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All the Troubles in the World

All the Troubles in the World

Hell of a Monday.

Let’s begin in the Turkish capital of Ankara, where all ambassadors and visiting dignitaries are now going to look at their local police security assistance with a new wariness:

Turkey identified the killer as 22-year-old Mevlut Mert Altintas, who had worked for the Ankara riot police for 2-1/2 years. Altintas, who also shouted slogans associated with Islamist militancy after shooting ambassador Andrey Karlov, was killed minutes later by members of Turkey’s special forces.

His mother, father, sister and two other relatives were held in the western province of Aydin, while his flatmate in Ankara was also detained, the state-run Anadolu agency said.

One senior Turkish security official said investigators were focusing on whether Altintas had links to the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for a failed July coup. Gulen has denied responsibility for the coup and Monday’s attack and has condemned both events.

The slogans that Altintas shouted, which were captured on video and circulated widely on social media, suggested he was aligned to a radical Islamist ideology, rather than that of Gulen, who preaches a message of interfaith dialogue.

“Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria. You will not be able to feel safe for as long as our districts are not safe. Only death can take me from here,” he shouted in Turkish.

In the eyes of Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan, everything that goes wrong in Turkey from here on out is the fault of Fethullah Gulen, surely making him the world’s first global conspiratorial mastermind to operate out of the Poconos.

Sean McMeekin, a professor of history at Bard College writing over at The American Interest, argues it’s time for the United States government to turn over Gulen, even if he had nothing to do with this attack or any others:

It may or may not be true that Fethullah Gülen is behind the thwarted coup, or the downing of the Russian warplane last November, or the murder of the Russian Ambassador in Ankara this week. So long as the U.S. continues protecting him, however, the cancer of anti-Americanism in Turkey will continue to metastasize, enabling Putin to turn NATO’s most strategically placed member country into a Russian satellite, albeit a reluctant and resentful one. Whatever strategic logic may once have explained the bizarre American romance with the controversial Imam of the Poconos has surely past its sell-by date by now. It is time for Gülen to face the music, whether in Washington, Ankara, or Moscow.

But the Gulen movement was allied with Turkey’s ruling AKP Party until 2012 or so, and there was no shortage of anti-Americanism in Turkey before then. Trust me. Back in 2006, when I was living in Ankara, I wrote:

The biggest would be the release of the widely-hyped new movie, “Kurtlar Vadisi Irak,” or “Valley of the Wolves Iraq.” The movie is a spin-off of “Valley of the Wolves,” a cheesy television show about gangsters in which Sharon Stone taped a cameo a little while back, playing an American gangster. The movie itself is a bouillabaisse of conspiracy theories about the American military doing nefarious deeds to Turks and Iraqis; imagine “Rambo” as written by Jane Fonda, Michael Moore, al-Jazeera, and former Iraqi minister of propaganda “Comical Ali.”

In the film, American soldiers in Iraq attack a wedding and pump a little boy full of lead in front of his mother, slaughter dozens of innocent people, shoot the groom in the head, and assist a Jewish doctor in an organ-harvesting scheme in which he strip-mines the organs of Iraqis and sells them to wealthy clients in New York, London, and Tel Aviv.

The film format for this propaganda is new, but the sentiment isn’t; last year’s hit novel “Metal Storm” depicted an American invasion of Turkey. The “Metal Storm” authors have begun creating spinoffs and copycats multiplying more rapidly than the “Left Behind” series.

If it’s not Gulen, it’s the Iraq War; if it’s not the Iraq War, it’s global Jewish banker conspiracies (Mein Kampf was a big seller in Turkey last decade). Paranoia is embedded deeply in the Turkish DNA. Deporting Gulen might buy the U.S. some short-lived goodwill, but there’s not much reason to expect it to last. (The Iranian revolutionaries didn’t warm up to America once the Shah left the United States.) You can’t stop Turkish paranoia, you can only redirect it to more useful courses.

Meanwhile over in Berlin…

A temporary accommodation center for migrants was stormed by police in Berlin early Tuesday after a suspected terrorist deliberately rammed a truck into a crowded Christmas market, killing 12 people and wounding nearly 50.

