Video from Voice of America surfaced midday on May 18th, showing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan watching his armed security detail attack peaceful protesters in Washington, DC from the safety of his black Mercedes.
As some outlets have reported, the order of events suggest Erdogan probably ordered the violence himself. Well, yes, of course he did.
Erdogan is the same would-be autocrat who ordered Turkish security forces to put down protesters trying to save a popular park in the middle of Istanbul during the summer of 2013. (Erdogan, a diehard fan of Joni Mitchell and Robert Moses, wanted to bulldoze Gezi Park and turn it into a shopping mall.) The aftermath of that crackdown left 22 dead and nearly 9,000 injured–many seriously.
The bloodletting during the Gezi Park protests sort of assured Turkey was nervously laughed out of consideration for EU membership. But Erdogan genuinely believes he’s on-track to oversee the reconstruction of the Ottoman Empire with himself as some kind of hybrid sultan-caliph-vizier–able to effortlessly liquidate any pesky Kurds and usher in the 21st century’s first eternal state. So losing Europe was really just a minor setback.
This isn’t the first time Erdogan’s crew has incited violence in the United States.
In 2016, while on another official visit, his intrepid security detail took turns assaulting and battering pro-Kurdish protesters outside the Brookings Institution. Erdogan’s goon squad also roughed up reporters who were dumb enough to try and do their jobs around the leader of a country ranked dead last in press freedom.
It’s also possible, as some have alleged, that Erdogan’s well-dressed hockey-brawlers belong to Turkey’s Grey Wolves–a super-nationalist group of terrorists and paramilitary fascists who delight in murdering Kurds, marching in support of their man, and who happen to have stolen their name from fans of the podcast Chapo Trap House in what appears to be a Machiavellian attempt at sowing confusion among easily-stoked leftists and other enemies of Turkish nationalism.
Here’s the archetype:
The Persian Shah’s personal shock troops attacked protesting West German students during a state visit to Berlin in 1967. When the West’s brutal BFF arrived, he was met with cries of “Shah, Murderer!” and chants in support of Mohammed Mossadegh, the former president and social democrat who was knocked off by the CIA and replaced by the Shah in 1953. The cops watched for quite awhile before finally intervening–on the Shah’s behalf.
Here’s what happened just a few months ago:
Outside of AIPAC‘s yearly confab, members of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), an FBI-designated terrorist organization, beat progressive Jewish youth with flagpoles while calling them “kapos” and “Nazis”. The cops looked on for awhile, but eventually pulled the JDL away. AIPAC attendees, for their part, were horrified by what was happening outside. So down they came, lanyards dangling, to cheer the violence and join the chorus of slurs before returning to watch a keynote address from Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.
Now, let’s be clear, the events above don’t take any of the heat off Erdogan. Rather, they prove a particular appetite for street violence that can’t simply be attributed to foreign ultras. Yet just because the West has a terrible track record of standing up to their client states and aircraft carriers doesn’t mean it should remain what we accept as normal.
But let’s not act too surprised if and when Erdogan ditches this diplomatic row all but unscathed. He’s America’s man in Ankara. And his single-minded penchant for power-by-bloodying-up-his-enemies is known and accepted by the shot-callers in both parties–John McCain’s latest act of kayfabe notwithstanding.
The semi-sultan will ultimately hide his stooges behind diplomatic immunity. The Trump administration, unable to ignore the violence, will act as weak as Democrats and issue a few sternly-worded memos filled with empty disapproval. But it ultimately won’t amount to anything.
This is who Erdogan is–America, too. And after a few news cycles, all the relevant players will be back in each others’ good graces. Jimmy McNulty’s famous axiom holds true: ‘[E]verybody stays friends. Everybody gets paid. And everybody’s got a fucking future.’
Erdogan is just an “uncouth thug” who has only read one book in his entire life.
Hmm. Kind of sounds familiar.