Fight over the FETÖ, Fight over the US, Struggle for Democracy…

Translated from Turkish by Translators for justice
July 31st, 2016
Taner Timur

This country will not be healed unless the victory against the coup d’état goes beyond that of formal democracy, and becomes the victory of the secularism, which is the sine qua non of democracy itself.“Each and every member of our nation, including the youth, the elderly, workers, the bosses, peasants and the urbanites, was banded together vis-à-vis the putschists.”

These were the words that Erdoğan used when announcing the the state of emergency to the nation. The RPP’s Taksim Meeting last Sunday[1]  confirmed these words. Those who were confused and asked, “then who does this decision target?” got the response from the Prime Minister: “The State of Emergency was announced not for the nation but for the state!”

Weird, isn’t it?

Weird; for everyone who assumed that who were ruling this country for fourteen years were the owners of the “State,” too. However, it turned out that they had not been the owners; the cancer cells of FETÖ had infiltrated into the [state] structure and they eventually caused metastasis.

Cancer is terminal; it is time for operation! And the first clinical results had been announced by the President of the Republic: 13,165 in detention; 2101 of these are judges and prosecutors; 52 are local administrative authorities; 689 are civilians and the rest are military personnel and the police. Those who were taken under custody total to 5863, including 123 generals. Additionally there are more than one thousand institutions that were closed down: Schools, universities, hospitals, foundations. Their assets were confiscated by the state, in a move reminiscent of the Ottoman confiscation system. Later, we learned that the number of those who were dismissed from duty in many public institutions exceeded 66,000.

This is a striking picture! And the list of the “journalists who are suspected to be pro-FETÖ terrorists,” contains many famous names. Despite the government’s assurances, many questions linger.  Some are worried about the possibility of “wrong diagnosis” that this might not be “cancer,” but rather, paranoia; some say that there is still immediate danger, that there is a “Mastermind” in need of being brought to justice behind the FETÖ supporters: the United States of America.

The AKP media alliance is helping to spread the word. Three ministers openly pointed at Washington; Yeni Şafak wrote “the USA is trying to kill Erdoğan.” In other newspapers, there are accounts of the “plans of Turkey’s occupation” by the same wretched powers. So the state of affairs is worse than it was assumed to be; pro-FETÖ members were just a puppet and the USA was holding the strings! A writer openly announced this: “There is no secret left; FETÖ is a CIA organization.” Even Yeni Şafak gave the name of the American officer who administered the coup d’état: ISAF Commander General John F. Cambell.

Never say never; I cannot object! However, July 15 is not the first attempted coup d’état in Turkey; and in the midst of the disinformation it becomes difficult to read the state of affairs clearly. Let’s call it the historian’s passion; in order to comprehend the picture in its totality I tend to remember the past times, the previous coup d’états. Especially those coup d’états (of May 27, 160 and September 12, 1980) when the parliament was dissolved and new constitutions were drafted.

During the May 27, 1960 coup d’état, the first in our series of coups  military leadership, I was an assistant in the Faculty of Political Science at Ankara University (Ankara, Turkey). The last sentence of the declaration of state of emergency, which announced the coup d’état and which was read again and again on the radio still rings in my mind: “We are loyal to all our alliances and liabilities. We believe in and we are affiliated with NATO and CENTO.” Briefly, an expression of affiliation and primarily to NATO — to America. In fact, none of our constitutions contained such an article. But in Turkey’s multi-party years this affiliation was assumed to be a rule with greater import than even the articles of the constitution!

My generation (the ‘58’s) remember this well: In the 1960’s there was much curiosity about the way May 27 coup d’état was carried out; this question was discussed extensively. Memoirs were written on the topic; research was carried out. Furthermore Aziz Nesin could not help but write a story, titled “How did we Make the Revolution?” Örsan Öymen’s work, titled “There is One More Revolution,” which was perhaps the most serious among similar analyses shed light on the relations  between the puschists and America. Accordingly, during the preparations for the coup d’état, Colonel Dündar Seyhan, who was a military attache in Washington was recommended  (ordered?) to “stay there; you can ensure America’s support, for it is impossible to make revolution without America’s consent.” And America’s reaction to the coup d’état confirmed that this “consent” was ensured. Thus May 27 coup d’état turned out to be one, which although not masterminded by the USA,  was one that USA had been informed of and had approved! As for September 12, today everyone knows that the USA had played an active role in this coup d’état. Paul Henze, who was then the Head of the CIA’s Ankara Division, said that “[our] Guys did it.”

