The following letter was submitted to the Post-Crescent for consideration on February 12, 2008:
December 16 was an historic day in northern Iraq, when Turkish warplanes bombed 200 targets designated as hideouts for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). But it was not unique, as the planes returned to hit 70 more sites on February 4.
Turkey has every right to defend itself, as does any sovereign nation, but no right to kill people or burn villages indiscriminately outside its borders. PKK is seen as a threat because they seek an independent Kurdistan, carved from Turkey and Iraq. Kurds are generally Christian, and are neither Turkish or Arab, making their goal challenging but not unreasonable. Some Kurdish rebels may be criminals, but they are not soldiers and do not constitute a formal military target. Even accepting Turkey’s claim that only PKK was targeted and the “greatest efforts” were made to reduce collateral damage, a senior Iraqi border security official said he had “no information on casualties or damage” leaving only guesses as to what carnage ensued.
Turkey is a great ally in America’s war in Iraq, but their disregard for basic human rights puts a blemish on them, and by extension on us. Especially in Iraq, where we count the Kurds among our few friends. Turkey’s domestic human rights abuses are well documented, and even as recently as 2007 the Armenian genocide of 1915 is still denied by the government. Turkey made general threats to America when they got word that Congress would pass a resolution recognizing the genocide as a historical event. No reasonable person can deny the evidence that a massacre occurred.
I find it ironic that America overthrew a dictator in part because of his slaughter of Kurds and political dissidents, and then immediately aligned with a nation that systematically slaughters Kurds and political dissidents. Our policies are, at best, inconsistent and irrational.