Tag Archives: Turkey

Might start looking for ancestral identity

I am being tugged slowly into a form of an identity crisis.

It deals with my ethnic heritage.

You’ve seen those incessant TV commercials, I’m sure, about the people who thought they were derived from some ancestral background, only to find out their roots were planted elsewhere. The guy who thought he was German, bought the requisite clothing, and then learned he is of Scottish descent? He’s my favorite.

Here’s the deal with yours truly.

I have spent my entire life believing I am one of those rare pure-bred Americans. My last name is Greek. My parents were born in the United States of America. All four of my grandparents were immigrants.

Dad’s parents came from southern Greece, the Peloponnese. Mom’s parents came from Marmara, an island in the Sea of Marmara, the body of water that separates the European portion of Turkey from the part that’s in Asia.

My maternal grandmother always spoke proudly of her Greek ethnicity. I believed her. Nearly 40 years after her death, I still do.

Now, though, the slightest twinge of doubt is starting to creep into my skull. It concerns Mom’s branches on the family tree.

My grandparents, and their ancestors, were surrounded by Turks. They lived in fairly primitive conditions on Marmara. Is it possible that one or more of them might have been smitten by a Turkish neighbor? Might they have, oh, acted passionately on those feelings in the dead of night, away from prying eyes?

What’s more, might there even have been a visitor from, say, Bulgaria or Russia who ventured onto the island? Might said visitor have consorted with a distant member of my family?

Remember, too, the history between the Greeks and Turks. The Ottoman Empire controlled Greece for hundreds of years until the 19th century. The Greek war of independence ended that domination, but the nations have fought many conflicts over the years since that time. They remain to this day wary of each other; they cannot even decide which of the Aegean Sea islands belong to Greece and which of them belong to Turkey.

Still, I see these commercials that tell us about DNA tests that prove beyond a doubt our ethnic makeup.

Here’s where the identity crisis gets even more dicey for me. I am not sure I want to know. Moreover, were I to learn that the “truth” behind my ethnic background is different than what I have thought my entire life, would I be willing to share it?

Science has this way of complicating matters … you know?

World appears to have gone mad


My head is about to do a 360-spin.

The world has gone stark-raving bonkers.

A terrorist plows a truck into a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, France, and kills 84 innocent victims before French police killed him on the spot. The world is thrown into utter grief, shock, mourning and heartache over this latest spasm of terrorist violence.

We’d just experienced the tragedy in Dallas, where five police officers died when a gunman opened fire on a Black Lives Matter march through the city’s downtown.

Now, tonight, Turkey is undergoing what now looks like a failed coup attempt seeking to topple the government of President Recep Tayyp Erdogan.

The president had been out of the country, then he returned to Turkey — apparently being greeted by cheering crowds upon his arrival.

As one commentator noted this evening, the coup seems to have failed because the insurgents didn’t capture or kill the president, didn’t take control of the media.

Erdogan now appears to be reasserting his authority in Turkey.

This is a huge deal.

Turkey is a member of NATO. It borders Syria and Iraq, which puts it at ground zero in our war against the Islamic State. We occupy Turkish air space while we launch air strikes against ISIS targets. We also rely on Turkey to lend its own considerable military support in this effort.

Now we have word of this coup attempt.

Erdogan hasn’t been the most reliable ally of ours. The Turks, though, pose a significant military threat to anyone who happens to be on the opposing side in a fight.

I’m still trying to process the consequences of a failed coup attempt in Ankara and whether it means any kind of significant change — or potential improvement — in Turkey’s ability to wage war against our common enemy … the Islamic State.

I’m almost afraid to go to sleep tonight out of fear that I’m going to wake up in the morning to find something else has overtaken the world’s attention.

Peace for Aylan?


Aylan Kurdi may become a symbol the world needs to remember.

He was 3 years old and was fleeing the devastation in Syria. He didn’t make it to safety. Aylan drowned when the boat carrying him and others apparently capsized and his body washed ashore in Turkey. He had been headed for one of the many islands of Greece that dot the Aegean Sea.

An essay by a doctoral candidate at American University makes a compelling case that Aylan’s death ought to signal to the warring sides that the time for peace really and truly is at hand.

Read the essay

Suzanne Ghais writes:  “The priority must be to find a peace plan that all major players can get behind, even if our favorite dogs don’t win. If Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the Europeans agree with us that (Syrian dictator Bashar) al-Assad should go, there will be a way to get him out. The exhausted Syrian government could not oppose such an overwhelming consensus for long.”

The Syrian civil war has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent victims. Many have died from terrible weapons deployed by the dictator’s military forces.

And as the world has seen, the victims too often are helpless children … just like Aylan.

How can the world continue to let this happen?


Welcome to the fight, Turkey … finally!

We hear the term “game changer” from time to time.

It refer to events that might be decisive in determining the result of, say, a struggle.

I heard the term today in a National Public Radio interview about Turkey’s decision to (a) allow U.S. aircraft to fly into Syria and Iraq from Turkish air bases and (b) actually strike the Islamic State forces with its own combat aircraft.

Welcome to the fight, Turkey.

The Turks could become the most important ally the United States in this fight against the Islamic State.

It belongs to NATO. It is a military powerhouse with a sophisticated air and ground military force.

And as of a few days ago, it now has suffered grievously at the hands of ISIL forces. A suicide bomber detonated an explosive in a Turkish portion of Kurdistan, killing more than 30 victims. The Turks, therefore, now have skin in this game.

Turkey had been a reluctant ally up to this point, denying U.S. requests to use its bases to launch attacks against ISIL installations in nearby Syria and Iraq. The Turks’ agreeing to allow access to these bases gives our air power a distinct new advantage as it continues its bombing barrage against ISIL.

What’s more, the Turks have engaged ISIL themselves, sending jets on bombing sorties against ISIL strongholds.

OK, does this mean the end of ISIL is in sight, that the fight is nearly over?

No. It does mean, however, that we now have an important ally on our side willing — for the first time — to engage the enemy face to face.

Welcome aboard, Turkey. Let’s hope this development, indeed, is a game changer.

‘Don’t vote for me if you’re worn out by war’


Lindsey Graham today offered the most compelling campaign argument against his own candidacy I’ve ever heard.

The South Carolina Republican, who’s running for his party’s 2016 presidential nomination, said it flat out. “Don’t vote for me if you’re worn out by war.”


Well, senator, no worries there.

What he told “Morning Joe” on MSNBC is that he’s going to be the “war candidate.” He plans, if elected to the presidency, to send more troops into Iraq; he also plans to send troops into Syria; he plans to enlist Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and whichever other regional ally will join, to help American troops defeat the Islamic State and then keep the peace.

Oh, how long will they be there? “A long time,” he said.

There’s no exit strategy. No timetable. No end to the bloodshed.

Get ready for battle, he warned.

Oh, if you’re tired of fighting a war, don’t vote for me, he said.

No-o-o-o-o problem. You’ve got a deal, Sen. Graham.


Call it what it was: genocide

My friend Butler Cain has posted a blog about a recent visit he made to Armenia, where citizens are marking the 100th anniversary of what historians have determined to be genocide.

Turkey fought on the losing side of World War I, along with Germany. In the process of losing that war, it engaged in the brutal slaughter of more than 1 million Armenians.

The Turks have refused in the century since to call what they did an act of genocide.


Others have used that language to describe the systematic extermination of people of a certain ethnic background, which by definition is what you call genocide.

One of the voices that so far has been silent on this matter has been the United States, which also hasn’t called it genocide. Again, by my way of looking at it, the Turks did that very thing.

Why the U.S. reluctance? Turkey is an ally of ours. It’s standing with us — more or less — in the fight against the Islamic State. Do we want to offend our allies by suggesting that its forebears did something so unconscionable that they might withdraw their support for our effort to eradicate the Islamic State?

That well might be the calculation.

Let’s call it what it was. Genocide.

Hitler tried it in World War II in search of his “final solution,” which meant the extermination of Jews; Pol Pot sought to eliminate his fellow Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror in the 1970s; Rwandans engaged in genocide in the 1990s against their own people as well.

History knows what happened in those instances. We have put the proper name on these evil acts.

It’s time to do the same thing while describing what happened to Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.


Maybe, just maybe, the genes aren't so pure

I blogged earlier today about my hyphenated heritage and how I like referring to myself as a Greek-American.

My parents were Greek. My grandparents, all four of them, were Greek. My grandparents came to this country in the early 20th century.

The object of the blog, actually, was a comment from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — an Indian-American — who’d said he disliked hyphenated ethic designations for Americans. That’s fine. He’s entitled to his view, I am to mine.


Then the thought occurred to me. It’s really occurred to me many times over the course of my life, but I’ll share it here.

My mother’s parents came to the United States from Turkey. They were ethnic Greeks. My grandfather was a merchant sailor who traveled the world before settling in Portland, Ore. My grandmother joined him later, making the arduous journey from Turkey, through Athens, then on to New York. She boarded a train for the West Coast.

The thought? It’s this: Were Mom’s parents really and truly pure Greek?

They lived on a small island in the Sea of Marmara. It was a primitive place. I don’t know this for a fact, but my assumption has been that Turks populated the island as well as Greeks. Yes, Greeks and Turks loathed each other, but some comingling among people of rival ethnicities does occur.

The villages kept no record of births. For all I know, my grandparents’ parents, and their grandparents — and this dates back to, oh, the turn of the 18th century, might have quenched their desires with people of Turkish heritage.

It’s entirely possible.

I don’t dwell on this, given that I cannot prove any of it. Thus, I’ll continue to proclaim my Greek heritage until someone, somehow, in some fashion, can prove that my ethnicity isn’t as pure as I’ve been saying it is.


Proud of my hyphenated heritage

Bobby Jindal says he’s tired of “hyphenated Americans.” The Republican governor of Louisiana and possible 2016 presidential candidate said his parents didn’t come to America to raise Indian-Americans.

So, let’s all just be known as Americans, he says.

Well, OK, Gov. Jindal. I respect your desire to be known as an American without the hyphen.

However, I am a hyphenated American and am damn proud of it.


My grandparents came here from southern Europe. My dad’s parents grew up in neighboring villages in southern Greece. Mom’s parents grew up on a tiny island in the Sea of Marmara, the small body of water that separates European Turkey from Asian Turkey; they were of Greek heritage as well.

They all came to this country to become Americans, just as Jindal’s parents came here from India.

My grandparents, though, never lost touch with their heritage and they passed it along to their grandkids.

It might be that my sisters and I have a fairly unique distinction of being “full-blooded” something, rather than a mix of various heritages. Perhaps that’s why I have this particular desire to identify myself as a Greek-American. It’s easy to say. Most people know about Greece and its profound contribution to the development western civilization.

They also ought to know about the ancient rivalry that persists to this very day between Greece and Turkey, nations that have gone to war with each other more times than I can even count.

Having proclaimed my pride in my hyphenated heritage, I take a back seat to no one in my love of the country of my birth. For that matter, all four of my grandparents — all of whom chose to move here — felt the very same way about their adopted home.

Jindal spoke to the First in the Nation summit in New Hampshire. “I don’t know about you, I’m tired of the hyphenated Americans. No more ‘African-Americans.’ No more ‘Indian-Americans.’ No more ‘Asian-Americans,’ ” Jindal said, drawing applause.

Fine, governor. That’s your call.

Me? I’ll stick with the hyphen. It’s a source of pride.

Degree not a requirement for White House

The mini-hubbub over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s academic credentials is rather funny.

Some Democrats are snickering at Gov. Walker’s lack of a college degree, suggesting that he’s somehow not qualified to be elected president of the United States — an office he’s considering seeking next year.

The GOP governor’s background was criticized, for instance, by former Vermont Gov. (and physician) Howard Dean, who sought to make light of Walker’s lack of a degree.

Walker attended the University of Wisconsin, but dropped out short of obtaining his degree.

I won’t belabor the point, but I should point out that degree-less men have served already as president. Indeed, a college degree isn’t a requirement for holding the Most Powerful Office in the World.

Let’s see, who can I cite as an example of what we’re discussing here?

Oh, yes. Harry Truman comes to mind.

You know, Give ‘Em Hell Harry acquitted himself well as president, getting thrust into the office upon the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in April 1945; he then had to decide quickly whether to use atomic bombs to end World War II; he had to act to save Greece and Turkey from communist rebellion after the war; he then had to send U.S. troops into battle to stave off another communist invasion, in Korea — and then relieved General of the Army Douglas MacArthur of his command in Korea for challenging civilian authority over the military.

President Truman did all right during his eight years in office, even without his college degree.

Do I intend to vote for Gov. Walker next year? Probably not. There’s a lot of things I dislike about his public service record. His lack of a college degree isn’t one of them.


VP says he's sorry to Turkish leader

Vice President Joe Biden has apologized to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for remarks he made that supposedly implied that Turkey intentionally let weapons slip into Syria and into the hands of Islamic State terrorists.

I am dubious of the need for the vice president to say he’s sorry. I’m mostly dubious that what he said actually implied any intent on the Turks’ inability to stop the flow of arms from their country into Syria.


He had said that Turkey had let fighters migrate from Turkey into Syria carrying arms and munitions. Erdogan took the vice president’s remarks as suggesting the Turks did so intentionally.

Biden said that wasn’t what he meant and he has “clarified” his statement to Erdogan. I am hoping we’ve made peace with our critical ally.

Therein lies the reason for the apology in the first place.

Turkey is allowing use of its air space to launch strikes against ISIL targets in Syria. The Turks also are planning to provide actual military support as well. Indeed, the Turks arguably are the strongest military power (excluding Israel) in the entire Middle East. Turkey has demonstrated over many, many years to be a fierce, resilient and capable military force in any conflict in which it has been engaged.

The U.S.-led coalition now fighting ISIL in Syria and Iraq will need the Turks’ know-how and ferocity if it intends to destroy the heinous terror organization.

Thus, the apology.