Turkish war crimes? Don’t be absurd - they’re in NATO!

Neil Clark
Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66
Military and police armored vehicles are parked in Baglar district, which is partially under curfew, in the Kurdish-dominated southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey March 17, 2016 © Sertac Kayar
Cizre Kurds have accused Turkish forces of carrying out a civilian massacre. It is alleged that 150 people were burnt to death in a basement, and civilians were denied access to food and medical supplies.

An RT film crew arrived recently in the ruined town. Amid the scenes of destruction, one woman witness accused Turkish forces of killing ‘three-four- maybe five hundred people’. There have also been disturbing claims that some of the victims were beheaded.

RT has submitted its footage of Cizre to leading international human rights organizations and asked if full investigations will follow.

Amnesty International, to their credit, has already criticized Turkey for human rights violations in its so-called ‘anti-terrorist’ operations in Kurdish areas.

But despite the growing evidence of Turkish war crimes there’s next to no chance that Erdogan will have to answer in an international court for what his military has been doing. The sad truth is that Turkish forces could massacre thousands of civilians in the next few weeks and months and it would be the same. The reason is simple. Turkey is a NATO member - and NATO member states and their allies are the ‘good guys’; they don’t do war crimes. It’s only the leaders of countries that NATO doesn’t like who need to fear being given a one-way ticket to The Hague.

Just compare the very different western reaction to Turkey’s ‘anti-terrorist’ operations against the Kurds, with the Yugoslav ‘anti-terrorist’ operations against the Kosovan Liberation Army in 1998/9.

Then, the Yugoslav action led to a ‘humanitarian’ 78-day NATO bombing campaign. Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic was branded ‘The Butcher of Belgrade’ and likened to Adolf Hitler. He was indicted for war crimes and after a western-financed ‘regime change’ had taken place in Yugoslavia in 2000 he was kidnapped and sent to The Hague where he died suddenly 10 years ago this week.

The ‘liberal interventionists’ who told us that we had to bomb Yugoslavia to protect Kosovan Albanians in 1999 have shown no such desire for a ‘humanitarian’ bombing of Turkey to stop the killing of Kurds. And if there have been OpEds from prominent neocons calling for the arrest/indictment of Erdogan, I must have missed them. The odds of Erdogan ending up like Slobo and dying in a prison cell in Scheveningen are at least 1,000-1 (In any case, Turkey has not even signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court).

The difference between the two cases is that Yugoslavia in 1999 was not a member of NATO - it was an independent country that had no desire to be a member of the western military alliance. Turkey is a member of ‘The Club’, so can do what it likes.

If you’re in NATO - or an ally of NATO - then your ‘anti-terrorist’ operations are deemed totally legitimate, no matter how ruthless they are. But if you’re an independent country on NATO’s hit-list then whatever you do to fight terrorism (usually western-backed terrorism) will be labeled ‘genocide’ or a ‘war crime‘ by NATO politicians and their media stenographers.

Just seven years after the NATO intervention against Yugoslavia, the very same humanitarian hawks who cheered that action on, were supporting Israel’s ‘counter-terrorist’ bombing of Lebanon.

"We are here to show solidarity and support for Israel," said Hillary Clinton at a pro-Israel rally in New York, "We will stand with Israel, because Israel is standing for American values as well as Israeli ones."

“Mrs. Clinton and the other speakers focused almost exclusively on Israel’s right to act militarily and unilaterally, and the speeches were fiery and resolute, with little mention of civilians in Lebanon and Gaza who have been injured in the fighting,” noted the New York Times.

Seven years earlier, the same Hillary Clinton had ‘urged’ her husband to bomb Yugoslavia in response to Yugoslav’s own ‘counter-terrorist’ operation.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister at the time of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, refused to criticize Israel’s actions and rejected calls for an early ceasefire, which would have saved civilian lives.

For Blair and Clinton, Yugoslavia had absolutely no right to respond with force when the western-backed Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was killing/kidnapping postmen, policemen and other officials of the state, but Israel had every right to bombard Lebanon after its soldiers were killed/kidnapped.

Up to 1,300 Lebanese died in Israel’s military ‘anti-terrorist’ campaign - most of them civilians. But it was deemed a legitimate action, because Israel is a NATO ally.

It was of course the same story of double standards with Operation Cast Lead and Operation Protective Edge.

You can be the most bloodthirsty despot alive, but if you’re allied with NATO powers, you’ll get away with your crimes. Another classic example was the case of the Indonesian dictator Suharto, who by any objective assessment has to be one of the biggest mass murderers of the late 20th century. But you may not have read too much about him because he was backed by the West, and not the Soviet Union.

In his film, ‘The New Rulers of the World’ the award-winning journalist John Pilger shines a torch on what happened in Indonesia under the Suharto dictatorship.

“In 1965, Suharto wrested power in Indonesia in a bloodbath that took more than a million lives. The CIA reported: "In terms of numbers killed, the massacres rank as one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century,” Pilger writes.

A decade later there was another bloodbath after Suharto seized East Timor.

“The terror that followed has few parallels; not even Pol Pot succeeded in killing, proportionally, as many Cambodians as Suharto and his fellow generals killed in East Timor. Out of a population of almost a million, up to a third were extinguished,” says Pilger.

Suharto was never indicted for war crimes, and died at the ripe old age of 86 in 2008. In a blog post after his death I noted how silent western neocons were about Suharto’s crimes - compared to the great noise they made about Milosevic.

Today, as Turkish forces kill Kurds, it’s reported that MI6 and British police are in Syria- to look for evidence of war crimes committed by - yes you’ve guessed it- Russia!

According to the Mail on Sunday “Intelligence services are compiling a secret dossier of specific assaults, which could lead to the Russian President facing allegations of crimes against humanity at an international tribunal”.

This comes on top of news that the ICC is to investigate possible crimes committed in the conflict between Georgia and Russia in 2008

In an OpEdge piece I wrote last year, I detailed how politically motivated war crimes indictments have been used by the west to try and bring independent countries- and their leaders- into line

Nothing would please the western neocons more than seeing Putin indicted for war crimes- as it would help in their campaign to portray the Russian leader as someone who is beyond the pale.

But if anyone is beyond the pale, it’s the Western neocons themselves. They've got the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Iraq, Libya and Syria- and elsewhere- on their hands.

In a truly just world we would have a genuinely independent body which would investigate all allegations of war crimes, regardless of who the perpetrator was. What we’ve got today however is a system whereby a set of countries can commit war crimes and crimes against humanity without any fear of legal consequences, while others who aren’t in this privileged group are threatened with indictments if they dare to step out of line.

Erdogan knows that he’s in ‘The Club’ and so can act with impunity. But if he ever decided to change course on Syria and distance himself and his country from NATO, then calls for Erdogan to stand trial for war crimes would soon be heard and the West's 'humanitarian interventionists' would be telling us with the most serious faces: "Something must be done about Turkey!"

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.