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Stephen Kinzer
Stephen Kinzer
Crescent & Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds
ISBN: 0374131430
Crescent & Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds
For centuries, no terror was more vivid in the Western imagination than fear of "the Turk." To this day many people think of Turkey as exotic and fascinating but at the same time repressive, wild and vaguely dangerous.

In Crescent and Star, Stephen Kinzer offers an intimate report on Turkey today, pulling aside the veil that has long hidden its wonders from the outside world. He traces its development into a modern state and explains the great dilemmas it now faces. Turkey is poised between Europe and Asia, caught between the glories of its Ottoman past and its hopes for a democratic future, between the traditional power of its army and the needs of its impatient citizens, between Muslim traditions and secular expectations. Will Turkey continue to hide behind its fears, remaining only half-free and fulfilling only half its great potential, or will it yield to the pressure of a new generation and become a powerful and prosperous democracy?

Kinzer spent years working and living in Turkey, and he was captivated by its many delights. He describes the pleasures of smoking water pipes, searching for the ruins of lost civilizations, watching camel fights, discovering the country's greatest poet, swimming across the fabled Bosphorus and even hosting a blues program on an Istanbul radio station. He takes us from elegant city cafés to wild mountain outposts on Turkey's eastern border, talking along the way to dissidents and patriots, villagers and cabinet ministers. He reports on political trials and on his own arrest by Turkish soldiers when he was trying to uncover secrets about the army's campaign against Kurdish guerrillas. And he explores the nation's drive to join the European Union, the human-rights abuses that have kept it out and its difficult relations with Kurds, Armenians and Greeks.

Will this vibrant country, Kinzer asks, become the world's first Islamic democracy? Crescent and Star makes clear why Turkey might—or might not—become "the most audaciously successful nation of the twenty-first century."
—from the publisher's website

Crescent & Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds
Program Air Date: October 21, 2001

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Stephen Kinzer, when you think of Turkey, what's the best thing about it?
Mr. STEPHEN KINZER (Author, "Crescent & Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds"): Turkey is a truly fascinating, very multifaceted country. It has a huge cultural history; probably more civilizations have existed over a longer period of time on that piece of geography than anywhere else in the world. You can hardly turn over a shovel anywhere in Turkey without finding some remnant of some fascinating civilization. So that's the historical and cultural aspect.

At the moment, Turkey is going through a period of self-examination and trying to decide if it's ready to complete its march toward democracy. It already is the most democratic Islamic country in the world and only country in the world that can call itself, with any justification, a Muslim democracy, so that makes this a fascinating place at any time.

As a result of what is happening in the world right now, Turkey's importance has suddenly mushroomed. Turkey has a big role to play in what's going to be happening over the next weeks and months in central Asia and probably even an eq--a greater role in the long-term future, as it seeks to set a counterexample in the Islamic world to the message that we're getting from the cave.

So although Turkey is a fascinating place--and I--I can say that out of the 50 countries I have covered, as a foreign correspondent, this is really the most interesting one--it holds a very special place right now. And I think it's probably a more interesting place and a place where the world's attention is focused more sharply than ever before.
LAMB: It struck me this morning--I was in reading The Wall Street Journal, one of your competitors, I guess. And there's a story in there--it--it was a small story--says Turkey's regional ambitions get boost by a fellow named Hugh Pope. And it's dateline Istanbul. And as I read it, I thought, this is a great opportunity for us to learn from you all the ins and outs of this piece, 'cause it's very relevant to what's going on today. First paragraph: `Turkey won Britain's blessing for its bid to become a leading planner and peace keeper in any international postwar reconstruction of Afghanistan.'

Let me just stop right there. Why would it be--why would the Brits be involved with Turkey? Why would they say something like that? And how does it relate to Afghanistan?
Mr. KINZER: I'm not going to say it was because the author of that piece is British, but the British foreign secretary was in Turkey and simply gave a kind of pro forma approval, I think, to a plan that the Americans have long since accepted, the pa--the principle of which is that Turkey is uniquely situated to play a role, not just in the period in which the Taliban is being confronted and perhaps overthrown and in the immediate post-Taliban period, but for--for a much longer period after that.

Turkey brings some very unique and valuable assets to the table when it comes to participation in this anti-terror coalition. First of all, Turkey holds a special role in the Islamic consciousness as a result of the Ottoman Empire and as a result of its very central geography. So Turkey can play a role that Christian countries cannot.

Secondly, Turkey has a long history of involvement in Afghanistan. Not only is it the chief sponsor of one of the principal components in the Northern Alliance, but it has intelligence and experience over many years of training soldiers and having diplomats and having projects on the ground in Turkey. There is no other country who--which has the access to the kind of intelligence experience in Afghanistan that Turkey does.

Also bear in mind that Turkey has recently finished fighting a civil war against Kurdish insurgents in terrain almost exactly like that of Afghanistan, against an enemy whose armament and tactics is very similar to what is--the West is going to be facing in Afghanistan.

Now the Afghan leaders of the '20s and '30s consciously modeled themselves on Turkey. They saw Turkey as a country that had broken away from imperialism and had established itself as a Muslim state with very modern, Western oriented ambitions. And in fact, Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish state, co--corresponded at great length with the Afghan king, the grandfather of Zahir Shah, about whom we hear so much--now living in Rome and hopefully playing a--a part in the rebuilding of his country.

