Balkanalysis on Twitter

Damage Control Firm Takes Quiet Interest as Former US General Is Charged with Turkish Profiteering

October 31, 2006


by Christopher Deliso

“We are indeed all friends here, friends of a great relationship.”

-Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to the American-Turkish Council, March 18, 2002

A major Kurdish diaspora group is calling for the head of a former American general recently dispatched to Turkey. The general, Joseph Ralston, has been accused of using his new role as “special envoy’ to the Turkish government to ensure that American defense giant Lockheed Martin — of which Ralston is a board member — will get to continue supplying the Turkish military with fighter planes.

On 26 October, the Kurdish National Congress of North America issued a press release demanding “the immediate resignation” of the former USAF General Ralston as the Bush administration’s point man on the Turkish campaign against Kurdish guerrillas in the country’s southeast.

Two months earlier, with little fanfare, the State Department had announced Ralston’s appointment to a position that does indeed seem curiously unique- “Special Envoy for Countering the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).” Although there are scores of simmering conflicts in countries around the globe, there are not so many to which Washington sends an official military advisor to oversee the fighting.

Indeed, as the Kurdish group discloses, “Ralston’s appointment came at a time when Turkey was finalizing the sale of 30 new Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft (approx. $3 billion) and as Turkey was due to make a decision on the $10 billion purchase of the new Lockheed Martin F-35 JSF aircraft. The sale for the F-16’s was approved by Congress in mid-October and Turkey’s decision in favor of the F-35 JSF was announced on October 25, shortly after Ralston’s recent stay in Ankara, ostensibly to counter the PKK.”

Ralston’s affiliations with American companies and Turkish-American lobby groups that stand to gain financially from his current activities were exposed in the press release:

“General Ralston is a vice-chairman of The Cohen Group, a private lobby firm with close ties to the American Turkish Council (ATC) and Lockheed Martin. According to an article in the Washington Post in May of this year, Lockheed Martin acknowledged it was a client of The Cohen Group, and paid some $500,000 to The Cohen Group for services rendered in 2005. General Ralston is also a member of the 2006 Advisory Board of the ATC, as well as a current member of the Board of Directors of Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin is also a member of the ATC.”

The American-Turkish Council, it should be remembered, is the high-powered lobbying interest in Washington which has been fingered as an intermediary and incubator for espionage within the FBI from Turkish employees. It “wasn’t the sort of group just anyone could belong to,” pointed out former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, who was fired in spring 2002 after complaining about infiltration of the FBI and blocking of criminal investigations into related individuals.

A corrupted Air Force man and former military procurement officer to Turkey and the Central Asian states, Douglas Dickerson, and his Turkish-born wife Can Dickerson, tried unsuccessfully to recruit Edmonds into their espionage ring and promised membership in the hallowed ATC as one of the rewards for cooperation. According to Edmonds, Dickerson implied this to her husband, averring that “all you have to do is tell the [ATC] where your wife works and what she does, and they will let you in like that.” All the translator had to do was keep the FBI off the trail of suspects under investigation for espionage regarding defense-related issues. When she refused, the Dickerson’s became hostile and threatening.

Kurdish supporters are not angry just because Ralston and his corporate cronies might make money from yet another international arms deal. They further charge that even though the Kurdish rebel group has extended an olive branch to the Turkish government, the US and Turkey have no interest in making peace, as peace would in the long-term lessen the justifications for Turkey to maintain such a large military arsenal- and thus be bad for “business.’ The Kurds suspect that, in order for American defense companies to keep bringing home the bacon, the conflict should sizzle for as long as possible- regardless of how many Kurdish civilians and Turkish servicemen die.

Indeed, while a unilateral PKK ceasefire went into effect on October 1, Ralston assured the Turks that there would be no compromises, no negotiations, and even no communications with the Kurdish rebels- in other words, business as usual. Speaking before the Eurasian Strategic Research Center (ASAM) in Istanbul, Ralston said:

“I want to be clear on this point: The U.S. will not negotiate with the PKK. We will not ask Turkey to negotiate with the PKK. And I pledge to you that I will never meet with the PKK.”

