Erdogan A Dictator?

Erdogan A Dictator?
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the election as Turkey’s president in 2014. His time in office has amounted to travelling down a rocky road. The relaxation of strict Islamic rules accomplished by Mustafa Kamal Ataturk after World War I won plenty of applause. But Erdogan, a stricter Muslim, has set out to reverse the nation’s course, and he has done so with what resembles severe dictatorial power.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has brought Turkey down a rocky road (Photo from Wikimedia Commons by http://www.kremlin.ru CC BY 4.0).

Turning back the cultural clock back to Ataturk days seemed to be the goal of an attempted coup only a year ago. In a matter of days after it was quashed, 9,000 police officers and 21,000 teachers were fired. Thousands more soldiers, judges, lawyers, university deans, and government officials lost their posts. Many were jailed. In addition, the Erdogan government closed several dozen television, radio, and print outlets. And more than 60 newspapers, a score of magazines, two dozen publishing houses, and several news agencies have been shut down. Censorship became the new rule.

Erdogan has blamed the continuing unrest on the followers of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric living in the United States for the past 16 years. But he denies having any role in the opposition to Erdogan. Still, the ferment among the people hasn’t faded. Erdogan more recently arranged for a nationwide referendum so the people could either choose his style of rule or revert back to the pre-2014 modern style of governing attributed to Ataturk. The result of the mid-April plebiscite had Erdogan winning by the slimmest of margins (51.4 percent) amid widespread belief that the vote count wasn’t accurate.

Nevertheless, with new powers available to him as a result of the referendum, Erdogan initiated a new round of arrests, firings, and suspensions. Close to 4,000 additional civil servants have been fired and 45 civil society groups and health clinics have been shut down. The government even shut down Wikipedia.

In just the past year, therefore, approximately 140,000 individuals have lost their jobs, free press has been scuttled, and more than 200 journalists remain imprisoned. Erdogan insists that his reforms don’t merit calling him a dictator. But international election monitors released a negative report on the conduct of the recent referendum. Many in Turkey believe the election was rigged.

Turkey is one of the 50 original members of the United Nations (there are now 193 members). The nation won acceptance in NATO in 1952, three years after the alliance’s launching. Long seeking approval for membership in the European Union, Turkey’s hopes to be part of the Brussels-based super government have never been realized. Perhaps the fact that 97 percent of Turkey’s land area is in Asia with the remaining three percent at its western tip considered part of Europe keeps the EU from conferring membership. Turkey has long been considered a “bridge to Europe” for many nations in Asia Minor.

But Turkey needs to understand that entangling alliances come with a price detrimental to independence, just as Brexit has demonstrated. From an American standpoint, let’s work to untangle ourselves from our UN and NATO alliances to preserve American liberty and independence. Inform yourself and others on the dangers of foreign entanglements.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


The President and NATO

The President and NATO
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

During his campaign for president, Donald Trump frequently employed the word “obsolete” to register his negativity about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). After he won the election and was only a few days away from inauguration, he repeated his dour opinion on January 16, 2017, with “I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number one, it was obsolete because it was designed many, many years ago.”

Is Trump changing his view on NATO? (Image from Wikimedia Commons, by Tennessee National Guard Public Affairs Office, public domain).

Now that he is President, he has reversed his view on NATO. On April 12, 2017, he declared, “I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.” But there has been no alteration within NATO during the past year. Mr. Trump had just met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House. The NATO chieftain, who has never considered the alliance obsolete, smiled broadly at the Trump reversal.

Born in 1949, NATO cited Article 51 of the UN Charter for its authorization to exist. The official NATO Handbook (1995 edition) contains the text of the pact’s Preface and 14 short articles. That NATO is a UN stepchild is clearly spelled out in Article 1 stating, “The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations….” Explanatory text appearing in the NATO Handbook clearly states that the pact was “Created within the framework of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.”

Because the pact is a treaty, Senate ratification had to be gained. Then-Secretary of State Dean Acheson, one of its most determined champions, stated during a March 1949 speech that NATO “is designed to fit precisely into the framework of the United Nations … The United States government and the governments with which we are associated in the treaty are convinced that it is essential measure for strengthening the United Nations.” There was no hiding the fact that NATO was designed to be a UN stepchild.

In short order, twelve nations from Western Europe and North America signed on as founding members. The pact’s Article 5 states “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.” That provision encouraged 13 senators to refuse their support, not nearly enough to block U.S. entry into the alliance. So NATO began and the American people were left with an impression created by the media and NATO supporters that its entire purpose was to prevent any additional Soviet expansion westward.

