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Turkish hagiography and its Western believers and parrots

Reader comment on item: Turkey's Islamist Turn, 10 Years Later

Submitted by Ianus (Poland), Nov 21, 2012 at 15:28

Dr. Pipes wrote :

>Almost unnoticed, the country exited the pro-Western era started by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) and entered the anti-Western era of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (born 1954)... The AKP government also reversed Atatürk's legacy of looking to the West for inspiration and leadership.<

Presumably, everybody who has ever dealt with Turkey or any other Oriental land is sooner or later confronted with a pervasive and enervating contrast between reality and fiction when fiction is pressed upon us as reality and reality is simply denied and suppressed on behalf of fiction. This is what comes to my mind whenever I hear the name of Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Pasha aka Ataturk in the mouth of a Turk or a Westerner. Fiction has totally replaced reality. To see why let's compare the laudatory phrases by Dr. Pipes or even better by John F. Kennedy with some of Kemal's own words.

I take them from the correspondence between him, his closest collaborators on the one hand and their Soviet allies on the other hand. Kemal was after all looking for and found quite successfully inspiration and leadership in various and most unlikely places.

Kemal said among others (p.66) :

" Our nation fully appreciates the magnitude of the sacrifices the Russian people are making to save the human race, as it itself has fought for centuries to defend the Moslem countries, which have been the object of the greed of the European imperialists. I am deeply convinced — and my conviction is shared by all my countrymen — that on the day when the working people of the West, on the one hand, and the enslaved peoples of Asia and Africa, on the other hand, understand that international capital is today using them for mutual annihilation and enslavement for the greater benefit of their masters, the day when the criminality of colonial policy is realised by the mass of the working people the world over, bourgeois rule will end.

The high moral prestige of the Government of the R. S. F. S. R. in the eyes of the working people of Europe, and the respect the Moslem world has for the Turkish people, make us confident that our close union will be enough to unite against the Western imperialists all those who hitherto have supported their rule by submission based on patience and ignorance. "

And on page 62 we read



To Comrade Stalin

Comrade Beibut Shakhtakhtinsky has told us of your work to strengthen the ties between the Bolsheviks and Moslems. Aware of the vital necessity for the proletariat of Europe and the enslaved colonial peoples to fight the common enemy, I profoundly thank you for your efforts to spread the idea of solidarity among all these strata.

When the exploiters throughout the world are no longer able, as they now unfortunately are, to counterpose these two groups of toilers politically and economically, their reign will end. The liberal policy that you are pursuing towards the Moslems peoples will, I do not doubt, have favourable results, and Russia will overcome all the misunderstandings that our common enemies are sowing between us, and achieve the downfall of Western imperialism, the necessary prelude to the destruction of capitalism. In anticipation of this, dear Comrade, I remain sincerely, Chairman of the Grand National Assembly Mustafa Kemal "

How does it compare to Kennedy's soft soap :

" The name of Ataturk brings to mind the historic accomplishments of one of the great men of this century, his inspired leadership of the Turkish People, his perceptive understanding of the modern world and his boldness as a military leader." ?

Well, Kemal indeed had a very perceptive understanding of the modern world . This is why he survived the death fatwa by the caliph and several assassination plot while Kennedy didn't. This is also why he had the opposition party all hanged in a public square when their free speech became too free and he established a one-party dictatorship instead.

The rest of Kennedy's paean reads like a hilarious parody. He says e.g. "I am proud that the United States can be a partner in this alliance linking us to the country of Ataturk and to the ideals which Ataturk helped establish in Turkey and the World." Kemal's ideals revealed personally to J.V. Stalin in his own word included also "the downfall of Western imperialism, the necessary prelude to the destruction of capitalism." Comic effects always set in where fine fiction allied with ignorance tries to replace reality and fails dismally.


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Daniel Pipes replies:

This is called cherry-picking - finding a few quotes and claiming they have more importance than almost two decades at the top of Ottoman and Turkish politics, plus implementing policies that remain of deep consequence close to a century later.

Further, I characterized Atatürk's legacy, not he personally, as one "of looking to the West for inspiration and leadership." I stand by this description.

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