Skip to comments.Democracy in Turkey
Posted on 07/24/2011 1:39:26 PM PDT by a_Turk
Dani Rodrik has just returned from Turkey, shunned while defending his father-in-law, the main defendant in the military coup plot case. The Harvard professor explains his take.
IN DECEMBER I traveled to Turkey with my wife and young son, as we do every year during winter break. This time, though, we had more than visiting family and friends in mind. We were on a mission to demonstrate that what many have called the trial of the century in Turkey is in fact a sham built on fabricated evidence.
Nearly two hundred Turkish military officers stand accused of having plotted a gruesome coup back in 2003codenamed Sledgehammeragainst the thennewly elected Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
Details of the alleged plot have gripped the nation ever since an anonymous source delivered a suitcase full of what appeared to be secret military documents to a newspaper reporter in January 2010. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and other AKP leaders have openly lent support and credibility to the charges. With few exceptions, mainstream commentators have also accepted the claims at face value. The prosecutors have produced a 1,000-page long indictment, along with supporting documentation running into tens of thousands of pages. When we arrived in Turkey (my wife is the daughter of Çetin Doğan, the lead defendant in the case), the trial had just started in Silivri, on the grounds of a prison in the outskirts of Istanbul.
Our mission seemed quixotic and presumptuous at best. And yet, stripped of all the frenzy and disinformation that surrounds the case, the facts were abundantly clear. The coup plot documents on which the charges are based were obvious forgeries.
Americans have not paid much attention to the Sledgehammer case or to Turkeys other ongoing political-military trials. Western observers typically assume that these trials, although far from perfect, are an opportunity for the country to come to grips with its murky past. Yet the Sledgehammer case reveals quite a different reality. It lays bare the machinations behind the judicial process, aimed evidently at achieving political advantage instead of justice. It calls into question Turkeys relevance as a democratic beacon for the Middle East and reveals the shaky domestic political foundations on which the countrys foreign policy rests.
We recounted in a previous article  the myriad inconsistencies and violations of due process in this case. The evidence we uncovered left no doubt that the CDs containing the incriminating evidence had been tampered with. Most strikingly, we identified dozens of instances in which entitieshospitals, NGOs, companies, military unitswere referred to by names that they acquired years later. The forgers seem to have checked to make sure these entities existed back in 2003, but apparently forgot to see whether they might have operated under different names at the time the coup plot was alleged to have been hatched. These conspicuous anachronisms made clear that the documents supposedly authored in 2003 by the officers on trial were in fact produced no earlier than August 2009.
However, when we presented our argument in Turkey in a book, several TV appearances, and meetings with journalists, we were bewildered by the reception we received. We encountered a mix of denial, deception, and fear, which says much about Turkeys recent historyand even more about the alarming direction in which the country seems to be headed.
THE REACTION we got from the countrys liberal intelligentsia was symptomatic. The Turkish intelligentsia has made common cause in recent years with the AKP government, thanks in large part to the AKPs success in presenting itself as a force for democratization and civilianization of Turkish politics. These intellectuals see Sledgehammer and other similar trials as a chance to make ultra-secularists and militarists accountable for the crimes of the past. Given Turkeys history of military coups, this is understandable; we saw things pretty much the same way until recently.
What was much more difficult to fathom was these intellectuals unwillingness to question their beliefs in light of mounting evidence that the defendants had been framed. Many of Turkeys leading liberals simply turned their backs on the evidence that we had amassed. They refused to meet with us, failed to show up at panels where we presented our findings, and left our e-mails unanswered. The reporter who first broke the Sledgehammer story in the newspaper Taraf, a ubiquitous presence in the Turkish media, declined invitations to debate us on TV. Ironically, while we were in Turkey prosecutors were forced to revealafter presistent demands from lawyersreams of material pointing to the inconsistencies we had identified (and more), which they had chosen to disregard (and hide from the defense).
Others tried to deflect our findings by personalizing our quest. Predictably, there were articles aplenty in the Islamist press that played off my Jewish identity. Pinar, my wife, was typically portrayed in condescending, often sexist terms that suggested her judgment was clouded by filial loyalty. Such articles were even published in the supposedly liberal Taraf.
