Friday, February 17, 2006

no way to treat an ally?

You may have seen reports of a new Turkish film which depicts an act of callousness (I would like to think unpremeditated callousness) by the military forces of the most powerful nation in the world on a small and weak, but valuable ally.

The event brings to mind the mindless brutalities of the British Raj. And that thought, in turn, churns up a favorite essay by a favorite author: During the time that George Orwell was a police office in Burma, he was required to shoot an elephant. In Shooting an Elephant, he describes his own misgivings and the reactions of the local populace. He concludes sardonically:
Afterwards, of course, there were endless discussions about the shooting of the elephant. The owner was furious, but he was only an Indian and could do nothing. Besides, legally I had done the right thing, for a mad elephant has to be killed, like a mad dog, if its owner fails to control it. Among the Europeans opinion was divided. The older men said I was right, the younger men said it was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee coolie. And afterwards I was very glad that the coolie had been killed; it put me legally in the right and it gave me a sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant. I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.

Here's a description of the U.S.-Turkish incident and the movie in which it appears:

Popular Turkish movie portrays American soldiers as brutal killers
By Matthew Schofield
Knight Ridder Newspapers

BERLIN - A Turkish-made film that portrays American soldiers in Iraq as brutal and callous killers is setting attendance records in Turkey and has just opened throughout Europe. The movie, the most expensive production in Turkish film history, has been a runaway success in Turkey since it opened Feb. 3. Would-be viewers must wait weeks for tickets. Yusuf Kanli, the editor in chief of the Turkish Daily News, said the film is grounded in a real event known as the "bag incident," which cemented the movie's popularity in Turkey.

"Abu Ghraib is a deep wound, but it's war, and war is never clean," Kanli said. "But what happened in July 2003 can never be forgotten by any Turk."

In that incident, U.S. troops arrested 11 Turkish special-forces officers in northern Iraq and walked them from their headquarters with bags over their heads. It was considered a bitter betrayal by a trusted ally. Turkish newspapers dubbed it the "Rambo Crisis." Recent opinion polls rank it as the most humiliating moment in Turkish history.

Blog credits:

The perks of power are sweet! SWEET! by Jonathan Schwartz, who says he knew nothing about the incident before reading about the film, and Crooked Timber: Slap Shots, but Ted Barlow, whosays: "I’ve got a funny vibe about the story, like it’s something that will get a lot more attention in history books than newspapers."

And from another article in the Telegraph (UK):

Turkish film of murderous GIs adds fuel to smouldering anti-US feelings, By Amberin Zaman in Ankara

Traditionally cordial relations between Ankara and Washington were badly bruised when the Turkish parliament voted against a Bill in March 2003 that would have enabled thousands of US soldiers to open a second front against Saddam Hussein from south-eastern Turkey.

Four months later, US forces raided a Turkish special forces office in northern Iraq, handcuffed and hooded 11 officers and took them for interrogation in Baghdad. The incident caused an outcry throughout Turkey where it was seen as an act of revenge. US officials said the Turks were plotting to kill a senior Kurdish politician and huge amounts of explosives were found during the raid.

No comments: