Kurd militants threaten Turkey if it enters Syria

Kurd militants threaten Turkey if it enters Syria

By Jon Hemming


(Reuters) – Turkish Kurd militants threatened on Thursday to turn all Kurdish populated areas into a “war zone” if Turkish troops entered Syria, a sign the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has allies in Syria may be taking sides in the conflict there.

A renewed alliance between Damascus and the PKK would anger Turkeyand could prompt it to take an even stronger line against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over his brutal repression of anti-government protesters.

PKK field commander Murat Karayilan said Turkey was preparing the ground for an intervention in Syria.

“The Turkish state is planning an intervention against our people,” the Europe-based Firat news agency, close to the militants, quoted him as saying.

“Let me state clearly, if the Turkish state intervenes against our people in western Kurdistan, all of Kurdistan will turn into a war zone,” he said.

Western Kurdistan is the term Kurdish nationalists use to describe Kurdish areas of northeast Syria, while by Kurdistan they mean the Kurdish areas of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said last week that setting up a “safe zone” or a “buffer zone” along the border with Syria to protect civilians from Assad’s forces was among the options being considered should the stream of refugees turn into a flood.

Setting up such a zone would involve troops entering Syria to secure territory. Turkey has turned sharply against its former friend Assad and has taken a lead in trying to forge international agreement on the need for stronger action on Syria.

While Syrian government forces are clashing daily with insurgents demanding the downfall of Assad, Syrian Kurdish areas have remained relatively calm, despite many Kurds’ long-standing opposition to the government.

Some Syrian Kurdish groups opposed to Assad have formed their own umbrella group after complaining of being sidelined by the main opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), which they say is dominated by Arab nationalists.

But the comparative calm in Syria’s Kurdish northeast may also be related to what some Kurdish analysts say is the growing influence of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syrian Kurdish group allied to the PKK which has kept away from the opposition.


The PKK, set up in 1984 to fight for Kurdish home rule in southeast Turkey, is commanded from bases in the remote mountains of northern Iraq, but was once backed by Syria.

Though Turkey has the second biggest army in NATO, it has failed to quash the PKK in 27 years of bitter fighting. More than 40,000 militants, soldiers and civilians have been killed in the conflict. Turkey, the United States and the European Union all list the PKK as a terrorist organization.

Turkish officials say they are watching closely for signs Syria may renew its support for the PKK, which it dropped in late 1998 after Turkish tanks massed on the Syrian border. Damascus was forced to deport PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan who was later seized by Turkish special forces in Kenya.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has repeatedly said Syria “would not dare” make such a mistake again.

Kurds make up at least 10 percent of Syria’s population. Like the majority of Syrians, they are Sunni Muslims, but have struggled to assert their ethnic identity under 40 years of Arab nationalist Ba’ath Party rule.

The Assad regime had denied some stateless Kurds Syrian nationality documents but it has made concessions since the start of the uprising to ease unrest in Kurdish areas.

Some Arabs are concerned that the Kurds, mostly based in northeast Syria on the borders with Turkey and Iraq, secretly seek a separate state that includes cross border territories.

Syrian Kurd opposition groups deny wanting a separate state, but say they want autonomy similar to that of the Iraqi Kurds.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)


Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA Dosed S.F. Citizens with LSD

Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA Dosed S.F. Citizens

with LSD

By Troy Hooper 

Welcome to sfweekly.com

Illustration by Rick Sealock.

Wayne Ritchie with his late wife, 

Courtesy of Linda Russo
Wayne Ritchie with his late wife, Virginia.

It’s been over 50 years, but Wayne Ritchie says he can still remember how it felt to be dosed with acid.

He was drinking bourbon and soda with other federal officers at a holiday party in 1957 at the U.S. Post Office Building on Seventh and Mission streets. They were cracking jokes and swapping stories when, suddenly, the room began to spin. The red and green lights on the Christmas tree in the corner spiraled wildly. Ritchie’s body temperature rose. His gaze fixed on the dizzying colors around him.

Rick Sealock

The deputy U.S. marshal excused himself and went upstairs to his office, where he sat down and drank a glass of water. He needed to compose himself. But instead he came unglued. Ritchie feared the other marshals didn’t want him around anymore. Then he obsessed about the probation officers across the hall and how they didn’t like him, either.Everyone was out to get him. Ritchie felt he had to escape.

He fled to his apartment and sought comfort from his live-in girlfriend. It didn’t go as planned. His girlfriend was there, but an argument erupted. She told him she was growing tired of San Francisco and wanted to return to New York City. Ritchie couldn’t handle the situation. Frantic, he ran away again, this time to the Vagabond Bar where he threw back more bourbon and sodas. From there, he hit a few more bars, further cranking up his buzz. As he drank his way back to Seventh and Mission, Ritchie concocted a plan that would change his life.

Now in his mid-eighties and living in San Jose, Ritchie may be among the last of the living victims of MK-ULTRA, a Central Intelligence Agency operation that covertly tested lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) on unwitting Americans in San Francisco and New York City from 1953 to 1964.

“I remember that night very clearly, yes I do,” he said in a recent interview. “I was paranoid. I got down to where I thought everyone was against me. The whole world was against me.”

After the day had bled into night on Dec. 20, 1957, Ritchie returned to his office in the Post Office Building and retrieved two service revolvers from his locker. He was going rogue.

“I decided if they want to get rid of me, I’ll help them. I’ll just go out and get my guns from my office and hold up a bar,” Ritchie recalls. “I thought, ‘I can get enough money to get my girlfriend an airline ticket back to New York, and I’ll turn myself in.’ But I was unsuccessful.”

