Dear Huffington Post Editors, Mr. Alon Ben-Meir
You received a July 5th letter critical of your partisan contributor Alon Ben-Meir's one-sided stance on Turkey's Kurds, and in response, he has made very vicious statements in huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-kurds-treatment-in-turkey-is-indefensible_us_598b2924e4b030f0e267c8f5/.
I would like to indicate that I have nothing to do with the Turkish government. Personally, I have more of a relationship with the governments of Israel and Korea than of Turkey. This is important, because Mr. Ben-Meir began his criticism with a personal attack in an attempt to discredit me.
He wrote, "Kurtulus’ funding of Flynn as a quasi-spokesman on behalf of Turkish interests makes him complicit in the actions of a man who exhibited deceitful behavior," basing the conclusion on an April 1st Washington Post story. We begin to learn at an early age that simply because something is in print does not necessarily mean it's true; shamefully, Mr. Ben-Meir is not only supposed to be a "professor," but also gets by as a "journalist."
Mr. Ben-Meir went to my Facebook page to dig up a copy of the July 5th letter; unless he is a complete amateur, the odds are good he also ran into//medium.com/@Pitel/whos-been-bending-the-ear-of-lt-gen-michael-flynn-c1af966fd7f8"by Laura Pitel, published one day after the WaPo article. (I do not "fund" anyone; the money came from a Korean-American event; I handed their check over to Gen. Flynn as a conduit. Flynn's office made a mistake on his filings, and a call to his lawyers will confirm it.) Yet even if Mr. Ben-Meir missed this on Facebook, we have something these days called an "internet search." Alas, as with the Kurdish issue, Ben-Meir prefers getting his information strictly from one side only, and a biased side at that — refusing to look further.
I am not a public figure, and on a personal note, I must say this episode I had with the press was educational. To me, it would be unthinkable to provide information unless one is certain of its accuracy (especially for public release) and I was surprised to learn how irresponsible journalists can be. Why were not the rest of the journalists like Laura Pitel, who took the trouble to investigate and had the conscience to report the truth, instead of just taking someone's word? The depth of such lack of professionalism and ethics was a troubling revelation.
On April 3rd, my brother provided a play-by-play of this episode in an article (turkishny.com/english-news/5-english-news/238817-lt-gen-michael-flynn-and-ibrahim-kurtulus/.) He singled out the writer of The Daily Caller, Chuck Ross, which the WaPo utilized verbatim, as Mr. Ben-Meir utilized the WaPo verbatim: "However, his poor research skills have opened up a can of worms, in which second-hand journalists were quickly able to cite his, dare-I-say, 'fake news', and spread it like wildfire across the Internet. While Mr. Ross has subsequently corrected the record ... the damage had already been done."
I have never been to Ankara nor to Washington, I have publicly criticized the Turkish Ambassador to the US, have similarly stated my reservations publicly about Erdogan and his administration, and as far as "Hilal" (sic) Mutlu, whom Mr. Ben-Meir has charged I had "leveraged" my "relationships" (sic) with "to convince General Flynn that Fethullah Gülen was the primary plotter of the failed July 15, 2016 coup," I do not have any relationship with Halil Mutlu (someone who at times attends the same public events I go to), and the first-time meeting I had with Gen. Flynn last year was a result of my twelve-year friendship with his brother; Joe suggested the general could benefit from my personal views about, as he put it, our "NATO ally, Turkey."
Mr. Ben-Meir relied on the phrase "cursory glance" to hope to get out of the libel he has committed. Someone who is conscientious had better make sure to get the facts straight before making such defamatory public accusations. It's an underhanded tactic; first create guilt by association with someone currently being vilified, in this case Flynn. Next, unleash character assassinating words such as, "suspect behavior, which raises serious questions about his credibility and integrity."
Everything I presented was the truth. It is the one who compromises the truth and has a weak position who resorts to personal attacks, rather than try to present a rebuttal with the evidence to support a counter position. (From my perspective, I would not stress whether a person I am criticizing had some shady connection; it is what's said that must be focused on, and indeed, Mr. Ben-Meir's baseless charges succeeded in distracting from the Kurdish topic; I would much rather have analyzed his argumentation, without extending this letter.)