These are “successful” coup d’états. There were also unsuccessful ones: For example there were two attempts lead by Colonel Talat Aydemir, in February 1962 and May 1963. Another example is the March 9 attempt that preceded the March 12, 1971 coup d’état. Talat Aydemir was first pardoned; then he was executed. The generals behind the March 9 attempt were tortured and imprisoned.

Was America behind these puschists? Most likely, no; no one claimed they were backed either by America or by the domestic bourgeoisie. Hence in the following years the USA did not sympathize with any movements that arose despite the hierarchy in the army. The White House, the Pentagon and the CIA were on the side of “order and stability” in Turkey. Those attempts which were not supported by America within the frame of NATO and bilateral agreements also failed.

Might this general information help us to understand the July 15 attempt?

Let’s try to understand the “model” in the minds of the July 15 puschists on the basis of some of the information over which there is general consensus.

Existing objective data show that the coup d’état attempt started despite the army hierarchy; but the puschist group wanted to turn the movement into a TAF [Turkish Armed Forces] coup d’état, under the lead of the General Command.  For that purpose they had also prepared a declaration that would address the nation. In the declaration, which was said to be written by the “lead of the Supreme Atatürk,” it was rather strongly phrased that basic rights and liberties will be attained, that the secular rule of law, which had gone by the wayside would be reinstated, and that those responsible for damaging it would be punished. The primary target was the AKP rule.

And then? They took action; they failed and their declaration was thrown into the trash bin as a certificate of hypocrisy, with no credibility.

The declaration was thrown into the trash bin; but there was something strange. Historians will wonder in the future how could an Islamist group attempt to seize power with such an Atatürkist declaration — one that is in fact contrary to their beliefs. How could they start to take steps with a text that would be applauded by the crowd which filled in the Republican Meetings in 2007? Were the puschists composed of stupid and crazy people who had no idea of what they were doing? Or, were they a group which had no chance of seizing power and thus embraced the idea that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and opted for support from powerful circles? But even the government circles did not believe in this last possibility. Did Erdoğan, who knew those circles well, say that Gülen’s aim is “to land from America on Turkey, as Khomeini had landed on Iran from Paris”?

Then, what was the reality?

It seems that we will be able to learn the facts when the cases are held and when the defendants explain intentions not under duress but with free will. Of course, we can’t assume they will have the courage to clearly express their intentions in the existing atmosphere. Thus for the time being, let’s continue with our effort to comment on the developments on the basis of existing data.

At first, the puschists, who turned out to have wider support that it was assumed, took hostage the Head of General Command, and tried to “convince” him to lead the movement for hours. However, these negotiations in which physical pressure was used did not reach to a conclusion and Hulusi Akar rejected the puschists, with serious accusations—which he later declared.  And by Akar’s resistance the coup d’état could not turn into a TAF’s movement, and thus it was doomed to fail. And in the meantime Erdoğan took the opportunity to address the people via CNN and called everybody to the streets. Muezzins and imams voiced this call in the mosques via the call to prayer. And the rest unfolded; the puschists committed violent attacks in the madness of loss. Then they either surrendered or they were seized; and they were arrested, to be punished with what they deserved.

Might Akar’s place in the army and his attitude vis-à-vis the puschists offer some hints about the issue of the July 15 attempt with the USA?

In Turkey, a country of coup d’états, the political tendencies of the higher command council have always been a matter of curiosity and discussion. Hulusi Akar, too, could not escape from such an history either when he was appointed Head of General Command. The fact that he was awarded a “legion of merit” in America and that this award was given to him a general who had put a sack on our soldier’s head years ago led to discussion in the press. And this interest was not limited to the borders of Turkey. There were articles on this topic in the foreign press, too. For example, Le Monde (February 18, 2016) wrote that Akar was a “hawk who could make Erdoğan follow his advice and who was keen on continuing relations with Pentagon and NATO.” In the American press, too, there were articles praising Akar. Just two months before the July 15 attempt the Wall Street Journal wrote (May 15): “The US army and diplomats praise Turkey’s Head of General Command, Hulusi Akar, for increasing the influence of the army. Akar, who speaks English, had served in NATO on different posts, where he formed close relations with his military colleagues.” However, as the tension between the AKP government and the USA increased, Akar’s position which brought the TAF to its previous “arbiter” role, was getting hampered. Thus this state of affairs led to a dramatic tension in Hulusi Akar, himself, on the night of July 15. There were two possibilities: If the AKP is right and the coup d’état attempt was USA-approved, Akar opposed the USA and chose the domestic order. Otherwise, if the widespread view in Turkey is right and thus, coup d’états can only be successful when backed by the USA, then the USA did not stand behind the July 15 attempt — since the coup d’état failed.

