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The Independent huffs and puffs on war

by Bryan Hemming


“Anyone who never made a mistake never made anything” goes one of Albert Einstein’s most famous quotes. No, it doesn’t; I just checked, and I was wrong. Einstein actually said: “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Though similar in sentiment, the sentences have quite different meanings.

There is little doubt we bloggers get lots of things wrong, after all, we’re just nerds and geeks in tinfoil hats gawking at screens all day long. Or so the corporate media would have everyone believe. But Einstein was implying even the greatest minds in the world can make mistakes. Even big, important, national newspapers.

Take this morning’s Independent, for example. Someone down at the editorial department had the bright idea of dashing off a few comments about Turkey. Why not, everybody else is. Damning in its faint approval for the country, joining in on the bombing of Isis, there was an ‘and about time too’ air to the piece. After all, more bombing of Muslims has to be a good thing. Let’s not forget how David Cameron more or less warned British Muslims not to talk bad about bombing Muslims only just recently. That’s what being British is all about. Come to that, why go to all the bother of bombing Muslims if you can get them to do it themselves? So, if sounding upbeat about bombing Muslims is one of the things being British is all about, what is being Turkish all about?

Blind fidelity is not one of the things being Turkish is all about, it seems. Lamentable in the way it chooses to ignore the West’s own role in the attempt to topple Syria’s leader, Bashar Assad, the Independent’s criticism of one of our most important partners in NATO is blatant in its hypocrisy. Blasting off with a below-the-belt blow at Turkey’s apparent want of consistency, the opening is chiefly notable for its self-important, jingoistic style. Turkey is singled out for admonishment for its lack of keenness to bomb the new right side. It’s as though the U.S., its Western allies and the oil-rich gulf states had nothing to do with training, supporting and arming Isis barely months ago. There’s nothing like flexible consistency.

“Within the space of 48 hours, the policy of the Turkish government towards Isis appears to have changed decisively. After months of ambiguous prevarication, there have been air strikes against targets in Syria, arrests of suspected militants in Turkey and agreement that the United States can use the Incirlik air base in its own operations against Isis. These are bold moves, although they are not before time.

It has been clear ever since Isis emerged as a genuine military and political force that its defeat would be possible only if Arab nations acted against it. The sheer depth of America’s armed might meant it has had to be at the forefront of operations – but the only way to crush the notion that Isis is acting in the interests of ordinary, Sunni Muslims is if other Sunni-dominated states in the region join the coalition of forces ranged against it.”

See the problem here? Being Arab is another thing being Turkish is not about. The second sentence in the second paragraph reads “It has been clear ever since Isis emerged as a genuine military and political force that its defeat would be possible only if Arab nations acted against it.” Taken in context with the preceding paragraph it’s abundantly clear the writer is classifying Turkey as an Arab nation. This is not a small mistake for a national newspaper to make in an important editorial piece on war. It is the sort of mistake that can sometimes lead to diplomatic repercussions, given the serious nature of the subject. If the Independent doesn’t even know the ethnic make-up of Turkey how on earth can it publish an editorial on the subject with an underlying hint of reproach? Along with religious differences, ethnicity is one of the main things all armed conflicts in the Middle East are about.

Having travelled through Turkey extensively during the 1980s I can report with confidence, though Turkey does have a Arab minority mainly situated in south east Anatolia, the country is far from being an Arab nation. Despite the fact history has bequeathed it a rich variety of ethnicities and cultures, the population is overwhelmingly Turkic in origin. Any journalist writing on the Middle East should be aware of such vital distinctions. In the same way the Scots and the Welsh despise being referred to as English, the Turks despise being called Arabs. Not to recognise how important this is, is to not understand the very essence of the Middle East, and the reasons behind the various disputes in the region. In other words: if you haven’t managed to grasp the very basics, it is not only a mistake, but also the height of arrogance to pontificate on the matter.

To counter any so-called moderation of my comment and subsequent edits to the article, I have posted screenshots.

screencap of comment beneath article

screencap of comment beneath article

The article appeared under the title: “Turkey steps up: The anti-Isis coalition will benefit, both practically and symbolically, from the commitment of another Sunni ally” at this URL:


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Independent Voices? | Bryan Hemming
Jul 26, 2015 1:42 PM

[…] my comments on the astounding ignorance shown in an editorial on Turkey and the Middle East published in […]