Tuesday, November 14, 2006

more ralston, Lockheed Martin

Mizgin (in full):

11 November, 2006
Mizgin Yilmaz

On October 24, less than a week after the US Congress approved the $2.9 billion sale of Lockheed Martin F-16s to Turkey, the Turkish government announced that it had chosen to purchase the Lockheed Martin F-35 JSF over the Eurofighter Typhoon for its new fleet of fighter aircraft. The F-35 is scheduled to replace the aging F-16 beginning in the year 2010. If this sale is finalized by all parties, Turkey will acquire a minimum of 100 F-35s at a cost of $10 billion (1).

All totaled, Lockheed Martin will have earned $12.9 billion in fighter aircraft sales to Turkey in a week's time. On October 31, during a visit to Washington, Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul confirmed Turkey's commitment to the F-35, thus giving a democratic luster to a decision made by the Turkish General Staff:
"Until mid-summer, Turkish procurement officials had been saying that Turkey could buy only the JSF, only the Eurofighter or a combination of both. However, in the last few months the rivalry had been narrowed down to a choice between the JSF only or a shared purchase of the F-35 and the Eurofighter.

"But procurement and military officials last week told the Turkish Daily News (TDN) that the military command, including the Turkish Air Force and General Staff, favored the JSF as the only solution." (2)
On the same day that the Turkish Defense Minister officially announced the choice of the F-35, the outgoing EU envoy to Turkey, Hansjoerg Kretschmer, reiterated his criticism of the Turkish military's "re-emerging role in Turkish political life," saying that recent speeches by recently-installed general officers "clearly indicate that in the thinking of the military, nothing has changed really, notwithstanding the legal changes." (3) Such criticisms by the EU envoy to Turkey, as well as new purchases of fighter aircraft and a new, more stringent anti-terror law should sound alarm bells for the Kurdish people. With the exception of the Korean War and the invasion of North Cyprus, the Turkish army (NATO's second largest army) has deployed all of its American-acquired weapons against the Kurds, killing almost 40,000--mostly unarmed civilians--between 1984 and 1999.

What the news media have not covered is the link between Lockheed Martin Director Joseph Ralston's visit to Turkey in mid-October and his possible influence with the Turkish General Staff's decision to purchase the F-35. As a former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and a former Vice Chairman, US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Ralston has a history of close working relationships with the Turkish General Staff, and is well known to the Turkish generals. The relationship is further supported by Ralston's position on the Advisory Board of the American Turkish Council. The effect of all these ties between Ralston and the Turkish military establishment have proved quite lucrative for the world's largest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin.

A document filed with the Senate in August by The Cohen Group, where Ralston is a vice-chairman, adds weight to the assertion that Ralston's appointment as "special envoy" to counter the PKK is, in fact, a gross conflict of interest. The document in question is a public record and required filing under the Lobby Disclosure Act of 1995. In the Lobbying Report (LD-205), filed by the Secretary of the Senate on 22 August, 2006, page 2, Joseph Ralston's name is included as a new lobbyist for Lockheed Martin. The specific lobbying issue named in the report is stated as "Issues related to export of tactical fighter aircraft and defense technology," and the specific federal agency to be lobbied is Ralston's former employer, the Department of Defense. (4)

The Cohen Group's required reports as a lobby firm for Lockheed Martin in previous years do not list Joseph Ralston; his name appears only for the most recent filing, covering the period from January to July, 2006. On 28 August, six days after the Secretary of the Senate filed The Cohen Group's Lobby Report for the first half of 2006, in which Ralston is named as a new lobbyist for the exportation of Lockheed Martin tactical fighter aircraft, Ralston is officially named as "special envoy" to counter the PKK by the US State Department. (5)

The timing of Ralston's first visit to Ankara as "special envoy" was marked by a bombing carried out in the Kurdish city of Amed (Diyarbakir) in which seven children and three adults were killed, and another 13 wounded. The bombing was claimed by a notorious element of the Gray Wolves, the Turkish Revenge Brigade (Turk Intikam Tugayi), occuring on 12 September, the anniversary of the 1980 military coup, as an "an effort to sabotage and provocate the peace efforts." (6) It was a clear message to the Kurdish people from the American and Turkish governments that the war will continue.

As a military man, Ralston's area of expertise is confined to military matters. This expertise does not inclued the establishment of democracy or of peaceful, political solutions to long-term low-intensity conflicts, such as the one Turkey has carried out against the Kurds, with US-backing, for the last twenty-two years, during which Turkey has achieved the worst human rights record of any democracy worthy of the name. In spite of the fact that Ralston has repeatedly stated, in his position as "special envoy," that no options were off the table in regards to the Kurdish situation, he has also repeatedly stated that he will not speak to the PKK leadership, he will not recognize the current unilateral PKK ceasefire, nor will he consider an IRA model as a solution to the conflict, all of which are proof that three options are already completely removed from the table.

However, as a corporate executive for the world's largest defense contractor, and lobbyist for the same, Ralston's refusal to consider any peaceful settlement is perfectly understandable and is consistent with the message given on 12 September. The continuation of low-intensity conflict, the pursuit of an increasingly questionable "War on Terror," and the continued encouragement of the dominating Turkish military class at the expense of civilian government are all good for business.

In Nepal, a decade long conflict is drawing to a close as the Nepalese government and Maoist rebels complete their peace agreement (7), and soon that tiny mountain nation will hear a permanent silencing of arms. Meanwhile, the PKK's fifth unilateral ceasefire is rejected by the US and Turkey for the sake of their "War on Terror." That rejection, Lockheed Martin's dominating influence in shaping US foreign policy, and Joseph Ralston's long-standing relationship with the Turkish General Staff, all combine to reinforce military control of the civilian Turkish government and to insure that a permanent silencing of arms in the Kurdish mountains is not likely to happen any time soon.
say it loud.

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