For Turkey, this was always going to be a difficult game of manipulation on a global scale. Unsurprisingly, it is getting harder and harder by the day.
It was even enormously problematic in the start. How would Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan convince Turkish and world public opinion that he had nothing but humanitarian concern in pushing for war with Syria when he had befriended the Butcher of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, helped the American invasion of Iraq in which more than one million Muslims were killed, and carefully avoided uttering one single word on the brutal oppression of pro-democracy Shia masses in Bahrain?
Recently, Erdoğan claimed that “tens of hundreds of people are being killed every day in Syria.” Mathematically speaking, that makes at least a thousand deaths on a daily basis, or at least 30,000 in one month, or at least 360,000 in a year. If the prime minister is so keen to condemn such a large death toll he can always read a recent history of Sudan or Iraq.
More recently, Erdoğan claimed that “ammunition and arms equipment” were found in the cargo on board the Syrian passenger aircraft that Turkish fighter jets intercepted last week. In all probability the confiscated cargo looks like it was only carrying radar equipment, unless of course the Turkish authorities “mistakenly added” a few items to it. That would be a dangerous move, though, since it might expose several Turkish Airlines planes flying over, say, Russian or Iranian airspace, to the risk of being grounded. It would not be too surprising if Russian and Iranian security officials made a habit of “finding” ammunition and military equipment bound to reach al-Qaeda.
Suppose the equipment found on the Syrian aircraft is genuinely “military,” but then, where is the ammunition the prime minister claimed had been found aboard?
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu keeps on saying that “[on Syria] Turkey has acted in line with the international community,” without specifying who the “international community” really is. We understand that nearly 3.5 billion Russians, Chinese, Indians, Iranians and Brazilians don’t count as the “international community.”
The foreign minister’s oft-repeated rhetoric that Turkey “sides with the Syrian people” is equally unconvincing. Who, really, are the Syrian people? The 30,000 killed by the al-Assad regime plus the 250,000 who have fled the regime’s atrocities? Who, then, are the 21,720,000 people who don’t fight or have not fled? Are they Martians disguised as Syrians? And why do millions of Syrians choose not to join the “Syrian people?”
But there is another aspect to how the colorful Turkish rhetoric in justifying the passionate “let’s bomb Damascus wish” fails to impress even most pro-government Turks. After the eighth mortar fell onto Turkish territory and killed five innocent Turks, the prime minister made it clear that this could not be an accident: “You don’t make a mistake eight times.” He was right, but only selectively.
The unpleasant parallelism was first brought to attention by an author under the pseudonym “Srulik” on the news website Hastürk. Srulik recalled Erdoğan remarked after Israel had reciprocated against rocket and mortar attacks on the southern Israeli city of Sderot on the border with the Gaza Strip: “How many Israelis were killed that you [Israel] had to attack back?” In the case of Akçakale, the town in which the Syrian shelling killed five Turks (and in Srulik’s opinion, Sderot’s sister town), Erdoğan gave orders to mobilize 250 battle tanks, 25 F-16 fighters and numerous artillery on Turkey’s Syrian border, as well as a war mandate from Parliament in addition to his cheerleaders’ non-stop call for an American-led bombing of Damascus.
In the case of Sderot, from mid-June 2007 to mid-February 2008, 771 rockets and 857 mortar bombs were fired at civilian Israeli targets. In those eight months, 11 people were killed, aged between two and 57. Srulik therefore also ridiculed the childishly hypocritical argument that a few bombs falling on Turkish territory were reason enough to justify a buffer zone within Syrian territory, while over 1,600 bombs falling on Israeli soil did not justify a buffer zone in Palestinian lands.
The broader picture in the lands of “those who know well how to kill” is even gloomier. Since 2001, nearly 5,000 rockets have hit southern Israel. Between January and April 2012, more than 360 rocket and mortar attacks were launched, including two mortars containing white phosphorus.
Erdoğan recently said, “Prepare for war if you wish for peace.” He was right, and that’s precisely what the State of Israel is doing.
(This article was published on Hurriyet Daily News online on Oct. 17, 2012.)