Sunday, April 10, 2005

In Many Turks' Eyes, U.S. Remains the Enemy

"In Turkey, heralded as the model of a Westward-looking Muslim democracy, sales records were shattered this spring by a book that imagines a U.S. invasion of this nation, a longtime U.S. ally. Polls show an overwhelming majority of Turks regard that scenario as a real possibility.

Mainstream newspapers here routinely mock U.S. troops in Iraq, and many feature breathless but unsubstantiated reports of American atrocities there, including mythical accounts of troops harvesting organs from dead civilians. One paper announced the U.S. offensive against Fallujah in November with a photo illustration of President Bush wearing a swastika."

"Conspiracy theories, a staple topic at teahouses and water coolers, are now taken so seriously that in December the U.S. Embassy felt compelled to issue a statement denying that the United States had caused the tsunami in South Asia and, with it, the deaths of more than 200,000 people."

" The latest survey, gathered in February by the private Metropoll organization, found that four in 10 Turks regard the United States as their country's "biggest enemy." That is more than double the number who named Greece, the ancient rival Turkey has come to the brink of war with three times in the last half-century.

"Yes, definitely, the opinions are changing," said Ismail Baykus, 45, at the door of his stationery store in a middle-class Istanbul neighborhood. "Based on what we hear and see in the press, the Americans talk one way and then act another, especially when they say they will bring stability and peace to a region."

"They're all lies!" shouted an elderly fruit seller standing nearby. "All lies!"

" When the war ended after just three weeks, 82 percent of Turks said they were disappointed that Iraq's military did not put up a better fight.

"It obviously all starts with Iraq," said a senior Western diplomat in Ankara. "All this is going on in the context of the U.S. sending 140,000 troops next door."

But more than two years later, U.S. officials voice growing concern that the rift between the two governments not only has not healed, but is deepening."

" But while Turkey is a secular republic, it is populated by Muslims, whose faith defines the community of Islamic believers as one body, the umma. When the Pew Research Center surveyed global attitudes on the Iraq invasion, Turkish "unfavorable" views toward the United States clustered around 80 percent, the same level reported in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

"It was obvious after September 11 that the United States was going to feel provoked and attack a Muslim country," said Sezai Oflaz, 33, carving meat in a kabob restaurant overlooking the Bosporus Strait, which divides Europe from Asia through the center of Istanbul."
In Many Turks' Eyes, U.S. Remains the Enemy (

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