Special operations police raided a hangar at the decommissioned Tempelhof airport, where thousands of new arrivals from abroad have been sheltering.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said she feared the suspect may have been a migrant.

It would be “hard for us all to bear” if the perpetrator “was someone who sought protection and asylum,” she told reporters Tuesday morning.

Sorry, Germany, you’re just not capable of sorting through 2.1 million new immigrants in a year. Some bad guys are going to slip through – which is why sane countries don’t take in 2 million in a year.

Pray for Peace, People Everywhere

I’d like to believe that a more right-of-center presidency could bring stability to a world that former Obama defense secretary Chuck Hagel described as “exploding all over.”

But there’s only so much the American government can do. They can’t sort out Islamist sleepers from the Turkish police forces. They can try to help Germany vet those million refugees they’ve imported, but the recently-radicalized don’t leave much of a paper trail and those refugees are already there. Unless the refugees start outing the extremists among them, you know this is headed towards a violent crackdown. (The world does change, in some ways. Imagine telling our grandparents that oppressed religious minorities are fleeing into Germany, and they don’t seem to be all that worried about violent suppression from the government.)

Around this time of year, you might hear the Christmas carol, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” It’s now thought of as sweet and traditional. Not many people know it was written in 1962, in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the palpable fear that civilization itself was one tense miscalculation away from being wiped out in a series of nuclear blasts.

Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker wrote “Do You Hear What I Hear” in 1962, around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in response to the existential dread they felt because of the Cold War. “In the studio, the producer was listening to the radio to see if we had been obliterated,” Regney once explained. “En route to my home, I saw two mothers with their babies in strollers. The little angels were looking at each other and smiling.” This inspired the first line of the song: “Said the night wind to the little lamb. . . ”

That “star dancing in the night, with a tail as big as a kite” might be the Star of Bethlehem. Or it might be a mushroom cloud.

“Pray for peace, people, everywhere.”

Faithless, Senseless Electors

Back on December 8, I called the faithless electors who had come forward “preening narcissistic idiots who want to be rewarded for refusing to keep a promise.” Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe objected.

Monday, they made it official:

Of the 306 electoral votes Trump won Nov. 8, 304 voted for him Monday. Of Hillary Clinton’s 228, 224 cast a ballot for her.

All four who defected from Clinton are from Washington state. Three of them voted for Colin Powell and one for Faith Spotted Eagle — all symbolic votes. The two who defected on Trump were from Texas — and went for Ron Paul and John Kasich.

The six defecting votes are the most since 1808.

Faith Spotted Eagle is a Yankton Sioux Nation protester of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Without ever running for president, she is now one of two women in American history to win an Electoral College vote for president. (In 1972, Tonie Nathan won one vote for vice president, and Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin received plenty in their respective years.)

My view on Hillary Clinton is pretty clear, but she went out and earned 228 electoral votes this year. She got shortchanged, and so did Trump.

Neither Kasich nor Ron Paul qualified as write-in candidates in Texas this year, meaning they received no votes. Powell, Spotted Eagle, and Paul didn’t even run for president this year; Kasich explicitly said he didn’t want faithless electors to vote for him. Please explain to me what’s good and noble and inspiring about these faithless electors making a big show about how they just can’t go along with everyone else’s decision and their previous pledges, and how different and special they are compared to everyone else.

In theory, faithless electors could be a valuable tool in elections. In practice, they’re drama queens.

Speaking of fake news…

Continuing years of long-shot efforts to reform the American electoral system, Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig said Tuesday that at least 20 Republican members of the Electoral College may not cast their votes for President-elect Donald Trump.

Since Donald Trump’s upset victory in the 2016 presidential election, Lessig, who briefly ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, and his anti-Trump group, “Electors Trust,” have been working to offer legal advice to members of the Electoral College who are considering voting for a candidate that did not win the popular vote in their state. The group also promises to inform interested electors of how many others are planning to flip their votes.

Why did more Democratic electors flip than Republican ones? Either they’re more narcissistic and inclined to public preening about how special they are. . . or they put a lot of misplaced faith in Lessig’s predictions. Michael Tracey reports, “Protesters told me they sincerely thought upwards of 30 GOP electors were set to defect from Trump, based on rumors spread by Lessig.”

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