Reading the disgusting news that France, Germany, and Belgium had declared Turkey, their fellow member of NATO, an open target for the aggression of Saddam Hussein, I was reminded, as I often am, of Hakija Turajlic.
Hakija Turajlic was the minister of economic affairs of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was a Muslim. On January 3, 1993, a little more than ten years ago, he was murdered by a Bosnian Serb terrorist. The details are noteworthy: Turajlic was traveling in an armored personnel carrier manned by French troops, taking him from the Sarajevo airport, which the French controlled, to the so-called “Muslim zone” of the city.
The APC was halted by Serb irregulars. The French opened the backdoor of the vehicle, exposing Turajlic, and began a palaver with the Serbs. The Serb murderer leaned over the shoulder of the French soldier blocking the door and shot Turajlic to death. The killer was not captured until much time had gone by.
After the Dayton agreement brought peace to Bosnia-Herzegovina, I found Hakija Turajlic’s grave in Sarajevo.
Sarajevo is full of cemeteries, many of them new; there more than 1,000 children were killed by Serb terrorists, and they totaled only a tenth of the city’s civilian dead, murdered on the streets and in the parks during the Serb siege.
Turajlic’s grave sits in a garden on the grounds of the Ali Pasha mosque, one of the most beautiful religious structures I ever saw. It is a small Ottoman mosque, with a slender minaret. For several years, Turajlic’s grave bore a wooden marker of the kind typically set up during the Bosnian war. I visited it often, and as the years went by, and I went to the Balkans to live, I made many pilgrimages to that spot. Eventually, the wooden marker was replaced by a stone, clean and white, whose slender form seemed a parallel of the minaret.
By then, French troops on NATO duty had learned not to venture out in the streets of Sarajevo in uniform. They knew the people despised them.
The slaying of Hakija Turajlic was not the only example of French complicity in the massacre of Balkan Muslims. In 1995, when thousands of Muslim men were slaughtered by the Serbs at Srebrenica, French General Bernard Janvier, who had become a close friend of the Serb war criminal Ratko Mladic, blocked air strikes that might have stayed the killers’ hands.
French Serbophilia was, indeed, old news to the Bosnians. In June 1992, after three months of Serb terror had stained the streets of Sarajevo with blood, French president Francois Mitterrand, an old Vichyite turned leftist, visited the city. He announced that he had come to visit his Serb friends. Unfortunately, the Serbs targeting the city lacked the sophistication necessary to understand his posturing, and shelled the airport. Mitterrand left in a hurry.
The French may whine over the plight of Palestinians, but that is because Israel is distant from Paris. When I first went to Paris at the end of the 1970s, I stayed in the mainly North African district of Aubervilliers. There was then one rule for Algerians and Moroccans resident in the city: Don’t go out late on Friday or Saturday nights — because the Parisian cops were famous for using the weekend as a time for grabbing and killing Arabs.
And the Germans? At about the same time, in the late 1970s, I visited Germany. Social Democrat Helmut Schmidt was chancellor. I heard a radio broadcast by him, addressing a gigantic political meeting. He called for tolerance toward the Turkish and Kurdish guest workers who had come there to keep Germany delightfully clean, by working, father and son and grandson, as garbage men, and in other jobs scorned by the offspring of the “master race.”
Schmidt called for mutual respect between born Germans and the Turks and Kurds, and was met by profound silence. Then, as I recall, he shouted “when Turks and Kurds slaughter sheep in the hallway, we Germans don’t like it!” And I heard the roar of approval my father had heard in the 1930s; the deep, bestial roar of the Nazi mob. Later, in the 1990s, the world watched as skinhead scum in liberated East Germany murdered Turkish and Kurdish children in vicious pogroms, while the efficient German police, in their spiffy uniforms, stood by and laughed, as their fathers had laughed when the Nazi storm troopers forced Jews to lick their spit from the sidewalks.
