Showing his characteristic indifference to the facts, John Wight wrote on RT.com (where else?) that Columbia University professor David L. Phillips had revealed that the Turkish government had been “involved in helping ISIS with recruitment, training, and has provided it with intelligence and safe havens and sanctuary.”
However, if you go to the report, which was published on Huffington Post under the title “Research Paper: ISIS-Turkey List”, you need to read the fine print that indicates it was only a list of allegations, something Wight apparently did not do. For example, I can compile a list of allegations that global warming is a hoax but that does not mean that I have proved that it is. Right?
It is just as possible, however, that he read it and decided to sweep it under the rug in order to turn the research paper (more of an aggregation of links) into some kind of smoking gun proving that Turkey and ISIS were in cahoots. The article, published with the imprimatur of Columbia University’s “Institute for the Study of Human Rights”, clearly says that it is providing a list of allegations. Let me repeat that with emphasis. It is a list of allegations. Also, at the very end of the report it says: Author’s Note: Information presented in this paper is offered without bias or endorsement. (Emphasis in the original.)
One can certainly understand why RT.com would allow a semi-literate propagandist like John Wight to turn “allegations” into proof. As most people in touch with reality understand, Russia Today is a kind of Fox News for the “anti-imperialist” left, providing red meat with the kind of mad abandon found in a typical Bill O’Reilly show.
As a prime example, look at this screenshot from an 11/25/2015 RT.com article titled “Ankara’s oil business with ISIS”. And in particular note that it states “an alleged ISIS leader”. By stipulating “alleged”, one gathers that this item might have easily qualified for Professor Phillips’s list.
However, the allegation has about as much substance as a Donald Trump speech on Mexican immigrants. It turns out that the bearded guys were owners of a kebab restaurant in Turkey and had nothing to do with ISIS. I guess having a beard makes you eligible for racial profiling in the Russian media.
If there is one thing that Russia and Turkey have in common, it is a shady news media. Many of Phillips’s citations come from ODA TV, an ultranationalist outlet that is about as reliable as Russia Today. For example, as one of the “allegations” there is this video clip “allegedly showing ISIS militants riding a bus in Istanbul.” Other than their long hair and black shirts (but beardless?), there’s not much else to go by. For all practical purposes, they could have been Metallica fans.
When there is a link to a more reputable outlet such as Taraf, a liberal newspaper that has partnered with Wikileaks, it is once again an allegation rather than hard evidence. In one instance, the Taraf article cites Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat, “a founder of the AKP”, who said that Turkey backs ISIS. But you need to dig a bit deeper to understand the nature of the allegation. The article is dated October 12, 2015, just two days after a terrorist bomb killed 100 people at a rally organized by the leftist/Kurdish HDP. While Firat was indeed a founder of the AKP, he had broken with the party and joined the HDP. As such it is not surprising that he would charge the AKP with being an accomplice to ISIS terror.
Of course there is nothing wrong with being a partisan of the Kurdish struggle. Indeed, David L. Phillips is one himself. His book “The Kurdish Spring: A New Map of the Middle East” was published this year with none other than Bernard Kouchner providing a forward.
The choice of Kouchner makes perfect sense in terms of Phillips’s self-description as a “U.S. official” involved with Kurdish affairs. To give you a clear idea of his orientation, this speaks volumes:
Toppling Saddam was a clear priority for President George W. Bush after 9/11. Ambassador William J. Burns, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), encouraged me to get involved in Iraq’s political transition. Qubad Talabani, the PUK representative in Washington, arranged my visit to Iraqi Kurdistan in July 2002. I flew to Qamishli, a Kurdish city in Northeast Syria. In a cinder-block building on the Tigris River, a Syrian official served me tea and checked my authorization to transit from Syria to Iraq. Sure enough, my name and passport number were handwritten in his registry. Qubad provided a four-digit code: 3462. The official checked to see if the code matched his registry and issued a letter of passage.
Well, one can certainly understand why John Wight might lean on the authority of David L. Phillips. In an age when the “anti-imperialist” left is channeling Christopher Hitchens’s ghost, such an affinity makes perfect sense.