What does US sanction for the execution of Abdullah Ocalan say about its "humanitarian"aims in the Balkans?

                    By Barry Grey

                    The United States has distinguished itself from its European allies by not
                    condemning the death sentence against Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah
                    Ocalan handed down June 29 by a Turkish court. While expressing
                    “concern” over the sentence and some aspects of the show trial of the
                    PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) chairman, Washington has emphasized
                    its agreement with Ankara that Ocalan is a dangerous terrorist, and
                    indicated that it will not stand in the way of his hanging.

                    Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit last week praised the US,
                    comparing its stand favorably to that of the European powers. “They (the
                    US) have shown a far more understanding attitude than our European
                    allies,” he said.

                    Neither the Europeans nor the Americans have clean hands when it
                    comes to the capture and trial of Ocalan. They are all complicit in the
                    international manhunt that ended with Ocalan's illegal abduction from
                    Nairobi last February by Turkish secret police. One European
                    government after another refused to grant the Kurdish leader asylum after
                    he was expelled from Syria by President Assad in October of 1998.
                    They all knew that the military-dominated Turkish regime would stop at
                    nothing to capture its chief nemesis, and that any trial would be a mere
                    formality, with a guilty verdict and death sentence certain to follow.

                    Their complicity renders their statements of moral dissent in the wake of
                    the June 29 verdict less than compelling. Nevertheless, for their own
                    geo-political and domestic reasons, the governments of the European
                    Union would prefer to see Ankara accept Ocalan's offer of collaboration
                    with the Turkish state and put aside the court's sentence.

                    The US, on the other hand, does not even bother to make a pretense of
                    moral scruples when it comes to the state murder of a man who,
                    whatever one may think of his politics and tactics, is seen by millions of
                    Kurds as the leading partisan in a protracted struggle for national
                    recognition and basic democratic rights. Washington has admitted to
                    playing a key role in organizing the kidnapping of Ocalan from the Greek
                    embassy in Nairobi. It is, moreover, well known that the Clinton
                    administration pressured Syria to expel Ocalan in the first place, and then
                    oversaw the manhunt that ended with his capture. In the process
                    Washington trashed the democratic principle of political asylum and
                    provided yet another example of the gangland methods that underlie its
                    lofty rhetoric.

                    In the seizure of Ocalan—which preceded by barely a month the
                    US-NATO war waged ostensibly for “human rights” and against “ethnic
                    cleansing”—the Europeans played second fiddle; it was Washington that
                    called the tune.

                    The combination of venom and hypocrisy that characterizes the US
                    position was summed up in an editorial published July 1 by the
                    Washington Post, which often serves as an unofficial mouthpiece for the
                    State Department. Entitled “A Tough Choice for Turkey,” the editorial
                    begins by mulling over the possible benefits of accepting Ocalan's
                    courtroom offer to “serve the Turkish state.” Commutation of his death
                    sentence might, the Post suggests, provide an opportunity “to tame
                    militant Kurdish nationalism.”

                    On the other hand, the editorial continues, no reasonable person could
                    fault the Turks for hesitating to forego the hangman's option. “Give the
                    Turks full marks even for weighing” commutation for “a man and a
                    movement undoubtedly responsible for grave political and personal
                    offenses,” the Post declares.

                    Next comes a description of the Turkish judicial and political
                    process—notorious around the world for its brutality and contempt for
                    democratic rights—that attains a level of cynicism remarkable even for
                    the American press: “The Turkish appeals process—through courts,
                    parliament and president—builds in time and political space to provide
                    for a measured national judgment on a fundamental issue. It lets the
                    political society take part in a judicial decision.” (The Solons of the
                    Washington Post obviously exclude, along with the Turkish military and
                    political establishment, the 4.5 million Kurds in Turkey from the category
                    of “political society.”)

                    The concluding paragraph contains language carefully crafted to uphold
                    the position of the Turkish regime, which denies the existence of a distinct
                    Kurdish nationality. “The first requirement is to avoid violence directed
                    either by or at the minority of Kurdish Turks who belong to Mr.
                    Ocalan's party. Next must come a dialogue—the United States supports
                    it—between the two groups of Turks.” (Emphasis added)

                    In light of this glowing description of the Turkish political system, it is
                    useful to recall the US State Department's own evaluation of Ankara's
                    record on human rights. The Report on Human Rights Practices in
                    Turkey issued by the State Department in January 1997 noted that a
                    state of emergency has existed in the nine southeastern provinces with a
                    Kurdish majority population since 1984, and acknowledged that the
                    Turkish government “has long denied its Kurdish population, located
                    largely in the southeast, basic cultural and linguistic rights. As part of its
                    fight against the PKK, the Government forcibly displaced large numbers
                    of noncombatants, tortured civilians, and abridged freedom of

                    The report estimates that the Turkish military has “depopulated” [the
                    State Department's own term] 2,600 to 3,000 villages and hamlets, and
                    “forcibly evacuated” 560,000 Kurds.

                    No American or NATO spokesman claimed that the Serb military was
                    guilty of anything approaching this level of “ethnic cleansing” prior to the
                    initiation of the air war last March. Whatever attacks Serbia carried out
                    prior to March 24 against Kosovan Albanian civilians in the course of its
                    war with the Kosovo Liberation Army, they appear to have been on a far
                    smaller scale than the assault on Kurd civilians carried out by
                    Washington's NATO ally, Turkey.

                    What does the Clinton administration's support for the abduction and
                    likely execution of Kurdish leader Ocalan, and its indulgence toward
                    Turkey's repression of Kurdish national rights, say about its official
                    rationale for the war against Serbia?

                    On June 2, speaking at the US Air Force Academy commencement,
                    Clinton described the situation in Kosovo as “an effort by a political
                    leader to systematically destroy or displace an entire people because of
                    their ethnicity and their religious faith; an effort to erase the culture and
                    history and presence of a people from their land.”

                    Obviously, the very same words could be used to sum up the policy of
                    Turkey toward the Kurds.

                    On April 15, speaking in San Francisco before the American Society of
                    Newspaper Editors, Clinton said: “Finally, we must remember the
                    principle we and our allies have been fighting for in the Balkans is the
                    principle of multi-ethnic, tolerant, inclusive democracy.” As, presumably,
                    is practiced by the NATO combatant, Turkey!

                    Needless to say, none of the gentlemen of the press rose up to challenge
                    Clinton's absurd claims and point out the glaring contradictions in his
                    justification for the Balkan War. Those who plot American imperialist
                    policy count on the duplicity and servility of the media, and they have not
                    been disappointed.

                    Once, however, one is familiar with the facts, it does not require an
                    extraordinary degree of insight to perceive that US declamations about
                    human rights and multi-ethnic tolerance are mere window dressing for the
                    ruthless pursuit of imperialist interests around the world. Washington
                    allies itself with Kosovan nationalism and goes to war with Serbia
                    because it considers the Yugoslav state to be an obstacle to the
                    realization of its strategic interests in Europe, the Middle East and Central
                    Asia. It supports the murderous regime in Turkey and sanctions its
                    suppression of Kurdish rights because the Turkish state serves US aims.