August 27, 2016
Biden speaks in Turkey. Ouch.
By Shoshana Bryen
The U.S. is in a tight spot, mostly of its own making, as regards relations with post-coup attempt Turkey. And Vice President Joe Biden just made it tighter, slandering Americans in the process.
U.S. forces at Turkey’s Incirlik air base – which contains American nuclear weapons – are operating under close to siege conditions. At least one government-aligned Turkish newspaper suggested that the nukes be confiscated by Ankara, and Turkey’s prime minister announced that Incirlik is open to other countries fighting ISIS – specifically including Russia. The need to shore up U.S.-Turkish relations is clear.
But at what cost? Biden’s groveling to the Turkish government was cringe-worthy and destructive of American ends.
First, he threatened Kurdish forces with a loss of American support. They “cannot, will not, and under no circumstances will get American support if they do not keep” what he said was a commitment to stay east of the Euphrates River. Aside from the impropriety of publicly denouncing an ally in the capital of its adversary, the threat comes only a week after the Obama administration announced it was sending 3,000 additional U.S. Special Forces soldiers to Syria specifically to aid the Kurds. The Kurds, the best fighting force against ISIS in the Syria-Iraq battleground, have to wonder where this leaves them, and the American troops have to wonder whether their presumed allies will trust them.
Then there was abject apology for American “insensitivity” following the coup attempt, and “how some of your countrymen feel the world didn’t respond ... rapidly enough or with the appropriate amount of solidarity and empathy.” The Washington Post wrote that Biden was nearly shouting as he added:
Let me be clear, as clear as I possibly can. I want to ease any speculation... The United States of America did not have any foreknowledge of what befell you on the 15th. The United States of America, the people of the United States of America, abhor what happened and under no circumstances would support anything remotely approaching the cowardly act of the treasonous members of your military... We did not have prior knowledge, we did not support, we immediately condemned, and we continue as we did before the coup to stand shoulder to shoulder not only with the government of Turkey but with the people of Turkey. The people of Turkey have no greater friend than the United States of America.
He doth protest too much. Washington did not aid the coup, but its post-coup response was reasonable. The situation on the ground was murky, and Turkey’s demand that the United States simply hand over a government opponent without evidence presented in U.S. court is without merit.
But the worst was Biden citing "confusion" in the United States after the 9-11 attacks to suggest some equivalence between our response and Ankara’s to a national trauma, and to suggest that Turkey’s sledgehammer reaction didn’t meant it wouldn’t “uphold democracy and human rights.” “Let’s give this some time,” Biden said, doing an extraordinary disservice to Americans and their government.
Whatever “confusion” reigned in the U.S. on September 12 and beyond, it did not include:
Arresting 17,740 people on specific charges
Issuing arrest warrants for 89 journalists
Firing or suspending 81,494 people from almost every government ministry, as well as prosecutors, university deans, teachers, soccer officials, and members of the Istanbul Stock Exchange, Television and Radio Supreme Council, Turkish Statistical Institute, Banking Regulation, and Supervision Agency, and more.
None of those fired under the state of emergency is eligible to appeal.
A week later, Amnesty International said it had credible evidence of detainees subjected to beatings and torture, including rape. A month later, 2,360 police officers, 112 military personnel, and 24 members of the coast guard were fired, and, with 23,000
people still detained, Turkey announced the parole of 38,000 criminals to make room for the political prisoners. This picture is not from post-9-11 America:
It is slanderous to suggest equivalence.
The Obama administration is trying to keep a lot of balls in the air – supporting the Kurds in their fight against ISIS without aggravating Turkey by supporting Kurds in their quest for autonomy; working with Russia while Russia defends Syrian leader and war criminal Bashar Assad – without admitting we are defending Assad indirectly by our actions; and fighting ISIS in alliance with Iranian militias while the Iranian military fights for Assad and harasses American war ships in the Persian Gulf.
The administration isn’t doing very well, and Vice President Biden isn’t helping.