Wolfowitz Salutes Ataturk
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 16, 2002 Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz today salutes Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder and first president of the Turkish Republic, as a model for the future.
"At a time when some evil people seek to create a clash of civilizations between the West and the Muslim world," Wolfowitz said, "Ataturk's example is proof that these two great civilizations need not clash, but can embrace."
Ataturk was "a great leader, who set an example of courage in war, magnanimity in peace and leadership in building a modern democracy," Wolfowitz said during a visit to Ataturk's Mausoleum in Ankara, Turkey.
Wolfowitz traveled to Istanbul July 14 to address the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation. He spent July 15 in Afghanistan visiting U.S. troops, local authorities and Turkish officers now leading the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul.
Returning to Turkey last night for meetings with Turkish government leaders in Ankara, Wolfowitz praised the Turkish forces in the ISAF.
"They are doing it with the professionalism and great skill that we've come to expect of the Turkish military," he remarked today to reporters at the Turkish Prime Ministry. "That's wonderful to have an ally who steps up and takes on important responsibilities like that one, as Turkey is doing today."
Wolfowitz said U.S. officials are aware that Turkey is having economic difficulties and intends to do everything possible to help. "We are very interested in supporting Turkish membership in the European Union," he said. "We believe that would be a very important forward not only for Turkey, but for the European Union and for the United States.
By discussing bilateral defense, economic and regional issues with government officials, private business people, politicians and the prime minister to, Wolfowitz said he hoped to get "even smarter" about the issues affecting Turkey. "Turkey is the only democracy in its immediate neighborhood," he noted. "It shares the same values that we do. It views this neighborhood as a country that's closely affected by everything that goes on here.
Wolfowitz affirmed U.S. opposition to establishing a Kurdish state in northern Iraq. "Turkey has very large and legitimate interests in whatever happens in Iraq," he said.
The United States has a very large concern for Turkey's future and success so officials seek to understand the country's views and perspectives. "We don't believe that we Americans have all the answers," Wolfowitz said, "so the major part of coming to Turkey is to get those Turkish perspectives and to be able to take them back to Washington and bring them into the debate and discussion in Washington."
Turkey was the center of the Ottoman Empire before World War I. On the losing side, the empire was dismantled and Turkey was occupied by Greece -- once an Ottoman possession. Mustafa Kemal led the Turkish national liberation struggle in 1919. He crushed the occupation and declared Turkey's independence in 1923.
Kemal viewed the empire as corrupt and so ended centuries of Ottoman influences by forbidding them, right down to the wearing of the fez. By personal charisma and force of will, he pulled the new democratic republic into the 20th century. He assumed the surname "Ataturk," "father of the Turks," in 1935. He was president of the nonsectarian republic from its birth until his death in 1938.