The UN/NATO combination then proceeded to assure that America would never again win a war. Consider: the Korean War became stalemate and NATO’s hand was in it from the beginning. The Vietnam War, fought under a NATO clone called SEATO, ended in defeat for the U.S. The wars in which Americans were fighting and dying were now being fought without the constitutional requirement for a congressional declaration of war. Highly questionable NATO forays into Bosnia and Somalia followed. Authorization for the war in Iraq came directly from the UN. And the U.S. is now 14 years into a NATO-authorized struggle in Afghanistan. NATO now has 27 member nations.

NATO has never been “obsolete.”  It has greatly aided its UN sponsor in the gobbling up of more aspects of national sovereignty. So, Mr. Trump was wrong when he said NATO had become a useless alliance because it was “obsolete.” And he is additionally wrong to give it his newly created approval. What he should do is work to have the U.S. withdraw from both of these entangling alliances. The millions who voted for him would surely cheer such moves. And America would cease to be the world’s policeman, an assignment nowhere found in the U.S. Constitution to which the President and many other federal officials swore a solemn oath to uphold.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


How Castro Seized Control of Cuba

How Castro Seized Control of Cuba
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

On April 9, 1948, 21-year-old Fidel Castro took part in a bloody communist uprising in Bogota, Colombia. While shouting over a seized radio station, “This is a Communist revolution,” he and his marauding comrades proceeded to murder hundreds while setting fires that claimed many more lives. Arrested and charged with murder, he boasted, “I did a good work today; I killed a priest.” But the Colombian authorities merely sent him out of their country.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Fidel Castro in 2003 (photo by Antonio Milena – ABr Editing: Lucas (crop, blur, retouch, color, modify) (This image) [CC BY 3.0 br], via Wikimedia Commons).

Back in his native Cuba in 1953, Fidel led a band of insurrectionists in an attack on one of the country’s military posts.  Arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison by the Batista government, he benefitted from a general amnesty in 1954. Castro then made his way to New York, where he met with friends who provided him with millions of dollars in aid and promises to smuggle quantities of arms into Cuba — which promises they kept.

In 1956, he went to Mexico, where he received training from die-hard communist forces who had fought in the Spanish Civil War. It was there that he met and enlisted Argentine communist Ernesto “Che” Guevara as his second in command. Before 1956 ended, the two led a band numbering less than a hundred into Cuba, established a base of operations, benefitted from a U.S. arms embargo aimed at the Batista government, and advanced toward their eventual takeover of the island nation.

In the United States in May 1957, a pro-Communist named William Wieland won appointment as the head of the State Department’s Caribbean Desk.  When U.S. Ambassador to Cuba Arthur Gardner warned his superiors (Wieland certainly included) that Castro was indeed a communist, he was speedily replaced and prevented from briefing his successor, Earl E.T. Smith. To put it mildly, that constituted a highly unusual break in policy. Instead, Wieland sent Smith to Herbert Matthews at the New York Times for his briefing and Matthews, who had already been heaping praises on Castro, assured the newly appointed ambassador that Castro was a trusted friend of freedom. Nevertheless, Smith learned the truth, reported what he learned to Washington, and was likewise replaced.

In mid-1958, former Assistant Secretary of State Spruille Braden warned, “Rebel chief Fidel Castro is a pawn in the Kremlin’s international intrigue.” Over in Mexico, U.S. Ambassador Robert C. Hill sent a similar message to Washington. But Secretary of State Dean Rusk and President John F. Kennedy vouched for the bearded revolutionary. They also did nothing to rid the U.S. government of William Wieland and his cohort, Roy Rubottom. After Castro took control of the island nation on January 1, 1959, he visited the United States, lied about his communist purposes, and won glorification from government officials and media heavyweights. Then, on December 2, 1961, he boldly confessed to having been a communist during his entire adult life. Only then did the U.S. government classify the Castro regime as an enemy.

Three months prior to Castro seizing control of Cuba, private citizen Robert Welch published the truth about the Cuban revolutionary in his small American Opinion magazine. He stated in September 1958, “Now the evidence from Castro’s whole past that he is a Communist agent carrying out Communist orders and plans is overwhelming.”  Welch would later found The John Birch Society.

No one in government, Wieland and Rubottom included, ever paid any price for their treachery.  Media luminaries who lauded Castro continued in their posts. But a price was paid, and is still being paid, by the Cuban people. Since the Castro takeover, thousands have been jailed or executed. More thousands have died at sea attempting to flee the Communist hellhole. In March 2016, President Obama journeyed to Cuba to start a resumption of relations with Fidel and his equally tyrannical brother Raúl. Fidel has now gone to his Maker and Raúl has continued the Castros’ tyrannical rule.

