional enemies. The Russians have always coveted the Bosporous, and the Turks have always resisted. Both countries had unresolved territorial disputes, particularly in the Caucuses. Under the Soviets, Russo-Turkish relations were especially tense. In March, 1945, with the Red Army ascendant in Europe, the Soviets announced they would denounce the 1925 Treaty of Friendship and Non-Aggression with Turkey. In June 1945, - with the European war ended - the Soviets demanded significant territorial concessions in Eastern Turkey, the establishment of Soviet naval bases in the Dardanelles and the Bosporous, and a renegotiation of the 1936 Montreux Convention - the international treaty that re-established Turkish sovereignty over the Dardanelles and the Bosporous. The situation escalated through the remainder of 1945, as Stalin unleashed an unprecedented anti-Turkish campaign in the Soviet state media. By early 1946, the wartime alliance with the Soviet Union had collapsed as the Western Allies recognized the expansionist desires of Stalin’s Soviet Union, and realized the Red Army would play a large part in achieving those ambitions. In January 1946, writing to his Secretary of State, President Truman said a Soviet attack on Turkey was inevitable, and unless Stalin was "faced with an iron fist and strong language, another war was in the making" An opportunity to present a strong gesture of support for Turkey arose when the Turkish ambassador died in Washington. Truman dispatched the USS Missouri to carry the Ambassador’s body and family home. The ship anchored in the Golden Horn, and, with her 16-inch guns pointed in Soviet direction, fired a ceremonial 19-gun salute as the Ambassador’s body was taken ashore. “Reaction in Turkey was so ecstatic that since then, some experts refer to the Missouri episode as ‘the beginning of the love affair between Turkey and the U.S.A.’” (From a document by Füsun Türkmen, Assistant Professor of International Relations, Galatasaray University, once posted on the website of the US Consulate in Istanbul, but now available only in Google’s cache.) The old US Consulate in Istanbul was a classy joint located near Taksim Square. A former merchant’s villa built in the Italian Renaissance style, it was bought by the State Department in the very early 1800s as a political favor - the first piece of foreign real estate acquired by the United States - and it served as the US Embassy to the Sublime Porte. The building interior ceilings were decorated with nude frescoes - which some later ambassador’s hoity-toity wife later had painted over to hide the naughty parts. The consulate had an entire room devoted to the USS Missouri incident. The room was like a small museum dedicated to a footnote in the Cold War. There were photographs of the battleship lying off Topkapi Point and American sailors touring the Blue Mosque and shopping in the Grand Bazaar, but mostly the room was dedicated to the Turkish reaction. There were translated press cuttings, letters from Turkish citizens, and editorial cartoons. The ship remained anchored in the Bosporous for only three days, but the effect on Turkish-American relations was profound. I remember one editorial cartoon in particular, which was drawn in a serial of panels. The first panel was drawn over a map of Europe. A Turkish soldier stood astride the Bosporous holding a bayoneted rifle at port arms while confronting a horde of Red Army soldiers and ships advancing across the Black Sea. An ominous Stalin stood behind the Red Army soldiers. Caricatures of Frenchmen, Englishmen and Italians pointedly looked away. The second panel showed the USS Missouri steaming through the Mediterranean with a large American flag at her mast. The next panel depicted the Missouri behind the Turkish soldier, firing her guns as the Red Army soldiers and Stalin ran away. The last panel showed the USS Missouri steaming through the Dardanelles, loaded with little pink hearts and with Turks cheering from the shores. I tell this story to make a point: The Turks are our best friends in a place where we need all the friends we can get. So I get real pissed off when I read a news item like this:
A Turkish-made film that portrays American soldiers in Iraq as brutal and callous killers is setting attendance records in Turkey and has just opened throughout Europe. From the opening seconds to the dramatic conclusion, the movie, "The Valley of the Wolves - Iraq," portrays Americans as wearing the black hats. In one scene, an American doctor, played by actor Gary Busey, is furious because troops keep killing Iraqi prisoners before they reach the Abu Ghraib prison. The doctor's problem? If the Iraqis are dead, he can't harvest their organs to send to Israel. The movie, the most expensive production in Turkish film history, has been a runaway success in Turkey since it opened Feb. 3. Would-be viewers must wait weeks for tickets. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to Turkish press reports, recommended the film to friends after a private screening. His wife noted, "It's a beautiful film." […] "American soldiers are the bad guys around here, no question," said Sedat Laciner, the director of the International Strategic Research Organization in Ankara, Turkey's capital. "But we are not so different in our attitudes than much of the rest of the world. And remember, Turkey is far less anti-American than any country in the Middle East besides Israel." The movie is standard Hollywood action-adventure fare, but with the villains wearing the Stars and Stripes. The heroes are dapper and kind; the Americans are slovenly, sadistic and stupid. An American who questioned why a smiling comrade is spraying a metal container full of Iraqi prisoners with bullets is quickly killed. Some of the incidents in the film draw on actual events, though they're portrayed in such a way as to impose the worst of motives on the Americans: American soldiers guffaw as they set dogs on prisoners at Abu Ghraib, lie in wait so they can target wedding guests when they celebrate with gunfire and open fire on a mosque just as the call to prayer is sounded. Other scenes portray Americans as cartoonishly evil. When confronted by the Turkish hero, the main U.S. villain, played by American Billy Zane, surrounds himself with little children, saying he knows the hero's "weak spot."