When asked whether the US had a vision of any “IRA solution” for the Kurds, Ralston stated that any comparison of the Irish unity struggle and the Kurdish independence one was akin to “mixing apples with oranges.” Spinning the Kurdish campaign as part of the broader “war on terror,’ the US envoy said, “we will use all of the tools at our disposal: law enforcement, intelligence, diplomacy, financial pressure. And we have not taken any other option off the table.”

The Kurds know from experience what “other options” means. The civil conflict that began in 1983 — according to author Daniele Ganser, allowing corrupt state security forces and Kurdish smugglers to profit from the heroin trade — has claimed over 30,000 lives and resulted in the destruction of over 3,000 Kurdish villages.

Indeed, as the former Air Force general noted with satisfaction, “the U.S. has done more to assist Turkey in its fight against the PKK than any other country.” And, if Ralston and his military-corporate friends have anything to say about it, this “assistance” will continue for years to come as Turkey builds up its military arsenal.

Of course, the special military liaison’s role in Turkey has been complicated by extenuating foreign policy concerns. Turkish public opinion regarding the US since the Iraq invasion has gone from wary to hostile over the Kurdish issue. Turks believe that the renewed turbulence in the southeast since 2003 is a direct result of the US’ “liberation” of Iraqi Kurds in the bordering region, whose taste for freedom, Turks fear, has rubbed off on their own restive Kurdish minority.

Ralston’s visit is only the latest in a diplomatic drive to mend fences and assuage hurt feelings in Turkey. The former general emphasized that “the PKK is a terrorist organization, not a tool of U.S. foreign policy. We are not using and will not use the PKK in any way in Iraq.” As a means of reaffirming this goodwill, Ralston and his fellow Lockheed Martin shareholders pledge to help the Turkish government put down the Kurdish revolt- even if it means they have to profit at the same time. Such altruism is truly noble.

Enter the Damage Control Experts: Public Strategies Inc. Ponders a Response

The Kurdish lobby group’s press release has captured the attention of the relevant damage-control companies. Mizgin Yilmaz, a Kurdish activist who carried the press release on her blog, Rasti, provided with the following tidbit: “we had a forty-minute visit from a company called Public Strategies, Inc, first for five minutes and another twenty minutes later, for a little over thirty minutes.” PSI did not immediately respond to our request for information regarding its current relationship with Ralston or Lockheed Martin.

According to Source Watch, “Public Strategies has helped many corporations involved in high-profile crises successfully weather the storm and better prepare for the possibility of future turbulence.” The company proudly maintains that it is many corporations’ first phone call for crisis response.” The PSI website states:

“with significant shareholder value at stake, forward-thinking companies know that the best defense against crisis is a good offense: be prepared… companies also call on us when they get blindsided. In any crisis, the first 48 hours are critical. Our experts help clients mobilize a rapid, centralized response aimed first at stabilizing the situation and then at managing through it.”

The question is, who made the call to PSI after the press release on General Ralston and his escapades in Turkey?

Although it is not stated, strong suspicions point to Lockheed Martin as the entity whose “significant shareholder value” was at stake. In one of its case studies, PSI proudly points out a prior success:

“as the federal government began to consider proposals for the next generation of state-of-the-art fighter jets, Public Strategies was called to develop subtle-but-effective tactics to direct the government’s selection in the favor of a major aeronautics manufacturer… Public Strategies crafted a tactical communications campaign designed to create a favorable environment for the company and its proposal.”

In the end, the company discloses, “the U.S. Department of Defense awarded our client the largest military contract in history, worth $200 billion.” Although it is not stated explicitly, it’s no secret that the winning bidder was none other than Lockheed-Martin.

In October 2002, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts released a report noting that the Fort Worth-based company would receive a combined, multi-year federal contract worth some $200 billion. The contract was for the next — and perhaps final — generation of US fighter planes, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), “one of the most sophisticated and deadly objects ever devised by man.”

In the future, the veracity of this claim could be decided by a focus group conducted somewhere in say, southeast Turkey.

Looking for More Publications?

Find articles in the Central And Eastern European Online Library (CEEOL)

Buy articles and e-books for Amazon Kindle

2004-2009 Back Archives