Every year, thousands of American citizens are incarcerated in foreign countries. Yet, President Trump has decided to go to war to secure the release of only one of them. What gives with that?
The citizen who is receiving the privileged treatment is Andrew Brunson, an American pastor incarcerated in Turkey. He is charged with participating in an attempted coup in 2016 against Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
President Trump is up in arms over Brunson’s arrest and incarceration. To pressure Erdogan to release Brunson, Trump has imposed severe economic sanctions on Turkey that have contributed to a severe financial decline in the country. The Turkish lira, which had already dropped around 45 percent this year against the dollar, hit a low on Sunday and then plunged another 7 percent on Monday. Erdogan called Trump’s sanctions a “stab in the back.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. mainstream press is jumping on the release-Brunson bandwagon. An August 10 editorial in the New York Times provides a good example. The Times writes:
On Friday, Mr. Trump announced in a tweet that he had authorized a doubling of the steel and aluminum tariffs against Turkey.
The object is to force the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to release Andrew Brunson, an American and evangelical Christian pastor who has been imprisoned by Turkey since 2016 on trumped-up charges of aiding an aborted coup by Erdogan opponents. (Italics added.)
The reason I italicized the term “trumped-up” is because when I read it, my immediate reaction was the following: How does the New York Times editorial board know that the charges are “trumped-up,” as in false and bogus? How do they know that Brunson is innocent of what he is being charged with? There certainly is no indication in the editorial that the Times has reviewed any evidence that the Turkish authorities may have against Brunson.
Indeed, how does Trump know that Brunson is innocent of the charges? How can be so certain that Brunson is innocent that he is willing to inflict massive economic harm on the people of Turkey through his unilateral imposition of severe economic sanctions?
Mind you, I’m not suggesting that Brunson is guilty. I don’t have any idea whether he’s guilty or innocent. What I am simply asking is: How do Trump and the New York Times know that he is innocent? Does it even matter to them whether he is guilty or not?
After all, they are not going after those foreign regimes around the world that have incarcerated thousands of other Americans? Why not target those regimes in the attempt to secure the release of those Americans? Why only Brunson? What’s different about him?
Indeed, according to the Times’s editorial, the Turkish authorities detained another 19 Americans. Yet, the U.S. focus is primarily on Brunson. What gives with that?
Also, consider this fascinating excerpt from the Times’s editorial:
So far, the Turks, who absurdly accuse the United States government of complicity in that 2016 coup attempt…. (italics added.)
Absurdly? Why absurdly?
Of course, it’s not really clear what the Times refers to as “absurd.” The Times could be saying that it has reviewed top-secret CIA files regarding Turkey and concluded that there is no evidence to support the Turkish assertion. My hunch though is that that’s not what the Times means, especially since the CIA is not about to let anyone access its secret files on Turkey or any other nation.
What the Times undoubtedly meant is that it is simply “absurd” to think that the CIA would initiate or participate in a such a coup. Yet, that is precisely what the core mission of the CIA is — regime change, whether by coup or assassination. The entire history of the CIA is replete with coups. Just recently was the CIA coup in Ukraine, which ended up launching the big brouhaha over Crimea with Russia. If we go back in history, we have the CIA’s coups in Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, and others, along with the repeated assassinations or assassination attempts against people like Patrice Lumumba and Fidel Castro.
In fact, the only thing that is really absurd is the notion that the possibility of a CIA coup is absurd. Of course, if the CIA was involved in the coup attempt against Erdogan, we wouldn’t learn about it for another 25-30 years from now, like with other coups that the CIA has initiated.
The fact that the U.S. national-security state specializes in coups actually puts Americans who travel abroad at risk. That’s because whenever there is a coup, the targeted regime is likely to jump to the conclusion that any Americans who happen to be in the country are CIA assets helping to advance the coup. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if the Turkish authorities have concluded that Brunson is a CIA asset, especially when the Turks see the overwhelming adverse reaction of U.S. officials and the U.S. mainstream press to his incarceration.
The Times’s editorial points out Erdogans’ authoritarian policies and practices. Unfortunately, the Times fails to point out the dark irony in all this, which is that America’s membership in NATO automatically requires the American people to defend this authoritarian, dictatorial, anti-freedom regime if it is ever attacked by another nation.
Another dark irony is that by unilaterally waging war against Turkey with the imposition of sanctions — that is, without any congressional authorization whatsoever — Trump himself is engaging in the same type of authoritarian, dictatorial policies that Erdogan is engaging in.
Finally, when an American citizen travels abroad, he takes his chances. Arrest and incarceration, even on bogus charges, is always a risk. If an American doesn’t want to take that risk, he should stay at home. He cannot expect Big Brother/Big Daddy to come to his assistance if he gets in trouble, especially because the U.S. Constitution does not authorize Big Brother/Big Daddy to do so.