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Consensus at the MGK

While the National Security Council, or MGK, was continuing its meeting behind closed doors under the chairmanship of President Abdullah Gül some 20 kilometers away, I was busy discussing philosophy and current affairs of the country over barbecue in the backyard of a villa at a plush suburb of Ankara with some friends overactive in conservative politics.

Earlier in the day, the Ergenekon prosecutors started questioning nine senior officers, one of them Dursun Çiçek, a colonel at the office of Chief of Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ, who was accused of "writing" a "military plan" to "finish off" the ruling AKP and the Islamist Fethullah Gülen brotherhood organization. Başbuğ had condemned the alleged plan and he declared that there were no reason to prosecute Çiçek. Should, he said, new evidence appear proving authenticity of the plan, Çiçek would be tried at a military tribunal. Yet, some ten hours before the general made that declaration, the AKP majority silently legislated in the middle of the night an amendment that allows civilian courts to judge senior officers for "heavy crimes" including "coup attempts."

There were, for obvious reasons, sharp contradictions between how we perceive the developments in the country. What was considered a "great success for the advance of democracy" for them, appeared to me as a grave threat to pluralist and secular democracy from a government with a majoritarianism obsession. The Ergenekon probe and judicial case was just one of the instruments, according to the conservative politician friends, to consolidate civilian rule and eradicate the coup threat in the country.

However, on the one hand I have been shivering in fear suspecting in all that has been happening a revanchist campaign of political Islam against the secular democratic republic, while on the other hand agreeing with the liberal democrat or conservative evaluations that Turkey has been going through a transformation campaign, which even though it might be a little bit painful, might indeed produce a more civilian governance and a democracy not obsessed with threats such as religious or ethnic and cultural differences.

"We are all in the 50s," said a friend. "We have forgotten how we acquired our independence and sovereignty from our parents. Now, our kids, who are all in their 20s, are revolting and demanding some sort of ’autonomy’ from us. Are not we having difficulty in accepting their demands?

Even though we would be proud that they have become independent individuals capable of standing on their feet without our help, won’t we feel a little bit sidestepped and even rendered useless? That is exactly what’s happening in Turkey as well.

The power center is changing and the young civilian democracy is telling the founding element, the military, ’Thank you for everything you did for me so far, but I want to stand on my own two feet without your support.’ That is all."

In the meantime, we heard from the television that the MGK concluded its second longest meeting, which lasted almost eight hours. The longest meeting was the Feb. 28, 1997 meeting at which a set of decisions were accepted or imposed on the first Islamist Premier Necmettin Erbakan against the advance of political Islam in the country.

The top civilian administrators and the top generals were in full consensus, according to a statement released, that there were "statements and publications" against some establishments of the Turkish republic, and the members of the highest "advisory" body "reaffirmed" that such statements and publications cannot serve any interest of Turkey. Well, that was a clear indication that Gen. İlker Başbuğ must have raised his complaint of a "systematic and asymmetric psychological campaign" against the Turkish Armed Forces and reiterated his belief that a witch-hunt was being continued in the country against some current or retired officers without adequate and sufficient evidence proving their wrongdoing. Still, the statement of the council demonstrated that after almost eight hours of deliberations, members managed to come out of the meeting with a consensus.

While sipping our dark Turkish coffee late in the night, there came the biggest news of the night and perhaps the past many months. Colonel Çiçek was arrested on grounds of membership in Ergenekon organization.

What was the consensus at the MGK?