What Kind of Washington Fools Would Honor Turkey's Foreign Minister?

Update (June 16th, 2010 10:20 am): A press assistant at the Wilson Center confirmed this morning that what I wrote below is correct. The ceremonial dinner, honoring Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, along with a Turkish business tycoon, is scheduled for Thursday evening, at the Four Seasons, in Istanbul.

What follows is my post originally written Wednesday night:

Turkey's leaders have made a lot of news lately, and it's been ugly: holding hands with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, blessing the lead role of the terror-linked Turkish IHH foundation in last month's Gaza terror flotilla, and voting last week against new sanctions on Iran in the United Nations Security Council.

So what's a prestigious Washington foreign policy think tank to do? It looks like the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is about to bestow an award -- yes, you read that right, an award -- upon the chief strategist behind Turkey's increasingly toxic foreign policy, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Unless it's been called off since Tuesday afternoon -- and there is no news of that so far -- the Wilson Center plans to present Davutoglu with the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service -- yes, Public Service -- at a dinner ceremony in Turkey this Thursday, June 17th.

This would be revolting enough were the Wilson Center an entirely private foundation. But American taxpayers are forking out for the institution hosting this stunt, whether they know it or not. The Wilson Center was created in 1968 by an act of Congress. As the Center itself details on its website, about one-third of its operating funds every year come from "the U.S. government," a.k.a. American tax dollars (scroll down to the end of the page in this link).

The rest of the Wilson Center's money comes from a mix of private and public sources. Top donors listed in the Center's 2008-2009 annual report include George Soros's Open Society Institute, the U.S. Agency for International Development (a government agency funded by U.S. tax dollars), the United Nations Development Program (which gets a big chunk of its funding from U.S. tax dollars), the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, and such cosmopolitan outfits as the Fellowship Fund for Pakistan, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Embassy of Mexico, and a Brazilian business conglomerate, Grupo EBX (whose officers were perhaps pleased when Brazil's President Lula won the Woodrow Wilson Public Service Award last year). For a full roster of the top donors, scroll down to page 57 in this link to the Wilson Center's annual report.

On Tuesday, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D., NY), chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, sent a letter to the president and director of the Wilson Center, Lee Hamilton, expressing "deep concern and dismay," and urging Hamilton "to rescind the decision" to present Davutoglu with the Wilson Center's Public Service Award.

Why? Ackerman put it neatly, noting that "Turkey's foreign policy under Foreign Minister Davutoglu's leadership is rife with illegality, irresponsibility and hypocrisy." In his two-page letter, Ackerman cited, among other things, Turkey's refusal to recognize the terrorist nature of its new best pal, Hamas; Turkey's focus on "demonizing the State of Israel," and Davutoglu's personal description of the recent flotilla events as Turkey's 9/11 -- a comparison that Ackerman described as so perverse he finds it "sickening."

Summing up why presenting Davutoglu with an award would be "absolutely inconsistent" with the mission of the Wilson Center, Ackerman wrote: "A foreign leader who represents and defends this kind of foreign policy, one who has championed Turkey's most odious efforts to deny others the human dignity that Turkey rightly expects for its own people, is not a worthy recipient of the WWC Public Service Award."

It bears noting that the Woodrow Wilson Center had already made plans for this week's dinner back in March, when it put out a March 5 press release announcing that Davutoglu, along with a wealthy Turkish businessman, Ferit Sahenk, would receive the Public Service Award on June 17th. That announcement came before the recent open eruption of Turkish foreign-policy perfidies, though in March, under the leadership of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu, Turkish policies were already badly on tilt. For the Wilson Center, it was a piece of horrible judgment, compounded by spectacularly bad timing. If anyone wants to start handing out medals for Washington's most idiotic foreign policy awards, this one qualifies. If Lee Hamilton has the wisdom to call it off, there is still time before Thursday's dinner in Turkey. But not much.