Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

We, as we read, must become Greeks, Romans, Turks, priest and king, martyr and executioner; must fasten these images to some reality in our secret experience, or we shall learn nothing rightly.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson

You’ve heard of a “Mexican stand-off”, where three or more combatants face each other, with one holding the advantage over another while at the mercy of a third? In a regular duel, he who shoots first has the advantage. In a Mexican stand-off, he who shoots first has a disadvantage (though whom he shoots first would likely argue that).  This is where we, the United States, stand very Mexicanly with the situation that is Syria – kind of screwed if we act, kind of screwed if we don’t…

Courtesy of Political Geography Now, a map of Syria’s cousin-fucking-esque complications

Syria is like tax reform, cousin-fucking and scuba diving: the deeper you venture the more complicated it becomes. What we have in Syria is a tyrant who is killing the people he rules because of their dissent. This has given rise to fierce backlash by rebel factions which are comprised of various different ideological groups, many of whom embrace militant Islamic Jihad. If the United States were to back the rebel forces against the tyrant Assad, they may effectively create a terrorist state in the ashes of what was before just a terrorist-friendly monarchy. So what to do?

I have the answer: we must become Turks. Or at least I shall become a Turk. In Northern Syria, the border with Turkey is aflame with tension. The two former allies are now at each other’s throats. A Syrian plane flying to Damascus from Russia this week was grounded in Turkey out of Turkish paranoia it was carrying arms (it, according to Russia, was not). We are at the brink of war between Turkey and the embattled Assad regime to the south. With Russia already angered at Turkish actions, we have the making of a conflict with far-reaching consequences. This could be the Crimean War all over again and if there was anyone foolish enough to Charge with the Light Brigade, look no further than Vic Neverman!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge_of_the_Light_Brigade

Turkey: where East meets West meets Volleyball

Turkey is the greatest American ally in the Middle East, I mean other than the Israelis who want us to go to war with Iran and the Saudis who indirectly funded 9/11 with the protection pay-outs they gave to al Qaeda. Turkey is that friend you largely ignore, but who your mother always insists on you hanging out with because she knows what’s good for you and, to be honest, Turkey kinda has the hots for your mom anyway, not that she knows that, but whatever, Turkey has been very successful at implementing a secular Islamic government. It may not be what Ataturk envisioned when he threw out the last of the Sultans after the original World War, but it is still a pretty damn impressive government with a thriving economy and the most beautiful women’s indoor volleyball team at the Olympics.

What an Assadhole?

My thought is this – Assad the tyrant has got to go. To fill the void, we ask the Turk to turn back to their Ottoman days and just take Syria back over. The Turks could rule Syria better than Assad or the Jihadists, so let’s back Turkey. To show my own personal support, I am attempting to enlist in the Turkish military. That’s right – at the height of the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan had a crack regime of troops who were foreign-born Christian children snatched from their families through invasion/occupation. They were called “the Janissaries.” I think it neigh time to bring the Janissaries back and I nominate myself: Victor Ulysses Neverman, as Janissary number one.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janissary

Jorah Mormont: protector of young, unconscious women

What would I, Vic Neverman, have to offer to a military unit? First – I am the co-author of Cry Havok! And Let Slip the Doge of War, which is the complete authority on the Frank/Venetian invasion of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade (pending publication and, ah, um, the actual writing of the book). Second – I am very familiar with Byzantine politics having watched the first two seasons of “Game of Thrones”, having read 4 out of those 5 books and having been compared to the character Jorah Mormont for his penchant for spending time with scantily clad younger women. Third – I am a certified rescue diver. Fourth – I am sure I will come up with something later. And lastly – my features are actually fairly Turkish despite the Jorah Mormont comparison

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Crusade

For an example of my Turkish-ness: once when crisscrossing Istanbul by buss, ridiculous traffic forced me to emerge from the public transport and into the street. It was too late before I realized the cause for congestion was a soccer hooligan rally. To my left was an army of riot police, complete with shields and masks. Surrounding me were hundreds of young soccer fanatics, chanting the local Turkey Cola team’s fight song, smashing beer bottles on the street and lighting off flairs. Hardly the place for a lost American tourist. But alas! I purchased a scarf with the black & white checkers of the Turkey Cola Eagles, wrapped it around my neck and suddenly, and without question, became one of the Turks. It took me twenty minutes to fight my way out of that crowd, but in the meantime, I was hugged by men to the left and right as I tried to match their drunken vocals in whatever song they sang. I think that makes me an honorary Turk.

