The ministry of stand-up comedy

The ministry of stand-up comedy

Had the news text not been dispatched by the always serious, always meticulous, semi-official state news agency, Anadolu Agency (AA), I would have suspected it of being a set of misquotations at best and a hoax at worst. But AA’s reporters are experienced enough to not misquote a cabinet minister so erroneously (and if they did misquote the minister, they should run a correction).

The news story reminded, once again, of the famous dictum that “Turkey is fun, unless you have to live there.”

The setting was a parliamentary debate on the 2016 state budget. Date: Feb. 14. Venue: Parliament’s planning and budget committee. Speaker: Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz (formerly parliamentary speaker, and further formerly, defense minister again).

During the colorful debate one MP, according to AA, asked Minister Yılmaz if the Turkish Armed Forces was doing any work on UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects).

The minister replied that “he had no information on this subject.” So, since he did not fully deny it, the Turkish Armed Forces may actually be working on UFOs. Good luck to the military top brass. After pointing out that he did not have any information on Project UFO, Minister Yılmaz immediately added: “But work on the [national] space agency has been submitted to the cabinet for ministers’ signatures.” The minister’s message in two lines: We may not be working hard on UFOs but we are working hard on our national space agency. Maybe a future program should merge the space agency with Project UFO? 

During the same parliamentary debate Minister Yılmaz also said that a batch of four Royal Saudi Air Force “F-16” fighter jets would soon arrive at the İncirlik air base in southern Turkey. 

Good news, except that the Royal Saudi Air Force does not have any F-16 aircraft in its inventory. Your columnist is not sure whether the Saudis can be quick enough to plan, negotiate, purchase and add four F-16s to their military inventory in a span of a couple of weeks. Probably not.

Fortunately Minister Yılmaz was not asked whether Turkey would use its Su-34 aircraft in airstrikes against the strongholds of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Israel. He might have replied: “Whether we will use our Su-34 aircraft in the allied campaign against ISIL is a matter of operational planning and our Air Force command is working on this possibility.”

Finally, Minister Yılmaz fired his most rocking ammunition during what looked like a genuine stand-up comedy show. Anatolia quoted him as saying that the “Chinese [air and anti-] missile system under construction would be delivered to Turkey in the next five years.”

It is, even by Turkish standards of good governance, a near impossibility that the defense minister does not know that the Chinese air defense contract was scrapped by his government last November. If AA was wrong it should apologize to the minister. If not, the minister may have a habit of signing government decisions on multi-billion-dollar defense programs without reading them.

-  “Honorable minister, would you be so kind enough to sign this directive for me please? It is about the launch of an acquisition… well, of nuclear weapons.

-  “Sure, here… How many bombs are we buying?”

-  “2000.”

-  “Isn’t that too few?”

-  “Well, that will be the initial phase of PROJECT TURK NUKE BOMB, the secret name of the program we recently announced on our ministry’s website. 

Like a friend suggested in a chance conversation, parliamentary debate sessions on defense should perhaps be broadcast live by the state broadcaster, TRT, in the humor programs category. Why deprive the nation of gratis fun?

Should anyone be surprised that a made-up terrorist branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had to correct the Turkish prime minister on the identity of the suicide bomber who killed 29 innocent people in the heart of Ankara on Feb. 17?