And finally, Turkey has big ethnic ties in central Asia. The Turks only got to what is now Turkey 1,000 years ago. Before that, they were living in central Asia. And their ethnic cousins are all over that region. Uzbekistan, for example, which is the principal country in the region from which the United States hopes to fly missions into Afghanistan, is a Turkic country. My own pidgin Turkish gets me along quite well in Uzbekistan.

So there is a readiness to accept Turkey that you don't see in a willingness to accept participation from any other country. Turkey is the only Muslim country in NATO, and it's the NATO country that is the closest to the theater of operations now. So Turkey can make a great contribution and is going to make a great contribution to this coalition.
LAMB: When were you there for The New York Times?
Mr. KINZER: I arrived in 1996. I spent four years there and returned to the United States just about a year ago. I was most recently in Turkey again for a--a visit just a few months ago.
LAMB: Where did you live when you were there?
Mr. KINZER: I lived in Istanbul, which may or may not be the world's most magnificent city, but it's certainly the most magnificently situated city in the world. It is, as one writer from the 17th Century once described it, the key to two worlds, because with a single waterway, it connects two empires. You have the Black Sea to the north, which is the gateway to Russia and the Slavic world, and the Mediterranean to the south, which connects Turkey to Europe, and to Africa and to the Middle East. I was living in a house quite close to the Bosphorus, which is a body of water that separates Europe from Asia.

Istanbul is the only city in the world that is on two continents. And that reflects Turkey's dilemma. When I used to sit in a cafe near my house and look out over the Bosphorus, I could feel the--the duality, the--the double pull on the Turkish identity. Behind me is Paris and Rome and London, and in front of me just across the Bosphorus is this huge, unbroken landmass that stretches all the way to Baghdad and Delhi and Beijing.

So Istanbul proved an intensely fascinating place to live--former capital of the Roman Empire, for a 1,000 years the capital of the Byzantine Empire, and then for centuries the capital of the Ottoman Empire and now the center of one of the most vibrant Islamic civilizations in the world. So I can honestly say that four years was just not enough time to absorb all of the richness of that city.
LAMB: How many people live there?
Mr. KINZER: Nobody knows the answer to that question, probably in the neighborhood of 13 million people.
LAMB: I'm sorry. I meant the whole country.
Mr. KINZER: The population of Turkey is about 65 million.
LAMB: What countries abut it?
Mr. KINZER: Turkey has a variety of different neighbors. On the European side, Bulgaria and Greece. Then on the other side, it has the Caucuses. It has--it borders on Georgia; has a little border with Azerbaijan. Then it borders on Iraq; it borders on Syria, and it borders on Iran. So Turkey is in a difficult neighborhood. Countries that could choose their neighbors would not choose the neighbors that Turkey has found itself with.
LAMB: What language does--do the people of Turkey speak?
Mr. KINZER: Turkey has the remarkable experience of having essentially created a new language in the 1920s. Kemal Ataturk, who was the founder of the Turkish Republic, was one of the most successful revolutionaries of the 20th Century. The other ideologies that emerged at the time that he stepped on to history's stage in the 1920s--I'm talking about Bolshevism, and Fascism and Nazism--have all collapsed, leaving legacies of untold misery and pain, but the revolution of Ataturk still thrives. And that revolution consisted of ripping Turkish society completely and quite violently apart from its deep Islamic, traditional, theocratic roots and forcibly pushing it towards Europe, towards modernity, towards democracy. The fez was banned. The veil for women was banned. Divorce was legalized. Marriage between Muslims and non-Muslims was legalized. Civil codes were imported from Switzerland and other European countries.

And in what was not the least achievement of that revolution, Ataturk decided that writing in the Arabic script was always going to keep Turkey isolated from the Western world. He called them incomprehensible symbols. `We must free ourselves from these.' And so he convened a convention of linguists and philologists--told them that he wanted them to transliterate the entire Arabic la--Turkish Arabic language into the Latin script. And he asked them, `How long did they estimate this would take?' They came back to him with the response that since it involved creating es--essentially a whole new language, they could manage this in six years. His answer, in typical Ataturk fashion, was, `Fine, you've got six months.' And in six months' time, the script with which Turks had lived for centuries was abolished and a new es--a new language essentially was implemented, and it is now a version of Ottoman Turkish, but probably would be almost incomprehensible to a person who lived in Turkey 100 years ago.
LAMB: Who leads the country today?
Mr. KINZER: Turkey is ruled by a democratic system. There's an elected pres--elected president, elected prime minister, a parliament, and it functions in many ways as a parliamentary democracy. There is, however, one exception to this. The Turkish military has played a very interesting role in forming this nation. And there's a tremendous public admiration for the military in Turkey.

I came to Turkey after spending many years in Latin America during the 1970s and '80s, and there, I observed that there was an almost directly inverse relationship between the power of the military and the happiness of the people. Powerful military means oppression and brutality and misery for the people. Tear down the military, spit on them and kick them; people will become happier and live more fulfilling lives. I had to throw that scale completely out--out of my window and into the Bosphorus when I arrived in Turkey. The Turkish military was responsible for creating the Republic of Turkey, which after World War I was to be sliced up and divided among the victorious Allies. Many people also feel that the Turkish military saved the nation from destruction just within the last decade by suppressing a separatist rebellion.

