Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr.
Statement in the House of Representatives
“Proposed sale of attack helicopters to turkey would destabilize region, threaten human rights”
Thursday, March 9, 2000
Mr. Speaker, the Clinton Administration is currently considering a $4 billion sale of attack helicopters to the Republic of Turkey. I am here today, Mr. Speaker, to express my strong opposition to this proposal. Providing these helicopters to Turkey will only serve to increase tensions and instability in a region of the world that is vital to U.S. interests and which is already plagued by conflicts and human rights violations. Put very simply, Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that the Turkish armed forces will use this advanced American military technology to threaten its neighbors and abuse its own citizens.
Mr. Speaker, several organizations have called upon the Clinton Administration to refuse an export license for the attack helicopters to the Turkish Army because Turkey has failed to make progress on human rights benchmarks set by the Administration in 1998 as a condition for
approval of the export license.
Among those organizations working to block the export license is Amnesty International. Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, stated that, “Based on the State Department’s own annual human rights report, Turkey fails to meet the human rights benchmarks.” Indeed, Mr. Speaker, the section on Turkey in the State Department’s annual human rights report issued just a few weeks ago, states that, “The security forces continue to torture, beat and otherwise abuse persons regularly. Torture, beatings and other abuses by security forces remained widespread, at times resulting in deaths. Security forces at times beat journalists.”
In a particularly relevant issue with regard to the helicopters, both the State Department and Amnesty International have reported the use of helicopters to attack Kurdish villages in Turkey and to transport troops to regions where they have tortured and killed civilians. Do we really want to see American advanced technology used by Turkey to accomplish these operations against the Kurdish people with even more ruthless efficiency?
Mr. Speaker, this helicopter deal is also a danger to regional stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Caucasus. Recently, there has been a thawing in Greek-Turkish relations, a trend which we all welcome. The sale of these helicopters to Turkey has the potential to upset this recent progress in the relations between these neighbors. It could well be seen by Greece as a destabilizing step, at a time when we are seeing renewed efforts to resolve the Cyprus conflict, an issue that the Administration considers a major priority. In terms of Turkey’s legitimate defense needs, it’s hard to see any justification for these advanced attack helicopters. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, it is apparent that Turkey is already over-armed. The neighboring country that has suffered the most from the Turkish Government’s aggressive militaristic and nationalistic posture is Armenia. In the years between 1915 and 1923, Turkey perpetrated Genocide against the Armenian people, resulting in 1.5 million innocent Armenian civilians being murdered.
In the year 2000, Turkey continues to maintain an illegal blockade of its border with Armenia, which has prevented the delivery of vitally needed supplies to Armenia. Even Turkish business people would like to see the opening of corridors of trade and transport with Armenia. Turkey has also backed Azerbaijan in the conflict over Nagorno Karabagh. Given this pattern of hostility, the people of Armenia have every reason to fear the acquisition of these helicopters by Turkey.
Mr. Speaker, the Government of Turkey knows how the game is played here in Washington. They have recently signed a $1.8 million-a-year contract for the lobbying services of several former Members of this Congress to push for the helicopter deal. I urge the Administration to resist this type of pressure, and I call on my colleagues in Congress to join me in using our position as elected officials to prevent this helicopter deal. Providing these helicopters to Turkey does nothing to promote American interests or values, does nothing to promote stability, and does nothing to advance the cause of human rights.