The overall point I was making about the Kurds was much in line with what Prof. Edward Mead Earle wrote, as part of his preface for the book Turkey Faces West:
Time and again the American press, the American pulpit, and American historians have indicted the Turkish nation, have pronounced a verdict of guilty absente reo... The principal witnesses for the prosecution have been missionaries and relief workers, politicians under the spell of the Gladstonian tradition, Armenian and Greek refugees and immigrants, and others whose impartiality and knowledge of the whole truth have left much to be desired. The witnesses for the defense have been practically nonexistent — the Turks in the United States being few and pitiably inarticulate...
Prejudice, unenlightenment, and malevolence have been conspicuous characteristics of much that has passed as authoritative writing on the Near East during the past century in the United States. ...It is perhaps time to reexamine some of our hoary opinions concerning the Turks and give them a day in court.
Written in 1930, that "day in court" is farther than ever, thanks to extremely biased and dishonest authors such as Mr. Ben-Meir (who is merely the tip of the iceberg). I provided the example of the false "Armenian genocide," a crime for which no evidence exists (as the British discovered after the war during their Malta Tribunal investigation). "Every" journalist on the topic has come to reinforce the propaganda, such as 1.5 million (the entire pre-war Armenian population) having been exterminated, and turning a blind eye to the true extermination campaign conducted by Armenians, as verified by two Turk-biased Americans, Niles and Sutherland, in 1919.
Rare times the contrary view is related, a journalist will refer to it as what the "Turkish government" claims out of thin air, never referring to the reputable historians on the matter (as Prof. Bernard Lewis), only the corrupt genocide scholars who have chased most historians away. Journalists make sure to do so (as Mr. Ben-Meir has attempted to connect the "Turkish government" with me) because of the built-in bias; the propaganda has allowed for the negative image of the Turks to grow to such an extent, Turks have come to personify villainy.
Just as Earle's "Armenian and Greek refugees and immigrants" have been able to get away with whatever they claim in the prejudiced West, so have the Kurds who have moved to Germany and other Western countries. While today's racists won't be as blatant, too many at least subconsciously subscribe to Gladstone's notion that the Turks are "the one great anti-human specimen of humanity," allowing them to quickly accept whatever the Kurds have to say, given how Kurds are perceived as another victim of Turkish barbarians. It is doubtful Mr. Ben-Meir has conducted any firsthand investigation (we see he visited Turkey at least in 2010 as a speaker), but has received his Kurdish information from sources who believe or represent Turks as loathsome; yet he feels free to use inflammatory phrases such as "reign of terror" (conveying /images of stormtroopers on every corner, as he did with his prior article, with the word "tyrannical"), and provide his one-sided, bigoted views.
A Quora.com page entitled, "Is being Kurdish in Turkey really as bad as it is usually described in Western media" is enlightening. Note voices of reason such as a "Drew McCormick," opining, "Living in the South East of Turkey is pretty harsh regardless of your ethnicity," and how "Kurdish language restrictions were lifted ... to the point where there were even government sponsored broadcasts." (Which is truthful.) Another claims, "My Stepfather lived as a Kurdish refugee in Turkey for about three years. He had no problems whatsoever, quite the contrary actually. You won’t have any problems as a Kurd living in Turkey. You can get the same education, career, etc. as any other person residing in Turkey. The Republic Turkey has no problem with any ethnic minority, the problem lies with left-wing extremists like the PKK murdering security personell (sic) and civilians alike." Now that is the truth as well, but the writer has a Turkish-sounding name, so he could easily be discredited with the charge that the "Turkish government" must have been behind the statement, or you can't believe anything Turkish, because of the strong racism at play.