As a result of this confidence that many Turks have in their army, they have accepted a system in which there's a body called the National Security Council, in which the country's principal military leaders and principal civilian leaders meet together to fo--shape the direction of public policy. In practice, the military has a strong role on the National Security Council. So this means that the military is not completely subject to civilian authority the way it is in a democratic country. There is con--cr--growing debate about this in Turkey today. Even though most Turks are willing to accept the guidance of the military in national security matters, they're increasingly uncomfortable with the military's desire to shape the limits of domestic politics. And this conflict is one of the--it--debates that is shaping Turkey today.
LAMB: A religion--you say it's a Muslim country. Are--is everyone Muslim?
Mr. KINZER: Almost everyone, well over 95 percent.
LAMB: What does that mean?
Mr. KINZER: Islam plays a very different role in Turkey than it does in many other Muslim countries. In the first place, Ataturk himself was deeply secularist and believed that although religion can play an important, even a dominant role in shaping personal morality, it should not have any role in shaping state policy. That is what he meant by secularism, which is the guiding principle of--of his ideology. To a remarkable extent in--what's actually quite a short time--75 years of existence for the Turkish Republic--the vast majority of Turkish people have embraced the idea of secularism. And this is what gives Turkey the opportunity to play a long-term role in the Islamic world, particularly in central Asia, but actually even beyond. Turkey is the furthest to the opposite extreme imaginable from what we are seeing in Afghanistan and from the Taliban in terms of religious belief.

Right now, the message that is coursing through the Islamic world and that is shaping all discussion and debate and dialogue is this message from the cave. And I--I guess that could--that phrase could be used figuratively as well as literally. The--the message has been such a shock and comes so unexpectedly to the outside world that there has been no countermessage. The Islamic world, much less the world outside of it, has not been able to come up with a coherent response to that message from the cave.

Now Turkey is the country best equipped to give the countermessage. And that message is you can become a fulfilled, prosperous, democratic country if you adopt the ideas that we have followed. Follow democracy and secularism. Embrace Islam as a form of personal guidance, but don't try to shape the direction of your state through religious principles. Turkey can give this message to the Islamic world and, by so doing, help to pull the Islamic c--consciousness away from radical fundamentalism, towards modernity, towards universal ideals of human rights and democracy. And if it can do that, Turkey can have a profound influence on the Islamic c--world. And by so doing, it can change the whole world.
LAMB: Let me ask you about this cover. Where is this picture from?
Mr. KINZER: That is a picture of the Bosphorus. And that body of water that you see is the body that separates Europe from Asia. And there's a bridge in that picture, which is to illustrate the theme of my book, as the subtitle says, "Turkey Between Two Worlds."

Now in my book, although I discuss the political and cultural conflicts that are now bubbling in Turkey, after finished--finishing writing those chapters, I c--concluded that I hadn't done enough to explain my fascination with this country or show how much fun it was to live there. So I wrote a series of mini-chapters about what it was like to watch camel fighting, and why I loved eating in Turkish restaurants, and who's the best Turkish poet and other little tidbits that, I--I think, give people an insight into what makes this country so interesting.

And one of these little chapters is about the Bosphorus. I talk about its history from the moment that it filled up with water over the period of just a few days in one the greatest natural cataclysms of recorded history; actually many people believe that this is the great flood that is referred to in the--the Noah story in the Bible and in the epic of Gilgamesh and in other great religious and historical writings. The Bosphorus is also lined with beautiful castles, and it's lined with colorful mansions in all sorts of architectural styles. Anybody who lives near the Bosphorus is captured by its beauty. It's a--it's a constantly changing jewel.

And one the things that I wanted to do before I left Turkey was swim across the Bosphorus. It's a little more than mile wide. And I thought I could handle this, even though every time I asked my Turkish friends what they thought of this idea, they said, `Why? Why would you want to do such a thing? It's very dirty. The currents are very dangerous. There are too many tankers and large vessels going through. It's dangerous.' It's not even really legal to swim in--other than at the edges of the Bosphorus. But I wanted to do it as a way of consummating my relationship with this wonderful body of water. And very importantly, I decided that I wanted to swim across from the Asian side to the European side, because that is the direction of Turkish history, and the Bosphorus encapsulates this. I--Turkey has been moving from East to West throughout its entire existence, and that's the direction of--across which I swam the Bosphorus.
LAMB: Thirty-nine minutes?
Mr. KINZER: Thirty-nine minutes according to the stopwatch of the guy in the boat who accompanied me. The water was cleaner than I expected. I--was very early in the morning, about 5 AM, so the traffic wasn't quite as heavy as it sometimes is. I was swimming right up near the Black Sea end of the Bosphorus. The Bosphorus is about 17 miles long. And as I was swimming across, I was thinking of the people that have crossed that body of water, from Tamerlane and Homer and Aristotle, through Darius and Alexander the Great. And I felt connected to the sweep of Turkish history. So does everybody who comes to Istanbul and gazes out on this jewel.
LAMB: The Dardanelles--now explain what the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus and the Black Sea--what are they?
Mr. KINZER: These are the two straits--the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus--that separate Europe from Asia, and concretely today the European part of Turkey from the Asian part of Turkey. You must pass through, if you're coming from the Mediterranean, the Dardanelles first, then you come into a small body of water called the Sea of Marmara, and then you go up through the Bosphorus. In this way, you've gone from the Mediterranean up to the Black Sea. This is the only route--this is the only connection that the entire Slavic and Caucasus world has with the outside world.

