America's Link To Turkey's War

The man at the center of the hostage taking -- Abdullah Ocalan - has told CBS News that the Turkish conflict with the Kurdish people may have an unsettling American connection.

The Kurds are a people without a country. At 20 million strong, they are the largest ethnic group in the world, and they live in some of the most volatile places on earth: Iraq, Iran, Syria, and mostly, Turkey. For the last 14 years, Turkish Kurds have been at war with their own government, fighting to establish an independent Kurdish nation.

When the Turkish military fights back, they do so with the help of the American taxpayer. Turkey is the third-largest recipient of U.S. economic and military aid in the world, and a vitally important NATO ally. F-4 fighters and Cobra helicopters are just some of the American-made hardware the Turkish government has used to bomb Kurdish guerilla strongholds.

Three years ago, at a secret location in the Middle East, CBS' 60 Minutes Co-Editor Ed Bradley spoke to the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan about the American connection.

"It is an absolute reality that without the U.S. technology, Turkey could not have prolonged the war against us this long," Ocalan told Bradley.

He added that the U.S. made arms have been used against civilians. "All the villages have been burned by the American weapons on an everyday basis. Today these weapons, F-16's and helicopters, are being used."

Both sides, the Kurdish guerillas and the Turkish government, have been accused of murdering civilians. While the U.S. continues, indirectly at least, to aid the Turkish military in their fight against the Kurds, the government is also spending millions of dollars to support the ethnic group right across the border in Iraq. It's a foreign policy that one human rights official described as schizophrenic.

Reported By Ed Bradley