Aug 13, 2015

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu unfortunately talked out of both sides of his mouth last month in his Washington Post op-ed extolling his country’s battle against terrorism.

Instead of letting the Post list his supposed credentials, he declared them himself, and in his opening lines no less: “A professor of history, diplomat and politician.”

“Building on centuries of statecraft,” he proudly asserted, “Turkey has always put diplomacy squarely at the center of the conduct of its international relations.”

How can a country, only 92 years old, boast “centuries” of “statecraft”?

He was including the old Ottoman Empire, of course, which in centuries past straddled the adjoining continents of Asia, Europe and Africa.

But do the facts support his inflated claim?

Better yet, how did the Ottoman subjects feel about the “diplomacy” of his Turkish ancestors?

Regrettably, we can’t ask the million-plus Armenians mercilessly murdered in the Turkish genocide of 1915.

But one other example alone unmasks his grandiose contention and—if history is any guide—bodes ill for the belatedly proclaimed Turkish decision to “join” the Global Coalition to Counter Islamic State.

That horrific instance is the ten-foot-tall Skull Tower in Nis, Serbia.

Jutting grimly from its four forbidding walls, 952 ghastly Serbian skulls chillingly gazed out from fourteen rows—each comprising 68 ghoulish heads—when it was first built in 1809.

The ravages of time have reduced the original collection to 54 skulls today.

The architect of this “stately craft” was none other than the namesake of Ahmet Davutoglu, Hurshit Ahmet Pasha, a Turkish governor, who wanted to build a monument to flaunt his hatred of the rebel Serbs—and instill terror in the surviving civilian population.

But the Serbs still scorned their Turkish overlords and eventually chased them out of Serbia, then enclosed the tower with a chapel and declared it a cultural icon of exceptional importance for their children.

Yet, 206 years later, the Turkish prime minister, this self-proclaimed professor of Ottoman history, has trouble remembering it, let alone understanding its significance for the people of Serbia.

But French poet Alfonse de Lamartine never forgot it after first seeing it in 1833: “My eyes and my heart greeted the remains of those brave men whose cut-off heads made the cornerstone of the independence of their homeland,” he movingly wrote.

“May the Serbs keep this monument! It will always teach their children the value of the independence of a people, showing them the real price their fathers had to pay for it.”

The poet would be pleased to know that Serbs have turned the place into a holy relic, and like the modern Israelis who revere the mountain of Masada, honor it accordingly.

There is a similar monument in the making by the Islamic State cutthroats who swarmed into Syria from Turkey like predatory locusts.

They heartlessly beheaded dozens of American, Kurdish and Shiite captives, and ruthlessly enslaved thousands of Yezidi women.

Mr. Davutoglu is hardly alarmed by their track record, ignores the role his government played in their growth, only now and pro forma ascribes acts of terrorism to them, but goes ballistic in vilifying Bashar al-Assad and the Kurds affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as the violators of “International law.”

He and his president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, initially, wanted to use these cutthroats to topple Bashar al-Assad in Damascus and crush the blossoming Kurdish experiment in self-rule in the liberated cantons of Afrin, Kobane and Jazira.

But the Kurds, like the Serbians of 19th century, fought back and forced ISIS to flee. The United States—credit should go where it is due—played a significant role in the liberation of Kobane, as it did when Kurds took Gire Sipi or Tel Abyad last June.

While the whole world was celebrating the Kurdish victory, the talking heads in Ankara grumbled that advancing Kurdish forces were subjecting Arab villages to ethnic cleansing.

No impartial party has seconded their absurd allegation.

Sabah, a Turkish daily—the government’s mouthpiece—screamed: “YPG are more dangerous than Daesh.” Daesh is the shortened Arabic name for Islamic State and YPG stands for People’s Protection Units in Kurdish.

Sadly, Ankara has now technically joined hands with Daesh—with America and NATO ineptly pretending otherwise—to fight the Kurds, members of YPG and PKK, the only groups with a history of defeating these butchers.

Islamic State can thank the Turks for their good fortune.

What should the Kurdish position be in this ever-expanding war of the Middle East with many moving parts as it were?

When Benjamin Netanyahu met President Obama at the White House for the first time, he gifted him a book, The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain.

When I read the account, I thought the Israeli prime minister had disrespected the American president by implying that he was inept or “gundi,” a clueless villager, as we would say in Kurdish.

Given what has transpired in the last two weeks, one wonders if the Israeli prime minister knew his American counterpart more than he is credited for.

Asking Turkey to help the United States to fight Islamic State is, alas, like using a soiled towel to mop the floor! While no one has been so bold to predict the end of the war in Syria, a new one in Turkey is in the making as Turks and Kurds go at it again.

Leave it to a literary man, Nathanial Hawthorne, to tell us what might be their upshot: “Our past is a rough draft of our future.”

That means a second hideous “Tower of Skulls” may be rising, thanks to Turkish help in midwifing the diabolical child called ISIS—which as an adult threatens terrifying mass murder far beyond its existing borders.

This op-ed originally appeared on

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