This body of water is the lifeline for a huge region of the world. And it is also the body of water that symbolizes, not only Turkey's dual East-West identity, but also its--it's north-south identity. To the north lies Russia and the Slavic world, which is a world with which Turkey has been very intertwined for a long time. And the Mediterranean not only connects it to storied history, as Jason and Odysseus and all these other great heroes, who supposedly touched foot on Turkish soil, but also the Mediterranean is the outlet to the world. It washes the shores of Africa. It washes the shores of Europe. And it is the outlet to the Atlantic.

So Turkey, because of its geography, has a number of different views of the world. For m--much of its existence, the Turkish Republic was off on the edge. It's in the very far corner of Europe, far, far corner of Asia. It's near but not in the Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus. So it's always been considered kind of marginal with the end of the Cold War. And the evaporation of the imaginary line between Europe and Asia, which was always an imaginary construct anyway by European intellectuals who wanted to find a way to separate themselves from the barbarian hoards to the East. Turkey is no longer on the edge of anything. Turkey is right in the middle of the world. And that gives Turkey the platform to begin what may now be its largest role, its largest operation, its largest projection, not just of military power, but of political ideals ever since it existed as a nation.
LAMB: Back to Mr. Hugh Pope's article in The Wall Street Journal--you mention some of this--`Turkey, the only member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was a largely--with a largely Muslim population, has already sent a high-ranking team to the US to begin military coordination.' Do--does the US still have military bases in Turkey?
Mr. KINZER: Absolutely. The US operates from a large base in southern Turkey. And that is where the planes who are--which are patrolling northern Iraq are based.
LAMB: What's the name of it?
Mr. KINZER: Incirlik, down near the city of Adana on the Mediterranean coast.
LAMB: And Mr. Post says they prove a loyal Western ally, quote, "`The struggle in Afghanistan against an archaic regime, which hosts terrorism, must be carried out until the end,' Prime Minister"--and you pronounce his name...
Mr. KINZER: Bulent Ecevit.
LAMB: ..."told Turkish Parliament. Mr. Ecevit lent credence to reports that Turkey is readying a military team to train forces of Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance opposition group. Turkey is also offering to lead a Muslim contingent of any international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. It is well prepared with NATO's second-biggest Army." Second biggest to the how many countries in NATO--nine, 10?
Mr. KINZER: More than that, so Turkey has a...
LAMB: Yeah, it's up to fif--up to fif...
Mr. KINZER: ...has a large--has a large military force. And it's--it's interesting that Prime Minister Ecevit announced, even before the Americans did, I think on September 14th, that he was convinced that there would be no end to terror movements in the world as long as the Taliban was in power. When I heard that, I thought, `Well, prime minister, you're a little ahead of the curve here,' but the curve has really caught up with him now. The Turks have no tolerance for these kinds of movements and are--are aggressive in their desire to stamp them out.

It's also very interesting to imagine the role that Turkey can play on the ground in Afghanistan in a post-Taliban environment. It is ideally placed because of its heritage, and certainly because of its religious foun--foundation, to go into Afghanistan without arousing the hostility that some other kinds of forces would. This is another role that Turkey is now equipped to play better than any other country in the world. Turkey is the only Muslim country in NATO. And it is the NATO country closest to this theater of operations. It's only one country away from Afghanistan.

So Turkey will play a role in the first stage of this conflict, which will be to depose the Taliban. It will play a role in the transitional phase, which will be to stabilize the country, pob--probably by participating and, I wouldn't be surprised, leading a peacekeeping multinational force under the auspices of the United Nations or some other body. And then it will go on to play what I described earlier as perhaps its most important role, which is helping to reshape not just the consciousness in Afghanistan, but the Islamic approach in--in a wider world.

It will have particular resonance in Pakistan. There is actually a very interesting relationship there. The Pakistanis, who were becoming restive under British rule in the 1920s and '30s, looked to Turkey as an example. They were inspired in many ways by Ataturk. And Jinnah, the founder of the modern Pakistani state, was a great admirer of Ataturk. In addition to that, President Musharraf of Pakistan is a military officer who was trained in Turkey. He speaks Turkish. And I believe, like many of the people of his class and background in Pakistan, he also sees Turkey as a model for what countries can be if they want to embrace Islam as a guidance for--as a guide for personal life, but isolated from influence over state power.
LAMB: You went to jail in Turkey.
Mr. KINZER: That's a nice way of putting it. It makes it sound voluntary. I did have a little brush with the Turkish authorities. The war that was fought between the Turkish army and Kurdish insurgents in southeastern Turkey was fought more or less out of the public eye. The Turkish army was anxious, as most armies are, to conduct its operations without anybody watching and it was more successful than many armies have been in--in doing so. As a foreign correspondent, it was part of my responsibility to try to sniff around and find out what was going on in southeastern Turkey while that conflict was underway.

