Is William Safire just

April 3, 2003 9:33 p.m.

Is William Safire just another Tricky Dick?

Ten days ago Safire fired off a barrage of accusations against America’s erstwhile ally, Turkey (“Turkey’s Wrong Turn,” March 24, 2003). He blamed Turkey’s refusal to give the US a northern front on an amalgam of incipient Islamism and greed for northern Iraqi oil. He said Prime Minister Erdogan had turned Turkey into “Saddam’s best friend.”

Thus Safire wrote …

Adding diplomatic insult to this military injury, Turkey massed 40,000 troops
on its border with Iraq, hoping to grab the oil fields of Kirkuk if Iraqi Kurds
rectified Saddam’s ethnic cleansing by daring to return to their homes.

The Turks’ excuse for seizing today’s moment of liberation to bite off a rich
chunk of their neighbor is this: they insist that Iraqi Kurds plan to set up an
independent state, which would then supposedly cause Turkish Kurds to secede and
break up Turkey.

That’s strictly Erdogan’s cover story for an oil grab, undermining the
coalition’s plans for an Iraq whole and free.

Now, as I noted in The Hill last week, Safire’s argument was really little more than a bundle of slurs built on a series of fairly straightforward logical contradictions. The long and the short of it was that Safire was just letting the Turks have it because they refused the United States. That required taking them down two or three notches.

But if Turkey really was refusing us because it craved the oil fields of Kirkuk, would Safire really be in much of a position to criticize them? Not really, since he’s spent the last eighteen months dangling the lure of Iraqi oil in front of the Turks as their reward for helping the US topple Saddam.

For instance, just after 9/11, Safire wrote a column in which he was supposedly “channeling” his one-time boss Richard Nixon about the wars on terrorism and Saddam (“The Turkey Card,” November 5th, 2001).

Here’s a snippet from the ‘interview’ …

Q: The Turks have already volunteered about a hundred commandos — you mean
we should ask for more?

Nixon: Get out of that celebrity-terrorist Afghan mindset. With the world
dazed and everything in flux, seize the moment. I’d make a deal with Ankara
right now to move across Turkey’s border and annex the northern third of Iraq.
Most of it is in Kurdish hands already, in our no-flight zone — but the land to
make part of Turkey is the oil field around Kirkuk that produces nearly half of
Saddam Hussein’s oil
[italics added].

Q: Doesn’t that mean war?

Nixon: Quick war, justified by Saddam’s threat of germs and nukes and
terrorist connections. We’d provide air cover and U.N. Security Council support
in return for the Turks’ setting up a friendly government in Baghdad. The freed
Iraqis would start pumping their southern oil like mad and help us bust up OPEC
for good.

Q: What’s in it for the Turks?

Nixon: First, big money — northern Iraq could be good for nearly two million
barrels a day, and the European Union would fall all over itself welcoming in
the Turks. Next, Turkey would solve its internal Kurd problem by making its
slice of Iraq an autonomous region called Kurdistan.

Now, that was “Nixon” talking. And even though it was pretty clear these were slightly more coarse and candid expressions of Safire’s own thinking, maybe you figure it’s unfair to identify him directly with these ideas. But how about another column (“Of Turks and Kurds,” August 26th, 2002) from just last summer, in which Safire speculated on what the Turks might gain from getting involved in the regime change game …

But many Turks, having just defeated their own Kurdish terrorists
headquartered in Damascus, are still transfixed by the chimera of Kurdish
separatism. They worry that when Saddam is overthrown, Iraqi Kurds will split
off into an independent Kurdistan, its traditional capital in oil-rich Kirkuk,
which might encourage Turkish Kurds also to break away. But that defies all
logic: would the Kurdish people, free inside a federated Iraq and with their
culture respected in Turkey, start a war against the regional superpower?

Turks also worry about the million Turkomen in northern Iraq. It should not
be beyond the wit of nation-builders to ensure that minority’s rights and
economic improvement. Turkey has a claim on oil royalties from nearby fields
dating back to when Iraq was set up
[italics added]. As a key military ally in the liberation
and reformation of that nation, and with judicious U.S.-guaranteed oil
investments, Turkey should begin to get its debt paid.

See the game Safire has been playing? First, he tries to get the Turks on the regime-change bandwagon with the lure of Iraqi oil. When they refuse the temptation, he accuses them of cravenly lusting after the very thing he unsuccessfully tried to tempt them with. Yesterday in the Times he was actually at it again. What sort of weird combination of disingenuousness and projection is this? Tricky Dick? How ’bout just plain … well, this is a family website. But you get the idea.

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