If Putin is a thug, what is Erdogan?
by Don Hank
A reader forwarded an email exchange between him and a friend who repeats the refrain that Putin is a “thug.” The reader wanted to know how I would answer this friend. I responded as follows.
Western commentators and politicians like to call Putin a thug, based on suppositions and suspicions.
However, when we evaluate human character, since no one is perfect, the conclusion cannot be absolute. To be valid and fair, it must therefore be relative – relative, that is, to other people who are their peers. In this case, to make the evaluation relevant and useful, we would have to compare Putin with a comparable peer or peers among Western allies – in analogy to the use of a control group in scientific studies. Otherwise, if Putin is no more a thug than a US ally is, it would be unfair to Putin and a clear cut sign of Russophobia to call Putin a thug but not others who exhibit similar or worse behavior. But Russophobia is racism, and racists is not who we are – or are we?
Since we are living in the here and now, the only fair evaluation would be a comparison with a comparable peer, say, Turkish president Erdogan, whose country is a NATO member. If we could demonstrate that Putin is more of a thug than Erdogan, then we could perhaps validly call Putin a thug.
In other words, to conclude Putin is a thug would be to conclude that Erdogan is not a thug, or at least that he is significantly less of a thug, since our elites never call Erdogan a thug.
After all, evaluations of foreign leaders are made to assemble useful pragmatic evidence for use in forging foreign policies vis-a-vis the foreign leader in question. It’s a matter of national security.
In the case of Putin, perhaps the most important issue is:
Can we trust Putin enough to cooperate with him, say, in Syria?
Let us just examine this one issue to keep it simple.
Now the internet is awash with reports that Erdogan, via his son Bilal, is buying and selling Syrian oil stolen by ISIS. While complete verification is not yet possible, it is nonetheless certain that there is a thriving oil smuggling business in Turkey and it would be impossible for this to be going on under Erdogan’s nose without him knowing it. A very well-documented report is here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-l-phillips/research-paper-turkey-isi_b_8808024.html.
This suggests 2 things right off the bat:
1—Erdogan’s government is complicit in criminal activity – specifically dealing in stolen goods — a felony.
2—By virtue of the above, Erdogan’s government is a terror supporter and specifically, it supports ISIS, a terror group with which we are at war – or rather We the People are at war with ISIS. Our government is not seriously engaging ISIS on their Syrian turf (thus Obama by his negligence is exposing the people to harm).
So while we may or may not trust Putin, we certainly can see that there is no reason whatsoever to trust Erdogan, particularly in Syria. Further, no one has found credible evidence that Russia supports ISIS or buys ISIS oil. And yet the US Establishment has declared Erdogan an ally in the fight against ISIS and very few Western journalists have protested – even though many of them do protest against cooperating with Putin, who is not buying ISIS oil.
Now comparing Erdogan (and in part, Obama – though he is beyond our narrow scope here) with Putin, we see right away that Putin is fighting ISIS. Our Neocon press is pretending this is not true, but we can easily see that ISIS certainly feels attacked by Russia because when Russia started bombing ISIS targets, ISIS claimed responsibility for the Russian plane downing over Sinai, as reported here http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-group-claims-responsibility-downed-russian-plane-officials-say-malfunction-2163917. (BTW, Turkey had focused its investigation on ISIS in a deadly bombing attack in Ankara months ago but ISIS did not claim responsibility as they normally do, suggesting that Turkey was grasping at straws in an effort to make its alleged opposition to ISIS seem plausible:
“Though no group has claimed responsibility for the deadly weekend bombings in Ankara, the focus of the investigation is the Islamic extremist group ISIS, Turkey’s Prime Minister said Monday.”)
One might contend, however, that the bombing of Syrian hospitals and schools was thuggish, and Putin has been blamed in the Western press for this. But there are several drawbacks to this contention. For one thing, the culprits in the bombing have not been proven to be the Russians, and in fact, the US has also been fingered in this bombing. Further, the Russians have absolutely nothing to gain by bombing civilian facilities, and there therefore is no plausible motive for the Russians, whereas the anti-Russian West has plenty of motive to have done this and pinned it on the Russians.
But thuggishness in foreign leaders also includes bullying and strongarming one’s own people.
Has Putin ever been proved to have bullied his people?
Despite the kangaroo court in the UK where Putin was found “probably” guilty of ordering the murder of Litvinenko, a detailed analysis of the British investigation procedure shows that it was not in keeping even with British law: http://thesaker.is/the-litvinenko-inquiry-londons-absurd-show-trial/ and that there is no such legal precept as “probable guilt.” It is clearly a politically motivated verdict.
There have been an unfortunate number of journalists murdered or suspected to have been murdered in Russia but no link has been established with the government, although some victims were opponents of Putin. However, some of these victims in fact had ties to the underworld while others had run afoul of Chechen Muslims and were apparently killed by terrorists. None of the victims were serious threats to the Putin administration and no strong motive could be established.
Most went unsolved.
In stark contrast to this, it is well known that Erdogan muzzled journalists just before the last presidential election and also has jailed journalists. Erdogan is known to have ordered these thuggish actions, as reported here
“Turkish police on Sunday launched a series of arrests of journalists and other media workers – including the editor of the country’s biggest-selling daily paper – as a purge of opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan worsened.”
So whereas Putin is only suspected by already anti-Russian governments of having been a thug, Erdogan perpetrated his thuggishness openly and therefore, no investigation is necessary to establish his culpability.
So while the Western political class, press and blogosphere routinely call Putin a thug, and never call Erdogan a thug, we can say that a gross injustice is being done against Putin by highly Russophobic Western officials and politicians.
We could also make a similar comparison with Mohammed bin Salman al Saud, the deputy Saudi crown prince, who recently had 46 people executed, including 4 Shiite leaders. The dominant Saudi sect, ie, Wahhabism, the most intolerant Muslim sect, teaches that non-Sunnis, including Christians, deserve the death penalty. The Saudis founded and sponsor Al-Qaeda and ISIS while claiming they oppose these groups. Killing people for their religious faith is thuggishness by any measure.
Yet Western political “leaders” and commentators never call Mohammed bin Salman a thug and the press that they virtually control also gives him a pass, even while keeping the pressure against Putin high. But why wouldn’t they? Washington has been sending arms to Al-Nusra for years, and the other name for that group is “Al-Qaeda in Syria.” So the Neocons are arming and funding the group that took down the Twin Towers. Yes, it serves their purposes to make Russia look bad.
Clearly, in calling Putin a thug while giving true thugs like Erdogan and Salman a pass, the Western elites are relying on their peoples’ lack of analytical ability and the residual anti-Russian sentiment left over from the Cold War, which, thanks to the tireless propaganda efforts of these elites, is now raging once more, even threatening to become a hot war.
Going back to our question whether we can trust Putin to cooperate with us in Syria, it looks like he is the only one we really can trust to be effectively fighting ISIS, even as the other “allies” seem to be supporting ISIS by their inaction, by supporting them financially and by opposing the most effective adversaries of ISIS.
Is this effectiveness in defeating ISIS not in fact the reason behind all the slander of Putin by the Establishment?