Thursday, November 02, 2006

Boston Globe: Ralston should be replaced.

* Boston Globe editorial by Kevin McKiernan on Ralston:
MOST PEOPLE would agree that it's bad ethics for government officials to invest in companies that they regulate. But what about a US special envoy to a Middle East trouble spot who happens to be a director of an arms company selling weapons to one of the parties in the conflict?

That's the case of retired Air Force General Joseph Ralston, who was appointed by the Bush administration in August to help US ally Turkey counter the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK , the Kurdish rebels who are seeking autonomy from Turkey and have bases in northern Iraq. Ralston, a former NATO supreme allied commander, has been negotiating with Turkish generals and Iraqi leaders since his appointment to develop measures to eliminate the bases.

The problem is that General Ralston is on the board of Lockheed Martin, the world's largest arms maker, which just last month finalized a $2.9 billion sale for advanced F-16 fighters that may well be used in the Kurdish region (the State Department acknowledges that F-16 s were involved in human rights abuses in Turkey in the 1990s). This gives the ex-general the appearance of holding a financial interest in his shuttle diplomacy.

The administration hopes the Ralston appointment will boost US-Turkish ties, which soured on the eve of the Iraq war after Turkey refused to allow American troops to deploy from Turkish soil. But the issue of PKK guerrillas, who have been battling the US-equipped Turkish army for 22 years, is complicated, and efforts to impose a military solution without causing more regional instability may backfire.

The Kurdish uprising in the 1990s in Turkey accounted for approximately 37,000 deaths, most of them ethnic Kurds. Whatever happens next will be closely watched by the restive population of 25 million stateless Kurds who spill across the borders of Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria.


Iraqi Kurdish leaders fear local Kurds would join Turkish Kurds to fight the Turkish army -- the largest NATO power (after the United States) -- and the result would be a Kurdish bloodbath. Privately, Iraqi Kurdish leaders complain that the issue of PKK bases is only a pretext. They claim that Ankara's real target is Kirkuk, the multiethnic, oil-rich city that Iraqi Kurds vow to incorporate into their semi-autonomous zone by 2007.

Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, who is a Kurd, recently played a key role in behind-the-scenes negotiations to disarm the guerrillas. The result was a cease-fire announcement on Oct. 1 by the rebels, who also declared they might hand over weapons to US forces in Iraq in exchange for Turkish concessions that include human rights reforms and amnesty for rebels. In a speech in Istanbul last month Ralston opposed amnesty and dismissed the cease-fire, declaring he would never "negotiate with terrorists."

General Ralston is on the board of the American Turkish Council, the powerful Capitol Hill lobby, and he is vice chairman of the Cohen Group, a corporation founded by former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, with close ties to the Turkish military. Unfortunately, Ralston carries too much baggage to be special envoy, and he should step down before he alienates the Kurds of Iraq, the best -- and perhaps only -- friend the US government has in the country.

With the looming threat of civil or even wider war in the region, the United States needs a skilled, disinterested negotiator to resolve the PKK issue, while finding a peaceful solution to legitimate Kurdish grievances.

Our new man in Ankara will be seen as an arms merchant in diplomat's clothing. He should be replaced.
Wow. That's pretty cool. Great work, Mizgin.


Mizgîn said...

Thank you, Lukery, but you know it wasn't only me. There is one other, in particular, who has been putting in as much time as I.

We are giving these journalists, and bloggers like you, the information that we have, and all of you are putting it out in your own way. Now, what this does is it vindicates the information and the connections because all of you look at the information, you check on your own, pulling in other sources, and the information is confirmed so that it isn't just me making this up. And all of our sources are open, so that everyone else can examine them for themselves.

This is the great thing about the Internet in general and blogging in particular. We are no longer passive "consumers" of news or information. We no longer have to accept what we're told. I mean, we didn't do this pre-Internet anyway, but now we can give them some back talk. We can get information from places under a news blackout. We can get around censorship.

Imagine if we had Internet and cell phones during the 1980's and 90's Dirty War, when North Kurdistan was under an imposed journalism blackout? How different would things have been?

We've just leveled the playing field a little more.

I suspect we will see THEM trying to hide information on themselves more and more. We have already seen "disappearing information" in this case, and what that means is that the hunters are becoming the hunted.

lukery said...

Mizgin - we'll get em. perhaps slowly, but we'll get 'em.

Kathleen said...

If a skilled negotiator is what is needed, call Kathleen Reardon. She'll work it out.