Reactions, conspiracy theories proliferate regarding US aircraft carrier sent to Turkey

Reactions, conspiracy theories proliferate regarding US aircraft carrier sent to Turkey
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The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group has been sent by the US Department of Defense to assist in the earthquake relief efforts.

SUEDA POLAT- On February 8, American Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke to his Turkish counterpart, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, on the matter of US support in the earthquake disaster relief.

According to US Naval Institute News, the US aircraft carrier, USS George H.W. Bush, has now been dispatched to remain on standby to assist Turkey as efforts to rescue those trapped under the rubble of the 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes continue.

A rescue team from USAID, in addition to multiple teams from Incirlik Air Force Base and Dover Air Base, had already been directed to the earthquake-hit region by the US. According to Anadolu Agency, the Pentagon has offered the aircraft carrier as a form of additional aid.

The aircraft carrier’s presence on Turkey’s waters caused anxious reactions to proliferate among some Turkish people.

Turkish nationals, with journalists among them, have begun to use the hashtag #ABDgemisiistemiyoruz (“We do not want a USA ship”) under which conspiracy theories and reactions mount. The hashtag currently has approximately 32,000 tweets.

Former rear admiral and author Cihat Yayci advises that people remain vigilant about foreign nations conducting intelligence operations in Turkey under the guise of humanitarian aid, as he claims that this was the case in the 1999 Marmara earthquake.

Others, such as pro-AKP journalist Turker Akinci, points to the US Armed Forces’ 2002 war game exercise, the Millennium Challenge. Akinci says that in the exercise, the target country, which was invaded, was described as one that has straits and is surrounded on three sides by seas. Akinci alleges that this country was clearly Turkey, and that the 2002 exercise is an indication that the US might target Turkey for invasion.

On both YouTube livestreams and Twitter, nervous speculations and anti-American sentiment surge. Some note that Turkey does not need American aid, as it does not have friendly or genuine intentions while others question the need for an aircraft carrier. Aydinlik Gazetesi journalist Tevfik Kafadan asks, “What is a US aircraft carrier doing in Turkey? What aid can it offer to earthquake victims? Let’s not allow the enemy into our territorial waters.”

Patriotic Party Chairman Dogu Perincek joined in the anger, saying “May your ships sink. You’re not coming to help, you’re coming to take hostages! You cannot step foot on Anatolia with your bloody boots!”

The USS Nitze, which had been the subject of anxious misinformation online in Turkey, is also part of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group, though “it is not clear if the ship will be part of any humanitarian efforts.” The US has previously sent other aircraft carriers to regions hit by natural disasters.

*Click to access the article "Rising tide of disinformation in Turkey manifests in earthquake commentary".