Ready for an Armageddon?

by Ahu Latifoglu

Istanbul, Turkey, January 6, 1991.

Today is my birthday. I'm in my room, munching on my birthday cookies, listening to a '50s song on the radio. I got a heavenly gift today: the first snowflakes of the year. Everything is perfect, almost everything. Deep in my heart there's a question that has been bothering me all day: will I be able to celebrate my birthday next year? As a twenty-year-old Turkish college student, I cannot be sure. I read the papers, watch the news, take a political science course; they all add up to a big question mark. I just cannot be sure that a war won't start soon.

The Gulf Crisis (a phrase that lost its alarming power due to overuse) is the main topic of discussion in Turkey, like the rest of the world. Saddam Hussein, enjoying news coverage that would be a dream come true for any politician, was voted the evilest and most attractive man of the year and has provided enough inspiration to keep cartoonists going for years. Everything he says, every move of the Gulf area troops, and every decision taken determine whether all the time, energy, and money put into warfare will be "wasted" or not. Maybe by the time this article is published we will all know if there will ever be a free Kuwait again, if his mother will be able to feed baby Amed, and if Mrs. Smith will throw a welcome home party for John, Jr.

Here in Turkey, there is only one point everybody seems to agree on: Iraq clearly acted beyond reason. The division of opinion starts after the point of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. There are some who believe that neither the United States nor the United Nations should have been involved in this affair. They see it as a problem between Iraq and Kuwait — and possibly the Arab world. They point back to previous incidents like Panama and Palestine and the reactions of world leaders then. Some others see this as a Muslim problem and feel that non-Muslims can in no way help solve the problem. This group is well aware of the consequences of the Iran-Iraq War and the possible results of another war within the Islam world.

There's a final group, including myself, that feels that every effort, every sacrifice should be made to prevent the war. As ordinary Turkish citizens, all of a sudden we found our land in a key position. The person in the street realized that his or her future is totally dependent on people of other countries, people not elected by the person's vote. The soldiers doing their military obligations realize that they might actually have to use the military skills they are taught.

Overnight, politicians had to form opinions about which stand Turkey should take. We are all worried.... We cannot afford yet another war. How would we explain to other generations a war that broke out in a world full of people who claim to be "pacifists"? How come nobody wants war but disarmament is an unsolvable issue that has to be brought up at every summit?

Unfortunately, I do not have the answers to these questions. We are forced to play a trial-and-error game with our lives. If the war tactic doesn't work, we will have eliminated one of the possibilities. Odds are, the world will not have a choice to try the outcomes of the other possibilities.

Ahu Latifoglu is a free-lance interpreter living in Istanbul, Turkey.

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