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Abundance of 'Rumsfeld letters' in Turkish press

HDN | 7/20/2003 12:00:00 AM |

On behalf of President George W. Bush, American Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in contravention to established diplomatic traditions, wrote last week a letter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the July 4 detentions crisis. Turks were upset

  • On behalf of President George W. Bush, American Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in contravention to established diplomatic traditions, wrote last week a letter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the July 4 detentions crisis. Turks were upset with Rumsfeld writing to Erdogan rather than his counterpart Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul. But, that's not it... A review of the Turkish press demonstrate that either Rumsfeld sent a 'different' copy of his letter to each and every Turkish newspaper, or imaginations of Turkish reporters were at work in 'reporting' on the issue
  • Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul declared that a letter sent to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in contravention to diplomatic code of conduct by American Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not indicate whether the American administration had "prior" information regarding the July 4 detention crisis between Turkey and the United States.

    The foreign minister further disclosed that in his letter Rumsfeld expressed regret over the developments that created a serious crisis between the allied countries, underlined the importance the Bush administration attached on "strategic relations" and "friendship" with Turkey as well as its "respect" for the Turkish Armed Forces.

    In the Turkish press, however, there was an "abundance" of "Rumsfeld letters". A review of the Turkish press demonstrated that either Rumsfeld sent a "different" copy of his letter to each and every Turkish newspaper, or imaginations of Turkish reporters were at work in "reporting" on the issue.

    Here are some examples:

    "Radikal" headlined its story on the letter quoting Rumsfeld, "We were unaware..." According to the paper, in his letter to Erdogan stressed he that the American administration did not contact the Turkish government to inform on the July 4 detentions because Washington did not know the development either. The paper said that in his letter Rumsfeld stressed his confidence that "such incidents won't shake the friendship of our two countries."

    Explaining the reason why the Turkish liaison office in Suleymaniyah was ambushed by American troops, Rumsfeld said American troops acted on "time sensitive" information without notifying anyone. "We could not provide information to your government on this development that happened outside our information. We regret it," he reportedly wrote.

    "Vatan" newspaper, however, headlined that Rumsfeld wrote to Erdogan that "We have given the order" for the July 4 operation on the Turkish liaison office in Suleymaniyah.

    According to the paper, contrary to Turkish expectations for an apology from the United States, in his letter to Erdogan the American defense secretary made such revelations that have shocked Ankara.

    The paper charged that the messages underlined in the letter were:

  • The detention of the Turkish journalists was done with our approval and with concrete evidence provided by our military and intelligence authorities in the region to the effect that Turkish soldiers were in preparation to stage an assassination attempt on the governor of Kirkuk and prominent Kurdish leaders in the region and contrary to the agreement between us were arming Turkmens and giving them operational training.
  • It is not possible to identify the operation as a local incident or as an undertaking of one of our soldiers serving under the command of our troops in the region with his own initiative.
  • The "Cumhuriyet" version of the story was little bit different. The story was underlining that in his letter to Erdogan the American defense secretary was stressing that American troops did nothing "wrong" in staging the July 4 operation in Suleymaniyah and detaining Turkish troops.

    According o the paper Rumsfeld stressed his confidence that findings of the Joint Investigation Commission probing the incident that created a serious crisis of confidence between two allied countries, would be for the good of both the United States and Turkey.

    "Zaman", on the other hand, claimed that in his letter to Erdogan, Rumsfeld expressed the respect of the U.S. for the Turkish Armed Forces "also" and provided information how the July 4 incident evolved.

    The paper stressed that Rumsfeld "touched" on the intelligence gathered in the region that prompted the operation and dwelt on the fundamentals that would guide the cooperation of the armies of the two countries in the region in the future.

    "Milliyet", meanwhile, said that in his letter to Erdogan, Rumsfeld underlined that "the operation was staged by American forces in the region in response to time-sensitive and reliable information." These remarks, the paper reported, led to two separate interpretations in Ankara.

    Milliyet reported that sources close to Erdogan evaluated Rumsfeld's remarks as the operation was staged by local American troops in the region without consulting Washington and that these remarks clearly underlined that the operation was staged with the decision of the regional command.

    The other interpretation, on the other hand, was that in the letter Rumsfeld defended the "credibility" of the "intelligence" that prompted the July 4 ambush of the Turkish liaison office in Suleymaniyah and the detention of Turkish soldiers.

    "Halka ve Olaylara Tercuman" newspaper, concentrated more on the fact that Rumsfeld wrote to Erdogan "on order of Bush". The paper "revealing the content" of the letter stressed that the operation was staged with a sudden decision in view of "time sensitive and credible intelligence."

    The paper said Rumsfeld used a "highly respectable language and a diplomatic style" in his letter and tried to give the impression that American troops, acting on "credible and time sensitive intelligence", launched the operation in urgency and without consulting the Pentagon.

    According to the paper, Rumsfeld underlined in length the importance the Bush administration attached to friendly and allied relations with Turkey and concluded in his letter wishing that no such mishap be experienced again in the relations of the two countries.

    Daily "Hurriyet" on the other hand claimed to have obtained the letter of Rumsfeld and bannered "Here is the Rumsfeld letter"

    The paper said, "Our Washington correspondent Kasim Cindemir has gained access to the letter sent to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld 'in line with President Bush's wishes. Hurriyet outlined Rumsfeld's remarks in the following vein: "I would like to assure you that the U.S. side's actions are based on the fact that our countries are allies and that we have common interests in Iraq... Our military forces took action because we had information to the effect that some, if not all, of the detainees [Turkish officers] had been involved in a conspiracy... Large amounts of weapons, explosives and detonators were found in possession of the personnel taken into custody, increasing our suspicions."

    Ankara - Turkish Daily News

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