Thursday, August 08, 2002

Details on Turkish reforms

In case you missed it, the Turkish parliament has passed a series of reforms as required by the EU to qualify for the list of second round candidate countries early next year. Of course these are just the words on paper, and the establishment has a long way to go to change their habit of using oppression against what the see as threats to national stability, in particular Kurdish separatism and Islamism.

The Turkish Daily News gives details of the reforms, which include:

  • Abolition of the death penalty

  • Banning human smuggling (i.e. Afghanis and others smuggled from central Asia, heading for EU countries such as Italy)

  • Loosened up restrictions on international NGO's, both those based in Turkey and foreign ones operating here

  • Broadcasting in and teaching other languages (e.g. minority languages such as Kurdish, Laz and Cherkez) is allowed

  • Underage people can't work in gambling joints or places that server alcohol, and aren't allowed in nightclubs. (I had no idea that was a sticking point for the EU.)

  • One I'm happy with is:

    From now on, Turks will be allowed to criticize the Republic, Parliament, the government, the ministers, the military, the police and the judiciary through the media.

    Apparently some imprisoned journalists are also going to be sprung, their terms converted to hefty fines.

    Of course there's plenty of ways for the government to be oppressive within these rules. For one, teaching in Kurdish requires registering with the government, which gives them plenty of ways to discourage a renaissance of Kurdish. In the past right-wing paramilitary groups have violently fought against Kurds and others, illicitly supported by the government and police.

    The Turkish government has put some of the right things down on paper. Here's hoping they'll follow through with actions.

    Albawaba's got Middle Eastern News

    Thanks Ken Layne for turning me onto Al-Bawaba, a Middle Eastern news site which has a decent section on Turkish news. Found out about a project to extend the modern subway system under the Bosphorous. Cool!

    Monday, August 05, 2002

    Proud of our Genocidal history

    Dave Winer mentions a joke which he finds funny, even though "it's not politically correct, in about 18 ways". Of course, pointing out that something isn't PC is the traditional way of suggesting that anybody that finds a joke offensive must be the type of humorless liberal who gets miffed when someone calls a "Postal Carrier" the "mailman".

    OK, so the joke takes pride in one of the darker aspects of our country's history, which ought to let me shrug it off as stupid racist crap (next joke, "What did Abe Lincoln say the morning he woke up with a nasty hangover?"). But it bothers me that anti-Islamism seems to be creeping up as an acceptable norm, at least in the blogosphere.

    Yes, after 9/11 there was an enormous national effort to reassure ourselves and everyone else that Islam is all about peace, Muslims by and large are fine folks, etc. But that seems to be wearing off.

    InstaPundit says that Nick Denton is right that we ought to go to war with Iraq to teach the Muslims that "Medieval Islam cannot compete with liberal capitalism". Reynolds follows up by suggesting that anyone who would object thinks attacks on America is a good thing. (What ever happened to Matt Welch's crusade against strawman arguments?) Oh yeah, he also brings the "PC" hammer into play, opining that the Bush administration isn't using this "let's teach Islam that it's time is done" argument to gain support for attacking Iraq because they're afraid of being Politically Incorrect.

    Obviously it bugs me to think that people back home are falling into the age-old pattern of gearing up for war by lumping the enemy together as a people who are inherently deficient in some way that justifies, nay requires that we teach them a lesson. Are we going to war because Saddam Hussein is evil and dangerous, or because the culture from which he comes is evil and dangerous?

    The cultural war thing frustrates me because the rhetoric meshes so well with that of Osama bin Ladin and the others who have worked so hard to bring that war of cultures about. Al-qaeda's primary objective is not the destruction of America, but the unification of the Muslim world under their particular brand of Islam; war with the West is the tool they want to use to achieve that unity.

    The Bush administration brilliantly avoided fighting the Afghanistan War on those terms, carefully cultivating Muslim support and making it a war of allies against an oppressive regime.

    I hate to see the American public adopt bin-Laden's view that the West is at war with Islam, particularly if they cast his dark flavor of Islam as being that of all Muslims, because I would hate to see his dream made real.

    It isn't necessary. If we're going to take it onto ourselves to remove an evil dictator, that's one thing, but he's not Islam, he's not the Arab world, he's not al-Qaeda, hell, he's not even a proponent of Islam, fundamentalist or otherwise. 9/11 roiled up a lot of emotion, and that emotion is channelling itself into jingoism to support the upcoming war. Since the target of our war doesn't seem to have been connected with the cause of 9/11, that channeling process is broadening the emotion, blurring our picture of exactly what this war is about.