In the bunch is a "Danny Rasul" who has an avatar of the Kurdish flag. He has written a long dissertation about how Turks are "the one great anti-human specimen of humanity," the kind of voice prevailing over the Internet (hatred serving as a driving force), and the type side-choosers as Mr. Ben-Meir will exclusively listen to. "Danny Rasul" has presented the PKK as heroes, providing a photo of Nelson Mandela with the superimposed quote, "If you really want to know about the Turkish government, be a Kurd for one hour." Music to the ears of Mr. Ben-Meir, who actually pointed to Mandela, arguing that he, too, was once labeled as a terrorist, in an effort to also turn the PKK into heroes. ("Who today views Mandela as a terrorist?" he wrote. Suddenly, the 40,000+ lives the PKK took, proportionate to 170,000 U.S. lives, and the lives they are continuing to take, become meaningless.)
A "John Rané" replied, "Think how (the Mandela statement) has affected your thoughts and emotions. What do you make of the Turks and Turkish Government?" Mandela's was an invented quote; "John Rané" added: "Social media platforms... have become a safe haven for terror propaganda. While materials promoting what is called Islamic Terror...are removed from twitter, facebook, youtube… at the speed of light, propaganda materials that serve PKK and other Kurdish terror groups are yet INVENTED or supported by certain western media." He finished with, "Being Kurdish in Turkey is not a problem but being Kurdish and a TERRORIST is a PROBLEM!"
The BBC is not pro-Turkish, but their "Who are the Kurds?" (14 March 2016, bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29702440) was fairly balanced. We get a clue about how Kurds (more correctly, Kurdish tribes; Kurds are not a monolith) had rebelled as every Ottoman group (save for Jews) had done during WWI; afterwards, the Allies' Sèvres Treaty was a death sentence for the Turks, granting states to some rebels, as the Kurds. Given this history of treachery (imagine if minorities in our country strove for independent land, or even acted defiantly, as with Wounded Knee), Turkey has rightly been sensitive toward disloyalty. As a result, Turkey has acted unfairly with the Kurds in the past, the idea rooted in making sure everyone thought of him/herself as Turkish first, just as we would want our people to think of themselves as Americans first. Yet for Mr. Ben-Meir to lament how "The Kurdish language was suppressed for decades, Kurdish-run schools were not allowed to operate" has nothing to do with today's reality. Mr. Ben-Meir simply cannot shake himself of his anti-Turkish outlook.
One strong indication of how Mr. Ben-Meir is hopelessly emotional about the topic is the way in which he wrote, "What gives Kurtulus or Erdogan the right to dictate the way the Kurds should live, and deprive them of their cultural heritage?" (Note the same below-the-belt "guilt by association" tactic he had already used by connecting me with Flynn.) I never indicated Kurds should be deprived (that was a dishonest charge), and they are already free to practice their "cultural heritage." If Kurds did not have equal rights as Turkish citizens, there could not have been a Kurdish parliament chairman, and Turgut Ozal could not have become the Turkish president.
Naturally we are not closing our eyes to how Erdogan has become more authoritative (acknowledged in our prior letter), and has committed excesses. What we are referring to by claiming that Turkey is a democracy is how too many in our media have suddenly painted Turkey in terms of being another North Korea, now going full-blast on the typical "Evil Turkey" message. We valued how President Obama replied when he was asked whether Trump would wreck America, and he used the "ocean liner" metaphor, reminding us of how a democracy does not change overnight: a big ship pivots incrementally. Let's also keep in mind not all democracies are alike, and don't always need to follow the U.S. mold. Switzerland, for example, criminalized telling the truth about the Armenian genocide hoax, as France once did. If Turkey was no longer a democracy, hundreds of thousands could not have participated in the "March for Justice" against Erdogan last month.
It looks like we have struck a nerve with Mr. Ben-Meir, in the way he has flown off the handle so many times. "Kurtulus is making the extraordinary claim that all of (the suspended 14,000 Kurdish teachers) are PKK terrorists or have related affiliations, he does not produce a shred of evidence about the teachers’ culpability." (Has Mr. Ben-Meir produced evidence all are not?) My line: "How can Alon Ben-Meir say all of those teachers were loyal Turkish citizens, when the PKK has infiltrated Kurdish dominated areas of Turkey?" The point made was some have been influenced (how could they not be, after the PKK has strengthened the ethnic identity of many Kurds, over decades?), but he twisted the meaning to make it seem as though I had claimed every single one was tainted. Since his command of the English language is good, he was simply being dishonest.
