5. Turkey Destroys Kurdish Villages with U.S. Weapons

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

Title Turkey’s War on the Kurds
Source The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, March/April 1999
Author Kevin McKiernan
Faculty Evaluator Tony White Ph.D.
Student Researcher Doug Schiller & Tanner May

In 1995, the Clinton Administration recognized that the Turkish government used American arms in domestic military operations where human rights abuses occurred. In fact, Turkey has forcibly evacuated, leveled and burned more than 3,000 Kurdish villages in the past decade. Most of the atrocities, which have cost over 40,000 lives, took place during Clinton’s first term in office. As an ally of the U.S. through NATO, Turkey receives U.S. weapons, from dozens of companies, including Hughes, Boeing, Raytheon, and General Dynamics. Despite a horrifying report of violent abuse by Amnesty International, the State Department passed arms deals with Turkey. The war in Turkey represents the greatest use of U.S. weapons in combat anywhere in the world today.

Coverage 2000

With little exception, the mainstream U.S. media has been “AWOL” in reporting on the role of U.S. arms in Turkey’s war with the PKK. Media interest in the country’s human rights abuses did surface, however, during three different circumstances: Turkey’s petition to be included in the EU (mostly in the foreign press), the House resolution labeling Turkey’s massacre and eviction of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915-1923 as genocide, and Ocalan’s appeal to the European Convention on Human Rights. But few put all the issues together.

Author Kevin McKiernan reiterated his argument in several op-ed pieces around the country, this time focusing on a $4 billion contract for 145 attack helicopters. Although the U.S. government had earlier firmly stated that they would block the sale until Turkey changed its human rights policy, they sidestepped the issue completely by modifying their requirements, calling instead just for improvement in certain areas. Michelle Ciarrocca, a research associate at the World Policy Institute in New York City, joined McKiernan’s fight, sending several pieces out to the wires documenting Turkey’s record in the human rights arena. Ciarrocca states, “As U.S. weapons flows have increased, Turkey’s human-rights performance has worsened.”

Time magazine’s international edition reported on the heated competition for the $4 billion contract, with Bell Helicopter winning in the end, but only after pecuniary encouragement. Both Bell and Boeing contributed $650,000 to both Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns in 1996, and Bell another $102,000 in Election 2000. Additionally, Boeing contributed $100,000 to a Washington art opening of Ottoman Empire artifacts, and the Turkish Embassy in Washington signed a $1.8 million contract with former Congressman Bob Livingston, Gerald Solomon, and Stephen Solarz to lobby for the Turkish Government.

Foreign coverage picked up in May following the usual Turkish raids on Kurdish villages in Northern Iraq, even though Ocalan had called for a cease-fire from his prison cell the previous summer (obeyed by thousands of PKK fighters). The Progressive’s Matthew Rothschild called U.S. readers’ attention to the lack of coverage on the forays with U.S.-made weaponry and helicopters, and to a London article by Chris Morris. Morris notes, “Almost anywhere else in the world, thousands of heavily armed soldiers crossing an international border would be big news. But this latest Turkish incursion into Iraq will be greeted with barely a murmur in the west….” And he was right.

By year’s end, Turkey got its helicopters and a $7.5 billion IMF loan, but its human rights record remained the worst in the world and it was still destroying Kurdish villages. Also, as Ciarrocca pointed out in the Charleston Gazette, the Clinton Administration remained the world’s number one arms dealer no matter whose human rights were being violated (see Censored 1998, Censored #1, “Clinton Administration Aggressively Promotes U.S. Arms Sales Worldwide”).

Sources: Knight Ridder, November 14, 1999; Los Angeles Times, March 3, 2000; Knight Ridder, March 21, 2000; The Baltimore Sun, April 28, 2000; The Guardian (London), April 3, 2000, “Turks pursue Kurds inside northern Iraq,” by Chris Morris; The Progressive, May 2000, “Not All Invasions Are Equal,” by Matthew Rothschild; Charleston Gazette, May 14, 2000; Time, international edition, May 22 & August 14, 2000; The Washington Post, November 8, 2000.