Out of his skull on a hallucinogen and alcohol, Ritchie rolled into the Shady Grove in the Fillmore District, and ordered one final bourbon and soda. After swallowing down the final drops, he pointed his revolver at the bartender and demanded money. Before joining the marshals, Ritchie served five years in the Marines and spent a year as an Alcatraz prison guard. But the cop had suddenly become the robber.

It was over in a flash. A waitress came up behind him and asked Ritchie what he was doing. When Ritchie turned around, a patron hit him over the head and knocked him unconscious. He awoke to a pair of police officers standing over him.

Ritchie says he had expected to get caught or killed.

The judge went easy on him and Ritchie avoided prison. He resigned from the Marshals Service, pleaded guilty to attempted armed robbery, paid a $500 fine, and was sentenced to five years’ probation.

Ritchie’s story is certainly peculiar, but not unique. Other San Franciscans were unsuspecting participants in a strange research program in which the government effectively broke the law in an effort to fight the Cold War.

Seymour Hersh first exposed MK-ULTRA in a New York Times article in 1974 that documented CIA illegalities, including the use of its own citizens as guinea pigs in games of war and espionage. John Marks expertly chronicled more of the operation in his 1979 book, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate. There have been other reports on the CIA’s doping of civilians, but they have mostly dished about activities in New York City. Accounts of what actually occurred in San Francisco have been sparse and sporadic. But newly declassified CIA records, recent interviews, and a personal diary of an operative at Stanford Special Collections shed more light on the breadth of the San Francisco operation.

There were at least three CIA safe houses in the Bay Area where experiments went on. Chief among them was 225 Chestnut on Telegraph Hill, which operated from 1955 to 1965. The L-shaped apartment boasted sweeping waterfront views, and was just a short trip up the hill from North Beach’s rowdy saloons. Inside, prostitutes paid by the government to lure clients to the apartment served up acid-laced cocktails to unsuspecting johns, while martini-swilling secret agents observed their every move from behind a two-way mirror. Recording devices were installed, some disguised as electrical outlets.

To get the guys in the mood, the walls were adorned with photographs of tortured women in bondage and provocative posters from French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The agents grew fascinated with the kinky sex games that played out between the johns and the hookers. The two-way mirror in the bedroom gave the agents a close-up view of all the action.

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Dangerous Narratives Encourage Ideas of International “Holy War”

Dangerous narratives

By Hasan Khan

IF anything drags down the current peace process in Afghanistan it will be the prevalence of religious, ethno-historical and politico-strategic narratives that encourage Afghans to continue fighting till the finish.

The Afghan psychology is one of ‘raw bravery’ boosted by romanticising past victories against global powers. Serious measures are needed to counter these narratives.

Following Obama’s exit policy in Afghanistan, different forums have started debating possible solutions to the future of the war-battered country. The Taliban’s readiness to open a political shop in Qatar and its recent contacts with the US had given impetus to these debating sessions.

However, workable ideas have been scant; most donor-sponsored forums waste time on tracing the factors that led to the war, counting the actors and coming up with ‘conspiracies’ that were hatched by the world against the Afghans.

Reading the history of the Afghan wars through rose-tinted glasses, a batch of retired generals and first-generation Pakhtun intellectuals have been busy romanticising Afghan heroism and love for religion as well as trying to frighten the world by presenting superhuman Afghan qualities. Calling for the humiliation of the Americans at the hands of the Afghans, these ‘experts’ continue to beat the drums of war, as they remind the Afghans of their ‘glorious’ past.

The Afghan conflict is seen predominantly through the prism of religion and the perception among ordinary Afghans is that their ragtag nation is repeating history by defeating the US just as they triumphed over the Soviet Union and the British Empire.

This discourse is very dangerous as it continues to fan the idea of ‘holy jihad’ in a religious sense and ‘the global war on terror’ at a politico-strategic level.

No efforts at coming up with a permanent solution to the Afghan crisis can be successful until such narratives, whether based in religion, history or politics, are eliminated. Space is needed for an alternative discourse before various Afghan factions and
ethnic groups can effectively be made part of a future dispensation.

Since the invasion by the Soviet Union in 1979, the Afghan conflict is being showcased as a holy war. This prefix continues as Afghan lands serve as hunting grounds for both Arab sheikhdoms and western democracies — some are sending their bad boys
there, others are searching for the bad boys.

Another equally dangerous narrative is propagated mostly by military commentators and religious elites who call the Afghans ‘invincible’ and their land a graveyard for the superpowers, in which history is now repeating itself.

The fact is that the British Empire remained master of Afghan foreign policy from 1879 to 1919 — 40 years — unchallenged.

Besides, taking full control of Afghan foreign policy, the British also seized the Kurram and Pishin valleys, Sibi and Khyber Pass and forced the Afghan monarch to sign the humiliating treaty of Gandamak.

In the late 19th century, the Afghan monarch signed the Durand Line Treaty surrendering Afghanistan’s legal claims over what became the North West Frontier Province and the tribal areas (now Fata) to the British Crown. And who defeated the Soviets?

No doubt the Afghans put up a historic resistance but the war was, for all purposes, the Soviets vs the world.

An alternate discourse should challenge the current narratives and must be actively encouraged in Afghan society and Pakistan in a way that discourages outside forces from using Afghan soil to further their long-term strategic interests.

The writer is director, news and current affairs at Khyber TV.