Saturday, February 18, 2006

Not a Turkish Delight

Apropos my previous post ("War of the Worlds") you may have noticed that the German map that is based on Samuel Huntington's forecast about the coming Clash of Civilizations placed America's close ally in the Middle East (and a military partner of Israel), Turkey, in the future Islamic Alliance (painted in purple) that will be opposed to the U.S.-led Western Bloc (in blue). And that is probably a safe prediction based on the way the Turkish Zeitgeist looks and sounds these days -- very anti-American, very anti-Western and a bit anti-Jewish (you notice that I avoid using the term "anti-Semitic" here). Indeed, according to the New York Times the most popular movie in Turkey today is a local production "Valley of the Wolf: Iraq" that seemed to have been directed by Osama Bin Ladin. According to the Times:
The crowd cheered, clapped and whistled as the Turkish agent plunged the knife into the chest of the enemy commander.
"Valley of the Wolves — Iraq," which opened last week in movie theaters in Turkey, Austria and Germany, is a Rambo-like action story involving Turkish gunmen who seek revenge against a tyrannical occupying army.
In this version, however, at $10 million the most expensive movie ever made in Turkey, the enemy is no oppressive third-world dictatorship. The commander's name is Sam — as in uncle — and the opposing forces are the Americans, who are being punished for offenses against Turkish as well as Iraqi pride and honor.
The commander, Sam William Marshall, played by an American actor, Billy Zane, is a sociopath, killing people without a second's thought and claiming that he is doing God's will. While fictional, some of the movie is based in part on real events, and many of the scenes elicit knowing looks from the audience. The opening sequence portrays an incident that made headlines here in 2003, when a group of Turkish special forces soldiers in Iraq were taken into custody by American marines. The Turks, mistaken for insurgents, were handcuffed and held with hoods over their heads, which rankled many Turks.
Other scenes show ruthless marines killing Iraqis and soldiers mistreating inmates at Abu Ghraib prison, as well as an American Jewish surgeon, played by Gary Busey, who takes what look like kidneys from inmates during surgery to New York, London and Israel — all, according to the screenwriter, Bahadir Ozdener, inspired by real events.

And the Washington Post reports that:
In "Valley of the Wolves: Iraq," U.S. soldiers shoot small children at point-blank range, harvest kidneys from Iraqi prisoners for shipment to Tel Aviv, blow a Muslim cleric out of his minaret and, to top it all off, display utter contempt for Turkish foreign policy. The feature film set a box office record in its first weekend, after opening in more theaters than any movie in Turkish history.

The Post also notes that "Valley of the Wolf: Iraq:" (see movie's web site)
also reflects deep skepticism about U.S. intentions, which opinion polls show is common among Muslim countries. In one scene, a man wearing the black coat, fedora and earlocks of a Hasidic Jew gets up and walks out of a restaurant moments before Polat reveals that the place is wired to explode. The moment slyly evokes not one but two conspiracy theories often heard in Muslim societies: that no Jews died in the World Trade Center because they had warning, and that Israeli agents are hard at work in northern Iraq, helping the Kurds.

And to add to all of that, Tony Karon mentions on Rootless Cosmpolitan that "Turkish prime minister Erdogan is reported to have seen the movie and recommended it to friends, while his wife attended a premiere and described it as 'a beautiful film.'" This is a guy who had visited the White House and whom U.S. officials regard as a close friend of the United States... And Tony Karon adds:
You can already imagine the Turkish producers weighing up sequels: A Turkish Rambo blows up Israel’s West Bank wall and restores Palestinian access to Jerusalem, or a Turkish James Bond character infiltrates the Danish press and uncovers a neo-Nazi conspiracy to use cartoons to provoke a war between Islam and the West. The possibilities are endless.

Now... add to these movie reviews the fact that Anti-American novels, including one that portrays a war between the United States and Turkey (to be followed by one about a war between Israel and Turkey), have been selling briskly, and that (bet you didn't know) Hitler's "Mein Kampf" was a best seller in Turkey last year, and here is what one is forced to consider: If these are the setiments towards the United States in a country that has a viable democratic system, that is staunchly pro-Western and pro-American (it's a member of NATO and hopes to join the European Union), imagine what are the attitudes towards America and the West in the rest of the Middle East. This suggests to me that contrary to the wishful thinking in Washington, the demonstrations against the "offending" cartoons weren't the work of anti-American political instigators but reflected the way many (most?) people in the Middle East (and in other parts of the Moslem world) feel about the United States and the West. The reports in the Times and the Post suggest that the case of Turkey is different and that the current anti-Americanism there has to do with the Turkish opposition to the Iraq War and in particular to what is perceived as American backing for Kurdish independence. And you can make a similar argument to explain what's happening the Arab World where the hostility towards Washington could be seens as a backlash against American foreign policy, including the invasion of Iraq and the support for Israel. I hope that these kind of analysis that dismisses Huntington's thesis is correct. But as someone who is a critic of U.S. policy in the Middle East and who has never been a Clash-of-Civilization buff, I'm starting to get worried that against the backdrop of the Iraq occupation (including the alliance with the Kurds), the rise of Hamas, and the confrontation with Iran, Huntington's vision has acquired the power of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ironically, U.S. push for democracy in the Middle East is only helping to energize militant Islamic groups that have now come to power in Iraq and Palestine. In this context, Karen Hughes' propaganda campaign in the Middle East is probably nothing more than a waste of U.S. dollars, if not a bad joke. If we'll lose Turkey (and I hope we don't), there is no way in the world that we are going to win the hearts and minds of the rest of the people in the Middle East.