The Turks had had several cases of Europeans who had been working with rebel groups in Europe and had come to southeastern Turkey to serve as couriers or play some other kind of shadowy role on behalf of rebel Kurdish groups. I was driving around, minding what I thought was my own business, although from the perspective of the army, I was intruding into theirs. I came to a couple of roadblocks during the day, and when told I couldn't go any further, I respectfully turned around and went the other way. But I did reach one roadblock where I was told I couldn't go away. I should come in and sit down while some phone calls were made. After a couple of hours, I was brought down to another command post and finally into the basement of a military headquarters in a provincial capital out in eastern Turkey. And I was subjected to some quite intense, although not physical, interrogation over a period of many hours. And I was told finally by a couple of my interrogators, we think you're a spy for--for the rebels.

I spent about 24 hours in custody. And although it was a highly unpleasant experience, even while it was going on, I can remember telling myself, `Try not to focus only on what they're doing to you, but see what you can learn from this experience.' And--and it was a learning experience in a sense. I got a view of that conflict that I don't think I could have gotten any other way. And although the Army was hoping to keep me apart from some new insights into the military mind-set, I think I did get some while I was down in that cell.
LAMB: You say that half the 30 million Kurds in the world live in Turkey.
Mr. KINZER: Something like that, yes.
LAMB: And what's the relationship now between the Kurds and the Turks?
Mr. KINZER: There's been a great change in this relationship over the last few years. The Kurdish rebellion reached a peak in the late '80s and early '90s. It was something that was terrifying for the rest of the Turkish nation because the central goal of Kurdish rebels was to slice Turkey apart and to establish their own state in eastern Turkey, a state which the Turks feared was going to be very radical and become a base for further attacks that could ultimately end in the disintegration of their nation. Now in the mid-1990s, that war began to end, particularly with a series of military victories by the Turkish army, and then finally because of the capture of the leader of the rebellion.

As a result of those events, the demands of Kurdish nationalists, diminished tremendously. In my book, I talk about a trip that I made after the war ended and the trial of the rebel leader was over. Through Kurdish exile communities in Europe, I concluded that Kurds would feel more free to talk and would speak more openly outside of Turkey than they might be able to inside Turkey. And many of these exile communities had supported the rebellion inside Turkey. I found some remarkable turn-around in the Kurdish mentality. People told me as a result of the Internet and modern technology, national borders have lost so much of their importance. You can set up a Web site and reach anyone you want.

One Kurdish poet who had been very active in nationalist circles in London for many years told me, `I always believed that there should be an independent Kurdistan, but I don't believe that anymore. I want to live in an environment in which I am free to be who I am and in which I can enjoy democratic rights. If that environment is called Turkey, that's fine with me.' This is a great step forward and a tremendous reduction in what Kurds want. The ability of the Turkish nation to resolve this question almost forever is greater now than it's ever been, because the concessions that are necessary to persuade Kurds that they have a place inside the Turkish Republic are now smaller, more minor than they've ever been. It's still a psychological hurdle for the Turkish leaders to get over, that--that they should make concessions, but they can resolve this conflict by making what are now relatively minor concessions, and I hope they will.
LAMB: Where do the Kurds live in Turkey?
Mr. KINZER: That's an interesting question, because the traditional Kurdish homeland is in southeastern Turkey, which is the poorest and least-developed part of Turkey. However, partly as a result of the upheaval caused by the war, millions of Kurds have poured out of that region, looking for stability and economic betterment in the big cities. So you can now find huge Kurdish communities in Istanbul, in Ankara, in Izmir. And I should add that this minority is not a minority in the sense that Americans often use that term. M--a Kurd and a Turk look very much alike. You--you can't tell them apart on the street. And no one is discriminated against in Turkey for being Kurdish.

You are sometimes discriminated against for refusing to accept your place as a Turkish citizen, but Kurds have risen to the top level in business, in entertainment, even in government, in Turkey. The speaker of the parliament has been a Kurd. So being of Kurdish descent is no obstacle to advancement in Turkey. And that is why many Kurds outside of their ancestral homeland in southeastern Turkey are anxious to integrate themselves into the Turkish nation, and I think increasingly the Turkish nation is anxious to embrace them.
LAMB: You say there are two and a half million Turks in Germany, and I--I remember that at--at one point, at least, they couldn't become German citizens. Has that changed yet?
Mr. KINZER: I lived in Germany, coincidentally, before I went to--went to Turkey to live, and there is a large Turkish and Turkish-Kurdish community in Berlin. When I looked out at these communities, I get a certain view of what Turkey is and what Turks are. But that, I found out when I got to Turkey, is a very distorted view. During the 1960s and '70s, Germany, and other European countries, asked Turks to come by the tens of thousands to work in factories and power the economic rebirth of Europe that followed the Second World War.

