Perry’s Regrettable — and Uninformed — Comments about a Staunch NATO Ally (UPDATES)
The same Republican presidential wannabe who would send U.S. troops back into Iraq and thus would most likely again need the use of Turkish land and air space to provide logistics support to our troops there, now labels that nation a country that is being ruled by Islamic terrorists — and worse.
During Monday’s GOP presidential candidates debate in South Carolina, Texas governor Rick Perry also expressed doubts on whether Turkey belongs in NATO and indicated that it is time to have a “conversation” about zeroing out foreign aid to Turkey. (According to the AP, “Turkey does not receive U.S. foreign aid.”)
Turkey has been a close ally of the U.S. in support of the war on terror. Its troops are fighting alongside our troops in Afghanistan and Turkey plays an important role in not only training, reconstruction and educational projects, but — as a Muslim country with cultural similarities — it has a unique role in that war-torn country.
Turkey has been a staunch partner in numerous multinational, international and U.N. security and peacekeeping efforts around the world and has helped finance the U.S.- and NATO-backed rebel forces that were instrumental in defeating and eventually killing Libyan despot Muammar Gaddafi.
Turkey has been a strong member of NATO for more than 50 years — the only Muslim member of NATO — and the U.S. and Turkey share membership in and cooperate on several other international organizations and strategic partnerships, military, economic, nuclear energy and cultural projects.
Grouping our NATO partner, Turkey, together with true terrorist states Syria and Iran, Perry also said: “… we need to send a powerful message to countries like Iran, and Syria and Turkey that the United States is serious and that we’re going to have to be dealt with.”
Is Perry referring to the same Turkey that has been on our side putting pressure on Damascus? Pressure that may include “economic sanctions, secret activities to support the opposition and perhaps a haven along the Turkish border and a humanitarian corridor inside Syria”?
Is Perry referring to the same Turkey that has very recently agreed to deploy a forward-based early warning radar system as part of a NATO’s missile defense plan aimed chiefly at detecting and countering ballistic missile threats from Iran?
No wonder Turkey is indignant about the Texas cowboy’s statements.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry released a scathing statement saying Perry’s comments were “baseless and inappropriate” and that the United States has no time to waste with candidates “who do not even know their allies.”
“Turkey joined NATO while the governor was still 2 years old,” the statement said. “It is a member that has made important contributions to the trans-Atlantic alliance’s conflict-full history. It is among countries that are at the front lines in the fight against terrorism.”
The Turkish statement said Turkey’s leaders were “personalities respected not only in the United States, but in our region and in the world and whose opinions are strongly relied on.”
The Turkish statement said Perry’s low standings in polls were proof that the Republicans in the U.S. do not endorse his opinions.
“Figures who are candidates for positions that require responsibility, such as the U.S. presidency, should be more knowledgeable about the world and exert more care with their statement,” the Turkish statement said.
Unfazed by growing domestic and international criticism about his unfortunate remarks about NATO ally, Turkey, Perry stands by his “assessment” of Turkey and its leaders.
According to CBS News:
“When you see the number of actions against your citizens that we would consider to be terrorist acts, I stand by my statement,” Perry told reporters at a press conference today. Perry pointed to the increased rate of attacks on women and concluded, “I respect his sovereign right to say that but I respect my sovereign right to be critical of countries that treat their citizens that way.”
In a statement Tuesday, Namik Tan, Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, expressed “disappointment” with Perry’s remarks.
“Turkey is obviously not the same country that Governor Perry visited in the 1970s,” he said. “As an accession country to the European Union and a founding member of the Council of Europe, Turkey has been continuously reviewing and enhancing the rights of all its citizens irrespective of their ethnic or religious background.”
“While it was unfortunate, we do hope this episode in last night’s debate leads to a better informed foreign policy discussion among the Republican Party candidates, one where long-standing allies are treated with respect not disdain.”
Also read “Speaking of Dog Whistles: Rick Perry Talks Crazy About Turkey,” in the Atlantic.
The Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) has issued this statement:
“TCA is happy to help educate Gov. Perry about the true value of U.S.-Turkey relations, one of the most important bilateral partnerships our country has, but respectfully requests that Gov. Perry apologize for his divisive and uneducated remarks.
“Turkey is the second-largest army of NATO, and has been one of the largest contributors of support to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, including leading the NATO troops in Afghanistan three times, and providing over 70 percent of the international logistics support to U.S. troops while they were in Iraq.
“In Gov. Perry’s own state, exports to Turkey have increased over 215 percent in the last four years, and Texas is home to a thriving Turkish American community.
“The level of ignorance shown by the governor of such an important state as Texas is appalling. How can we expect to have friends in the international world if our leaders show this level of ignorance and narrow mindedness in trying to score political points? Gov. Perry’s state, party and country are all poorly served by his comments.”