March 8, 2005 Special Dispatch No. 874

Turkish Media on the Anniversary of the March 1, 2003 Parliamentary Resolution Not Allowing U.S. Troops to Open a Northern Front against Iraq from Turkish Soil

March 8, 2005
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 874

Prior to March 1, 2005, the Turkish media discussed the resolution of the Turkish parliament on March 1, 2003, to not allow U.S. troops to open a northern front against Iraq from Turkish soil. Columnists of the major Turkish newspapers called to mark that anniversary by a show of support for Syria. Others in the media criticized that idea. The following are excerpts from the articles (the format of the text appears as in the original):

'Celebrating the Anniversary of March 1 in Damascus'

In an article titled "Invitation," columnist Nuray Mert, of the center-left liberal daily Radikal, wrote:

"If you remember, there was an operation of attrition before the rejection of the March 1 resolution. Many people proved to be wrong. Some [journalists] said that rejecting [the American request] would be an 'historic mistake,' that 'America would never forgive us', that 'our economy would suffer' (…) Now, because of a [recently published] highly provocative article [1] they are saying: 'The U.S. is very disturbed by the anti-Americanism rising in Turkey, so let's correct ourselves' (…)

"[This accusation] is a real bluff! [It is] part of their efforts to estrange Turkey from the rest of the region.

"The vote on the March 1 resolution served to increase the respectability of Turkey's 'democracy'. (…) Now that the First of March is approaching, we decided, together with our friends from the Orient Conference Society and the Global Peace and Justice Coalition, on an initiative both to celebrate the anniversary [of the March 1 resolution] and protest the new threats of invasion [by the U.S.]. The following is our invitation:

"[The Americans] are trying to silence Turkish public opinion with pretexts of rising anti-Americanism. It is meaningful that this effort intensifies at the time when Syria is declared as a target. The strong reaction of Turkish public opinion against the war, when asked to take part in it, was the main factor that brought about the rejection of the March 1 resolution. This is why the U.S. this time, through official and non-official channels, is openly demanding the [Turkish] government to pressure public opinion. The government cannot and must not do that. (…) We do not want invasions [in our region]. We must do all that we can against those who are preparing for such invasions. With these thoughts and beliefs, we, the Global Peace and Justice Coalition and the Orient Conference Society, will travel to Damascus by bus on the anniversary of the March 1 resolution, to protest against the U.S. threats of invasion directed at Syria." [2]

'The U.S. Targets Iran and Syria: Now Is the Time to Show Solidarity with the People There'

In his article titled "On the Anniversary of March 1," Can Dundar, columnist for Turkey's second largest, moderate mainstream daily Milliyet, wrote:

"It is the anniversary of the March 1 resolution and Baghdad is filled with blood…

"Where are those who argued that Turkey should enter the war (…)

"While the U.S. is sinking deeper each day into a quagmire in Iraq and producing policies that will paint the future of the Middle East with more blood, can there still be people [in Turkey] who regret the fact that we did not sink into that swamp?

"If we don't have planeloads of coffins coming back from Iraq, it is thanks to the parliament, which did not go along with the accomplices. (…)

"(…) this is a lesson of democracy [by Turkey]. On March 1 [2003], the Parliament stood by the public opinion against all the American pressures, the will of the ruling government and the media's arguments and showed the courage to say 'No' to becoming an accomplice to invasion.

"Now the U.S. targets Iran and Syria.

"Now is the time for showing solidarity with those peoples…

"Today, upon the call by Nuray Mert [of Radikal ], a delegation of the Orient Conference Society – which, for the last two years, has been conducting meetings and visits with Eastern intellectuals, artists, thinkers, and authors, and [a delegation of] the Peace and Justice Coalition – are going to Damascus.

"Some of the participants oppose the Syrian regime as much as they oppose the American invasion… But they also know that no regime can justify occupation (…)

"As has been done [previously] in Tehran, Amman, Beirut and Yerevan, they will explore ways to protect the region from imperialism, from despotism, from inner conflicts and from building democracy.

"I wish every one could join [this solidarity trip] and see the effects of the March 1 resolution." [3]

"Go and Have a Cup of Coffee in Damascus"

Two days following his pervious article 'Celebrating the Anniversary of March 1, columnist Nuray Mert of the center-left, liberal daily Radikal wrote another article titled "True, We Don't Love [America],":

"(…) It's true, we do not love [the U.S.]! Why should we? The U.S. policies are in the open (…) these policies are drawing reactions not only in Turkey but all around the world. (…) Turkey is this region's most advanced democracy and nobody has the power to intimidate our public. Whatever [the Americans] say, they will not be able to convince the people of this land to be accomplices to murder. These threats and deterrence maneuvers will not succeed. Their timing is very interesting, now Iran and especially Syria are the targets; and [the U.S.] is in search of accomplices. Turkey must not be an accomplice. Instead of looking for ways to make all peoples of the world get along, instead of making efforts to make peace between old enemies, even neighbors who lived together for centuries are being incited against one another.