But no publication worked harder to discredit us than Zaman, Turkeys largest-circulation daily. The pro-government Zamanalong with its English-language sister publication Todays Zamanhas been a steady source of disinformation on the Sledgehammer case from the beginning. At various times, the paper has reported that the infamous CDs bear authenticated fingerprints, that the Sledgehammer documents carry the planners signatures, that civilian staff have admitted preparing the coup documents, that military prosecutors have certified the coup plans as genuineall of which happen to be false. At one point, the paper had to quietly pull a piece off its web archive after we pointed out the countless errors it contained.
As our views gained some traction and the public debate began to shift, Zaman went into overdrive. It published several front-page stories trying to undercut our evidence. It argued that the discovery of a new stash of digital material in a navy base proved us wrongeven though the new files contained all the same anachronisms, plus more! Some of Zamans attacks were nothing less than bizarre. The paper ran a story that suggested I was slated to become economy minister once the Sledgehammer coup took place and the military took charge. There were articles that focused on my Harvard affiliation and insinuated that I was damaging Harvards reputation by providing support for coup-mongers. When I invited Zamans editor Ekrem Dumanli to a debate about the facts of the case, there was, predictably, no response.
Zamans exertions to prove, against all logic, the coup documents authenticity and to discredit anyone who would argue otherwise carry broader significance. Zaman is not just Turkeys largest-circulation newspaper; it is also the media flagship of the Fethullah Gülen movement. Gülen is a charismatic Pennsylvania-based Turkish preacher who has built a vast network of followers that is closely allied with the AKP government. His apparent espousal of a tolerant, humane, and moderate brand of Islam has led many to believe that the movement seeks nothing more than a culturally conservative, yet democratic Turkey. Yet Zamans vilification campaign against the defendants and blatant distortion of the facts give the lie to these democratic pretensions.
They also lend credibility to the widespread perception that the dirty tricks behind cases like Sledgehammer are the work of Gülenists, who are known to have established a stronghold in the national police and among the prosecutors assigned to these cases and also to have infiltrated the military. There is more than a grain of truth to these allegations. A former U.S. ambassador to Turkey during 20032005, Eric Edelman, has revealed that he was passed fake coup documents by an individual connected to the Gülen movement. A police commissioner, who had been a Gülen sympathizer, published an expose this summer in which he wrote that the Gülenists were resorting to widespread illegal wiretaps and evidence fabrication, creating a state within the state. (He promptly found himself in jail, facing charges that bear the tell-tale signs of the manipulations he had described in his book.)
The Gülenists dont control all media in Turkey, and neither does the government. But in our contacts with other segments of the mainstream media, we encountered another worrying leitmotif: fear. We heard story after story about self-censorship and refusal to engage with subjects that might offend the Gülen movement or the government. Journalists complained about intimidation, and anchormen told us during commercial breaks about the risk they were taking by interviewing us. A very well respected journalist, known for his middle-of-the-road views, told us that for the first time in his professional career he was worried about his future. This is not all based on paranoia: the countrys largest independent media company is reeling under a huge tax fine, imposed for what is commonly believed to be political reasons.
BY THE time we returned back to America we felt we had made an impact. The problems with the evidence, and the anachronisms in particular, are now widely recognized. Our blog (cdogangercekler.wordpress.com, in Turkish) which used to receive a few hundred visitors a day now gets hits in the thousands and hosts a vigorous discussion of the case (including by those who do not share our views). Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP, who have exploited the case for political mileage in the past, have turned uncharacteristically silent despite general elections coming up in a few months time.
To be sure, the trial still goes on and the proceedings ignore the fact that the incriminating CDs would be inadmissible as evidence in any proper tribunal. Many liberal commentators continue to treat the charges as fact. It would be too much to expect a quick about-face in a nation scarred by a history of military coups and by a judiciary that has long been manipulated by those holding political power.
Yet the facts of the case are simple and demand answers. Why is the Gülen movement, judging by the behavior of its mouthpiece, so intent on covering the forgers tracks? Why is Erdoğans government idly standing by despite the obvious miscarriage of justice?
These are uncomfortable questions that go the heart of the new political order taking shape in Turkey. They force us to reconsider how benign the AKPs alliance with the Gülen movement really is, and what the alliance portends for the future of democracy and the rule of law in Turkey.
Pity... democracy sucks..
Its actually a dirty word..
Democracy is the road to socialism. -Karl Marx
Democracy is indispensable to socialism. The goal of socialism is communism. -V.I. Lenin
The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to socialism .-Karl Marx
Good article. Naturally, it includes details I haven’t seen anywhere else.