Mr. Ben-Meir called my characterization of him (a “friend of the Kurds, or a hater of the Turks, or both”) as "irrational." If he only listens to hateful Kurdish activists such as "Danny Rasul," and ignores truth as presented in Bruce Fein's "Unveiling the PKK" (washingtontimes.com/news/2008/jan/3/unveiling-the-pkk/), the charge is accurate. He's not a hater in terms of refusing to shake a Turk's hand in person, as Hitler did with Jesse Owens, but if he is going to be completely one-sided by relying on propaganda, his partisanship absolutely reflects a contempt of Turks. His attempt to defend himself rested on "I equally blame both the PKK and Erdogan." I had acknowledged that "loophole" line of his, also adding that it "comes across as throwing a bone." If 99% of his article is one-sided, one can't ingenuously turn to one quick line as a way of demonstrating "equality."
I had objected to how Mr. Ben-Meir disregarded facts by claiming how the Kurds do not "live freely" and how they don't "enjoy their customs, folk music and dance." These beliefs of his are based completely on propaganda, and he so got carried away I remarked, "Sounds like Ben-Meir is a step away from claiming the Kurds are wearing yellow stars," which he took great offense at. The analogy applies perfectly, if he insists on writing, as he has done in his current piece, Kurds "are equal under the Turkish constitution, but in practice are systematically discriminated against in government appointments, business contracts, job opportunities, and education." That is a prejudicial falsehood, and the fact that the Danny Rasuls of the world offer sob stories to him is no substitute for evidence. Already by 2002, Turkey's government had poured billions into the southeast where many Kurds reside to stimulate an economic boom, spending $7 for every $1 collected in taxes, and nondiscrimination is the legal and operative rule. Mr. Ben-Meir is talking out of his hat, basing his opinions on bigoted hearsay, while Congressmember Alcee L. Hastings informs, "I've been to Turkey nine times. I've seen there less racism than I have witnessed in Washington. I have seen more racism in Germany and Denmark."
"The PKK is indeed recognized as a terror group by many countries, but how does Kurtulus reconcile that with the fact that Erdogan himself negotiated with this 'terror group'?" (If he now thinks of this point as critical, why did he not mention it in his prior article, when he wrote: "Erdogan continues to refuse to negotiate"?) Sometimes there is no getting around how necessity is the cause of invention, as our case years ago with Iran-contra. The basic rule stands: we don't negotiate with terrorists. Mr. Ben-Meir absolutely got silly with, "When will Erdogan and people like Kurtulus understand that the Kurdish problem in Turkey cannot be simply wished away?"
Indeed, "many thousands have been killed on both sides," as he wrote, but since when have we given equal weight to the casualties of terrorists? Among those 40,000+ lives lost as a result of the PKK (the Kurds who go by many acronyms are all PKK, per a quoted Kurd in wsj.com/articles/americas-marxist-allies-against-isis-1437747949), and many of the PKK's victims have been Kurds. The goal of the PKK, as Fein's article linked above tells us, is an independent socialist state of Kurdistan. (Sen. Lindsay Graham, appalled by the PKK: youtube.com/watch?v=kLiVjIv9fdc&t=12s/.) Incitement to secession is a crime in every country, and how Mr. Ben-Meir advocates Abdullah Öcalan ("the jailed leader of the Kurds" — no, he is the leader of the PKK, which many Kurds in Turkey reject. It is very alarming how Mr. Ben-Meir equates all Kurds with the PKK), as a respectable party to be negotiating with is mind-boggling. Going so far as to compare this criminal and murderer with Nelson Mandela, a symbol of peace, shows how out-of-step Mr. Ben-Meir is, with his prejudice, and reality.