So who came? Not intellectuals, not educated people, but very poor villagers from eastern Anatolia, many of them Kurds. These are people who would have been out of place and disoriented, even in--in Ankara, or Izmir, or Istanbul, much less in Brussels or Cologne. And it drives the educated Turks absolutely crazy to realize that the image of Turks in Europe is essentially shaped by these relatively primitive villagers who have nothing to do with the modernity that the Turkish nation embraces. I think that's part of the reason why Europeans look at Turkey with a certain skepticism and why they find it a little difficult to embrace the idea that Turkey can be a European nation psychologically, as well as politically, that Turkey should have a place, perhaps even in the European Union. They see one side of Turkey and imagine that that represents the whole nation, although that's very much not the case.
LAMB: Two-thirds of the Turks are under 35 years old?
Mr. KINZER: Turkey has had a big demographic boom, and this has had a huge political impact in Turkey, too. Turkey, when it was founded in the 1920s, was a very fragile state. It faced enemies all around it, including the Soviet Union, which wanted to incorporate it.
LAMB: What was it before it was formed?
Mr. KINZER: Before it was formed, it was the heart of the Ottoman Empire.
LAMB: And what was that?
Mr. KINZER: The Ottoman Empire was the greatest Muslim empire of all time. It stretched all the way from Arabia across northern Africa into the Caucasus and out into Europe, right up into the gates of Vienna and Budapest. So it was on the ruins of this finally collapsed empire that Ataturk built the Turkish Republic.
LAMB: Where does the `ottoman' word come from?
Mr. KINZER: There were various Turkish clans that came from central Asia to Turkey about 1,000 years ago. And one of them was headed by a sultan, or a chieftain called Azman. So his clan was the House of Azman. In Germany, the Ottoman Empire's called (German spoken), and that got transliterated in--in English from Az--Azmans to Ottoman.

Now in the early years of the Turkish Republic, the fears of Turkish leaders guided all their politics. They feared religious backlash. They feared uprisings by sheiks from within the country, they feared their neighbors. And generations of Turks grew up with the idea that Turkey was surrounded by enemies, Turkey was surrounded by dangers, Turkey always had to be on the alert. Everybody's against Turkey. Only the Turk will save the Turk.

Younger generations have grown up in a very different environment. They look around and don't see threats. They see a thriving, very self-confident nation. And they want to know why there are still some restrictions remaining on Turkish democracy. `Why can't we,' these two-thirds of the nation that are under 35 ask, `be the examples of democracy and be entrusted with the responsibility, as voters, of deciding the direction of our country? If Estonians can do it and Uruguayans can do it and Taiwanese can do it, why can't we do it? Are we too irresponsible or too stupid or too immature?' Their elders are telling them, `Watch out. Once you let the religious believers practice religion as they like and let people of various ethnic groups express themselves and let people who denounce and hate the principles of our republic speak freely, you are opening the floodgates, and the nation and our great secular experiment will be drowned.' This younger generation doesn't believe that anymore.

The great question now that shapes the entire political and intellectual debate in Turkey is one that I guess I could reduce down to a simple three-word question, and that is, `Are we ready? Are we ready for democracy?' If the lid is taken off and Turkey is allowed to complete its march toward democracy, when even the most hateful ideologies can speak freely, when any form of religious belief is allowed, when no form of criticism of the state is illegal, will Turkey still be able to survive this shock, the shock of a true democracy? There's a great debate over this question now, and the demographic explosion to which you referred, that has made this such a young country, has given tremendous momentum to the view, `Yes, we are ready.'
LAMB: How many statues are there of Ataturk in Turkey?
Mr. KINZER: Well, I would say to count the images of Ataturk in Turkey would be a folly akin to counting the number of grains of sand on the beach or the numbers of stars in the sky. Ataturk is on every coin and he is on every bank note. His picture hangs in every office and every cinema and every tea house. His statue is in every neighborhood and in every town. Turkey prides itself more than anything on its secularism, that it is not guided by religious principles. But as I traveled around Turkey and began to see the--these images of Ataturk everywhere--and believe me, no form of image is considered too vulgar. Whether it's on a paperweight or carved into the side of a mountain or illuminated in flames, there--there is no f--there is nothing that is considered excessive. You--you cannot go too far. So it's a--it's a little off-putting actually to some outsiders.
LAMB: Is there anything to compare him to in the United States? Anybody?
Mr. KINZER: Absolutely not, and I don't think in--there--there are very few countries in the world where there is any comparison. But I--I got to the conclusion that maybe Turkey does have a religion and that Ataturk is the center of it. The mausoleum in which he is buried is something like a mecca or a Vatican of this Kemalist faith.
LAMB: Where is it?
Mr. KINZER: In Ankara. Everywhere you go, places where Ataturk slept and clothes that Ataturk wore are preserved. There are countless movies and books and poems written about him, and it's remarkable to me the extent to which this is genuine.
LAMB: Where does the name come from?
Mr. KINZER: One of the other fascinating aspects of the Ataturk revolution had to do with names. When Ataturk took over, Turkey was a primitive country without roads, without hospitals, without universities, and one aspect of its relatively backwards civilization was most people had only one name. You were just Azman or Hussein. This was a non-European tradition that Ataturk abolished. Everybody should have a first name and a last name. Just like a European. The same way that he should--a man should wear a suit and a hat instead of a caftan, and a woman should wear a blouse and a skirt instead of a veil or a covering, everyone should have a proper first and last name.

