Bryan Hemming

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The Independent huffs and puffs on war

Independent - Turkey screenshot 1

Screenshot of Independent article

“Anyone who never made a mistake never made anything” goes one of Albert Einstein’s most famous quotes. No, it doesn’t; I just checked, and I was wrong. Einstein actually said: “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Though similar in sentiment, the sentences have quite different meanings.

There is little doubt we bloggers get lots of things wrong, after all, we’re just nerds and geeks in tinfoil hats gawking at screens all day long. Or so the corporate media would have everyone believe. But Einstein was implying even the greatest minds in the world can make mistakes. Even big, important, national newpapers.

Take this morning’s Independent, for example. Someone down at the editorial department had the bright idea of dashing off a few comments about Turkey. Why not, everybody else is. Damning in its faint approval for the country, joining in on the bombing of Isis, there was an ‘and about time too’ air to the piece. After all, more bombing of Muslims has to be a good thing. Let’s not forget how David Cameron more or less warned British Muslims not to talk bad about bombing Muslims only just recently. That’s what being British is all about. Come to that, why go to all the bother of bombing Muslims if you can get them to do it themselves? So, if sounding upbeat about bombing Muslims is one of the things being British is all about, what is being Turkish all about?

Blind fidelity is not one of the things being Turkish is all about, it seems. Lamentable in the way it chooses to ignore the West’s own role in the attempt to topple Syria’s leader, Bashar Assad, the Independent’s criticism of one of our most important partners in NATO is blatant in its hypocrisy. Blasting off with a below-the-belt blow at Turkey’s apparent want of constistency, the opening is chiefly notable for its self-important, jingoistic style. Turkey is singled out for admonishment for its lack of keenness to bomb the new right side. It’s as though the U.S., its Western allies and the oil-rich gulf states had nothing to do with training, supporting and arming Isis barely months ago. There’s nothing like flexible consistency.

“Within the space of 48 hours, the policy of the Turkish government towards Isis appears to have changed decisively. After months of ambiguous prevarication, there have been air strikes against targets in Syria, arrests of suspected militants in Turkey and agreement that the United States can use the Incirlik air base in its own operations against Isis. These are bold moves, although they are not before time.

It has been clear ever since Isis emerged as a genuine military and political force that its defeat would be possible only if Arab nations acted against it. The sheer depth of America’s armed might meant it has had to be at the forefront of operations – but the only way to crush the notion that Isis is acting in the interests of ordinary, Sunni Muslims is if other Sunni-dominated states in the region join the coalition of forces ranged against it.”

See the problem here? Being Arab is another thing being Turkish is not about. The second sentence in the second paragraph reads “It has been clear ever since Isis emerged as a genuine military and political force that its defeat would be possible only if Arab nations acted against it.” Taken in context with the preceding paragraph it’s abundantly clear the writer is classifying Turkey as an Arab nation. This is not a small mistake for a national newspaper to make in an important editorial piece on war. It is the sort of mistake that can sometimes lead to diplomatic repercussions, given the serious nature of the subject. If the Independent doesn’t even know the ethnic make-up of Turkey how on earth can it publish an editorial on the subject with an underlying hint of reproach? Along with religious differences, ethnicity is one of the main things all armed conflicts in the Middle East are about.

Having travelled through Turkey extensively during the 1980s I can report with confidence, though Turkey does have a Arab minority mainly situated in south east Anatolia, the country is far from being an Arab nation. Despite the fact history has bequeathed it a rich variety of ethnicities and cultures, the population is overwhelmingly Turkic in origin. Any journalist writing on the Middle East should be aware of such vital distinctions. In the same way the Scots and the Welsh despise being referred to as English, the Turks despise being called Arabs. Not to recognise how important this is, is to not understand the very essence of the Middle East, and the reasons behind the various disputes in the region. In other words: if you haven’t managed to grasp the very basics, it is not only a mistake, but also the height of arrogance to pontificate on the matter.

Independent - Turkey comment screenshot

Screenshot of comment posted beneath article

To counter any so-called moderation of my comment and subsequent edits to the article, I have posted screenshots.