Belgium? Let us not speak at length of the Belgians. If you want to know them, read Mark Twain’s classic, King Leopold’s Soliloquy. And never forget that the Belgians share with the French responsibility for the genocidal violence in Rwanda at the end of the 20th century.
Old Europe, represented by France, Germany, and Belgium, has no interest in defending Turkey in the same way that old Europe had no interest in defending Jews during the second world war. In the Holocaust, the Christian French assisted the Nazis in murdering the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so that the Gallic collaborationists could take over their neighbors’ apartments and businesses. The Belgians sent plentiful SS volunteer divisions to the Eastern Front, to fight and die alongside the Nazis. A generation later, Western Europe stood aside while Balkan Muslims were massacred. And now the same states declare the European Union a Christian club from which Muslim Turkey must be barred, and flaunt their refusal to lift a hand to defend Turkey.
We should be glad the French, Belgians, and Germans have taken the stand they have, because it offers us a dramatic opportunity to show the world’s 1.3 billion adherents of Islam that America defends Muslims.
Yes, America defends Muslims.
When the hordes of the Evil Empire, Soviet troops famous for their lack of discipline, tormented by their officers and addicted to vandalism and rape, poured across the borders of Afghanistan, America assisted the mujahedin to defend their country. A friend of mine asked me, late in the night when the Soviet invasion was first reported, “will we someday say, ‘once there was a country called Afghanistan,’ the way we now say, ‘once there was a country called Lithuania?’”
The night of Communist oppression was then pitch black. But America helped restore the light of freedom to Lithuania and other countries oppressed by Russian imperialism, and, to our eternal credit, America defended Muslims in Afghanistan. Sadly, we allowed Saudi Arabia to corrupt the Afghan struggle and use it as a pretext for Wahhabi religious colonialism, spawning the evil of Osama bin Laden. But our intentions were correct. America defends the oppressed; America defends Muslims.
How often must we return again to the spectacle of Kuwait, prostrated by the terror of Saddam? There, America defended Muslims.
The Butcher of Baghdad attacked the Iraqi Kurds, and a people without real friends in the world, a nation without a state, cried out to God for aid, weeping over the bodies of its assassinated children, fearing no help would come — and America extended the shield of our unchallengeable air power over the Kurds. America defends Muslims. Today, the poor, friendless Chechens, slaughtered by Russian soldiers and subverted by Saudi terror agents, turn to us to protest in their name, for their rights. America defends even the Chechens.
I have written much about Bosnia-Herzegovina. But let me share a single anecdote I never forget: an interview with a man who had survived the Serb siege in an encircled enclave, and who watched his family and neighbors starve, some to death. America, even before Dayton, dropped food to the enclave by air. My friend the Bosnian author Nedzad Ibrisimovic has described those food packages, which few Bosnian Muslims will forget: “tuna with noodles, walnut pudding, cookies, powdered orange juice, instant coffee, cream substitute, sugar, salt, chewing gum, matches.” I asked the man who survived siege and starvation what he most remembered about the experience, and he said, “I learned that America keeps its promises. They promised us food, and they delivered it.”
In Kosovo, I met a young Albanian who told me, with a strange smile, “the worst thing about wearing my sister’s dress was that I tripped over the hem.” He was 15, and he put on his sister’s clothes in an effort to evade Serb patrols shooting all Albanian males that fell into their hands. The escape attempt failed. He was caught, but was spared execution thanks to American bombers that leveled Milosevic’s police stations and jails and secret torture chambers. But when I asked the young Albanian how he was saved, he looked at me and said, “You saved me. You and all the other Americans. Without you I would be dead.” A few weeks after I heard those words, French troops ran from the scene when Serb mobs attacked Albanians in the divided north Kosovo city of Mitrovica.
America defends the oppressed, and America defends Muslims, even as the states of Western Europe claim they can settle crises like that in Iraq by sending in their own cowardly, black-marketeering, and vice-ridden troops — the same personnel that patronize prostitution and protect the traffickers of women in the Bosnian Serb zone and in Kosovo; the same “soldiers” that tried to entice Muslim boys in Srebrenica to barter sex for food. They are the same heartless scoundrels that prevent NATO from arresting the Serb monster Radovan Karadzic, who helped revive the specter of genocide in Europe, with mass graves, mass rapes, and concentration camps.