Thanks for posting.
Great Post A_Truk, I didn't know about Operation Sledgehammer
Over 100 charter schools in America—3 in Arizona.
Quite a few years ago I asked your opinion on why the military wasn’t following their constitutional mandate to preserve secular government and you said it was more complicated than it might seem.
I took that to mean the Muslim Brotherhood had infiltrated the military, but I see that it goes way beyond that. Way beyond Turkey. Thanks for this article.
This is Bush’s new world order. That’s what’s complicated. A few years back Erdogan boasted publicly “There’s a greater middle east project, and we also have been given a part. We’re doing our part in this project.”
The Turkish military can’t overthrow any government without her allies being in agreement. Doing so would isolate her and humiliate the country as a whole.
I know the people who go from state to state starting these schools. And little by little they are creating associations similar in name to ours and supplanting us secular Turks. Their streak must be broken both in the US as well as in Turkey. They got where they are thanks to the aforementioned US neocon experiment, we have to do what we can to reverse it.
Their Zaman, et al. our state controlled American media (SCAM); their Fethullah Gülen, our George Soros; their media unbiased reporting now fearful, our Fox News reporting now reticent; their intellectual class willing to "go along" ours done gone along; their fake documents, our president's fake birth certificate; their intellectuals want to see punishment for the nation's crimes of the past, our "intellectuals" want to see our nation's crimes of the past, present and future punished.
Lot similarity there. Oh.. one difference, a huge percentage -- last I heard 40 percent -- of Turkish adults oppose Islamism and Sharia law and hundreds of thousands of them get out and demonstrate against Islamism and Sharia law. That's the one difference. Our Muslims are silent or favor Islamism and Sharia law.. except for a handful of Muslims living here.
BTW, a nation scarred by a history of military coups? Scarred? What's the problem? They prefer an Islamic republic to replace Turkey's constitutional republic?
Turns out Ms Berlinski is a long-time resident of Instanbul and writes about things Turkish here
In her comment about some Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) supporters firebombing a student dormitory in a province and one student suffered severe burns to the entire body she wrote
"I can find no coverage of this attack in any English-language news source but Today's Zaman--which I do not trust. But something obviously happened here that should be covered by the international media. Why isn't anyone noticing?"
Good question and she does not trust Today's Zaman. Sounds like we can trust her.
Democracy and islum don’t mix.
I'm just an ordinary person with no high level contacts anymore, but I will tell friends what you have shared. Most them already know about the NWO and Jihadi infiltration from groups like CAIR, but this is a step further and even more insidious IMO.
The New World Order seems to be fine with the reestablishment of the Caliphate. In fact our current occupant of the White House and his radical Marxist friends have worked hard to bring about the “Arab Spring” which is rapidly opening the path to al Kalifa.
I can't imagine how that will work out in the end. A Caliphate will be working with fanatic zeal to turn the entire world to Sharia law, something I can't see the NWO people accepting for themselves.
I believe both sides think they can use each other for their own separate goals and then turn on the other for supremacy. I do not see the Bushes, Clintons, Soros’, and the behind the scenes powers accepting THEIR lives being bound by Sharia law anymore than I see the Caliphate accepting the existence of an infidel empire unless that empire embraced dhimmitude which isn't going to happen.
If we can't reverse the results of infiltration, we will be subject to the apocalypse that follows.
We’re all ordinary persons.
Nearly two hundred Turkish military officers stand accused of having plotted a gruesome coup back in 2003... Details of the alleged plot have gripped the nation ever since an anonymous source delivered a suitcase full of what appeared to be secret military documents to a newspaper reporter in January 2010... prosecutors have produced a 1,000-page long indictment, along with supporting documentation running into tens of thousands of pages... stripped of all the frenzy and disinformation that surrounds the case, the facts were abundantly clear. The coup plot documents on which the charges are based were obvious forgeries.
Interesting given that the Gulen movement in the US state of Pennsylvania is known for being a donation bundler for Hillary Clinton.
Interesting timing on the forgeries... Hillary Clinton was Sec of State ...Gulen is a Hillary campaign donor/bundler, and the liberals on both sides of the Atlantic wanted to undermine the Turkish military which they view as a threat to “democracy” even though it’s the opposite, protecting the country from radical islam.
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