The article appeared under the title: “Turkey steps up: The anti-Isis coalition will benefit, both practically and symbolically, from the commitment of another Sunni ally” at this URL:

7 comments on “The Independent huffs and puffs on war

  1. rangewriter
    July 26, 2015

    “Flexible consistency,” indeed. World problems are always far more complex than what journalists, desperate to meet deadlines, are equipped to illuminate.


    • Bryan Hemming
      July 26, 2015

      Far too many times journalists act extremely irresponsibly without considering the potential consequences of their pontifications. Within 48 hours of the announcement to join the bombing of Isis Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the president of Turkey, revealed the cynical reasons behind his decision, when he sent planes into Northern iraq to bomb the Kurds. These are the very same Kurds who have had most success in fighting and defeating Isis on the ground, where the real battles are taking place.

      It is now quite clear there were tacit conditions attached to the agreement whereby the US and its allies would turn a blind eye to Turkey bombing the Kurds. As I wrote in the article: “Come to that, why go to all the bother of bombing Muslims if you can get them to do it themselves?” Though it pains me to say it, it really does seem the US and Britain – in particular – don’t care which side is bombed as long as they are both Muslim. Somewhere along the line our Western governments, and mainstream media, have lost their moral compass, and are leading us all into a morass of sheer evil.

      Link to article:

      Turkish airstrikes against PKK in Iraq throw two-year ceasefire with Kurds into jeopardy


      • rangewriter
        July 26, 2015

        It’s all a confusing mess to me, Bryan. Something smells very rotten about the political manipulations of “super” powers like the US and GB. (I mean the once-super powers. Oh how I wish we were as super as we were when we actually offered help where it was wanted and needed after WWII.)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Nil
    July 25, 2015

    Taking a dive for life a month too early, I was born in Ankara by sheer coincidence but hardly know the city… the whole family is/was from Istanbul and that is the place I know best, really. My father travelled a lot for his work and I have been more out of than in Turkey in my younger days. But it seems the years I spent there were rather decisive years… It is not a country you can delete from your system… 😉

    And yes, even knowing what chaotic country Turkey can be, what is going on there now is very distressing – and it is not going to get better any time soon, I’m afraid…
    As you say, RTE is playing his own distorted games… :-/


    • Bryan Hemming
      July 25, 2015

      I only ever saw Ankara from a train window one time, and the airport another, on my way east. Istanbul I saw quite a few times, what an exciting hustle and bustle that was. It’s a long time ago now, but you’re right: you can’t delete Turkey from your system.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nil
    July 25, 2015

    Thanks for putting that right! 🙂 Of a newspaper like the Independant you would expect a bit more accuracy, really…

    Not to speak of some facts most people in Europe seem to ignore…That at the moment Turkey has no government, that RTE has been delaying the negociations after the elections unnecessarily – trying to figure out how he can avoid a coalition, most probably… That there are a lot of doubts what exactly happened at the explosion that cost a lot of youngsters their life… Not the least of them being that RTE came up with the idea that he would attack Syria, an idea that didn’t exactly get approving nods (this was before the suicide bomber!…)

    Simplifying the ‘change of mind’ to “Hurrey! Turkey steps up!” kind of gives me a tummy ache, really… There are so many details being ignored and though I try to follow and make sense of it, so much still slithers around under the surface that I don’t know either – that maybe we will never know…

    The least a self respecting newspaper could do is find a translator (who knows his job) and check the Turkish news from time to time. And I don’t mean the official sources only…

    Sorry for the ‘ranting’… 🙂 If you hadn’t guessed by my name then now you probably will have realized I am a Turkish expat 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bryan Hemming
      July 25, 2015

      Thanks for the ‘ranting’, as I say, “Don’t bottle it up.”

      I loved my travels in Turkey, when I used to buy kilims and rugs to sell in England. I hadn’t guessed you were Turkish, simply because Nils is a Norwegian name and I has assumed Nil might be a female Belgian version. My mother was Norwegian, and I didn’t think about it so much.

      I can understand how this present move might distress you. For Turkey to get involved in war games on behalf of the US and NATO is a big mistake. But then Erdoğan is playing his own games.

      Out of interest, which part of Turkey are you from?

      Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on July 25, 2015 by in Articles, Journalism and tagged , , , , , , .

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