Though we head into 2016 without a direct war between the US and Russia, such a conflict still hovers over mankind. It's hard to imagine Uncle Sam relinquishing his supremacy without a crazed fight. By abetting Turkey in shooting down that Russian plane, the US achieved one important objective, at least, and that's scuttling the Russia, Turkey natural gas pipeline, the Blue Stream. Through its EU vassals, the US is now trying to block the expansion of Nord Stream, a pipeline that goes directly from Russia to Germany. The American-directed regime change in the Ukraine was also an attempt to interfere with Russia's gas export. Energy is Russia's economic lifeline and its political leverage. Rupture that advantage, and you cripple Russia, make it compliant to your wishes. It ain't gonna happen.
Say, is there a bigger weasel in world politics than Recep Tayyip Erdogan? With him, a yes may be a no, and a warm hug is a prelude to a backstab. On September 23rd, Erdogan went to Moscow for the opening of the grand Cathedral Mosque of Moscow, partly built with Turkish money, and while there, he called Putin "dear brother." Shaking the Russian leader's hand, Erdogan also grabbed the man's elbow, such was his affection for Putin. (I'm reminded of how Berlusconi used to lean all over Bush.) On November 24th, however, Erdogan gave the order to shoot down that Russian plane. Two Russians died. At first cockily claiming credit for this near trigger to World War III, Erdogan is now blaming it on Abidin Üna, his Air Force chief. What a weasel. With such men, though, words mean nothing. They can be contradicted from one moment to the next.
Erdogan, then, sounds like any recent US President. Shameless weasels all, they will arm, fund, train and do business with terrorists while pretending to fight terrorism. Triggering a horrible refugee crisis, they will pose as protectors of these poor wretches begging in Turkish cities or overwhelming Europe. There are already 2.3 million Syrians in Turkey, with 220,000 in Gaziantep, and at least 330,000 in Istanbul. Only 261,000 Syrians are in refugee camps, with the rest left to fend for themselves. Most are penniless, unable to speak Turkish and legally prevented from working. These miserable Syrians are only slightly better off than the stray dogs and cats you find all over Turkey.
As the left shout "refugees welcome," the right cynically pretend that most of these refugees are merely economic migrants or potential terrorists, but almost no one is demanding with any urgency that the US, the EU, Israel, Turkey and the Gulf States stop their criminal war against Syria. How can all these nations gang up to terrorize and destabilize Syria for nearly six years without creating a massive refugee crisis?
On a recent visit to Istanbul, I found Syrian mothers with infants silently sitting on sidewalks. I saw entire families huddling in the cold. Not used to begging, they were meek and spoke in whispers. Shooed away by shop owners, many occupied poorly lit, less trafficked spots. I saw a lone child of about eight on the concrete, looking stunned. He had three packets of tissue paper he was trying to sell. Street cleaners swept around these human detritus.
On Cadirci Cami, I think, I saw a couple with two kids, one an infant. It was extremely cold. Sitting on the ground in darkness, they had a sign, "WE ARE FROM SYRIA !! / WE SLEEP IN PARK / CAN YOU HELP US !! / THANK YOU." He showed me his Syrian passport. While looking at me, she picked up the empty box of Bebelac powdered milk and shook it a couple times. With no shared language, we couldn't talk. I gave them some money and tried to indicate that I would return shortly with some more, but when I came back, they were gone.
Living so precariously, many Syrians naturally dream of escaping to Europe. Greece seems so close, with Lesbos right there. In several Istanbul neighborhoods, stores stock inner tubes, life jackets or even boats for Syrians. These brightly orange symbols of survival dangle outside grocery and hardware stores. The cheapest inner tube can be had for $5, and the most suspect life jacket for 15. It's estimated that 5,000 Syrians have already drowned in the Aegean Sea. That's nearly 1% of those who've attempted to reach Greece.
Living in limbo, Syrians have no permanent legal status in Turkey, and their children born there are stateless. Turkish politicians have threatened to send them all back home. Riots have already broken out against refugees, with Syrians beaten up and their store windows broken. Turks, one must remember, are adept at the wholesale removal of an unwanted people. Their Armenian and Greek populations, once so numerous, are almost entirely gone. The expulsion of Greeks came in a population exchange after a Greek invasion had been repulsed, so Turks shouldn't be blamed, but the Armenian Genocide that killed 1.5 million is a huge black stain on the Turkish soul, though Turkey still refuses to acknowledge it. Turks also murdered or chased out nearly 300,000 Bulgarians in 1913.
A poor Turk, though, sees no reason why he should have to compete against Syrians working illegally. More than a third of Turks have had to survive on only $343 a month, the second lowest minimum wage in Europe. (There are talks to raise it to $446.) Unemployment is over 10%. In Mardin, near the Syrian border, unemployment has doubled within four years to at least 21%, with the increase blamed on the Syrian influx. There are also regular complaints about crimes committed by refugees. Staging war against Syria, Erdogan brings social chaos to his own country.
A graffiti in English, "fuck israel REAL TERORIS."
A graffiti in Turkish, "DEATH IS AFTER YOU WHAT YOU GONNA DO" A LIFE OF FAITH AND JIHAD"" ["LÜM SENIN PEŞINDE SEN NEYIN PEŞINDESIN" HAYAT IMAN VE CIHAD""]
By the Golden Horn, two teenaged boys sniffed glue as ferry commuters hurried by. Like most Turks, they were neatly dressed. I saw scavengers of plastic and glass pull heavy carts containing huge, tent like bags. Roaming all over at all times, including way after midnight or before dawn, I spotted almost no homeless Turks, however. I did run into an old man who slept sitting up with his feet wrapped in white, plastic trash bags, fastened to his calves with yellow strings. For a city of 17 million, Istanbul has almost no visible homeless population save its war refugees.
Besides Syrians, Turkey also hosts large numbers of immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Bulgaria. Wandering through Kumkapi, formerly an Armenian neighborhood, I saw plenty of foreigners from Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East. At numerous call centers, signs display dozens of flags, and per minute rates are posted for countries like Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, Iraq and Cameroon. At night, African whores lurk and smile, while in adjacent Laleli, you can also find Ukrainian, Romanian, Belarusian and Russian prostitutes. I asked a whore with dirty blonde hair if she was Turkish. Guessing my preference, she declared quite unconvincingly, "Yes, I am Turkish girl."