By Edmond Y. Azadian
As if the police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge did not shock us enough, even more grotesque atrocities followed in Nice, France, and Turkey, with shockwaves arriving even from Armenia to further numb our sense of outrage.
Dallas and Baton Rouge Mourning
There is almost no relation or causality among the violence we witnessed around the world recently, except that in all the cases, human life has become so disposable that it is wasted, often without even the benefit of an excuse.
A series of police killings apparently triggered the July 5 killing of a black man, Alton B. Sterling, which was caught on video, thus not giving another chance to police to hide behind the claim of self-defense. However, with the abundance of guns in the hands of citizens, police have the right to worry about their own safety. Violence may erupt when the police stop a person for any reason. The freedom guaranteed under the Second Amendment and its abuse by the gun lobby does not auger well for our society.
Micah Johnson, the killer of five officers on July 7 in downtown Dallas, and Gavin Long, who assassinated three officers in Baton Rouge, have something in common: they both have military backgrounds and they both have witnessed battleground violence and have returned to civilian life as broken individuals, like so many other veterans. It is revealing that Long said about himself: “I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform, I got nasty, hateful looks, and out of uniform, some consider me a threat.”
It is no wonder that especially among Iraq War veterans, the suicide rate is alarming; 4,500 youth in uniform were killed during the war and an equal number have become victims of suicide. The carnage is continuing. These numbers do not include, of course, some 50,000 wounded or maimed.
When veterans return home, many cannot shake off the horrors they have seen or have had to live with. Therefore, some have suicidal urges and not surprisingly, some many also wanted to take the lives of innocent people with them. The blood of these victims is on the hands of the leaders who launched these wars based on manufactured lies. British Premier Tony Blair’s belated apology, after he got a verbal thrashing by a British investigative commission recently, cannot bring back those victims nor heal the wounds of those handicapped permanently with physical or psychic wounds. The Bush-Cheney tandem has yet to apologize for their blunder. At least, they have demonstrated the decency of no longer claiming that “the world is safer without Saddam Hussein,” after Donald Trump told the ugly truth to their faces.
France suffered its third and worst mass shooting in 18 months, on July 14, Bastille Day. A 31-year-old Tunisian immigrant, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, plowed his 19-ton truck through a crowd gathered on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais to watch festive fireworks, killing 84 people and wounding many more. The investigation proved that he was a radicalized admirer of the Islamic State, filled with antipathy toward his adopted nation.
France’s vulnerability to such frequent attacks has weakened its government and almost doomed Francois Hollande’s presidency, the poll ratings of which have dropped to a rock bottom 11 percent. Of course, terrorism is not the only factor for the country’s problems, which have been compounded by a drop in economic stability and labor unrest.
These murderous rampages in France have sent shockwaves throughout Europe, triggering a right-wing whiplash and anti-immigration and anti-Islam sentiments.
The security situation in France has emboldened the ultra-right National Front party of Marine Le Pen, who once appealed only to a marginal portion of the country’s voters. Terrorism and immigration issues now have catapulted her into the mainstream as a viable presidential candidate. An article in the New York Times by Alison Smale and Stephen Castle, said, “Shutting off immigration was one of the most powerful motives behind the [recent British] vote to leave the European Union.”
Another politician in Holland, far right leader Geert Wilders, said on Twitter: “This is a war and it will not stop until we close our borders for Islam and de-Islamize our societies. No more terror. No more Islam.”
Germany and Austria will soon be holding elections and the political pendulum is heading to the right there as well. In a related vein, Poland and Hungary have tightened their immigration regulations.
Different immigration policies applied by the 28 countries of the European Union have caused fractures within that union, rendering visa-free Schengen travel within the union more difficult.
As far as the immigrants themselves are concerned, they are bringing with them a host of social and economic problems. On top of that, some express their desire to bring Sharia law to many parts of Europe and eventually Islamize Europe.
The Europeans, however, deserve what they have been experiencing now and for the foreseeable future. They brought on the problems upon themselves, first by destroying the countries from which those immigrants hail and then not developing a coherent and economically sustainable immigration policy. They have opened wide the floodgates. They have destroyed stable societies in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and, to a certain extent, Lebanon.
Because of wars, constant bloodshed, violence and economic collapse have rendered these countries practically uninhabitable: never mind that some “wise” people pontificate that those nations could not govern themselves.
The attempted military coup in Turkey was the most improbable event that took place on July 15, shaking the Middle East and ironically consolidating President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political support.
On that day Turkish land forces and members of the gendarmerie seized key positions in Ankara and Istanbul as well as the Turkish General Staff Headquarters. The coup plotters turned out to be mid-level officers led by Col. Muharrem Kose and Gen. Akin Ozturk. The three main opposition parties —Republican People’s Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) — publicly denounced the coup.
