"I STRONGLY BELIEVE THAT CONCEDING TO TURKISH DEMANDS FOR SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE IS WRONG AMERICAN POLICY. . . " WASHINGTON–DC–Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) spoke out today against an impending US multi-billion dollar assistance package to Turkey designed to secure Turkish support for the US war effort against Iraq–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA.)
In a February 24 letter to Secretary of State Collin Powell (included below) Rep. Pallone questioned Turkey’s role as an ally in the US led action against Iraq–noting that the Turkish Government "claims that the Turkish people overwhelmingly oppose a war against Iraq–and that the government must show significant financial incentives in order to justify supporting the United States. In other words–Turkey must be bought off."
Rep. Pallone went on to state that he "obviously [has] a fundamental problem with the rationale for this Turkish assistance package." Among the Congressman’s concerns specifically noted in the letter were Turkey’s aggression against its own people and neighboring states:
"Turkey has been widely condemned by human rights organizations for their brutal repression of the Kurdish minorities in Turkey–limiting their right to assembly–language and culture. The Turkish legacy of human rights abuses dates well back into the 20th century. The Ottoman Turks pushed their Armenian minority citizens to the brink of extinction through a genocidal campaign–leaving over 1.5 million dead or displaced. Presently–Turkish armed forces continue their 29-year illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus–making 200,000 Greek Cypriots refugees in their own country after falling victim to a policy of ethnic cleansing and being forcibly evicted from their homes." The full text of Rep. Pallone’s letter to Secretary Powell is provided below.
"Armenian Americans appreciate Congressman Pallone’s leadership in raising the controversial issue of the Turkey aid package with the Secretary of State," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "We join with him in calling upon the Administration to carefully consider the implications for the United States – on moral–foreign policy–and budgetary levels – of allowing ourselves to be pressured into spending billions of tax dollars to purchase the support of the Turkish government."
The ANCA launched a community-wide letter writing campaign last week to Senators and Representatives on this subject. Commenting on Turkey’s calls for a $32 billion aid package from the US–hundreds of Armenian Americans have sent ANCA WebFaxes to their elected officials–noting–in part–that they are "troubled–on both moral and fiscal grounds–that the Administration is considering giving in–once again–to Turkey’s pressure tactics. We should not send taxpayer subsidies to a nation that is resorting to what can only be described as outright blackmail against the United States–particularly when that nation regularly violates the most basic values held by the American people."
In the twenty-six months since Turkey successfully pressured the White House and US House leadership to withdraw Armenian Genocide Resolution H.Res.398 from consideration–Turkey has turned to the United States for thirty one billion dollars in International Monetary Fund financing–several hundred million dollars in direct foreign aid–and–most recently–this package valued at between twenty and thirty billion dollars.
Full Text Of Rep. Frank Pallone’s Letter
To Secretary Powell:
It is with a great deal of concern that I have followed the negotiations leading up to a pact with Turkey to provide monetary assistance in return for its support in the war against Iraq. My initial concern is why it is necessary to provide Turkey with any incentives to support the United States position. After all–Turkey is supposedly a democracy–a NATO ally–and a secular nation. It also has a long border with Iraq. If we operate on the assumption that Saddam Hussein is a dictator determined to destroy the United States and its allies–and linked to fundamentalist Islamic forces like Al Qaeda–then Turkey would have more to gain than any other county by ridding itself of such a dangerous neighbor.
However the Turkish government seems to take a very different view based on published reports. They claim that the Turkish people overwhelmingly oppose a war against Iraq–and that the government must show significant financial incentives in order to justify supporting the United States. In other words–Turkey must be bought off.
I obviously have a fundamental problem with the rationale for this Turkish assistance package. But–my concern deepens with the magnitude of the dollars and the suggested links to oil reserves and Turkish military forces being deployed in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.
The aid package clearly will amount to tens of billions of dollars. When President Bush submitted his budget to Congress earlier this month–there was no provision for a war against Iraq. Cost estimates range from $50 to $200 billion. The aid package to Turkey would presumably be added to the cost of the war. The cost of rebuilding Iraq would be another add on. The budget assumes an annual deficit of $300 billion even without these additions–and makes real cuts in US domestic needs. I cannot support this level of assistance for Turkey based on the budget realities alone.
However–my greatest concern is the moral dilemma posed by Turkish deman’s for Iraqi oil and the use of Turkish military forces in northern Iraq. I realize that the Bush Administration has so far not supported these deman’s–but I fear you will eventually acquiesce by agreement or changing circumstances on the ground during the course of the war.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has repeatedly stated that Iraqi oil is for the exclusive benefit of the Iraqis. Unfortunately–Turkey does want Iraqi oil for itself and specifically the fields around the city of Kirkuk–which is in the heart of the Kurdish area of northern Iraq. On Turkish television this week–Recep Tayyip Erdogan–leader of Turkey’s majority party bluntly stated–"The case is not as simple as bargaining over dollars. We’re talking about the restructuring of the region."
Mr. Erdogan’s commen’s are focused on the Kurdish population of Northern Iraq that–with the support of the United States through enforcement of the "no-fly zones"–has set up a democratically elected government over the last twelve years. The Kurdish government serves as a model for the Iraqi citizenry of what can be attained without dictatorship. This remarkable progress will be eliminated if Turkey’s deman’s for military control over Northern Iraq are granted. A peaceful–democratic Iraqi-Kurdish population would be subjected to the same restrictions on life as their Turkish-Kurdish cousins.
Turkey has been widely condemned by human rights organizations for their brutal repression of the Kurdish minorities in Turkey–limiting their right to assembly–language and culture. The Turkish legacy of human rights abuses dates well back into the 20th century. The Ottoman Turks pushed their Armenian minority citizens to the brink of extinction through a genocidal campaign–leaving over 1.5 million dead or displaced. Presently–Turkish armed forces continue their 29-year illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus–making 200,000 Greek Cypriots refugees in their own country after falling victim to a policy of ethnic cleansing and being forcibly evicted from their homes. If the US allows Turkey to establish the occupation of Northern Iraq–the democratic ideals that President Bush touts so regularly to justify this war will be left on the side of the road to Baghdad.
I strongly believe that conceding to Turkish deman’s for significant financial assistance is wrong American policy and not affordable in the context of our budget needs. But–it is even more important that we not give in to Turkish deman’s for oil and any role in the future of northern Iraq. We cannot fight for democracy and freedom across the globe while ignoring these same values for the people we are going to war to liberate.
Member of Congress