Cuba’s fate over the past 50-plus years brings to mind the adage, “Crime unpunished is crime rewarded.” The Castro brothers have never been punished. Nor have State Department officials who helped them into power and paved the way for like-minded diplomats to be their successors. A house cleaning is still very much needed.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


The Complex Syrian War

The Complex Syrian War
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

The struggle in Syria has lasted more than five years. Its cost, just to Syria alone, is 500,000 dead and four times that number uprooted from their homes. Many of the displaced have become refugees seeking asylum in Turkey, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere. These refugees have become a serious problem where they have settled – especially in Germany.

Azaz, Syria during the Syrian civil war. August 16, 2012, Azaz residents pick up after aerial bombings. (Photo by Voice of America News: Scott Bob report from Azaz, Syria. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons).

But what is this conflict in Syria all about? It started with the so-called Arab Spring in 2011. That uprising quickly spread throughout the Middle East wreaking its havoc in Egypt until a military coup overturned a Muslim Brotherhood takeover. It led to chaos in Libya and elsewhere enabling forces loyal to Al Qaeda to prevail. In Syria, the Arab Spring emboldened opponents of the government led by Bashar al-Assad. They took up arms and sought to oust him.

Soon, the Kurds who populate eastern Syria, northern Iraq, and a portion of southern Turkey had their own reasons for opposing Assad. Long seeking a country of their own, they sent forces against the Assad government with marginal success. Then, out of the spreading chaos, Muslim militants who opposed Assad formed ISIS and seized control of portions of Syria and Iraq. All of this was bad enough but the conflict worsened when Russia and Iran entered the fray on the side of Assad.

The rebels seeking to topple Assad began receiving arms and financial aid from the United States and Saudi Arabia. Sunni Muslims who dominate Saudi Arabia and most of the Arab world always opposed any moves by the numerically inferior Shiites who dominate Iran. Yet Assad and his government favor the Shiite rather than the Sunni type of Islam.

If you’ve decided this whole conflagration is impossible to figure out, or too confusing to understand, you’re not alone. If you wonder why the U.S. has become involved, you are in a league with millions of fellow Americans. But consider this: The United States supplies arms and air power on the side of the anti-Assad rebels and Russia favors the Assad regime by sending military supplies and engaging in some forms of military intervention. Could the chaos in Syria expand to a greater war outside of Syria? That possibility cannot be ignored.

Over the years while this ongoing conflict has continued, U.S. aid to anti-Assad rebels has ended up in the hands of ISIS. Some of the promised aid led to the attack in Benghazi where our nation’s ambassador and three other Americans perished. Other U.S. aid went to Kurdish forces whose loyalty to the U.S. is highly questionable.

One policy that few have voiced is that our nation ought to stay out of this mess and similar messes. But those who believe it is America’s duty to create an American-led empire – the neoconservatives in both major political parties – continue to advocate involvement in this costly and seemingly endless struggle. Isn’t it time for America to mind its own business?

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


No Punishment Acceptable for Those Who Served in Good Faith

No Punishment Acceptable for Those Who Served in Good Faith
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

Ten to fifteen years ago, the U.S. military found itself in need of more personnel. In California, an overly ambitious recruiter started giving bonuses and arranging forgiveness of student loans to those who would enlist or extend their time in service. Members of the state’s National Guard, upwards of 2,000 in number, accepted the payments in good faith and stayed in uniform. Many were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

CHANGI NAVAL BASE, Singapore (Dec. 12, 2011) Marines serving with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (11th MEU) prepare to depart the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) to begin a training exercise. (Photo via Official U.S. Navy Page Flickr by Cpl. Gene Allen Ainsworth III/Released).

Approximately ten years later, these individuals began receiving notices telling them the money they had been given was a mistake and they should return it to the government. In 2012, the overly eager master sergeant who doled out the cash and benefits pleaded guilty to approving the more than $15 million handed out to recipients. Our nation’s military, already suffering near exhaustion from more than 15 years of combat in Afghanistan and on the verge of more missions in Iraq and elsewhere, emerged from this mess with a brand new black eye.

Former Army Captain Christopher Van Meter received one of the bonuses and then fulfilled his commitment. He even came home with a Purple Heart that he earned in battle. After being notified that he owed the government what he had received, he told a reporter: “I spent years of my life deployed, missed out on birthdays and deaths in the family, got blown up … and now I’m told I haven’t fulfilled my contract.” Others caught in this foul up obviously shared his disgust, even outrage. Some were told to repay as much as $20,000. There have been cases where wages were taken from the paychecks earned in civilian jobs after service commitments had been fulfilled. Some have even been assessed penalties over and above the amount they accepted ten or more years ago.

Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a Marine veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, labeled the repayment demands “disgraceful and insulting.” After complaints by veterans groups and some publicity appearing in the Los Angeles Times, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter called off the attempts to retrieve the funds. There are now demands coming from veterans groups to have the military reimburse any recipients who may have been frightened into paying back what they had received. The Pentagon plans to set up a team to review each of the cases.

Mistakes in the military and elsewhere will always be made and this was an unusual one. Anyone who has served in the military knows that snafus and unnecessary mix-ups will occur. Proper handling of this one is surely called for. And it looks as though the good faith soldiers who accepted the bonuses will get to keep them.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


Iran Payoff Earns More Disrespect

Iran Payoff Earns More Disrespect
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

Last January, the Obama administration quietly airlifted $400 million in foreign currency to Iran. An unmarked cargo plane delivered the funds and the completion of the deal just happened to occur on the same day the Tehran regime released four Americans previously imprisoned for a variety of charges. The suspiciously unmarked plane also delivered part of a $1.3 billion payment for Iranian funds held in the U.S. ever since the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-1981. The transaction certainly smelled like a ransom payment, something President Obama and his press corps have vociferously denied. But the incident brought back memories of the 1979-1981 hostage crisis when America suffered unneeded indignity and unnecessary loss of life.

Two American hostages being detained in Iran after the siege of the American embassy, 1979 (image by an unknown author [public domain or CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons). The CIA organized and directed a coup that helped to keep the pro-American Shah Reza Pahlavi in power in 1953, an entangling alliance that our founders warned us about. Yet, American and British policymakers turned on him in the mid-1970s.

On November 4, 1979, 66 American diplomats and embassy workers were captured when a mob of student demonstrators stormed the U.S. embassy. Hoping to show their solidarity for “oppressed minorities” and Islam’s “special treatment of women,” the leaders of the assault immediately freed 13 women and African-Americans. Another male embassy worker with health problems was released. The remaining 52 were held hostage for 444 days. The Iranian students were egged on by anti-American fervor in the wake of Iran’s ouster of pro-American Shah Reza Pahlavi and the return to the country of anti-American Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The students then turned over their captives to Iranian authorities while celebrating their success. Many of these hostages endured beatings, solitary confinement and threats of execution. The detainment for most was ghastly.

President Carter meekly denounced the seizure of our embassy and the confinement of U.S. citizens, appealing for their release on humanitarian grounds. Initially, the Iranians intended to hold the embassy and its occupants for only a short time. But Khomeini, now the de facto political leader of his country, found the insult given to the United States a source of pride and a blow at the “Great Satan.” He proclaimed, “This has united our people. Our opponents do not dare act against us.” The response of the Carter administration to the outrage was pitiful.

Something else happened during the early days of this crisis that few recall or wish to mention. Approximately two weeks after the seizure of the embassy, Khomeini announced his intention to withdraw Iran’s millions from New York banks. Only then, not when our embassy was seized and our people imprisoned, did President Carter declare a state of emergency and freeze Iranian assets. The taking of our embassy and the treatment accorded its personnel weren’t reasons enough to merit an emergency declaration. But the threat of sizable withdrawals from the big banks had to be countered.

On April 24, 1980, President Carter sent a pair of helicopters on an ill-fated rescue mission. Flying off U.S. Navy carriers in the Persian Gulf, the copter mission proved to be a complete disaster. The helicopters ran into sand storms and were destroyed. Eight American servicemen and one Iranian civilian died during the botched attempt. And Jimmy Carter’s reelection effort suffered a huge setback. On January 20, 1981, the 52 hostages came home to be greeted by a defeated Jimmy Carter during his last day in office. Though not alone as a reason for his not being reelected, the weakness of America during the hostage crisis certainly figured in the choice of many voters that previous November.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) has angrily stated that the delivery of cash to Iran amounted to an Obama cave-in, a ransom payment that America has sworn never to deliver. “Hundreds of millions in the pockets of a terrorist regime means a more dangerous region,” he said while adding, “The Iran nuclear deal was a historic mistake.” He wondered, “What else is the Obama administration hiding?”

Good question. America’s foreign policy has largely remained hidden from its citizens, interfering time and again in the governing of other countries for its own gain. It’s time our foreign policy return to the advice of our founders to regain its former level of prominence and respect around the globe.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.