The Turkish military has experience enough to carry out coups, since they launched well-organized takeovers in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997. But the most recent one failed, fueling suspicions that it was a false-flag operation to smoke out Erdogan’s suspected enemies. By the time it was over, the attempted coup had resulted in more than 265 dead and 1,440 wounded.
It seemed that Erdogan’s government was better prepared, since it was able to take sweeping measures within just a few hours, leading to the arrest of 2,839 military personnel. And 140 judges from the Court of Appeals and the Council of Judges, two of the highest legal institutions in the country, were taken into custody. Another 2,475 judges were also purged, giving credence to the speculations that those lists had been prepared far in advance.
At the beginning of the coup, Erdogan was vacationing in Marmaris. His hotel was bombed right after he left the premises. Also, rebel military planes were following the jet that took Erdogan safely to Istanbul, yet no attempt was made to shoot it down.
That Turkey knows how to stage a false-flag operation no one doubts. At the beginning of the Syrian crisis, news was leaked about Hakan Fidan, head of the Turkish secret service, who was planning such an operation to create an excuse to invade Syria. The tomb of Fatih Sultan Mohammed’s father is located in Syria, guarded by the Syrian military. Fidan was to plant a bomb at the tomb in order to blame the Syrian government, much like how Turkish intelligence officers planted a bomb at Ataturk’s birthplace in Salonika to stage the pogroms of 1955 against the Greeks and Armenians in Istanbul.
Some journalist even compared the coup with Hitler’s burning of the Reichstag in 1933, which led to his ascension. Even recent bombings in Istanbul are suspected of being false-flag operation to deflect criticism that Turkish government has been in cahoots with ISIS.
Whatever the case, President Erdogan was able to get the masses into the streets and mosques, to protest against the revolt and to express support for him.
Journalist Cengiz Candar posted an article in al-Monitor, the title of which read, “Was Turkey’s Coup Attempt an Elaborate Hoax by Erdogan?”
For Turkish leaders, human lives are dispensable; all Ottoman sultans except one have murdered their children. Ahmet Simsek, deputy prime minister, once announced that “the Armenian Genocide [deportation] was justified and we have to do it again if necessary.” Therefore, 265 deaths are immaterial in staging a political game.
Erdogan has been a polarizing figure but he plays to the worst instincts of his Muslim majority to stay in power. There is genuine resentment against his authoritarian rule but it looks like the coup attempt, rather than having a moderating effect, will embolden him.
The New York Times editorial on July 18 states: “After the chaotic and bloody events of the weekend, Mr. Erdogan is becoming more vengeful and obsessed with control than ever, exploiting the crisis not to just punish mutinous soldiers, but to further squash whatever dissent is left in Turkey. ‘They will pay a heavy price for this,’ he said chillingly. ‘This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army.’”
Erdogan is contemplating the return of the death penalty, EU objections not withstanding, but his mobs have already slit the throats of mutinous soldiers in the streets, IS style.
Among the countries shaken recently by violence is Armenia, which can ill afford any shake up and yet it is caught in the grip of political turmoil.
The situation there is desperate; economic disparity continues, the application and enforcement of laws are selective, no remedy has been found to curb the emigration depopulating the country and by all standards, Armenia remains one of the most corrupt countries in the region. The leadership is either insensitive to the plight of its citizens or it is plainly inept. On top of all those problems, the four-day Karabagh war in April disillusioned the people. All in all, a very combustible situation where anything can happen has been created. It is perfectly understandable that some people or groups may resort to take desperate measures.
It is under those conditions that a group calling itself Sasna Tsrer has occupied a police compound in the Erebuni district of Yerevan, taking as hostages some officers and demanding the release of Jirair Sefilian, who was arrested on June 20 on charges of possession of arms and planning to mount an insurrection and finally the resignation of the president. Already one officer, Arthur Vanoyan, has been killed and there are three others who have been wounded.
The appeal by this group for a general uprising has not met any results yet. This could mean two things: either the people have lost their political will or they feel instinctively that any disruption in a volatile situation may bring a greater catastrophe to Armenia.
The government is in an untenable position, since the rumors abound about the territorial concessions in Karabagh as a result of Russian pressure. The government is being accused of being weak at the negotiation table. But any internal disturbance may further deteriorate the government’s position and bring about the dreaded surrender in Karabagh.
The people who have resorted to violence believe that freedom fighters can also become effective leaders. Indeed, Jirair Sefilian has been one of the commanders who saved Shushi from the Azeris and ever since, he has become a rabble-rouser and political activist.
As the standoff continues, there is a heated debate in the media and among the public. Most organized media are financed by foreign sources and they certainly have to serve their masters’ interests, which may not benefit Armenia. They have been inciting people under the guise of giving voice to ordinary people.
Change must come to Armenia. But change through violence may destroy the entire country.
One member of parliament, Heghine Bisharian, who advocates for change, has come up with an appeal that no matter how difficult, change has to come through the democratic process.
This hostage standoff continues as of this writing; may God save Armenia and bring peace there and elsewhere gripped by war.