Turkey Hones Its Killing Skills
By: Belén Fernández
Published Saturday, October 6, 2012
On October 4, the Turkish daily Sözcü proclaimed on its website: “We hit Syria!”
Numerous Syrian soldiers were reported dead as a result of the hit, which took place in response to a Syrian mortar strike that killed a woman and four children, all from the same family, in the Turkish border town of Akçakale. The hit stands to be repeated now that the Turkish parliament has officially authorized future military action against its southern neighbor.
To some observers, this authorization may appear redundant. It is common knowledge that Turkey is playing host to anti-Syrian regime combatants, who stage incursions from Turkish territory, and, as the British Independent noted in June of this year:
Members of the loose assortment of rebel groups that comprises the FSA [Free Syrian Army] said they had received multiple shipments of arms including Kalashnikov assault rifles, BKC machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank weaponry from Gulf countries and that Turkey was assisting in the delivery of the weapons.
Coincidentally, the Turkish parliament was already scheduled to vote this week on an extension of authorization for cross-border military action against another neighbor: Iraq, which plays host to combatants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who stage incursions into Turkey.
Iraq’s feelings on the matter were summed up by government spokesman Ali Dabbagh, quoted by Reuters as registering Iraqi opposition to a Turkish parliamentary extension and “reject[ion of] the presence of any foreign bases or troops on Iraqi territory and the incursion of any foreign military forces into Iraqi lands on the pretext of hunting down rebels.” According to Dabbagh, such behavior constitutes a "violation of Iraqi sovereignty and security."
In the latest installment of regional double standards, the same sovereignty-and-security lingo has been trotted out by Turkey and its allies in condemnation of the Syrian strike on Akçakale. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s fulminations over the “abominable attack” on civilians may appear less righteous when we consider recent events in Turkish military history, such as the extermination of 35 Kurdish civilians over a span of 40 minutes in December of last year. The civilians, attacked in the vicinity of the Turkish-Iraqi border, were mistaken for PKK militants.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Turkish warplanes were aided in their mistake by US Predator and Israeli Heron drones. The participation of the latter technology is an ever-ironic reminder of Turkish-Israeli military collaboration, which continued even after Erdoğan’s 2009 performance at Davos, where he announced to Israel’s president Shimon Peres: “When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.”
Indeed, Erdoğan was correct in this assessment, as Israel had recently wrapped up its latest exhibition of killing prowess in Gaza, where 1400 persons - primarily civilians - were eliminated in 22 days. The following year, Israel reiterated its homicidal abilities by slaughtering eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American on board the Mavi Marmara, part of the flotilla endeavoring to deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged Palestinian coastal enclave.
While the Mavi Marmara incident merely provoked an expression of “regret” from the US establishment, this week’s strike on Akçakale merited “outrage”, despite having produced approximately half the number of Turkish casualties than were killed on the ship. The Agence France-Presse quoted an email from Pentagon spokesman George Little specifying that “[t]his is yet another example of the depraved behavior of the Syrian regime, and why it must go.”
This is the same George Little, of course, who appears in the Wall Street Journal article weighing in on the drone-facilitated massacre of the 35 Kurds in north Iraq - who, it must be stressed, are far from the only innocent casualties of Turkish cross-border maneuvers:
At the Pentagon, press secretary George Little said when asked about the strike, ‘Without commenting on matters of intelligence, the United States strongly values its enduring military relationship with Turkey’.
After so many years of “collateral damage” and other euphemisms for mass killing in Iraq and Afghanistan, the duplicity of the imperial lexicon comes as no surprise. Tragic events are catalogued according to the identity of the perpetrators and victims: when Turkey kills Kurds it’s evidence of a valuable military relationship; when Syria kills Turks it’s depraved; when Israel kills anyone it’s in self-defense.
The upshot is that there are quite a few people who “know well how to kill” and that lexical acrobatics cheapen human life. As for Erdoğan’s assailment of the Syrian regime for “carrying out massacres with heavy weapons against its own people," a miraculous purging of hypocrisy from politics would require such critiques to be applied to other situations as well - like, say, ones in which Kurds obliterated by Turkish warplanes happen to be Turkish citizens.
Belén Fernández is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, released by Verso in 2011. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin magazine, and her articles have appeared at Al Jazeera, the London Review of Books blog, and numerous other publications.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy.