January 17, 2012 3:02 pm ET - by Walid Zafar
During last night's GOP primary debate in South Carolina, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was thrown off his talking points when he was asked by Fox News' Brett Baier what he thought about Turkey and its role in NATO. Perry, who has distinguished himself as a know-nothing in a race largely reflective of the Republican Party's contempt for world affairs, responded by saying that the Turkish government is ruled by "Islamic terrorists."
BAIER: Governor Perry, since the Islamist-oriented party took over in Turkey, the murder rate of women has increased 1,400 percent there. Press freedom has declined to the level of Russia. The Prime Minister of Turkey has embraced Hamas and Turkey has threatened military force against both Israel and Cyprus. Given Turkey's turn, do you believe Turkey still belongs in NATO?
PERRY: Well, obviously when you have a country that is being ruled by, what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists, when you start seeing that type of activity against their own citizens, then yes. Not only is it time for us to have a conversation about whether or not they belong to be in NATO, but it's time for the United States, when we look at their foreign aid, to go to zero with it.
Perry's response was the result of an equally misinformed and agenda-driven question by Baier. As Juan Cole notes, Baier's "charges against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey are mostly pure propaganda. Things like the murder rate of women don't change in accordance with which party is in power!"
It's true that Turkey has had a terrible record on press freedom for decades, although there's little to suggest that AKP, the party currently in power, is solely responsible for it. But Turkey is most certainly not governed by terrorists. Nor has it threatened military action against Israel. As a stalwart and reliable ally to the United States, the country has not only sent troops to Afghanistan, but more recently has deployed a missile defense shield within its borders, much to the chagrin of Iran. As an important NATO member, Turkey has also played an active role in trying to mediate the dispute between the West and Iran over the country's nuclear program. Like any ally, of course, Ankara has also pursued its own policies, sometimes to the displeasure of Washington, but rarely to the extent of undermining longstanding U.S. policy.
Of course, Perry isn't expected to know these things. He hasn't run a campaign based on his knowledge of domestic or foreign affairs, so as ridiculous as his comments appear, they are primarily a reflection of his overall ignorance of issues.
The only curious part of this is that Perry has repeatedly complained that President Obama has thrown another U.S. ally, Israel, under the bus by affirming our decades-long policy against the building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.
That is a policy disagreement. Labeling a NATO ally that has sent its soldiers to fight on our side in Afghanistan "terrorists" is what throwing our allies under the bus actually looks like.
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