The Blue Mosque Blues: Vic In Istanbul

And then there is my Turkish heritage. I will not lie, it is a heritage that has been argued. My Turkish blood was recently explained by your narrator to a Palestinian nurse who I ravenously desired in the distant spring of my youth, which coincidentally occurred in Spring of this very year 2012. This Palestinian beauty, I was told by my close ally Raz Kelly, would not date men who were not Arab. Fortunately for me, Raz’s brother and my personal physician, Doc Kelly, introduced me to the nurse as, “My friend, Ibrahim, the Turk.” While Turks are Persian and not Arab, it was close enough to get me a first date over tea with the young woman. Upon hearing my name was not exactly “honest Ibe”, my date inquired if I really was Turkish. “Sure” I responded, “By way of rape and pillage.”

Allow me to explain as perhaps some background is in order. Presenting… the Neverman Genealogy! Courtesy of a DIY DNA swiping and analysis kit.

Tens of thousands of years ago, my people left Africa and settled in Pakistan.

A few thousand years ago, my people were forced out of Kashmir and headed west.

A thousand years ago, my people found their way into Eastern Europe and settled what would become Hungary and Slovenia.

A few hundred years ago, eastern Europe was occupied by Turkish soldiers. The blood of the invaders tends to get into the drinking water, ya know? Pillage, plunder and bastardize was the way of the world.

Last night, I watched my blu ray of Game of Thrones before falling asleep and dreaming I was Jorah Mormont.

So yes – Nevermen are just the bastards of the Danube left behind by the Ottoman conquerors.

“So you see, I am Turkish-ish.” I told my date, this, on the last occasion we were to meet.

Which brings me to my impending military service…

I have checked with the United States State Department and I am allowed to serve in a foreign military (just as many Jewish Americans will serve with Israeli military) as long as there are no conflicts of interest, as that would be treasonous and no one wants that. So now I am just waiting to hear back from Turkey on my offering. Their delay may be in regards for the certain compensation I am demanding: mainly to have Turkish passports drawn up in any names I choose and to be made Duke of Tyre once Turkey takes over Lebanon. Vic Neverman, Duke of Tyre, Esq. It has a ring to it…

“‘ello there! Me name’s ‘Vic’ and I am a Jannisary. Say… which way is Damascus?”

Neverella and his Fairy Mossad-Mother

January 1st, 2012, I receive a random email from an entity I will only refer to as “DxM”.

Happy New Year Neverman. (DxM) from Israel.

It had been nearly two years since my last cryptic exchange with the Israeli, a man whom I have never met in the flesh, yet a man who has dramatically altered my course of history before vanishing back into the ether of cyber anonymity. Was this most recent message a simple friendly greeting from one wayward traveler to another? Or is my Israeli guardian angel back… and hovering, waiting; a watchman?

The story is not a simple one. February of 2010 found me, Vic Neverman, in old Sai Gon in the days leading up to the Tet New Year celebration. Apparently, this DxM character was also present. Two foreigners: one frantic, the other composed. I had been the victim of a criminal enterprise and found myself without papers. I could not get a hotel room, let alone leave the country. The American consulate was about to close for the week long holiday, leaving me on the brink of being stranded. Airlines were completely booked due to the coming Year of the Tiger and my only course of travel lied in alternative method (smuggling myself aboard a commercial ship to the Philippines, at the risk of piracy, or attempting a westward plot towards India where I would find a flight home, but this came at the risk of crossing Myanmar (or whatever the Burmese junta called itself those days)), yet such travel still depended on my finding a passport of some sort in order to return home. With an absent American presence at the Consulate and the uncooperative Vietnamese police, the straights were dire for Vic. As the disadvantaged is prone to do in desperate situations, I went underground. The police may have been verbally abusive to my Vietnamese translator, but certain members of the police force did agree to an unofficial business proposition. I still had a means to cash and I was willing to pay out $200 for the return of my passport or anything close enough to it. I wasn’t dealing with the fairest of individuals, but as I mentioned, desperation had set in.

As I waited for my bribes to pay off, I brought my case to the American Consulate in the waning hours before they closed up for the week. I had a slim hope they might be able to renew my passport in half a day’s time. They managed to do much better. I was presented with an American statesman whose smirk and slight shake of head wasn’t as disapproving as it was… baffled. “You are Victor Ulysses Neverman? We weren’t sure how to find you.” He then handed over the entire cache of my stolen goods. He smiled, “This has never happened before.” What once was gone, now was found: the Neverman passport, a Vietnamese visa, $600 in cash and there was a note, reading “happy new year” with an obscure email address listed.

The email address would bring me to DxM. This unlikely happy ending is why I refer to this character as DxM, for being my Deus ex Machina*.

*Deus ex Machina is a Latin reference referring to a ridiculous plot twist where a fictional character is suddenly saved by a “god” coming “out of the machine”.

