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 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.


President Obama’s Speech at a Mosque

President Obama’s Speech at a Mosque
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

On February 3rd, President Barack Obama left the nation’s capital to deliver a speech at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, his first address delivered at an Islamic Mosque. What he said on that occasion was noteworthy for several distortions of truth, but also for leaving out important history.

The President stated, “For more than a thousand years, people have been drawn to Islam’s message of peace. And the very word itself, Islam, comes from salaam – peace.” Not so; it doesn’t mean peace. A decent dictionary will confirm that the word “Islam” means submission.

Mr. Obama then told his Muslim audience, “Jefferson and John Adams had their own copies of the Koran.” That’s correct but they obtained them, not because of any affection for what Islam’s foundational book states, but in order to know why American vessels were being attacked and their crewmembers imprisoned by North Africa’s Muslim pirates operating out of Tripoli. Any U.S. Marine would confirm that “from the shores of Tripoli” in the Marine Corps Hymn refers to Marines of the early 19th century taking action to put a stop to such treachery.

The President insisted that Muslim scholars of today “know Islam has a tradition of respect for other faiths.” Again, not so. Wherever Islam dominates, people of other faiths are classified as second-class citizens who must pay a tax and, in some cases, face execution.

More of what Mr. Obama said during his remarks in Baltimore can be shown to be similarly deficient. But the history of Islam’s determined forays westward over many centuries should be included in a discussion of the movement begun by Mohammed. Before the end of the 7th century, Muslims had subdued and occupied large areas of Asia, Northern Africa, some Mediterranean islands, and portions of Europe.

From a base they secured in Spain, a Mohammedan army stormed across the Pyrenees into France where they were defeated at the historic 732 Battle of Tours by a smaller Christian force led by Charles Martel. In his famous “History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” British historian Edward Gibbon stated that had the Muslims triumphed on that occasion, “the Koran would have been taught at Oxford and Cambridge Universities instead of the Bible.”

After Islamists captured Constantinople in 1453, they moved into Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary. At the famous Battle of Belgrade, another smaller Christian army led by Hungary’s King John Hunyadi defeated Muslim forces led by Mehmet II. In 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain triumphed over Islam’s followers known as Moors. The next attempt of Mohammed’s followers to gain dominance in Europe occurred in a 1571 naval battle at Lepanto off the Greek coast where an outnumbered Christian naval force led by Don Juan of Austria defeated the forces of Islam led by Ali Pasha. Then in 1683, 200,000 Muslims led by Mustafa surrounded Vienna and prepared to conquer that strategic city but were met and defeated by Poland’s King John Sobieski and his outnumbered 80,000 troops.

Mr. Obama mentioned none of this. Nor did he refer to the current flood of Muslim immigrants into Western Europe or the threat posed by those who intend to take control of the West, not by force of arms, but by sheer numbers and the weapon known as terrorism.

The President’s speech was deficient in many ways, a deficiency shared by practically all of American media who would have the people of our country believe that Islam stands for peace and poses no threat to America and the West. Honest history tells a far different story.

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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 Ever Dwindling Iraqi Christian Minority, Thanks to US Foreign Policy

The Ever Dwindling Iraqi Christian Minority, Thanks to US Foreign Policy
by JBS President John F. McManus

Newspapers and television channels are full of pictures showing Iraq’s Yazidis fleeing from the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Thousands of helpless men, women, and children who have lived for centuries in Iraq’s Niniveh province have been uprooted by Islamic militants who demand conversion to their brand of Islam or face death.

President Obama has responded by sending war planes to attack the militants and air drops to provide food and water to the refugees. He has also responded to similar attacks aimed at the Kurds living in Northern Iraq. For them, it is military equipment to help them defend themselves. Known as tough fighters, the Kurds have fared well during the turmoil generated by ISIS.

There seems, however, to be little or no concern from the White House and Congress about the Christians who have been targeted continuously by militant Islamists and now by ISIS. In Mosul (also in Niniveh province), where thousands of Catholics have lived and worshiped since biblical times, Catholic Mass is no longer celebrated as it has been for almost two millennia. Priests have been slain and the people have been terrorized. For all the years when Catholics populated the region, they have withstood numerous threats, especially during the years since Mohammed started the Muslim religion in the Seventh century. But what has occurred since the U.S. invasion in 2003 has turned out to be their worst nightmare.

ISIS warriors have demanded conversion to Islam or death. When a 45-year-old Catholic retired army officer living in Mosul was told by ISIS marauders that he had to leave his home and business immediately or face death for not converting to Islam, he gathered his family and fled. So have most other Catholics. But there has been no outcry from President Obama about the Christian victims of ISIS. There were once 1.5 million Christians (mostly Catholics) living throughout Iraq. Ever since the U.S. invasion in 2003, they have been attacked ruthlessly by various branches of Islam. But, while concern is raised about the current plight of Yazidis and Kurds, the fate of remaining Christians has been ignored.

The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking minority who number 200,000 worldwide. The Kurds are a breakaway sect from Islam which means that their ancestry does not reach back as far as does that of the first Iraqi Christians. Most of the 30 million Kurds worldwide live in northern Iraq and parts of neighboring Iran, Syria, and Turkey. They have long sought to become an independent country that they would call Kurdistan. The Christians who have fled will most likely never return. Those who haven’t fled face almost incomprehensible threats.

The devastation visited upon Yazidis, Kurds, and Christians is a consequence of the U.S. invasion, an attack on a country that supposedly possessed weapons of mass destruction and wouldn’t hesitate to use them. But the claim that they had such weapons was a lie. The devastation wreaked on Iraq by the invaders contributed to unleashing militant Islamists including the latest threat posed by ISIS. And recall that the Obama administration helped supply ISIS in Syria, but now fights them in Iraq. If peace is indeed possible in this region, the United States should follow a totally new course: vacate the area, cease policing the world, terminate the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz goal to build an American empire, and begin minding only the business of America.