Ayse Cebesoy Sarialp
An American navy man, Admiral Bristol, American Ambassador to Turkey, became a true friend of Atatürk and his friends and supported the Turkish national struggle in all sincerity. Ambassador Grew, the first American Ambassador after the proclamation of the Republic, who had attended the Lausanne Treaty Conference as a member of the American delegation, presented a true picture of the Turkish National Struggle in his two-volume book called The Turbulent Era.
During the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1922), an American journalist named Mr. Brown came to Turkey to interview Mustafa Kemal and his friends, the commanders of the Eastern and Western frontiers. Between September 20 and 22, 1919, an American Mission under the leadership of General James G. Harbord came to Turkey and met Mustafa Kemal and his close friend Huseyin Rauf to find out about the situation on the frontiers. General Harbord then visited General Kazim Karabekir, the commander of the Eastern front, from whom he learned the so-called Armenian dilemma. General Harbord’s detailed report on the Turkish War of Independence, which threw a true light on the defensive attitude of the Turks in their national struggle, exists in the archives of the Library of Congress.
A prominent American journalist named Isaac Frederick Marcosson (1871- ? ) came to Ankara, Turkey in the year 1922 where he had an opportunity to interview Mustafa Kemal. The highlight of this interview is very interesting from the view point of giving a true picture of the young Turkey’s foreign policy as well as domestic investments to promote the future of this young nation in every possible field.
The interview starts with Atatürk’s personal views on the United States. Atatürk said, “The American ideal is our ideal. As you had a Declaration of Independence, we also have our National Pact. Both of these documents are of the same nature; like you, we also wanted independence. Turkey and America are democratic societies. Turkey and the United States can cooperate in the commercial and economic fields. We welcome the entry of American capital into Turkey. I carefully examined the lives of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The United States of America was founded upon thirteen governments; there is a similarity between the present day Turkey and these thirteen governments. You Americans liberated yourselves from the yoke of the English; we also won our independence from them. The world should witness the birth of a new nation in Turkey. Do you know why I liked Washington and Lincoln? Both worked for the advancement, elevation, and prosperity of America. However, your other presidents strove to gain honor and fame. This high service is the service which a person assumes without thinking of himself. You perhaps find such a statement of a man like me who is both a soldier and a Turk a bit strange; but in these ideas lay the foundation of the entire nation. The Turks were in a position of minority in the Ottoman Empire for centuries, but now the Ottoman Empire has ceased to exist. Now, we Turks alone control our own homeland, we are the masters of our own house.”
Marcosson asked, “What sort of remedy can be found for the difficulties in which the world finds itself? Can the United Nations (at that time, the name was the League of Nations) be a remedy for them?
Atatürk answered, “Both yes and no….The United Nations accepts the domination of certain states over other nations. This is a mistake.”
Marcosson asked, “Do you support the entry of Turkey into the United Nations?”
Atatürk answered, “Yes, under certain conditions, but in my opinion this organization is still in the experimental stage.”
Marcosson asked, “What do you think about the status of women?
Atatürk answered, “Women must be the equals of men in matters of education and instruction. The Islamic religion commands that attention be given to the education and instruction of women. In our struggle for independence Turkish women were of significant assistance to the army.”
Marcosson asked, “What is your aim in founding this state? That is do you support an Islamic union or a Pan-Turanian union?”
Atatürk answered, “Let me explain the problem. The idea of an Islamic union came to an end centuries ago before the gates of Vienna. As for Pan-Turanism, it was destroyed on the Eastern plains. Both ideas are mistakes, because both of them are also imperialist. Taking into consideration German, Austrian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires, imperialism has been eliminated from the world.”
After this interview, Mr. Marcosson wrote a series of articles about the young Turkish Republic and its leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, praising his progressive mindedness and perceptiveness.