In fact, it seems hard to imagine that the Pentagon and NATO circles would not have information about such a coup d’état attempt in an army which was so thoroughly cleansed of the nationalist generals via the Ergenekon and Balyoz cases. Yet there is a third possibility that comes to mind: that, neither the USA nor the TAF Command council expected such an attempt. When the putschists proceeded to attack at an unexpected moment and Turkish commanders started to resist and the USA authorities started to monitor the state of affairs; they did not rush to display a specific disposition. It might be that their aims would be to support the coup d’état indirectly and to orient it—if it turned out to be successful, while offically, offering a rather halfhearted condemnation. Their vital interests in the Middle East necessitated such a disposition. This seems to be the most likely scenario, and thus the FETÖist coup d’état crisis has evolved into a Turkish-American crisis, one swirling around the question of “Gülen’s extradition to Turkey.”

Now, the basic question is: Will America extradite Gülen?

Erdoğan and the Government members say that “it should; otherwise Turkish-American relations might be much more worsened.” Minister of Justice, Bozdağ, speaks to the Americans who expect evidence on this matter as follows: “I will be clear; these matters of extradition are not carried out according to information or documents. These style of documentation are for things done according to international agreements. Extradition is a political decision.” However, there seems to be not that much possibility for the America to make this “political decision.” If, as argued for by the spokespersons of the AKP, Pennsylvania is a branch of the CIA, it is clear that America will not extradite him. Additionally, characterizing Gülen and his circle as a terrorist organization is not that much in line with America’s concept of terror. In America and EU research institutions Gülenism is considered like Mormons, or Opus Dei, affiliated to Vatican, to be a hard-line trend, one which is oriented more toward education and commerce. America considers only ISIL, Al-Qaeda and similar institutions under the heading of Islamic terror. And under these conditions it seems to be a distant possibility for America to extradite Gülen. Thus the correspondent of Hürriyet in Washington reports that now the Americans, who accuse the Turks of believing in conspiracy theories all the time, themselves believe in a conspiracy and that there is not “even a minor shift” in Washington in this respect. (T. Tanış, July 24),

So, are we heading toward a grand Turkey-America conflict?

This question, whether such a possibility is realistic or not, pushes us toward a rather general evaluation of Turkey’s capitalism and the class basis of the AKP. After all, such a conflict contains social and class dimensions beyond a diplomatic conflict.

The AKP, essentially, relies on the conservative sections of the shopkeepers and artisans, small and medium scale enterprises and the rising Anatolian bourgeoisie. Apart from this, it also has strong support based in the working class and more in the lumpen proletariat. As a government, the AKP, via control of the state for over ten years has also intimidated the bourgeoisie; partly gained its support, and partly neutralized it. Moreover, it created its own bourgeoisie by the bid, incentive and credit policies that it pursued. In short, although the AKP frequently uses populist, demagogical anti-capitalist jargon, in fact, it is wired into capitalism. However, Turkey’s capitalism is a fragile capitalism that lives through the cheap credit of Western capital, rather than domestic savings. Thus, AKP’s “claim to wage war” against the USA and the EU has certain limits. Under such conditions its class-based partners who live under the threat of crisis and bankruptcy would face the greatest reaction. Still, Erdoğan’s “tough guy” outbursts and the pro-AKP spin-doctors’ anti-Western screams have led to an increase in the tension. Today, the AKP government is viewed by Western public opinion as insensitive toward human rights, flirting with radical Islam and with a barely concealed anti-Western stance. This profile will inevitably influence the economic plane. Actually, although there was national unity against the coup d’état, the rapid fall in the stock market and increases in exchange rates point towards economic backlash. And if recently there have been certain improvements, these were more the result of the democratic attitudes of the opposition leaders and the “national consensus,” formed against the coup d’état, rather than the AKP government[‘s policies] . Still it is clear that if the AKP government does not try to change the “picture, revealed by the third-class democracy,” as emphasized by Kılıçdaroğlu in the Taksim Meeting and if ever more people are imprisoned as if the coup d’état had been successful the tension before July 15 will not be eliminated; it will probably continue to increase. We shall not forget that thousands of teachers, journalists and university members dismissed on the basis of some bogus rationale used to be AKP’s most fervent supporters until very recently. And the “clearance operation,” which we witness today, still continues to be an extension of the fight within the AKP. The ones who shall understand this first and who shall learn from it are the politicians affiliated with the AKP who can stay democratic, despite the calls for vengeance. Thus so long as overcoming the coup d’état goes beyond the victory of formal democracy to be the victory of secularism that is its  “sine-qua-non” this country will not be put on the right track. The real march toward democracy in Turkey can only begin when the fight for power ceases to be a primitive fight between Islamists and turns into a secular fight between the oppressor and the oppressed.











[1] July 24, 2016.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s