Letter to The New York Times, April 7, 1996

Letters to the Editor
The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036

To the Editor:

Your March 29, 1996 feature article "U.S. Helicopter Sale to Turkey Hits Snag" by Raymond Bonner outlines a clear moral choice faced by this country as the largest producer and exporter of military hardware in the world. As Mr. Bonner recognized, human rights concerns are typically overridden when there is a profit to be made by selling expensive and deadly weapons systems--even when the purchasers have demonstrated their willingness to use them in wars of aggression as well as against their own civilian populations.

Instead of applauding the efforts of Senator Paul Sarbanes and the other senators who had the courage to taken a rare bipartisan stand in support of human rights and against the sale of 10 Cobra attack helicopters to Turkey, you attribute their actions to "ethnic politics" and conjure up an ethnic conspiracy where none exists. There is much more at stake here than the friends of Armenia opposing anything that could benefit Turkey.

Turkey is a nation that has displayed a continuous disregard for international law and human rights throughout its history. It is a nation that has a sinister tradition of aggression against its neighbors and an abysmal record of human rights violations against its own citizens. Beyond ethnic politics, Turkey's recent track record should give reason to all Americans to protest the State Department's arming of the Balkans' and Middle East's most dangerous nation:

1. Turkey is continuing a war against its own Kurdish population that has resulted in 20,000 casualties and 2 million refugees since 1984. Even in its reports to Congress, the State Department has found "highly credible" intelligence that Turkey has u sed the Cobras already in its possession to attack civilian Kurdish targets.

2. Recent news excerpts confirm that Turkey continues to deny basic human rights to its own citizens:

(i). A March 25th UPI story reports that "The European Court of Human Rights condemned Turkey Monday for the long time it took to try, convict and sentence two suspected revolutionaries imprisoned since 1981. The Strasbourg-based court said the 15-year lega l procedure against economist Nasup Mitap and attorney Abdullah Muftuoglu exceeded the 'reasonable delay' provision of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory."

(ii). On March 12th, Reuters reported that "Sixteen Turks--mostly teenage students--who went on trial for far-left activities Tuesday were brutally tortured by police, lawyers said. Defense lawyer Pelin Erda told reporters police randomly detained the 16 in Manisa, near Izmir, southwest Turkey and tortured them for 10 days, stripping them naked, anally raping them with batons, giving them electric shocks, hosing them with pressurized water and beating them. Some of the 16(who are male and female(had to be ta ken to hospital with internal bleeding and psychological problems she said".

3. Turkey continues its religious persecution of and acts of violence against the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, the spiritual center of the world's Orthodox Christians, which includes five million Americans.

4. Turkey continues its illegal 22-year occupation of Cyprus with 35,000 troops. Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 using US-supplied weaponry, cleansed the Greek-Cypriot population from the occupied area, and has defied the unanimous requests of the inte rnational community to remove its troops from the island. This month Rauf Denktash, leader of the regime in occupied Cyprus, claimed that 1,619 Greek Cypriots were massacred by Turkish paramilitary forces during Turkey's 1974 invasion of Cyprus. Inclu ded in this number were 5 U.S. Citizens.

5. Turkey continues its illegal blockade of its former genocide victims, the Armenians, preventing even emergency food and medical supplies from entering Armenia.

Mr. Bonner puts forth the argument that if the United States does not sell weapons to countries such as Turkey, then there will be other suppliers eager to profit. This may very well be the case. But, more than stock dividends and exchange rates, one w ould hope that Americans continue to value what has genuinely distinguished them from other nations: their idealism and their strong sense of justice and morality.

As the world's remaining superpower, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard and can no longer afford to sustain our schizophrenic foreign policy. On the one hand we are urging a peaceful solution to regionasolution to regional conflicts such as Bosnia's, yet on the other hand we are rushing to profit from weapons sales to highly unstable regions that are already overly armed. Let us hope that the withdrawal of the Cobra attack helicopter sale to Tur key is not, as your correspondent puts it, an "aberration" but the beginning of a more sensible and moral weapons policy.


Leo E. Argiris, PE
Associate Media Director

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