(Link via The News Blog.) The makers of this film are garden-variety America-bashers. Ass-clowns like these have been around for a long time. The only people who paid any attention to them were other America-bashers. Of course, that was when America had an enlightened foreign policy. Before pre-emptive war, torture, rendition, Guantanamo Bay, kidnapping, hostage-taking, and childish name-calling became the tools of American diplomacy. In short, that was before Bush. I was last stationed in Turkey in 1992. Our motor pool had two Peugeot mini-vans belonging to the Morale, Welfare and Recreation fund. You could sign one out to go sightseeing or shopping. They didn’t get used much because most soldiers preferred Turkish public transportation to contending with the terrors of Turkish traffic. I was one of the only officers crazy and aggressive enough to enjoy driving in Turkish traffic. Every weekend I planned a trip, signed out a Peugeot and posted a flight plan in the officers’ lounge. Other officers and senior NCOs called these expeditions “YD’s Banzai Tours and Samurai Shopping,” not a reflection of my ethnicity, but in recognition of my driving habits and bartering skills. One weekend I posted a plan to go check out some Roman ruins in a village near Tekirdag recommended by the Michelin guide. The Group XO, a staff captain, another Warrant Officer named Bill and the Group Sergeant-Major signed up. We spent the morning exploring the ruins and went to the village for lunch. We ate kepab and Turkish lentil soup. After lunch, we walked through an outdoor bazaar. It was a Saturday in summer, the bazaar was crowded, and the merchants squatted on small stools behind their wares spread out on colorful old rugs under canvas awnings, smoking God-awful Maltepe cigarettes, drinking tea, bargaining with their customers and bullshitting with their buddies. A village bazaar is distinctly different from the Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar caters to tourists and rich Turks. You can find good shit in the Grand Bazaar and the merchants speak your language. A village bazaar caters to the village, the merchants specialize, and they only speak Turkish. The only commonality is that buyer and seller must bargain. In the village bazaar, one merchant displays plumbing fixtures on his rug, while another sells soap, and others show off tools, automotive supplies, or electrical equipment. We were walking with the crowd through this village bazaar. Ahead of us walked a poor Turkish peasant family, a young woman and man, maybe in their early 20s (maybe younger) holding the hands of a small girl, maybe two or three years old. They passed a merchant who apparently specialized in ugly dolls and broken children’s toys because that's what he had displayed on his rug. Suddenly, the little girl broke free from her parents and snatched up the ugliest rag-doll laying in the merchant’s collection and clutched it in a deep hug. Mommy and Daddy bargained with the merchant, but the negotiations were unsuccessful. Mommy pried the ugly doll from her daughter’s arms and placed it on the merchant’s rug while daddy picked up his heartbroken, wailing little girl. The family disappeared into the crowd. Five American soldiers witnessed this scene. Warrant Officer Bill pulled out his wallet, stuck it in my hands and snatched up the ugly doll from the merchant's rug. “Pay that bastard whatever he wants,” Bill shouted to me while pointing at the merchant. Bill, the sergeant-major and the ugly doll disappeared into the crowd, pursuing the Turkish peasant family. The merchant was highly pissed off. Some foreigner just ran off with his prize ugly doll! I was waving Bill’s money at him but he was having none of it. He’d been robbed! A crowd gathered. Arguments ensued. The XO could speak some French. The captain spoke English. I could speak German. The Turks spoke Turkish. Things were getting as ugly as the goddam ugly doll. A few minutes later, Bill and the sergeant-major returned with the young Turkish family. The little girl was clutching the ugly doll to her chest and she was wearing a smile of complete contentment. Despite the complete lack of verbal communication, it was obvious to everybody why Bill had stolen the merchant's ugly doll. The girl's smile explained everything. Turks are proud people, but they're also very sentimental. The crowd started giving the merchant dirty looks. The merchant, not wanting to look like an asshole, now refused to accept Bill's money and made a big show of playing with the little girl and talking to her father. I walked over to a tea-seller and ordered glasses of tea for the merchant, the girl's parents and ourselves. We drank tea while the crowd drifted away. We bought a few toys from the merchant and overpaid him, just so the poor bastard could recoup the value of the ugly doll. The girl's father thanked us and the family walked off, with the little girl still clutching her ugly doll and shyly waving at us as her daddy carried her. So here's my rant. I want to thank George W. Bush. Thank you, George W. Bush, you fucking imbecile. Thank you for your crappy little war. Thank you for giving every America-bashing asshole an opportunity to attract a receptive audience. Thank you for pissing away the international good-will earned by the blood of the soldiers who fought fascism in the Second World War, and thank you for pissing away the international trust earned by the sacrifices of the soldiers who fought communism in the Cold War. Thank you for giving ammunition to our enemies, and thank you for alienating our natural allies, you Southern-fried chicken. Thank you for your big mouth. You’re some fucking “war president,” Dubya. You make Leopoldo Galtieri look like a conquering hero and Rumsfeld makes Lord North look like a military genius. I don’t have enough venom to curse you like you deserve. You pissed away sixty years of American blood, sweat, sacrifice, honor, and compassion that earned us the respect of the civilized world. You wouldn’t know anything about those human qualities because you’re the spoiled crotch fruit of a she-bitch who giggles when disaster befalls the “underprivileged.” You’ve never sacrificed, you’re over privileged, you have no honor, and you truly believe compassion is merely a slogan. Truman sent a battleship to oppose aggression. Your battleship mouth preaches aggression, but your rowboat ass went AWOL when America asked you for sacrifice. (And where are those two sperm-burping sluts Jenna and NotJenna? It has been two years since they graduated from college and they ain’t even got jobs yet. Are they living on family welfare? Why aren’t those two twats serving our country?) Mostly, George, I want to thank you for pissing away the good-will five American soldiers earned in an obscure Turkish village with an ugly doll. YD


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