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Obama vs. Cheney; Erdoğan vs. Who is there?

Following politics in America is always an exciting experience, though for the last two weeks, it has become more of a thriller. Since America’s new President Obama came to power, he has been trying to redefine America on many fronts.

Whilst he sometimes is successful, he still receives more applause abroad than within America. It must be mentioned, he also holds a very high approval rating among the American people, despite the fact that the economy doesn’t have many positive signs, unemployment is rising and some of the most fundamental living luxuries of American people are about to disappear with no sign of coming back.

In the existent world of American politics in a post-9/11 world, Obama faces daunting realities of national security that he didn’t have to before. Consequently, to adjust to this real world, Obama has had to backpedal many of the campaigning promises he made on the road to the White House. Revising the military tribunals, extending the withdrawal timetable in Iraq, upholding the extra-rendition policies that are being applied to terror suspects abroad, and being shied away to rule out using the "enhanced interrogation techniques" that are hotly debated now, are just some of these reversals.

However, one campaign promise that Obama seems to be loyal to is closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Obama renewed that promise on his second day in office, and said he would close it down within one year. Though now it is apparent that this renewed promise was made without any kind of a grand plan. Last week, when Obama asked for $80 million from the Senate to close down Gitmo and transfer the detainees to other U.S. jails, he encountered unexpectedly sharp opposition from his own party. Now Obama has to bring a plan to explain what he wants to do with the detainees, and where they will be sent, to convince members of Congress within the next eight months to at least sustain that promise in the national security quarter.

Though Obama upset his extreme left base with these policy reversals, there still seems to be a fundamental difference with the previous administration when it comes to the policies of the "war on terror," or whatever the Obama administration calls it. And that difference became starkly clear when Obama and former Vice President Cheney gave speeches in a dueling fashion in Washington, on the same topic, the same day, to different audiences at about the same time.

In brief, the dispirited Republican supporters, although they lost the last two elections (2006 and 2008), and were disappointed by the last administration’s performance, they seemed to win a voice who can step up and explain the logic behind the much criticized actions that were taken for the last 8 years. For example, Cheney argued, the water boarding, much discussed "enhanced interrogation technique" was only used against on three people, who have been solid al-Qaeda militants. And they were applied after the period of the ruthless attacks of 9/11. So, in a way, he slammed the administration by saying, "get over it."

Need for an opposition

In the past and now, there are many leaders from the Muslim world who protested the American administration for the awful treatment of terrorist suspects. Though the same leaders’ countries’ jails oversee those tortures to crush the opposition every day, not even on terrorists per se. I am not advocating anyone or any kind of harsh methods; however, this doesn’t prevent me seeing the real double standards that our Muslim world leaders display.

It is true, it is very popular today to attack and tear apart the previous American administration. The bar is too low as the Democratic speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who was briefed on these harsh techniques and never opposed them at that time, can lead this slandering. All in all, under these terrible circumstances for being the opposition in America, this loser side is still able to receive an opposition leader who can shoulder their disappointments and give them something to fight for. These millions of people now have solid arguments, an unyielding ground and hence the power to defend their stances.

And, how about Turkish opposition? Who is there in Turkey to be trusted as an opposition leader to voice many irregularities and unjustifiable actions in these difficult times against the governing party? Where is that opposition that can come out and say: the Ergenekon case must be investigated and the end of it must be seen. Who is there that can defend the rights of the pious covered girls who want to go to college? At the same time, that somebody must be able to say to the most powerful religious movement of Turkey that they need to stay within the boundaries of the spiritual path if they still want to be untouchable, and stop getting involved in politics. Otherwise they, including their leader, deserve the same kind of harsh criticism as of any political movement. Somebody must add, the last centuries’ solidarity movements as seems to be that the praised model now cannot go hand in hand with a free and equal sytem of liberal modernity. That somebody also must tell the Turkish Military to stay outside of politics, once and for all.

Sadly, there is nobody is there. Now Turkey has an administration, which governs the country with its good and bad policies without any credible opposition as safeguard. Here is the bottom line: today the opposition of Turkey has no reality check. Since the opposition cannot show any sign of capability in rotating governing power, they don’t face the realities of Turkey, as Obama and his party do, and keep lagging behind in a dream world with opportunistic leaders amid unrealistic policies. If the opposition has a leadership who has a chance of coming into power, then we have a better chance of reaching a consensus; thus, Turkey’s democracy and opposition can produce more answers and solutions than problems. This will not happen if only ’used leaders’ keep cropping back or never go away, as is the case now.

Turkey is looking forward to have its much-deserved opposition, who can be the voice of the voiceless masses that are quiet, sad, and aging now. They don’t want to lose hope. They are waiting to grab that alternative force that they can support and trust. Until then, we have a long way to go with the current uncontrollable administration. Or worse, the checks and balances will continue to come from those who are supposed to be outside of politics.


İlhan Tanir lives and works in Washington, DC. His blog is at http://ilhantanir.blogspot.com/
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