Yes, the Olympics are coming up fast, and they will inevitably dominate what is normally the news-bereft August “cucumber season” – the term for the yearly summer low point in the daily news-beat used particularly in Central Europe, I suppose because August is harvest time there for cucumbers. You can expect this blog in the coming weeks to treat articles about the Beijing Olympics on a regular basis. But realize that my approach is a jaundiced one already and is likely to remain so. Frankly, the original Olympic ideal is dead, crushed between rampant commercialism on the one side and the biological/pharmacological progress that now makes it inevitable for athletes to cheat on the other. That latter aspect we have already had the occasion to address in connection with the Tour de France; as for the former, this excellent piece by Sally Jenkins in today’s Washington Post will set you straight for now, but I do have accumulated in my RSS reader some excellent recent articles about the International Olympic Committee which I hope soon to have time to bring up and discuss on this forum.
For now, though, let’s take up the following interesting article out of the august German weekly Die Zeit: Bomb Attack in Istanbul: BND Chief Doubts Involvement of the PKK. As reported here by CNN, on Sunday, 27 July, there occurred a particularly nasty double-bomb attack in a crowded area of Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul. An initial blast, no more than that of a stun grenade, was designed to draw people’s attention and mass them together, so that a second and much-stronger explosion, ten minutes later, could inflict that many more casualties, which turned out to number seventeen killed and at least 154 injured.
Turkish officials, all the way up to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, immediately put the blame on the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers Party, which has carrying out a violent campaign since 1970 for the creation of an independent Kurdish state out of Turkish territory. As the CNN article notes, the PKK duly denied any responsibility. (A more detailed account of their denial is here.)
Now it seems that the PKK may well have been telling the truth, according to that Die Zeit article (no by-line, sourced to Der Tagesspiegel). The BND is the Bundesnachrichtendienst, Germany’s equivalent of the CIA (funnily – if you’re into that kind of humor – the name actually translates merely to “Federal News Service”), and the BND President, Ernst Uhrlau, told the German tabloid Bild Zeitung that their intelligence sources don’t really point to the PKK’s involvement in this bombing. Both the location and the technique used (Could this mean specifically that despicable double-bombing tactic? Does not say.) are not really typical of how the PKK operates. In his estimation, suspicion should rather be directed at internal Turkish perpetrators – or possibly, of course, to al-Qaeda. (The article’s lede only mentions al-Qaeda – it’s sexier that way – but the text gives the more ambivalent judgment reproduced above.)
Now, this is the BND head telling this to Bild Zeitung almost a week after the double-bombing itself took place. Naturally, they informed the Turkish government first, but did they do so promptly enough and/or did the Turkish government heed this intelligence in a timely manner? Has the Turkish government chosen to heed it even yet? It seems now, for, as the article goes on to note, the authorities there issued a pronouncement on Saturday, 2 August – really after they should have gotten word from the BND – that their investigation was complete and it was definitely the PKK’s fault. They even arrested eight suspects, one of which apparently confessed to involvement. (Ah, but we know how effective Turkish interrogation methods can be.) Meanwhile, Turkish planes bombed suspected PKK positions in Northern Iraq – but the Turks have been bombing there for some time. The attack in Istanbul therefore did not provoke these military actions – but of course neither did they do anything to help stop them.