So everybody in Turkey was ordered to choose a last name. And for those who couldn't think of one, a book was prepared with thousands of possibilities and this book was distributed to town halls around the country so you could choose a name like Sari Guld, Yellow Rose, or Akil Diz, the Pale Star, or Turk Ola, the Son of the Turk, or Berber Ola, Son of the Barber. You get a lot of these names still. But the one name that no one could choose was the one that the Turkish parliament chose for Ataturk himself. When he was born, he was Mustafa Kmal. He didn't like Mustafa because it was a little Arabic sounding, and Turks and Arabs haven't always got along. So he chose the name Ataturk, which means Father of the Turks, and by that name he has entered history.
LAMB: You say that he died at age 58 of cirrhosis. What caused it?
Mr. KINZER: Ataturk embraced the European lifestyle and he--he liked to swim and he liked to take trips on yachts, he liked to dance, he liked to eat and he especially liked to drink. He drank raki, which is the potent anise-flavored national drink in Turkey.
LAMB: That you said you liked.
Mr. KINZER: He drank it to excess and I--I may have done a little of that myself. I had a running battle with the expense account monitors at The New York Times over whether my purchase of all that raki was actually research, as I insisted, or whether it was merely recreation, as they suggested. Actually, Ataturk died from overindulgence in raki, but I might suggest that he died from overindulgence in Turkey, his frustrations about Turkey. Because raki is really a wonderful tool to help understand Turkey. When you look at raki in the bottle, it's clear. It's just like water. And when I first got to Turkey and became tremendously excited about the--the beauty and--and the audacity of the Turkish idea, I thought I could see the shining future of Turkey ahead of me so clearly, just as if it were shining through that very clear raki bottle.

But when you drink raki, you don't drink it straight. You pour about one-third of the glass, or maybe one-half if you're in the mood, full of raki and then you put water in to dilute it. When you put the water in, this clear liquid becomes very cloudy. Turks call raki lion's milk, and it looks a little like milk after you put the water in. Well, the same thing happened to my certainty that Turkey was about to reach its great destiny. Instead of seeing it as clearly as I did at the beginning through that clear bottle, I became filled with doubts and uncertainties as to whether Turkey would really grasp the chance that history is now offering it, and my view of the Turkish great future became clouded and I saw it only through that milky mixture that you see in the raki glass instead of clearly as you see through the raki bottle.
LAMB: Where was Ataturk born?
Mr. KINZER: Ataturk was born actually in what is now Greece. He--he is a classic example of how the heart of the Ottoman Empire in much of the Turkey consciousness comes from the Balkans. Ataturk was the son of a minor civil servant and rose in the Turkish military, which was then one of the few institutions in which people without social standing could rise. The great turning point in his life came in the battle of Gallipoli, which was fought right on the Dardanelles. He fought his decisive battle within sight of where the Trojan War was fought. And both the Trojan War and the battle of Gallipoli, which was a key battle in World War I, were fought really for the same purpose, if you don't--if you're willing to put aside the view that the Trojan War was fought over a woman. Actually, I think the Trojan War was fought over control of the straits. Once you control that strait, the Dardanelles and the Bosporus with it, you control access to a huge world.

The British expeditionary force that was sent by Winston Churchill decided it needed to seize this Gallipoli peninsula that overlooks the Dardanelles so that British ships would have free passage through and perhaps could ultimately supply a rear-guard attack on--on Austria or Hungary. But Churchill, who was then first lord of the admiralty, the equivalent of our Navy secretary, was foiled, because the Turkish army at Gallipoli, to the shock of the outside world, proved very resolute, very brave, and willing to take tremendous casualties. This was the only major Turkish victory of World War I, and the commander of that Turkish brigade was Mustafa Kmal, later to become Ataturk.
LAMB: In what years did he live?
Mr. KINZER: Ataturk died in 1938.
LAMB: And it had been a country since 1923?
Mr. KINZER: '23, right. So he was the president for its first 15 years of existence. And he was the only figure who could have rallied the nation, because he was the only Turkish officer who emerged from World War I with a glorious victory under his belt.
LAMB: Did he have a family?
Mr. KINZER: Ataturk was married, and it's interesting that one of the reforms that he implemented was the abolition of the old Muslim style of divorce in which you could divorce your wife by simply repeating three times the phrase `I divorce you.' But one of his final acts before abolishing this system was to divorce his own wife in this way. So there were some contradictions in--between his personal life and what he wanted for the nation.
LAMB: What did he have that was so important?
Mr. KINZER: I read a memoir by the British king who came to visit Turkey during Ataturk's rule and visited Ataturk, and he wrote that Ataturk had `the most penetrating eyes of anyone I've ever met.' And I've heard other people say this and I've read this in a number of books. Ataturk had a force of personality that was truly remarkable, and he had a sense of who he was and what he was gonna do from quite a young age. He embarked quite consciously on a vast reform project. He had total self-confidence. And he was not a person for small dreams. He was deeply convinced that he had a mission to destroy an entire theocracy and build a new nation on its ruins. And, in fact, he spent less years--fewer years destroying the existing system of government and society than centuries had been spent building it.
LAMB: '96 was your first year in Turkey...
Mr. KINZER: Yes, it was.
LAMB: ...for The New York Times. How many years now have you got with that newspaper?
Mr. KINZER: Almost 20 years as a New York Times reporter.
LAMB: Where are you from originally?
Mr. KINZER: I come from Boston. I actually grew up on Cape Cod, and in the 1970s when I began my career as a foreign correspondent, I was posted in Latin America. I left Latin America thinking that now that I was going to Berlin, I wasn't gonna be crawling around in the mud anymore or having bullets fly over me as I did in Central America for many years, but rather I was gonna be sitting in sophisticated salons and discussing the future of Europe with intellectuals. Immediately after my arrival there, the Balkan wars broke out, so I found myself right back in the mud. But everything worked out wonderfully in the end, because Turkey--because Germany proved my jumping off point for Turkey, which was a very, very memorable experience.