DxM claimed to be Israeli and a simple traveler who had come into possession my materials. Strangest of happenstance… But how could he have been in any position to rescue my passport at the scene of the crime without my knowledge of such an operation? Is it mere coincidence, a serendipitous blessing from the universe, that allowed this angelic presence to intervene on my behalf?

If you know anything about Neverman, you know I do not believe in coincidences. Was DxM Israeli? Sure. But a random wanderer in the right place at the right time? I think not. DxM was following me. For someone not asiatic and of medium height (an assumption) to be following an already paranoid Vic Neverman without my awareness would require a healthy amount of professional training. Understand this, dear intrepid reader, the crime occurred at Saigon’s flower festival where one might find themselves surrounded by tens of thousands of bodies, all moving in a chaotic dissonance – a colossal cluster of humanity – yet, these bodies are almost entirely under 5′ of height and Vietnamese. It is like wading into a flowing river up to your chest. For DxM to be hovering over my shoulder unnoticed would take some special skill. A skill inherited via training as a Mossad agent? Most likely.

We can all agree what is obvious: the Israelis were following me. Whether they played savior or they staged the entire criminal enterprise themselves, this much is uncertain and less relevant. The question that perplexes me is why were they following me? Certainly, if my own native government wanted to keep tabs on me, they would have just as many agents in the field as the Israelis – at least on this stage of Southeast Asia – so there would be no need for an espionage favor-giving between CIA and Mossad here.

Why was the Mossad following me in Vietnam and what does it mean that DxM has re-emerged from the shadows now, nearly two years later?

Neverman’s Stance on Middle Eastern Affairs

I am not shy about being a Turko-phile. The Neverman ancestral lands were pillaged and plundered by the Ottomans enough through history that it is no accident Vic possesses many Turkish traits: similar physical features as well as a fondness for mustaches and meat grilled with charcoal. In fact, prior to spending the new year in Southeast Asia, I was in Istanbul trying to root through international intrigue there, uncovering the ruling Islamic party’s secret military agreement with China (visit other Vic travelogues for more on this).

The Middle East has three cornerstones of influence from Islamic governments and I have gone on the record as far as calling them “the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. The “Good” is in reference to Turkey, whose been a long time ally and is the gateway between Europe, Persia and the Levant. The “Bad” is Iran, whose people are wonderful, but whose government is run by radical lunatics. The “Ugly” is the Saudi Royal Family, another American ally who is only pretty on the surface and very ugly underneath (you’re likely familiar by now of my accusing the princes of Saud of indirectly financing 9/11 through protection payments to al Qaeda).

As a self-professed Turko-phile, this does put me at some odds with Israel. While the American government certainly considers both nations as allies, the relationship between the two states of Israel and Turkey has soured since the Islamists have taken over Ankara (the capital of Turkey) from the traditional secular political parties (who’ve ruled since Ataturk’s nationalist movement immediately after the Great War). Just look at Ankara’s support of the Pro-Palestine flotillas bringing aid to the West Bank in recent years.

American foreign policy with Israel certainly seems paramount in contemporary politics and while I, Vic Neverman, am not against the Israelis, I am concerned with how much American support they receive. If you listen to GOP candidates, like Newt Gringrich and Rick Santorum, Palestine doesn’t exist and neither does it’s people so rah-rah Israel. Well, if the Palestinian people are ruled as Israelis and are not an occupied prison camp, why do they not have representation in Tel Aviv? Ye gods! Can the beacon of democracy in the Middle East (or so the diplomats call Israel) not allow a Palestinian vote?

I also find it disturbing how supportive Gringrich and Santorum are behind an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran. Shouldn’t we be discouraging Israel from initiating such an attack rather than standing in line behind them? Haven’t we gotten ourselves in enough trouble charging into Mesopotamia and beyond for one century? Yes, we should defend Israel from Iran, but we should not be encouraging them to start a fight that will certainly end badly.

So sure… DxM and his Mossad overlords probably are not the biggest fans of my drunken blog rants, but am I this deserving of such close attention?

Happy New Year, DxM, wherever you may be lurking…

Michael Corleone and Sun Tzu spoke of keeping friends close and enemies closer, but what if one of your friends starts chumming it up with an enemy outside of your proximity? The US State Department is faced with one such question as it continually sends diplomatic missions to Ankara trying to judge what role Turkey is playing amongst global powers. I, Vic Neverman, was in Turkey when I stumbled into some international intrigue that would suggest our longtime ally might be lusting after the fruit of another.