The meddling, failed imperial states of Europe have ever pursued such mischief. Once, long ago, Britain and France dreamed of intervening in our civil war, as France and Germany now prate about their ability to bring calm to Iraq. The British held Canada and the French seized Mexico. Together, they planned to recognize the Confederacy and then divide our territory, sharing out its benefits for themselves. Imagine that outcome: an America reduced to occupation zones, our independence stolen from us. Read that chapter in our history and you will understand what old Europe means when they claim they can pacify Iraq. They uttered the same rhetoric when they promised to end the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and 250,000 Muslims were killed. Old Europe cannot change. Thank God wise Britain has chosen to stand by us.
America defends the oppressed of the world, and America will stand by Turkey, a firm and noble ally that stood by us against Russian imperialism, and whose heroic sons bled and died with our own on the cold, bare hills of Korea a half century ago.
In these moments let us, in the West, turn to our own greatest heroes, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, who in an hour like that we now live through, set the standard for our conduct.
As war approaches in Iraq, let us recall what Churchill told us in 1941, “we shall be fortified and encouraged in our efforts to rescue mankind from tyranny. We shall be strengthened and not weakened in our determination and in our resources… And behind all this glare, behind all this storm, I see that small group of villainous men who planned, organized and launched this cataract of horrors upon mankind.” The villainous men of which Churchill spoke are exemplified today by the Butcher of Baghdad, but their accomplices include many a self-satisfied bureaucrat and politician in the halls of Paris, Berlin, and Brussels.
At the end of 1940, President Roosevelt said of those who appeased the Axis powers:
They tell you that all of this bloodshed could be saved, that the United States might just as well throw its influence into the scale of a dictated peace and get the best out of it we can. They call it a “negotiated peace.” Nonsense! Is it a negotiated peace if a gang of outlaws surrounds your community and on threat of extermination makes you pay tribute to save your own skins?… With all their parade of pious purpose… there are still in their background the concentration camps and the servants of God in chains. The history of recent years proves that the shootings and the chains and the concentration camps are not simply the transient tools but the very altars of modern dictatorships… What they have in mind is only a revival of the oldest and worst tyranny. In that there is no liberty, no religion, no hope… It is not a government based on the consent of the governed. It is not a union of ordinary, self-respecting men and women to protect themselves and their freedom and their dignity from oppression. It is an unholy alliance of power and pelf to dominate and enslave the human race.
These words were pronounced as America, once before, prepared to sacrifice our sons and daughters for the freedom of France and Belgium and, yes, Germany, countries that now repay their debt to us with insults and feeble blackmail.
And how will Turkey repay its debts to us? To paraphrase a great poet of Islamic heritage, Turkey knows what hangs in the balance, and what it must strengthen itself to face. The hour of danger may soon strike, but courage will not be lacking there. Though Saddam may kill them, they will not run; nor will they desert us, even if their houses are wrecked. Turkish honor will be preserved, clean and pure, from totalitarian domination. Turkish honor and courage will be sung, as it has always been sung, by Turkish children, and their children’s children, forever.
For my part, in these times I often reread the words, also dating from the second world war, of the poet Archibald Macleish: “How shall freedom be defended? By arms when it is attacked by arms; by truth when it is attacked by lies; by democratic faith when it is attacked by authoritarian dogma. Always, and in the final act, by determination and faith.”
I recently asked a leading Turkish Muslim cleric his opinion of President Bush, and he said to me, “your president is the guardian of the faithful. He is a companion of God.”
America defends the victims of oppression and aggression.
America will defend Turkey.
America defends Muslims.
Let these words be heard everywhere the Islamic call to prayer is heard, from Morocco to Malaysia, in Baghdad… and in Paris, Berlin, and Brussels!
— Stephen Schwartz is senior policy analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.