I have probably talked to hundreds of Americans and others who have gone to Turkey as tourists and every single one of them without exception has told me they loved it and they had a great time there. If you multiply that by several hundred, you can understand how a person who lived there for four years, particularly a person who has an interest in culture and history, comes away deeply enamored of that wonderful country.
LAMB: Do you have a family with you there?
Mr. KINZER: I did, and they were as tearful when we left Turkey as I was, and just in the last few weeks we've learned that my book is going to be published in Turkey. My family has seized on this and insisted that this has to be the excuse for us to go back and have a party and while we're there, of course, see all our old friends and do some more traveling. So like just about everyone who has been to Turkey, I'm always looking for another excuse to go back.
LAMB: How big is your family?
Mr. KINZER: I just have my wife and my beautiful daughter who's 12.
LAMB: Your school, your college?
Mr. KINZER: I went to Boston University.
LAMB: How did you get interested in being a journalist?
Mr. KINZER: I worked for my high school newspaper and have always been interested in--in writing. But I was a history major in college and for a while entertained the idea of becoming a historian. In a sense, I'm a kind of frustrated historian. But it dawned on me as I began to consider this possibility what historians do for a living. Usually they teach in universities. That didn't appeal to me. I--I wanted to be somewhere a little closer to the making of history, and journalism is one way to do that. I--I feel that I am in some ways writing a first draft of history. And journalists, especially foreign correspondents, are essentially in the front row watching history unfold.

I notice that when academics have reviewed other--this and other books that I have written, they sometimes use the word "journalistic," and I've--I've slowly realized that this is not a compliment. This is a way of saying, `lots of interesting reportage and lots of nice stories, but no deep theoretical underpinning.' And what is much worse from the academic perspective, this a book that is actually interesting to read, that people are actually want--gonna want to buy and curl up with. For an academic, that's almost the kiss of death. When you tell an academic that his book is becoming very popular and ordinary people like it, that's enough to deny him tenure right there.
LAMB: When we started, I--I--I read this article by Hugh Pope in The Wall Street Journal on the--on Friday. It puts Turkey right in the middle of what's going on over in Afghanistan, and some other things I wanted--few remaining minutes wanted to ask you about. `With its candida--candidacy for the European Union membership languishing,' Mr. Pope writes, `and excluded from the inner workings of a proposed 60,000-man European force, Turkey has angered Europe by threatening to block the force's access to NATO facilities.'
Mr. KINZER: Turkey has been a very faithful NATO ally and is one of America's most reliable allies, but it's now caught up in a very odd circumstance. Turkey is a member of NATO, but it is not a member of the European Union. Now the European Union has the idea that it wants to create its own military force. Rather than build a new force, it wants to use NATO as its force. And the other--since there's such a great overlap--almost perfect overlap between the EU and NATO that that seems quite reasonable. So the EU will decide where and when and how to use this force, and NATO will then supply it. But the Turks are saying, `Wait a minute. You're telling us that as NATO members we're going to participate in military operations, but we're not gonna have any say in the councils at which it's decided where or when or whether to have military operations. We're not prepared to do that.'
LAMB: And they're the second largest army in--in NATO?
Mr. KINZER: They are, after the United States. But I--I hasten to add that there's the universal military service in Turkey, so a lot of that is a conscript army that is serving for one year. That's not necessarily the professional officer corps.
LAMB: Mr. Pope also writes, he says, `At the same time, Turkey is warning strongly against extension of the war into Iraq, one the six neighbors abutting the vast bulk of Turkey that lies east of the Bosporus.' Why?
Mr. KINZER: Turkey, as I said earlier, brings many cards to the table in this anti-terror coalition. Turkey has really a lot to offer. So what is Turkey gonna ask in return? Well, the one thing that concerns them the most gravely is Iraq. They're right on the border with Iraq, and they are terrified that the United States is going to go to war with Iraq and topple--or try to topple Saddam Hussein without a real plan for what comes afterwards. They fear that this will result in the splintering of Iraq and the emergence of a highly unstable, perhaps anti-Turkish hostile state in what's now northern Iraq. So they are telling the United States and the other allies in this coalition is, `You've got to promise us you're not gonna go after Saddam and leave a huge vacuum in Iraq which can be a powder keg for the whole region and very dangerous to us. If you are, you'd better be careful to plan in advance what comes after Saddam.'
LAMB: I forgot to ask you about the cover and what does "Crescent & Star" mean?
Mr. KINZER: If you see along the bottom of the book in that red stripe, you've got crescents and stars. Now that's the Turkish flag. The Turkish flag is a red flag with a white crescent and a white star. Crescent is also, of course, the traditional symbol of Islam and star might be seen as the light that is shining from Europe and from the West to try to build the synthesis between Islam and democracy that is at the heart of the Turkish idea.
LAMB: Final question: You do what now for The New York Times?
Mr. KINZER: I'm a national correspondent for The New York Times now based in Chicago. Up until September 11th, I was writing mostly about cultural affairs. All of us in our business have had our lives a little bit disrupted by these events. But I think these events in our country are going to have an effect on culture as well, so my job is going to be to travel around America and try to see how this constellation of events is going to shape the way we live our lives.
LAMB: Our guest has been Stephen Kinzer, and this is the book, "Crescent & Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds," a book about a country that appears to be right in the middle of everything the United States is involved in. Thank you very much.
Mr. KINZER: Thank you.
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