Like most heads of state, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan travels abroad, he brings along an entourage of ministers, business reps and media.
But this time around, the Turkish ironman seems to have gone a tad too far.
When he made a state visit to Washington on Tuesday, May 16, to meet with his U.S. counterpart, Donald J. Trump, not only did his retinue include the usual ensemble of government and private sector officials, but also his own little band of Nazi-style sturmabteilung thugs.
So while Erdoğan and Trump were sitting in the Oval Office sipping tea and debating the fate of Muhammed Fethullah Gülen (a 76-year-old Moslem cleric quietly living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania who the Turkish leader is convinced was behind a failed coup attempt against his government last July) and whether to arm Syria’s Kurdish rebels (who Erdoğan believes are supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, responsible for many terrorist acts on Turkish soil), the Anatolian oligarch’s brown-shirt goons were having a heyday trampling peaceful protestors outside Ankara’s embassy residence on the U.S. capital’s upscale Sheridan Circle.
Apparently, no one bothered to inform Erdoğan’s “security guards” that bashing in the heads of nonviolent demonstrators was frowned upon in the United States, or that their government-issued carte blanche license to brutalize civilians at will did not extend to U.S. soil.
At least 11 people were seriously injured in the assaults, but once the D.C. police arrived to try to break up the brawl, the Turkish guards took political refuge inside the ambassador’s home (where they were provided diplomatic immunity), and have since returned to Ankara to play kickball with their fellow Turks’ heads.
Erdoğan and his henchmen are no doubt banking on the entire incident blowing over or being overshadowed by the ongoing Trump-Russia-connection scandal that is grabbing most Washington headlines.
But in the United States, that old First Amendment notion of guaranteeing all citizens the right to free speech and peaceful assembly is taken seriously.
U.S. lawmakers of all stripes have expressed their nonpartisan fury over the Turkish security detail’s blatant attack on the protestors and are demanding that action be taken against the Turkish government assailants and their complicit president.
Even the usually restrained Republican Arizona senator John McCain didn’t mince words when asked about the incident.
“We should throw their ambassador the hell out of the United States of America,” he told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
That might not do well for Turko-American diplomatic relations, but it would certainly send a message to Ankara to keep its storm troopers away from U.S. citizens.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.