First, allow me to summarize the current state of affairs in Turkey…

Turkish troops marching in Ankara

Turkey, though silent at the onset of the Arab Spring, has grown more vocal at the atrocities committed by its neighbor to the south, Syria. Since the Islamic party has taken over the rule of the mostly secular government, Turkey has also provided a cold shoulder towards Israel and participated in annual pro-Palestinian flotillas delivering aid to the West Bank. While Turkey is not a military heavy-weight, the country is a rising economic power with a large influence in the Middle East – lands the Turkish people have a long history with.

Istanbul has an eternal role as crossroads of civilization. To the south are the ruins of Troy and the city itself has been the capital of Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. To this day, Turkey has an economic foot in Europe and a spiritual foot in the Middle East. A longtime ally of the United States, Turkey was a pivotal piece of real estate for the many American air strikes into Iraq, but this is about to change. Turkey says it will not play any more role in American conquest. In 2009, the Turks revoked an invitation to Israel to participate at international war-games in Anatolia. In 2010, Turkey conducted secret war-games with China in Anatolia and didn’t bother to mention anything to the US until afterwards, “Hey Obama, you’ll never guess who we ran into during our practice maneuvers – the Chinese Air Force!” Despite these hints of disloyalty, we are still planning on selling to Turkey a fleet of our latest/greatest jets, the F-35. While these negotiations take place (Turkish industry is actually building the fuselages for this new jet), the Turks are accepting bids from Russia and China to develop a new air defense system. If China were to win the bid, this would grant them access to NATO security codes and perhaps the engineering secrets of the F-35 (if they don’t already have the blue-prints).

So, obviously, the Turks have been raising some eyebrows in Washington.

Bronze Horses of St Mark's Square - stolen from Constantinople by the Venetians during the 4th Crusade

I was in Istanbul, researching for my magnum opus on the Fourth Crusade, “Cry Havock! and Let Slip the Doge of War” (its a play on words, get it? Instead of Marc Antony’s “dogs of war”, I refer to the blind doge of Venice), a book that will ultimately be the absolute authority on all things 4th Crusadish. My cover design is to have the four horsemen of the apocalypse riding the bronze horses at St Mark’s Square – which were stolen from Constantinople by the Venetians. Anyway, it’s going to be awesome. Back to modern Turkey…

So there I was, in Istanbul, getting a feel for the walls of Constantinople while retracing the footsteps of James Bond in From Russia With Love (an all-time favorite). One evening, I was sampling some of Turkey’s weak stock of beer in the restaurant of my hotel “The Occidental” when a lovely woman approached my table and asked if she might join me for dinner. Seized by the spirit of Sean Connery, I pushed a leg of a nearby chair with my foot, intending the open seat as a subtle offering to this woman, but instead knocking the damned furniture over onto the floor.

“Does this mean, ‘no’?” my seductress glanced at the fallen chair.

“Hungarian custom.” I fabricated as I picked up the chair and held it open for her. “You must dispose of evil spirits before allowing a guest to take seat.”

“Oh.” She accepted. The woman was Asian and quite ravishing, despite wearing an outfit more suitable for a gymnasium. She explained she had just returned from a run and she did so in near perfect English. “You are Hungarian?”

“I am.” I lied, using a generic Eastern European accent. Don’t get me wrong, I likely have some Hungarian blood in my veins as the Nevermen spread their Neverseed throughout eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, but I certainly was no citizen of Buda or Pest. I told her my name was Gyozo (Hungarian equivalent to “Victor”) and that I was in the carpet business. She gave me her name – something only those initiated in Mandarin can pronounce – and graciously allowed me an easier path, “My American friends call me ‘Diana’.”

Vic Neverman, posing as a Hungarian carpet monger and drinking Raki (what the locals call "lion's milk") with the Chinese spy who goes by the name "Diana"

As paranoid as I, Vic Neverman, may be, my paranoia is often disqualified in the company of a beautiful woman. Why I did not foresee the obvious warning signs, I cannot say. I was mentally disabled due to the sudden rush of blood away from my head, like the Trojan prince upon encountering Helen for the first time. In retrospect, it is easy to see that I had wandered into a savannah unaware of the predators lurking in the tall grass. I was a bewildered wildebeest cozying up to a lioness. “My American friends” she referenced was a key indicator that she saw through my Hungarian alias. And the name she went by, “Diana”, Roman goddess of the hunt… what more could I say? This woman, my dinner guest, was a Chinese operative stationed in Istanbul, preying on American statesmen for information. What she saw in me, Vic Neverman, the dark and surly lout sitting with his back against the wall in the hotel restaurant, I do not know. Perhaps she was not intrigued by my appearance as much as she (or her spy handlers) was curious about my raison d’être.

I, Vic Neverman, was under surveillance of the Chinese. It wouldn’t be long, however, before the spy game changed and this observer, Diana, would turn saboteur.

TO BE CONTINUED…