The Carter administration is so worried about declining Turkish military power that it has falsified its report on human rights practices in Turkey and has portrayed the country as a virtual human rights paradise.
The false account, part of the State Department's "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices," was delivered to Congress several weeks ago. The department claimed it had little "conclusive proof" or "significant evidence" to support allegations of human rights abuses in Turkey.
A more enigmatic statement, worthy of master diplomat Henry Kissinger,was issued on Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus. Human rights questions in Cyprus, stated the report, "cannot be treated in isolation from political considerations."
These conclusions are disputed by the State Department's own files, which contain abundant evidence of the harsh treatment of minority groups and political prisoners. Indeed, the Turks have a reputation for brutality, which makes them fierce fighters and cruel jailers.
American citizens, who have had the misfortune of landing in a Turkish lockup, have told of vicious beatings. A favourite Turkish torture is to batter the soles of a prisoner's feet with trun-cheons, which causes excruciating pain and leaves him unable to walk.
The Greek government, taking exception to the State Department's fairy tale, lodged formal protests both in Athens and Washington. And Cypriot Ambassador Nicos Dimitriou marched into the State Department and indignantly delivered an official letter of protest.
The official view of human rights in Turkey, insiders suspect, is a deliberate whitewash intended to tip-toe around Turkish sensitivities. The Turks are still smarting from an arms embargo imposed by Congress after Turkish troops invaded Cyprus with U. S. weapons.
The Turks retaliated by closing U. S. intelligence installations in their country. These electronic listening posts monitored Soviet missile tests and military maneuvers. At Sinop on the Black Sea, for example, sophiscated radar devices could zoom directly on Soviet missile launch sites.
At the time bases were closed, intelligence sources claimed they were responsible for about a fourth of the clandestine information gathered about Soviet military activities. American technology and ingenuity, however have produced substitutes for most of the Turkish installations.
Far more important, in the Pentagon's view is Turkey's role as the Mediterranean anchor of the NATO alliance. One worried general told us: "The big question is whether they can perform their NATO responsibilities without military aid. We get a real buy with the Turks. Give them a few weapons, and you buy a bunch of divisions. They've got the manpower, and they proved they could use it in the Korean War."
Our sources say that President Carter has adopted the military view. He has been strongly influenced by the joint chiefs, who meet with him frequently. In fact, the president recently boasted to his Cabinet behind closed doors that he "has generated a compatability among the strategic planners of our government unknown in former administrations."
He reportedly is preparing, therefore, 10 ask Congress to approve the $1-billion defense agreement that was signed in 1978 between Turkey and the United States. The State Department soft-pedaled Turkish human rights abuses, our sources say, to avoid irritating a Congress that is already sympathetic to the Greek and Cypriot causes.
In any event, the human rights reports on Turkey simply do not reflect the truth. Particularly galling to the Greeks is the statement that "there does not appear to be any official discrimination against individuals belonging to minority groups" and that they enjoy, among other rights, "freedom of worship."
There has been a history of religious discrimination against the Greek Orthodox Church on Turkey. The best evidence can be found in the statistics; the Greek Orthodox population in Turkey has dwindled from 111,700 in 1924 to 13,500 today. A confidential diplomatic document, reporting on the oppression of Greeks in Turkey, cities these flagrant abuses:
A deliberate campaign of harassment has been reported against Greek Orthodox clerics in Instanbul, the very city where the head of the church traditionally resides. Greek religious leaders have been denied passports to travel abroad, even for pressing personal reasons. Editorials in the Turkish press have railed against the church. Following one series of articles, demonstrators laid a "black wreath on which were pinned slogans asking for the expulsion of the [Greek Orthodox] Patriarchate from Turkey."
Turkish authorities are cracking down on Greek minority schools. Teaching of the Greek language has been "severely curtailed," and Turkish officials have refused to appoint principals to Greek high schools. All repair requests in excess of $15 were refused last year. And the Turks have begun assessing heavy taxes on Greek schools, though they are owned by charity institutions, which are supposed to be tax-exempt.
Last year. Turkish officials began "the close surveillance of persons who visit the Greek General Consulate in Istanbul" and "systematically ask for [their] identity cards." Leaders in the Greek Orthodox minority have also begun to "receive anonymous letters, threatening the property and lives of the recipients and containing demands for ransom."
There is other evidence, which we lack the space to recount, that the State Department deliberately deceived Congress about human rights in Turkey.
Footnote: A spokesman for the Turkish embassy said his government would prefer to eschew "polemics" and discuss "issues" instead. Turkish authorities, he said, do not want to expel the Greek Orthodox Church from Istanbul, and they do not tax the church illegally. With respect to passports, the spokesman said that all Turkish citizens are limited to a single trip out of the country every two years, in order to conserve "hard currency." He also claimed that the Turkish minority in Greece is harshly treated.