Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Tale of US attack hits mark in Turkey

Aljazeera - US warplanes relentlessly pound Istanbul and Ankara, killing hundreds, while the rest of the country is in flames: Washington has just launched operation Metal Storm against its former ally, Turkey.

The futuristic novel by two young Turkish writers has sold more than 100,000 copies since it came out in December - a huge run in a country where most books get printings of a few thousand at best.

Metal Storm seems to be riding a wave of strong anti-US sentiment in the country sparked by the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which resulted in tensions between the two Nato allies.

The novel, set in May 2007, begins when Turkish troops deployed in northern Iraq to protect the ethnic Turkish Turkmen community there, come under attack from US forces.

A huge disinformation campaign launched by Washington has people thinking that the Turks fired first, while the true aim of the United States is to seize Turkey's rich borax mines, which account for 60% of the world's boron production.

Turkey's major cities come under heavy fire, with huge loss of life, while Ankara, taken by surprise, turns to the European Union and Russia for help.

Among other things, boron is used in the manufacture of fibreglass insulation, as an ignition source in rockets, as a radiation shield and neutron detector in nuclear reactors and in the aerospace industry because of its high-strength and lightweight.

Critics have panned the book's literary merits and explain its success solely by the current strain in ties between the US and Turkey.

Bilateral relations, forged in the Cold War years, suffered a major blow two years ago when the Turkish parliament, dominated by the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), refused the US permission to open a northern front to Iraq through southeast Turkey.

Since then, despite repeated assurances from both sides that the "strategic partnership" is as strong as ever, the chill between Washington and Ankara has been evident.

After a recent visit to Ankara, outgoing US Undersecretary of Defence Douglas Feith warned, according to the Turkish media, that the partnership between the two countries would not survive unless Ankara took steps to defuse anti-US sentiment among its population.

Turkish newspapers, analysing Metal Storm's success, say the novel has found a strong readership among politicians - notably among the AKP, some of whose members have termed US military actions in Iraq "genocide" - as well as among high-ranking soldiers.

The book's authors, science-fiction buff Orkun Ucar and Burak Turna, a former journalist specialising in defence issues - do not conceal their opposition to US policy and say their plot is not as far-fetched as it seems.

"This novel is not just another conspiracy theory - it is a possibility theory," Turna said in a recent interview with a magazine.

"The United States today has a crusader mentality," Ucar added. "The Americans today are just like the crusaders who seized Jerusalem centuries ago."

In any case, anti-Americanism sells.

The book's publishers, Timas, have just ordered a fresh run of 50,000 copies, according to company spokeswoman Yasemin Nak.

Why does she think the book is so popular?

"Because it appeals to the subconscious of the Turkish reader."

I personally am getting tired of pretending they are our Democratic ally. Their day of being useful has past. They can't even be bribed to co-operate, and their decision to not allow us to transit, and forcing all our forces to enter Iraq from the south, has contributed to the continuing violence in the Sunni Triangle. If we had rolled through there on the way to Baghdad, back during the brief window when the rules of engagement were more sensible, there would be less brave ones there now.