Against the backdrop of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, a meeting from which the Obama administration still excludes Israel at Turkey’s insistence, the United States and Turkey have agreed to create a $200 million fund to counter extremism. What a waste of money. The problem is not that countering extremism is bad—it’s not, although so many of the counter-extremism programs out there are unproven or ineffective. Rather, it’s that the program is poisoned from the start with the inclusion of Turkey.
In the wake of last week’s terrorist attack at a Nairobi mall and a Pakistani church, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a Turkish audience, according to some Turkish interlocutors, “No one can make me say that there are Muslim terrorists.” This builds on previous statements denying that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir had any responsibility for the massacres in Darfur and his refusal to acknowledge that the Nusra Front, which Turkey supports and which the United States government considers an al-Qaeda affiliate, is a terrorist group. Erdoğan has even gone so far as to endorse an al-Qaeda financier.
Nor is it just Islamist terrorism on which the United States and Turkey diverge: While the United States still considers the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) a terrorist group at Turkey’s insistence, Erdoğan has launched talks with the group and acceded to a truce. This creates an irony in which Turkey supports an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria to fight a secular group which controls key territory but which the United States isolates because it is an offshoot of the PKK.
While Erdoğan excuses and actually encourages terrorism, he is acerbic toward free speech. He has identified “Western Islamophobia”—in which he includes criticism not only of Islam but also its more extremist manifestations—as a greater threat than terrorism. And, as he has moved to Islamize the classroom, we find items like this in Turkey’s 2nd grade classrooms: “Look at your jihadist brothers fighting in distant lands, see what you can do to help them.”
How sad it is that Obama isolates states that suffer terrorism, but unites with leaders who promote it. And, of course, what a dereliction of duty it is that so many U.S. congressmen still lend their names to a blanket endorsement of Turkey and Erdoğan’s desire to exclude Israel and excuse terror.