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    Ertugrul Ozkok: Could the same happen to a Turkish commander?

    Hürriyet Haber
    19 Ocak 2006 - 09:48Son Güncelleme : 19 Ocak 2006 - 09:48

    Today I am going to break a code of silence, and speak about a critical subject. There was an incident which took place in recent days in Spain. A top ranked commander in the Spanish military made a speech in which he criticized Catalonia's desire for more independence. In a thinly veiled fashion, this commander made it clear that the Spanish military would not stay silent in the face of such an effort. You no doubt followed the rest of the matter. First the commander was relieved of duty. Then he was arrested.

    Now, no one in our press speaks in too loud of a voice, but I am sure that in some circles, the following question is being asked:
     
    "I wonder if whether, after talks with the European Union develop to a further stage, this means that the same thing could happen to the Turkish military when it expresses its thoughts out loud?"
     
    Should such a thing happen? Should a Turkish commander in the military be relieved of duty for expressing his opinions on matters critical to the country?

    *****
     
    The classic liberal view would be that, "yes, the commander should be relieved of duty in such a situation." This same view holds that the right to express such opinoins lies with certain selected civilians. Soldiers, this view holds, should do whatever is commanded of them, without objection.
     
    On this subject however, my views are clear, and I am not afraid to express them. I do not agree with the above viewpoint. The Turkish Armed Forces are this government's "most serious" organization. They are at work trying to ensure the presence of Turkey in a very critical corner of the world.
     
    Also, I do not believe that it is to our advantage to say to a group which has served our country with great sacrifice and faith over the course of history "don't talk, just carry out orders."
     
    At a meeting of world editors in Marakesh last week, I spoke with the editor of Spain's El Pais, and asked him what his newspaper's policy was in approach to Catalonia, which is going after independence with such fervor. "We take into account both sides on this subject, and try to follow a moderate policy," he said. But almost every other paper in Madrid has taken up war against Catalonia's interests. In doing so, they are following the general viewpoint more closely.
     
    *****
     
    You probably read about it in the news. During the Real Madrid football match, fans waved Spanish flags and shouted slogans against Catalonia. They were expressing the general Spanish view on this matter.
     
    *****
     
    A Danish reporter at the meeting in Marakesh expressed the following interesting opinion to me:
     
    "We have started to ask ourselves whether, as the European Union, we are doing the right thing in putting pressure on the Turkish army to move to the back burner? Because many realistic thinking people in Turkey talk about how the military there is a modernizing force, and how it protects the secular nature of the regime in place."
     
    The same question is being asked in Brussels. But there, there is some sort of "code of silence" in place. Because the minute you express such a thought, you are stamped as a "status quo" preserver. And no intellectual in Brussels wants to be seem as being out to preserve the status quo. Luckily, we have no such fear. Which is why we have to keep asking realistic questions. And we will keep asking, until there is an absolute guarantee made that Turkey's secularity will be protected.

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