AYDINLIK TÜRKİYE'NİN HABERCİSİ
Remembering things past
No, I have no reason to feel responsible for the decision of Mr. Eric Edelman to cut short his stay as U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, although many believed he had trespassed his diplomatic responsibilities and some even suggested that he should be branded "persona non grata," and I have always regarded him as a friend.
I have never thought he would vacate his post so abruptly and never demanded that he should quit.
Why does an ambassador decide to end his tenure earlier then is due? The only acceptable reason is promotion, and I hope promotion is the reason for Mr. Edelman's decision to cut short his stay. He has been very active in Turkey, traveling all over the country, making speeches, giving interviews, mingling with journalists. His residence has been focal point for many social activities. He invited intellectuals there to hear American scholars' views on topics of mutual interest. All this has happened before Mr. Edelman has even finished his second year in Turkey.
Yes, I have written here or there columns criticizing his embassy for being vengeful about what happened on that fateful day on March 1, 2003 when our Parliament rejected American demands to receive more than 65,000 U.S. troops in Turkish territory. But it was not him who was unsuccessful in convincing the parliamentarians, since he was in Washington then working for Vice President Dick Cheney and unaware that he was going to replace Robert Pearson as an ambassador to Turkey. Why he took personally the responsibility for declining bilateral relations because of that fateful event, I do not understand.
It is totally wrong to look at Parliament's rejection as a one-time event, it certainly did not happen in a vacuum, but it was rather the conclusion of a series of events starting with the inception of the Justice and Development (AK) Party which is ruling the country single-handedly today.
I do not think myself alone in remembering things past. Politicians are known to have elephant memories. They remember the time when they set up their party and expected visits from foreign dignitaries; the only delegation head who never set foot in their headquarters was Ambassador Pearson. He declined their invitations and stayed away from the AK Party.
When the leaders of the newly established party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Abdullah Gul, took the opportunity to attend the "Davos Conference" convened in New York in support of the U.S. after the Sept. 11 attacks and then on to Washington DC, they were not received with open arms by Americans. Think-tanks welcomed them, but the administration did not send any high-ranking representative to the meetings organized in their honor. Their attempts to see anybody who is somebody in the administration did not produce results either.
This chain of events did not endear the U.S. in the eyes of the AK Party politicians who soon became parliamentarians and ministers and whose decisions would affect the war planning in Washington.
Putting aside the reluctance of the Turkish public to support a war lacking in international legitimacy, there are still two sides to the coin. On the one side there were AK members who found it very difficult to raise their hands in support of a war instigated by a country which did not behave favorably to them. On the other side, there were the social democratic members in Parliament who stood their ground with vigor with not a single member voting to participate in the war.
None of these events were the fault of Mr. Edelman. He found the problem in his lap when he was appointed ambassador and had tried to rectify the problems while leaving the undisturbed still intact. If the U.S. Embassy in Ankara seems to be vengeful today, it is not his fault the diplomats from the embassy have been out to take revenge. They committed grave mistakes and now Ambassador Edelman is going to pay the price with his departure.
I set down and counted with my fingers how many American ambassadors I happened to meet during my time as a political columnist based in Ankara: six.
I monitored the activities of the American Embassy from afar during Ambassador Robert Strauss-Hupe's tenure in the 1980s. He was an old man married to a young lady. His main interest was to boost the egos of the military junta ruling the country, so he did not assign too much of his time for trivialities such as speaking with journalists. Between Strauss-Hupe and Edelman, Ankara has seen very capable ambassadors who all tried their best for the betterment of U.S.-Turkish relations. I broke bread with them, exchanged views, analyzed their public announcements, and gave them a piece of my mind when necessary.
I never thought Mr. Edelman's tenure would finish as hastily as it is finishing now, I had rather expected him to be a great success to the extent that when he returned to Washington, he would go there with flying colors.
I wish him well.
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