Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Obama Does Istanbul


Photos of the President's visit to Turkey, here, with related stories.

One of Obama in the Haghia Sophia:

And this one, meeting with religious leaders:

Indeed, Obama went out of his way to reach out to religious leaders of all stripes during his visit to Turkey. Here, he meets with, from left to right, Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Yusuf Cetin, Grand Mufti of Istanbul Professor Mustafa Cagrici, Chief Rabbi of Istanbul Isak Haleva and Armenian Patriarch for all Turkey Mesrob II Archbishop Aram Stesyan.


Steve Hayes said...

I watched on TV this morning as he had a discussion with Turkish students. I was impressed.

I don't agree with all his policies, but when he speaks, unlike his predecessor, what he says makes sense, and his reasons for things make sense, again, even if one doesn't always agree with them.

John said...


BJohnD said...


Kirk said...

The clergy don't look very comfortable in that picture, do they?

John said...


Well they're not exactly huddled-up on the same sofa, are they? But that is not really in the nature of these sorts of things. If you enlarge the photo, though, everybody seems pretty relaxed, if not exactly chummy. The irony is that all but one of these men will probably have to have armed security as they leave the photo-op.

Kirk said...

Well, I'm guessing that this is your typical Turkish propaganda photo-op: Round up the Christians and Jews for a nice picture with the Western political leader to show just how tolerant we Turks are.

Of course, you've been on the ground, John, so I defer to your judgment.

John said...

No, you are exactly right. But the Der Spiegel article does imply that this was at Obama's iniative.

Mimi said...

I was also pleased to hear that he met with the Ecumenical Patriarch.

And, to have been in the Hagia Sophia, what a blessing.

John said...

I am glad to learn that. I wonder why the EP wasn't in this photo?

Jim H. said...

Forgive me for spoiling the love fest, but this looks all too much like the old Soviet "useful idiot" tours, and Obama gave the rightist Islamist government exactly what it wanted, as Ralph Peters writes:

"Obama has no idea what's going on in Turkey. By going to Ankara on his knees, he gave his seal of approval to a pungently anti-American Islamist government bent on overturning Mustapha Kemal's legacy of the separation of mosque and state."

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP, means headscarves, Korans, censorship and stacked elections. The country's alarmed middle class opposes the effort to turn the country into an Islamic state. Obama's gushing praise for the AKP's bosses left them aghast."

See entire column here: http://www.nypost.com/seven/04082009/postopinion/opedcolumnists/os_amateur_hour_163368.html

Jim H. said...

Even the New York Times had this to say about Obama 's Turkish visit, and his tiresome attempt to make false claims to justify himself. From the Commentary blog:

"In a story published on their website about a speech President Obama gave to an audience of students in Turkey, Times reporter Helene Cooper committed a major act of lèse majesté. Rather than merely dutifully reporting Obama’s rhetorical excesses, she actually noted what he was doing in the course of defending his foreign policy:

"He often reverted to his favorite rhetorical devices — straw men — to make his points to the students. For instance, he said that “some people say that I’m being too idealistic” and ask him why he’s reaching out to Iranians, saying that trying to use diplomacy to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb is “too hard."

Obama did this repeatedly in the campaign, implying that McCain was running a racist campaign against him. How many times did he say "they're going to try and scare you because I don't look like other Presidents......" blah, blah, blah. The truth is that McCain was so afraid of being labeled a racist that he wimped out, refusing to ever challenge Obama on his long association with his Jew hating pastor, or even nail him for writing about his admiration for his Marxists professors in one of his own books.

Really John, I'm surprised you are so taken by this guy. He is exemplifying Jimmy Carter style "provocative weakness" in an alarming way, IMHO.

See more here: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/tobin/61581

John said...

No love fest intended here, exactly. I follow events in Turkey closely, however, and I consider the photos to be "keepers." I strongly disagree with your (and Ralph Peter's) analysis. I have been in Turkey 6 times since 2003, from the Bulgarian border to the Iranian border. My views are based on first-hand experience, following news stories concerning Turkey, as well as Turkish English-language newspapers, and regular, on-going correspondence with Turkish friends in Istanbul and central Anatolia.
First, I would not consider anyone in the photo to be a "useful idiot." I take issue with every sentence of Peter's article you quote. I suspect Obama does know what is going on in Turkey. The AKP is not "pungently anti-American," as Peters states, but they were vehemently opposed to our Iraqi adventure--and with good reason, I might add. They are not "Islamist" in the sense that we attribute to the word. They are the party of the rising middle class, the party of good government, and--here's the "Islamist" part--the party of traditional family values, if you will.
Ataturk’s legacy had become severely tarnished in Turkey: a corrupt, inefficient government run by the elite of the country, who were all too cozy with the military. The stacked elections and corruption were hallmarks of the previous regime, not the AKP. As a rule, AKP supporters are more religiously observant than others (though even this is not a given), but this does not necessarily mean that the separation between mosque and state--that is unique to Turkey—is coming to an end. Believe me, the AKP is being watched closely, both in and outside the party, in that regard. The headscarf issue arose primarily because it was prohibited in Turkish universities. The last 2 times I was in Turkey, I saw far fewer headscarves than in 2003 and 2004. I inquired about this and was told that the headscarf was more a political, rather than religious, symbol and once the party was in power, the headscarves went away. And contra Peters, it is not the middle class that is alarmed in Turkey, but rather the elites. In short, Peters’ analysis is so wrong-headed that is clear that he, not Obama, is the one who “has no idea what’s going on in Turkey.”

I will freely admit that I have an agenda when it comes to Turkey. My interest there lies with the indigenous Christian populations, whether they are “Greek,” or Armenian or Suriani Orthodox. Since starting this blog in November 2005, I have posted 39 times on Turkey. In many of those, I have been severely critical of aspects of their society, and of the AKP. The irony is that this supposed “Islamist” party has been the most conciliatory to the Christian minorities there. Any constructive moves in that direction—and there have been some—have come from the AKP, not their predecessors. The obstructionists are the entrenched judges appointed prior to the advent of the AKP. Simply put, Peters’ article is a gross mischaracterization of the party and conditions in Turkey.

John said...


Re: your 2nd post, which I started to delete, btw. My post addressed the historic nature of President Obama's first visit to a Muslim country. It was not meant to be cheerleading for him. If you notice, I posted the pictures without comment, and only posted those pictures which showed him in the Haghia Sophia and meeting with some Orthodox leaders--the connection with historic Orthodoxy in that country was motivation for posting them.

I felt your resorting to campaign-style attacks on Obama was not appropriate to the subject at hand. If you will notice, I largely refrained from commentary on the election during 2008.

I am not "taken" with Obama. I do believe he is a very intelligent, perceptive man...which is a nice change.

I suppose that puts me in the category of "useful idiots," too?

Jim H. said...

Are you kidding me? You really believe the AKP is the party of "good government?" How does this grab you for "good government?:

" In 2005, AKP banned the sale of alcoholic beverages in a section of Ankara which was mostly occupied by bars and restaurants. This ban was soon lifted due to the response from the area's business owners; however, a licensing requirement still remains for the establishments. AKP has also been accused of placing anti-secular individuals in government offices and giving out government contracts to parties with a reputation for being rooted in Islam. In 2007 AKP passed a bill lifting the headscarf ban in all universities." (from Wiikipedia)

Is this the kind of government you (and Obama) think should join the EU? Is is possible that your close ties to Turkey are effecting your objectivity?

And, since you are so concerned about the Christians in Turkey, what do you have to say about the AKP's refusal to acknowledge the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, who of course were Chrstians? You know as well as anyone that the mass murder of the Armenians is a fact of history, and the Turks go ballistic whenever the truth is spoken.

As far as the "useful idiot" comment, Obama's naievity is a perfect illustration of what Lenin had in mind when referring to gullible Westerners who could be easily exploited.

