January 17, 2012 - Today's Zaman
One of the largest Turkish-American organizations has condemned what it said were "uninformed comments" about Turkey by US Republican contender Rick Perry during Monday night's debate ahead of the South Carolina primaries.
The Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) said Perry offended Turkish-Americans by insulting Turkey's democratically elected government officials and threatening Turkey's membership in NATO. In a statement released by its president, Lincoln McCurdy, the TCA said it respectfully requests that Perry apologize for "his divisive and uneducated remarks."
"Turkey is one of the largest contributors of support to US efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, including providing the second-largest NATO army on the ground, leading the NATO troops in Afghanistan three times, and providing over 70 percent of the international logistics support to US troops in Iraq," McCurdy said.
He added that the "level of ignorance" shown by the governor of such an important state as Texas is "appalling."
Perry drew Turkey's ire on Tuesday after suggesting the country is ruled by Islamic terrorists and questioning its NATO membership. Perry, the Texas governor whose candidacy briefly soared when he entered the race in August, but whose shine faded after a series of weak debate performances, said Turkey was ruled by "what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists" and questioned the country's NATO membership.
Perry did poorly in the first two nominating contests, the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, and needs to do well in South Carolina to keep his candidacy alive. In a debate ahead of the South Carolina primaries, he said Turkey was moving "far away from the country that I lived in back in the 1970s as a pilot in the United States Air Force, that was our ally, that worked with us."
Turkey, which has assisted NATO in Afghanistan and other missions, said it has been at the forefront of the fight against terrorism. It said it was "strongly condemning" Perry's words. The Turkish ambassador to Washington, Namık Tan, expressed on Tuesday his "disappointment" and concern over Perry's remarks in a statement he sent to Yahoo News.
"I am disappointed and concerned that Turkey and its time-tested ties of alliance, partnership and friendship with the United States became the object of misplaced and ill-advised criticism during last night's Republican candidates' debate," Tan said, adding that it is needless to say that the Turkey described in the debate simply does not exist.
Turkey's ambassador added that his country is a secular democracy that has for decades been an essential and trusted partner of the US and whether in the fight against terrorism or violent extremism, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria or against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, "we stand side by side to tackle the many common threats and challenges of our times."
Tan underlined that while it was unfortunate, "we do hope this episode in last night's debate leads to a better informed foreign policy discussion among the Republican Party candidates."