"The nature of the Syrian regime or any other [regime] is not the [important] matter for people of our opinion; don't we ourselves criticize the system, the government and its policies in Turkey as well? That [criticism] is one thing and bringing people against one another is another thing. We may criticize Assad but stand together with the Syrian people. (…) If they [the U.S.] are saying 'stay away from Syria' while they are creating the conditions for occupation, we must do just the opposite.(…)

"That is why, with no delay, [you should] travel to the countries under threat of occupation, walk in their streets, sit at their cafes and you will better feel the horror of the U.S. threats on their heads. Syria is here, so close, a beautiful country; get up and go, even if you only walk on the streets you will be giving support against occupation. Go and have a cup of coffee in Damascus and feel how horrible it is that they want to turn it into another Baghdad, and feel how threatening occupation and war are for our world. Since their first target is Syria, don't be lazy and go right away; be there for them in their hardship. Don't let your neighbor be snatched by the wolves, you should not only refuse to be accomplices to crime, but you shouldn't be bystanders!" [4]

"Official" and "Civil" Guests to Syria

Turkish columnist Hadi Uluengin of the largest Turkish daily, Hurriyet, wrote an article critical of the Turkish government for supporting Syria:

"We are sending to Syria two kinds of guests, both 'official' and 'civil,' as if this is the right time.

"The first of those that we send to holy Damascus is our President Necdet Sezer, for a reciprocal visit with the 'junior' Bashar Assad, the son of his late father.

"It is quite mind-boggling that at a time when the Ba'ath regime is totally isolated, following the assassination of Hariri, and when the U.N. and the world community are repeatedly calling [for Syria] ' to end its occupation in Lebanon,' our head of state will honor that place with all his [political] weight.

"Mr. Assad, of course, will roll out authentic Aleppo-made silk carpets under Sezer's feet.

"What a narrow-minded perspective [on Turkey's part] at this juncture of the world and the region; and what kind of a foreign policy do we have (at the onset of negotiations with the EU), which misses the point when even France, the ' backbone ' [of Europe] is singing the same tune as the U.S. on this issue… (…)

"After all, where on earth would [Assad] find another ' friend' (!) like us [the Turks], who would be willing to set out for Damascus these days?

"Some of our 'Syria lovers' carry not only 'official' identities [like President Sezer] but 'civil' ones too:

"Apparently the ' solidarity ' (!) fans from some of our [public] organizations with baptized names, such as the ' Peace and Justice Coalition ' and the ' Orient Conference,' are taking the road to Damascus.

"These people are crowded in a bus going to Syria to stand guard there, so that the'damned Americanimperialism ' does not dare to invade our southern neighbor.

"I learned about this ' good news ' when I ' happily'(!) read about it in the ' invitation,' or rather, the advertisement in Radikal by Nuray Mert, who keeps serving us the same blackened meal of the ' 3rd World ' which she soaks in a 'postmodern' sauce over and over again.

"Let them sing marches [in the bus] to break the monotony of the desert all the way down from Aleppo.

"When they arrive in 'holy Damascus,' let them say to his highness Mr. Bashar: ' Oh, his highness [Bashar], the son of his highness [Hafez], we [Turks] are with you, [we are] by your side.'

"Let them also enjoy their coffee in the Hamidiye Market. (…)

"In order not to create a bad taste in the mouths of the bus passengers while they eat their sweet dates, I should refrain from asking them: ' hey, you peaceniks, why is it that you never went to Lebanon to show your solidarity with the Lebanese who, for the past 30 years, have been persecuted under the oppressive occupation of Syria.'

"Yet you keep repeating so ignorantly the nonsensical story that ' Damascus will be invaded.' Follow the world and learn, for goodness' sake, that there is no such possibility (…)

"No matter what you say, you are going there to give ' support' to Damascus. At least try to escape the ' muhabarat ' [The Syrian security service] and see those who oppose Syria's occupation of Lebanon and visit the tens of thousands of the victims [of the Ba'ath regime] who have been brutally murdered in Lazkiya. (…)": [5]

[1] The reference is to a Wall Street Journal article of February 16, 2005, by Robert Pollock, in which he criticized Turkey for rampant anti-Americanism.

[2] Radikal (Turkey), February 24, 2005.

[3] Milliyet (Turkey), March 1, 2005.

[4] Radikal (Turkey), February 22, 2005.

[5] Hurriyet (Turkey), February 26, 2005.

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