During the early days of the occupation of Iraq, 11 Turkish soldiers based in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah were taken away with hoods over their heads in a surprise raid conducted by American troops. They were held captive for 60 hours.
The fact that the operation took place on July 4, US Independence Day, and on a Friday, prevented the immediate rectification of the error. The way our troops were held for a matter of days made the concerns felt even stronger. Even though the US immediately offered a comprehensive apology in the wake of this humiliation of its ally, Turkey, the incident has remained as a stain on US-Turkish relations ever since. This incident from 2003 was interpreted as a provocation by some people, carelessness by others and as vengeance for Turkey’s refusal to open up its İncirlik air base by many. Whatever the cause, however, the Turkish people have never forgotten the hood incident.
We witnessed a reaction to that incident last week. A group calling itself the Complete Youth Union (TGB) placed hoods over the heads of three American sailors, in the middle of the street, from a US warship returning from a NATO operation in the Black Sea and anchored in Istanbul. The sailors were first exposed to verbal and physical attacks aimed at retaliating against the 2003 hood incident and then had hoods placed on their heads. US Department of State spokespersons kept the issue on the agenda for all day long, while the following message from the US Embassy appeared on Twitter: “We have no doubt that the vast majority of Turks would join us in rejecting an action that so disrespects Turkey’s reputation for hospitality…”
This incident certainly represents a serious disrespect for Turkish hospitality. More than just hospitality, the incident breaches the bounds of humanity and is significant in preventing the building of love. Nobody has the right to blame those young American sailors for a grave error made by the US back in 2003, to terrify them in a foreign country and to portray a country like Turkey as a savage place, which in fact should be a model to the world in terms of love and friendship. Those young American sailors must have been too young back in 2003 and probably unaware of that incident. It is terrifying for the people of both countries for any American spotted in the street to be held accountable for US government’s policies or mistakes. Even if the people in question had been directly responsible for the hood incident, the right thing to do would certainly not be to exhibit the same brutal behavior toward them. If a mistake has been made, legal measures should be taken, and if there is true regret and apology, forgiveness must follow. That is what Islamic values and the traditions of Anatolia in which we live require.
Let me state here that the assessments of the incident in the international press were to a large extent overstated. The incident in question in no way represents all the Turkish people. On the contrary, it was the work of a tiny Marxist group. The members of the group in question generally suffer enormous defeats in ideological and intellectual terms, and seek to keep themselves in the spotlight using Leninism’s tactics of aggression and anarchy. They are a failed community of people, who beat those who disagree with them, smash fossils dating back hundreds of millions of years by attacking scientific exhibitions that refute their ideology. Since Turkey has a 99 percent anti-communist majority, they act out of the psychological hurt inflicted by that defeat. So their attacks on the US troops stemmed more from the US being opposed to communism than from feelings of revenge.
Therefore, the action by this ineffective and unimportant group is in no way binding on Turkey. In particular, any attempt to portray “Turkish hostility to America” in the international press would therefore be a serious error.
However, it also needs to be said that the latest opinion polls in the Middle East as a whole show America with popularity levels around 20 percent. Moreover, that level has fallen by 13 percent in Jordan and 17 percent in Egypt since 2009. The latest developments in Syria and Iraq suggest that the popularity level may fall further.
The position is not that great inside America, either. The level of Americans expecting better times ahead is just 34 percent. Dean Obeidallah, a writer who assesses this decline on an annual basis, summarizes the problem as: “We’ve been on the wrong track since 1972.”
With its people, democracy, and liberty, America is a very beautiful country. However, as Obeidallah says, it has been on the wrong track for a long time. A Middle East policy focused solely on war and weapons has triggered off an unnecessary rage against America. A country that would normally be loved and regarded as a role model has become deeply unloved. The American people have, to a large extent, lost all their hope and joy.
Even if this unbecoming attack on American sailors in Turkey is deserving of condemnation, it must be regarded as an opportunity to review the perception of America in the Middle East. America has to change its methods. It must bring its own ideals of democracy and liberty to the world and the Middle East, but by using education, not guns. A country such as America, which could bring joy and beauty to the word with its fine people, must not become an unloved one due to incorrect policies. The time has come to familiarize people with love and America’s help is really needed.
Adnan Oktar's piece on The Frontier Post & Arab News & Pakistan Observer: