Rick Perry: Turkey Run By Islamic Terrorists, Should Be Kicked Out Of NATO
It isn’t often when a Presidential primary debate causes an international incident, but Rick Perry managed to do it last night when he asserted that Turkey was now ruled by “Islamic terrorists” and that it should be kicked out of NATO:
BAIR: Governor Perry, since the Islamist-oriented party took over in Turkey, the murder rate of women has increased 1,400 percent there. Press freedom has declined to the level of Russia. The prime minister of Turkey has embraced Hamas and Turkey has threatened military force against both Israel and Cypress. Given Turkey’s turn, do you believe Turkey still belongs in NATO?
PERRY: Well, obviously when you have a country that is being ruled by, what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists, when you start seeing that type of activity against their own citizens, then yes. Not only is it time for us to have a conversation about whether or not they belong to be in NATO, but it’s time for the United States, when we look at their foreign aid, to go to zero with it.
And you go to zero with foreign aid for all of those countries. And it doesn’t make any difference who they are. You go to zero with that foreign aid and then you have the conversation about, do they have America’s best interest in mind? And when you have countries like Turkey that are moving far away from the country that I lived in back in the 1970’s as a pilot in the United States Air Force that was our ally, that worked with us, but today we don’t see that. Our — our — our president, has a foreign policy that makes our allies very nervous and emboldens our enemies. And we have to have a president of the United States that clearly sends the message, whether it’s to Israel, our friend and there should be no space between the United States and Israel, period.
PERRY: And we need to send a powerful message to countries like Iran, and Syria and Turkey that the United States is serious and that we’re going to have to be dealt with.
Not surprisingly, this didn’t go over very well in Turkey itself:
Turkey’s foreign ministry condemned Texas Gov. Rick Perry Tuesday for saying that Turkey was a “country that is being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists.”
Perry made the statement during a spirited debated between Republican presidential candidates in South Carolina Monday night.
Most of Turkey was fast asleep during the live broadcast, and Turkish newspapers had already gone to print by the time Perry declared that Turkey had moved “far away from the country I lived in back in the 1970s United States Air Force. That was our ally that worked with us, but today we don’t see that.”
The Texas governor also argued that it was time for Washington to cut foreign aid to Ankara.
A spokesman for Turkey’s foreign ministry fired back Tuesday, accusing Perry of making “baseless and improper claims.”
In a statement e-mailed to CNN, Selcuk Unal said presidential candidates should “be more informed about the world and be more careful their statements.”
“The unfortunate views of Perry are not shared in any case by Republican party supporters, considering the weak support he has received in public polls and primary elections,” Unal concluded.
Top Turkish government officials were unavailable for comment Tuesday, with many of them in Northern Cyprus for the funeral of veteran Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktas, but the country’s largely-tabloid press wasted no time in responding to the comments on websites early Tuesday morning.
“The debate that the Republican candidate Rick Perry attended on American Fox TV turned into a scandal that contained very ugly statements about Turkey,” announced TRT state television.
“Rick Perry: what an idiot,” tweeted Mustafa Akyol, a columnist with the English-language Hurriyet Daily news. The Hurriyet newspaper also posted a video on its website of Perry drawing a blank in the middle of a prior debate, forgetting in mid-sentence which was the third of three government departments he would cut if elected president.
Perhaps this is why the Perry campaign quickly began trying to backpedal on Perry’s comments after the debate
Victoria Coates, foreign policy advisor to Perry, further explained the governor’s remarks, saying that some view the leaders of Turkey as Islamic terrorists due to their support of Hamas and the flotilla against Israel.
“The governor was responding to the questioners references to violence against women and to association with Hamas, I think both of which are things that many people do associate as he said with Islamic terrorists,” Coates told reporters in the spin room. “He was referring to those things, and while he would welcome the opportunity to work with Turkey on regional issues like Syria or Iraq, this kind of behavior on the part of that country is disturbing and I think we should concerned about it.”
Asked if the leaders of Turkey have performed any actions which place them in the category of Islamic terrorists, Coates responded: What he said was that many people associate that kind of behavior with that of Islamic terrorists. I think also their support for the flotilla against Israel this fall. It’s deeply concerning, and I think it’s something any future American president needs to be aware of.”
It’s certainly true that Turkey’s new government has raised some concerns in the West to the extent it has drifted away from the traditional secularism of the Turkish State, but to suggest that the country is ruled by terrorists is the kind of simplistic idiocy one expects from someone who gets their news from Rush Limbaugh and World Net Daily, not someone running for President of the United States. Moreover, Perry’s comment completely overlooks the extent to which Ankara has been working with the United States on important regional issues:
Analysts said Mr. Perry’s musings were all the more curious since Washington and Ankara’s alliance has been bolstered in recent months by Turkey’s strong backing of pro-democracy movements during Arab Spring uprisings.
“Ankara and Washington are now walking in lockstep… The essence of the new relationship is one where Turkey is more empowered, and more crucial to the U.S. because of its leverage,” said Atilla Yesilada, of Istanbul Analytics, an Istanbul-based political risk consultancy.
Turkish and U.S. diplomats say they cannot remember a time when cooperation between Ankara and Washington was closer, citing that President Barack Obama called Turkey’s prime minister more than any other leader except Britain’s prime minister in 2011.
What analysts call an increasing symmetry of Washington and Ankara’s policies has formed after a period of significant strain in 2009-2010, when Turkey moved closer to Iran and tensions with Israel were at boiling point over the killing of seven Turkish nationals by Israeli commandos on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara flotilla.
In a crucial shift, Turkey agreed last fall to host a North Atlantic Treaty Organization missile-defense system, which was designed by the U.S. to contain Iran.
I guess they left that out of Perry’s debate preparation. There’s one other thing they forgot to tell him, Turkey doesn’t get any foreign aid from the United States:
As for foreign aid, Turkey is a wealthy country that already gets virtually no foreign aid from the United States. The State Department this year made a request for about $5 million, which was earmarked for peace-keeping and security operations — not what one could consider traditional “foreign aid.”
Facts are stubborn things, Governor.