James the Thickheaded said...

Lot of press has taken Barrak to task for his backing off the Armenian (and Jewish, too apparently according to NYT Sunday) genocide. Yes... it's different when you're not a backbencher, and the Irksome Turksome folks supply the 2nd largest number of potential NATO troops.

All in, I think the rabbi loses the Best Hat in the Room contest. Really... and il President is hatless... uh... if you're gonna do the JFK thing... get a top hat... or something. How about a good ol' Chicago-style?

I have never seen a photo of Hagia Sophia from this level. That's a treat in itself. Thanks for posting all of this!

Signed: Another Apparatchik

John said...

Okay, Jim. This is getting silly. No, I am not kidding you, and yes, I believe the AKP is the party of good government.

Nothing in your Wikipedia blurb is anything to be upset over. Turkey has had regulations and restrictions on the sale of alcoholic beverages for years. In 2004, in heavily touristed Sultanhamet, I had to hide a glass of raki because a policeman was coming up the street looking for liquor violations. He passed, and the raki came out again. Turkey has had long-standing restrictions against drinking within 300 ft. (I think) of a mosque. In 2007, I sat at a sidewalk table, drinking a glass of raki with my meal, all within a stone’s throw of a mosque (and I can’t throw very far.) Turkey’s long-established alcohol restrictions are routinely evaded, ignored and circumvented. That said, outside of certain districts of Istanbul, drinking in Turkey is always done discretely, behind walls. Personally, I have no problem with that.

The “anti-secular” individuals the article cites are AKP party members. When we see the word “secular,” we think of one thing. In Turkey, it is code for the established elite and their military enablers.

And look at what is actually being said in the Wikipedia article about headscarves: the bill did not require that women wear headscarves to the university, but just the opposite. It allowed observant Muslim women to wear their headscarves to college, where previously they had been barred from doing so. Do you have a problem with that? I don’t.

I don’t recall saying anything about Turkish entrance into the EU. Frankly, I have mixed feelings about that, and would actually oppose such a move until they come to terms with the Armenian question, and normalize relations with the Phanar. Many Turks believe EU membership will never happen, and polls indicate that many do not even consider it desirable anymore. The government still officially pursues it (as they should), but there is little public clamor for it.

My close ties to Turkey are not affecting my objectivity; they just make me informed on this issue.

The country’s Turko-centric view on most every issue is indeed infuriating at times. Nothing is more maddening than their obfuscation on the Armenian genocide question. I have written of this numerous times. I have even visited their repulsive monument to the “Turkish Genocide.” Yes, you read that correctly. In the far east of the country, in sight of Armenia, there is a sickening monument (and museum?) of the supposed Armenian genocide against the Turks. And yet, I love the country and its people. That said, followers of events in Turkey will know that there is movement on that issue. The 2 countries are talking of opening their common border. The public demonstrations and government support after the murder of the Armenian journalist two years ago was most encouraging (Turks marching around Taksim Square with signs proclaiming “We are all Armenians now.”) In many ways, the government is inching towards acknowledgment. I am not naïve on this issue. There is still a long, long way to go. But here is the bottom line: All progress on this issue has come under AKP’s watch. There was NOTHING before.

John said...


I'm giving Obama some more time on the Armenian question. The fact is, there are delicate ongoing talks between the 2 countries that could be jepardized by any public statement on his part. So, we will watch and see what happens. If the talks are productive, then his approach was wise. If the talks are just that--talk, and then Obama doesn't speak up on the genocide issue, THEN I will take him to task for doing the political side-step.

I don't know about the hat question. I thought the Armenian Patriarch looked like a sith lord. And yeah, I think Obama needed to bring back the fedora. :)

James the Thickheaded said...


Here's a helpful insight I hadn't seen:


Fills in some of the story... and offers hope that BHO will "stick to the script that brung him."

John said...

Thanks, James. I am linking that article right now.