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Survey Says Most Turks Don't Like America and Don't Back its Policies 12/12/2002
 Paul Wolfowitz
Harut Sassounian
The California Courier
 
US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz just returned from a difficult
trip to Turkey. He was trying to secure the cooperation of the reluctant
Turks in a probable U.S.-led war on Iraq.
The newly-elected Islamic government of Turkey, having come to power by
gaining the majority of the seats in Parliament, is not willing to support
a war opposed by most of the Turkish public. However, given the frenzied
determination of the hawks in the Bush administration to attack Iraq at all
cost and their readiness to provide significant financial inducements to
Turkey to join in the military effort, the Turkish leaders are seeing a
golden opportunity to really milk the Americans.
The Turkish leaders say that they are against the war against Iraq, but if
the right incentives are offered, they could be persuaded to join in. They
have presented a long shopping list of requests to the Bush administration.
In addition to demanding huge sums of money, they have asked the Americans
to pressure the European countries to admit  Turkey into the European
Union. They also want the U.S. to oppose the establishment of an
independent Kurdistan in Northern Iraq and provide sophisticated weapons to
the Turkish military.
Mr. Wolfowitz, an ardent Turkophile and a leading "get Saddam at any cost"
hawk, announced after his trip to Ankara that the Bush administration is
planning to spend large amounts of money in order to upgrade military bases
in Turkey for U.S. and allied planes and equipment. The Los Angeles Times
quoted Wolfowitz as saying, " we're
talking potentially about tens of millions - probably several hundred
million dollars - of investment in various facilities we might use."
But, one does not need to be an engineer to realize that these funds are
for buying Turkey's cooperation rather than constructing bases in the short
time left before the imminent attack on Iraq. Officials traveling with
Wolfowitz were quoted as saying that the starting date of the war will not
be delayed in order to wait for the implementation of these
improvements. The Americans hope that if they give away a large amount of
money, the Turkish leaders would withdraw their objection to basing
thousands of U.S. troops on their soil.
Basically, this situation is nothing but mutual exploitation. The Bush
administration hawks are willing to pay any amount of money to buy the
consent of the Turkish military, the true rulers of the country. The
Turkish leaders, on the other hand, are doing everything they can to take
maximum advantage of the Americans' eagerness for war and their "money is
no object" attitude.
While such an approach may solve the immediate objectives of both sides,
eventually, the Turkish public's resentment may give rise to serious
internal turmoil and precipitate acts of violence against Americans in
Turkey. An early indication of impending danger was the alert issued last
week by the State Department that U.S. government facilities and personnel
in Turkey may be the target of a possible terrorist attack.
Another indication of looming trouble came from a landmark survey of public
opinion in 44 nations, including Turkey, conducted by the Pew Research
Center for the People and the Press.
The survey found that fully 83% of the Turks are opposed to allowing U.S.
forces to use bases in their country to attack Iraq. An overwhelming 86% of
the Turks said they are worried that a possible war on Iraq might lead to
an all out war in the Middle East. Two-thirds of those surveyed said that,
in the long run, attacking Iraq is likely to increase the chances of
terrorist attacks in the West. More than half of the Turks said that the
U.S. was planning to use military force against Iraq as a part of its war
against Muslim countries that it sees as unfriendly, and only one-third
believed that the U.S. intent was to counter Saddam Hussein's threat to
stability in the Middle East. Incredibly, more than one-third of the Turks
surveyed said, "it would be a bad thing if Saddam Hussein were removed from
power," while less than half said, "it would be a good thing."
More significantly, only 31% of the Turks said they had a favorable opinion
of Americans, while 50% said they had an unfavorable opinion. The study
also found that the image of the United States in Turkey has considerably
diminished in the past 2 years. While 52% of the Turks in 2000 had a
positive image of America, that number has now gone down to 30% -- a
precipitous drop of 22%.
The overwhelming majority of the Turks (78%) said they objected to the
spread of American ideas and customs in their country. A similar majority
(74%) said that the United States does not take into account the interests
of Turkey when making its foreign policy decisions. Finally, 58% of the
Turks said they oppose the U.S.-led war on
international terrorism. Only 30% of the Turks support it.
The existence of such a high degree of anti-Americanism in Turkey should be
of serious concern to U.S. policy-makers. During the past 50 years,
Washington has handed to the Turks billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayers'
money in trying to win over Turkey's friendship and support. Turkish
leaders and pro-Turkish American officials have repeatedly represented
Turkey as "a staunch U.S. ally."
It turns out that all those billions of dollars have gone down the drain or
in the pockets of Turkish military and civilian officials. The Pew study
shows that the Turks are as resentful of America as those historically
hostile nations that have hardly received any U.S. aid.
By continuing the policy of blindly pouring billions of dollars to prop up
unpopular regimes in countries such as Turkey, the U.S. government risks
further antagonizing the common people. American policy makers do not seem
to have learned any lessons from their grave errors in Iran (another former
"staunch U.S. ally") which led to the toppling of the Shah by the Mullahs.
By buying the support of Turkish leaders, Mr. Wolfowitz is acting against
the best interests of both the United States and Turkey. He is wasting
"hundreds of millions of dollars" of U.S. taxpayers' money and causing more
anti-Americanism by dragging Turkey into a war that the Turkish public is
adamantly opposed to.
Mr. Wolfowitz and his hawkish colleagues in the Bush administration are
partly responsible for the coming to power of an Islamic party in Turkey.
The Turkish public finally tossed out the corrupt officials who have been
busy for years carrying out Washington's dictates, rather than taking care
of the interests of their own citizens.
If Mr. Wolfowitz and his ilk continue on this counter-productive and
self-destructive path, they will help create many more hostile nations
around the globe. The Pew Research Center's recent survey revealed the
extent of anti-Americanism in many countries. Two of the largest American
newspapers carried the following sobering headlines in their December 5,
2002 issues: "U.S. Losing Popularity in World" (Los Angeles Times) and
"World Survey Says Negative Views of U.S. Are Rising" (The New York Times).

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