To the Editor:
It is surprising to find a journalist with Mr. Peretz's worldly experience and intelligence taking such an irresponsible position in his August 7th TRB From Washington, "Nationalism and Before". Mr. Peretz's underhanded demonization of the Orthodox Church is but another voice in the growing chorus of the West's thinly disguised anti-Orthodox sentiment. Much of this may have to do with the West's need to find a Russian institution to loathe, now that Communism no longer offers a ready justification, in furtherance of the West's race for hegemony over Europe. Yet a great deal more of it has to do with the West's intolerance, bigotry and ignorance.
Mr. Peretz disingenuously states, for example, that Slobodan Milosevic "is carried aloft in Orthodox services as a religious icon, along with the saints", summoning images of Shi'ite fanatics bearing images of semi-divine clerics. As a journalist, Mr. Peretz has a duty to attempt a more responsible understanding of his subject and not color something as large, ancient and complex as Orthodox Christianity with such an irresponsibly broad, and uninformed brush stroke. Unlike with the Vatican's Pope or Iran's Ayatollahs, worshipping or otherwise venerating an individual other than a canonized saint would constitute heresy in the Orthodox Church. Rather, when political leaders' images are carried in services (an uncommon event), they are not done so in worship, but rather, to summon God's assistance and blessings for them and for the nation.
Mr. Peretz further states that "[e]ven the Greeks are involved" in "the Orthodox revanche" in support of the Serbs, "cheering on fellow faithful of the Eastern rite against 'the Turks,' a phrase applied indiscriminately to virtually all neighboring Muslims." Although this seems to be common usage amongst Serbs, I have yet to come across a Greek excepting a tiny minority of ultra-nationalists (Greece's equivalent of American skinheads) who calls the Bosnian Muslims, Albanians or other non-Turkish Muslim minorities "Turks". Such a statement has absolutely no foundation in fact and warrants a retraction. At the very least, The New Republic has a duty to its readers to offer substantiation when such brash racism is attributed to an entire nation, a form of racism in itself. Consequently, I would more than greatly appreciate it if Mr. Peretz or someone from your staff could forward any supporting evidence to our organization to this effect, as we would be greatly interested in being informed of such a development.
As a foil to the overly simplistic generalizations now so much in fashion, such as Mr. Peretz's "the line between Orthodox Churches and Islam . . . is now a line drenched in Muslim blood", Mr. Peretz might refer to more than six centuries of Christian massacres, genocides, pogroms and bloodlettings at the hands of the Turks and their Muslim converts tragedies of apocalyptic proportions that dwarf the Bosnian Muslims' present sufferings, however horrific they may seem to us today, into a mere blip on the screen of Balkan History. For the majority of this millennium, blood-letting in the Balkans has generally been a one-sided affair, with the Hellenic and Slavic Christian victims doing all the bleeding, and the Ottoman Muslim overlords inflicting it.
Perhaps Mr. Peretz's most naive, if not most dangerous, position is his legitimization of Turkey's involvement in a region which it not only has no business to be in, but whose explosive presence would be the surest way to ignite the wider intra-NATO war feared most by commentators. Having just finished criticizing Greeks for allegedly categorizing Europe's Muslim minorities as "Turks", Mr. Peretz about-faces and goes on to state that "Turkey, because of ethnic affinities, history and the presence of a small Bosnian lobby, is the one Muslim country that has been significantly touched by sympathy for the Bosnian Muslims." Firstly, Bosnia's Muslims are not ethnic Turks, but rather, are predominantly ethnic Slavs. More importantly, even a cursory investigation into the matter would reveal that Turkey's interest in Bosnia's Muslims has little to do with religious or ethnic affinity, and certainly nothing to do with sympathy. The manner in which the Turkish Government treats its Muslim Kurds and its Muslim Alawite minority should lay any such reveries to rest.
Rather, since its role as NATO's eastern bulwark against communist Russia had dissipated along with the iron curtain, Turkey's attempt to become a major player in a region it has had absolutely no authority, involvement or legitimate interests in since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire is part of its dangerous expansionist quest to recreate a new Ottoman Empire, dressed in modern garb. Turkey has so far lacked the clout, political stability and financial resources to extend its influence eastward over the ex-Soviet Turkic republics. As a result of this failure, Turkey's imperialist and militaristic instincts have now turned westward. Were the West genuinely concerned with stability and peace in the Balkans, it would not dare unleash such a catalyst for catastrophe in a region whose fanaticism, irrationality and blood feuds can be directly traced to the Balkan peoples' Ottoman overlords.
Furthermore, any right-minded person with only a 21-year memory should shudder when Turkey begins talking about getting involved in a region based upon its "sympathy" for co-ethnic or co-religious minorities; this was the very pretext used for its massive and ruthless invasion of Cyprus, where thousands perished and hundreds of thousands of Greeks were ethnically cleansed from their ancestral homelands.
As with the Brits in the Middle East, if the West attempts to exercise control in the region through an alien in fact unanimously despised and distrusted proxy power such as Turkey, such a tragic strategy will cause far greater destruction, pain and suffering than even the Serbs, Croats and Muslims have been inflicting upon each other.
Very truly yours,Phillip Spyropoulos, Esq.