Donald Trump and the Turks – Burying Bad News by Jean Calder

Donald Trump’s suggestion that all Muslims be temporarily banned from visiting the USA has been greeted with horror. It comes as only the latest of many offensive comments from Trump.It’s understandable that this issue should head news broadcasts in the States, currently absorbed by the nomination race for Republican presidential candidate. It’s also the case that British television has for some years now been disproportionately concerned with US news. However, it’s not clear why it should have dominated British news to quite such an extent for more than two days. 

Given the decision to bomb Syria, it may be that UK politicians of both right and left are keen to burnish their multicultural credentials. They’re probably also very eager to ensure that Trump gets nowhere near the White House. However, I suspect it’s more than that. I suspect buried news. 

The big story that has barely been reported is that Turkey, our NATO ally, within the last two days has deployed hundreds of Turkish troops into the Kurdish area of northern Iraq. Despite the protests of the Iraqi government and their appeals for help to NATO, Erdogan’s government has refused to recall his troops and is now bombing Iraqi Kurds.

It’s worth remembering that Erdogan’s forces recently shot down a Russian jet in Syrian airspace, on the grounds that it had crossed the Turkish border for 17 seconds. It further justified this action on the illegal grounds that it was defending Syrian ethnic Turkmen fighting Assad’s Syrian army on the Syrian side of the border.

The Kurds are loathed by Erdogan, but are recognised by NATO to be the only group that has mounted an effective ground challenge to Isis. They have done so with inadequate equipment and against constant disruption by Turkey, which has closed its borders to Kurds, while leaving the same borders open to Isis. It has reportedly also served as a willing conduit and buyer for most of Isis’ oil while routing looted antiquities through its borders.

Since Turkey shot down the Russian plane, Putin has relentlessly exposed the extent of Turkish collusion with Isis and questioned why, after more than a year of us bombing, Isis’ oil supply lines remained largely untouched – until the Russians became involved. 

Focus on such questions is deeply embarrassing for the West, not least because the EU is set to pay millions to the Turks (and offer other sweeteners) to persuade them to keep refugees their side of the border. The EU is also offering the possibility of free movement to Turkish citizens and once again holding up the possibility of joining the EU. This means that Turkey only has to grant Turkish citizenship to refugees (many of whom will be former Isis or al Nusra Front fighters) to give them free access to the EU. 

It’s hardly surprising that the politicians want us to concentrate on Donald Trump.

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Jeremy Corbyn wouldn’t get my vote, by Jean Calder

(This is the complete text of my column published on 5th September 2015 in the Brighton Argus which was edited to remove the paragraph relating to Sinn Fein and the IRA)

I didn’t have a vote in the labour leadership election and I’m was glad of that. People assumed I’d want to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, but they were wrong.
I like Corbyn’s anti austerity agenda, his respect for unions and the public sector, his rejection of privatisation and Trident and his scepticism about the European Union. However, I have some serious doubts about him. 

Despite apparent support for women’s rights, other policy positions he’s taken put their rights at risk. He appears to have been a broken reed in the Islington child abuse scandal, when desperate whistle-blowers first sought his help. I believe the stance he takes now on aspects of foreign policy put human rights at risk.

Much of what Corbyn has said about the plight of Palestinians and the brutality of Israeli state forces and illegal settlers is absolutely true. However, in rightly expressing solidarity with the Palestinians, he has also made common cause with Islamists who have no interest in establishing a just and democratic state (certainly not one offering equality to women, homosexuals or Jews). They want a caliphate, a theocratic fascist dictatorship. 

Corbyn has said it’s important to “talk” to people like Hamas and has offered the Peace process in Northern Ireland as an example. However, facilitating negotiation between participants in conflict is different from sharing a platform and giving the appearance of uncritical support for individuals such as Raed Salah of Hamas who has repeated the ‘blood libel’ against Jews (that Jews use Christian children’s blood in rituals) and says it is un-islamic to support women’s equality. 

It’s also absurd to equate violent islamists with the IRA. The IRA and Sinn Fein were not fascist organisations. Both were committed to Irish re-unification and British withdrawal, but crucially also to the maintenance of a democratic, non-sectarian secular Irish state. They was not imperialistic or expansionist. Hamas, in contrast, fights for a world-wide caliphate.

I question Corbyn’s attitude to Isis. In 2014, Corbyn said of Isis. “Yes, they are brutal,”..… “Yes, some of what they have done is quite appalling, likewise what the Americans did in Fallujah and other places is appalling.” Furious commentators have focussed on his comments on Fallujah and whether he should have equated Isis’ brutality with that of the Americans, but my concern is rather different. 

I make no defence of US conduct of the Iraq war. I question why Corbyn uses this to deflect attention from Isis atrocities. Above all, I want to know why he said only “some” of what Isis had done was “quite appalling”. I’d like to know which of Isis’ activities Corbyn thinks are acceptable. I see none – just brutal occupation by a so-called state in which men buy and sell naked children into sex slavery in public markets, pray before they rape them, stone women, throw gay men from high buildings and execute subject peoples and those they consider apostates with mediaeval cruelty – while abroad, waging war on civilians. 

Corbyn says the rise of Isis has been assisted by American and UK foreign policy. He’s right, but it didn’t create ISIS and it doesn’t excuse it – any more than the Treaty of Versailles caused or excused the rise of nazi Germany.  

There are some political forces with which no just government can safely negotiate because they are just too violent and dangerous to humanity. Hitler’s Germany was one, Pol Pot’s Cambodia another. Isis’ caliphate is yet another. At some point Isis, and crucially the fascist theocratic ideology that drives it, will need to be fought and beaten – not contained as Corbyn suggests.