"I have spoken to scores of Kurdish parliamentarians over the years; none has ever implied they seek independence." Especially as politicians, why would the PKK-minded among them reveal their heartfelt desires to an American whose support is valuable, and if they were to be honest, what if word were to get out? They would be regarded as traitors, ending their political careers. How absolutely naive, and yet what is most relevant, again, is how Mr. Ben-Meir has equated the PKK to "the Kurds," and right there in the PKK's Oct. 27, 1978 Manifesto we can see their "Declaration of Independence." Only today (Aug. 10th), State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert made clear: "We condemn ongoing attacks committed by the...PKK – and we consider it to be a terror organization." Mr. Ben-Meir's synonymization of the PKK with the Kurds is distressing.
He wrote: "Kurtulus suggests that I was advocating for Kurdish independence, which I have not." Once again, he demonstrates dishonesty. My line, that he had responded to: "Ben-Meir complains of how Erdogan 'forces them to seek, fight, and die for autonomous rule if not independence, which he is bent on preventing.' Bent on preventing independence? What nation would encourage independence (or even 'autonomous rule') as though, for example, we should give up Hawaii?" There, in his own words, is how he would feel so much better if the Kurds were to have "autonomous rule if not independence." (Given Erdogan's dreadfulness, for being "bent on preventing.") He is not saying outright the Kurds should have independence, but it is obvious his heart is very much in the idea, as much as he is now insisting he does not advocate Kurdish independence.
Similarly, once again exhibiting his dishonesty, he has written, "I have never said that the 'Turks do not belong in the human race'." That was in response to my example of how the great anti-Turkish prejudice keeps manifesting itself: "The often-repeated story that reinforces the notion that Turks do not belong in the human race is the fabricated 'Armenian genocide' tale," So he went with the idea of Turks not belonging in the human race in general, to something he was charged with having stated. This is a very Breitbart way of operating.
(In my letter I clarified there was no evidence for the Armenian genocide charge, yet he chose instead to write, "At no point in my article did I address the Armenian Genocide." Who said he did? Furthermore, it is a subject he does not bother to objectively investigate, as with the Kurds, and chooses instead to pretend to be on moral high ground, with the cheap phrase, "denial of the Armenian Genocide." If there is no evidence, there is no fact; what is not a fact cannot be denied. Note as well he was told the Armenians had committed the real systematic extermination campaign, which we never hear about because of prejudice. This "professor" chose to ignore a link leading to rock-solid evidence, per Niles and Sutherland. He can write empty lines such as his "tremendous admiration for the Turkish people," but here he had a chance to investigate whether Turkish people have been treated unfairly. He refused, preferring one "race" as deserving of sympathy, and another "race" as dismissible.)
"Like all his misstatements of fact, Kurtulus equates the PKK to ISIS, which is as absurd as the rest of his argument." Is the PKK a terrorist group? Yes. Is ISIS? Yes. Are they exactly the same? Of course not. Is the PKK, responsible for over 40,000 lives, equal to the Symbionese Liberation Army, which killed a handful and kidnapped Patty Hearst? No. Does that disqualify the SLA as a terrorist group? (Foolish.) He then went on to a revealing statement: "In which way do Turkish Kurds resemble ISIS?" The topic was the PKK vs. ISIS, not Kurdish Turks vs. ISIS. He goes out of control with his conclusion, about how I seem to "revel in illusions, where fools find comfort." He equates all 15 million Kurdish Turks to terrorists, then speaks of "illusions," and "fools"?
Mr. Ben-Meir has revealed a desperation to prove himself correct, by repeatedly twisting what I have written, going beyond his initial libel, which time will tell whether he will have the decency to correct. This is not the mark of a forthright, fact-oriented man. He then goes overboard by constantly peppering his article with insults such as my "addiction to lies and misstatements." There is nothing I have written in either letter that is not the truth; objective parties will see Mr. Ben-Meir is the one engaging in serial dishonesty. Of course this is an uneven playing field, where his malicious articles based on propaganda see print. The question is, why would The Huffington Post and other outlets using Mr. Ben-Meir not insist on the highest standards of factuality, and truth?