President Gül chose the middle way and approved the law that allows military crimes to be tried in civil courts. Maybe he won’t please anyone and receive criticism from all directions but under these circumstances, he did the best thing.
To tell the truth, the president did what the administration needed to do. Instead of shooting a last minute goal, he considered possible drawbacks.
He pointed at dispersing the concerns of the military. He did not prolong tension. Even though he still had time he acted fast. He decreased the pace of arguments in society.
The most important reasoning in the president’s approval was the necessity to conform to EU criteria. The military stated that the EU had no expectation in this regard but, on the contrary, what the EU insisted on the most was that the military be under inspection of civilians.
This point was on top of the list of criteria to be realized this year. In the end it would have come before us anyway.
In this respect Gül did the right thing. He caused great relief in Brussels for Turkey, which has not done anything in respect to reforms.
Now the question is: Will the AKP administration listen to Gül’s advice or ignore him just like in the case of the headscarf?
Now we need to look into the future.
The only thing that’s for sure is that the CHP will bring this issue before the Constitutional Court.
They will make the final decision. Inconsistency with the Constitution is so variable from person to person that the best thing to do is to wait for the decision of the Constitutional Court.
The other important question is whether or not the AKP will listen to President Gül. Will it make adjustments by taking the military’s suspicion and concerns into consideration?
Or will it ignore them?
The AKP has a criminal record.
When approving the law for the headscarf, the president gave some advice, but the AKP didn’t care. And with this attitude it made a mistake. If they had listened to Gül, there wouldn’t have been any tension or crises.
Let’s see how it will go this time. It doesn’t matter if Bekir Bozdağ of the AKP said they would pay attention to the president’s warning and make necessary adjustments because the final decisions in the AKP are made by Prime Minister Erdoğan.
This means it all depends on words coming out of the prime minister’s mouth. What ever he says will be done. Despite the leaders of the party saying they will do what is necessary, they will wait for Erdoğan’s decision.
If the prime minister intends to continue the tension with the military, then he won’t make any adjustments or, if he does his changes will not satisfy anyone.
I don’t think the prime minister will take it this far.
The prime minister needs to prevent commanders from being pushed around, and the military needs to accept the increasing civil supervision.
There has been enough tension and the message has been delivered.
For the first time in our Republic’s history Erdoğan’s AKP is the first civil administration that showed the courage to put the Turkish Armed Forces under civil supervision. This by itself is an extremely important political decision.
If he is able to take it further with changes that get drawbacks out of the way then his success will be registered.
No government fights with the military and no government should.
And the military has to assimilate this new period and adapt to changing conditions. Just as the government is obligated to prevent commanders from being pushed around, the military is similarly obligated to give up "putting its foot down."
For so many years I’ve been following our society’s perception, ups and downs but never encountered such weirdness. The weirdness I’m talking about is that we are facing hostility toward Israel, whether you call it an Israel complex or allergy. You might even call it a suspicion to the extent of paranoia.
We need not go very far.
During the land mines argument, without a formal identification and without being a candidate for the job, it was talked about making a present for Israel on the border. The weird part is that this was argued all over the country very seriously as if all allegations were true. During the land mines session, Israeli ambassador Gabby Levy, who came to meet with the CHP’s Şahin Mengü over a totally different issue, caused the media to all of a sudden put a headline that read, "Israel besieged parliament."
This was not the case before.
Even if it is not said aloud and openly in this society, people have admired a small country beating the huge Arab world in each war it was involved in and creating a paradise amid the desert.
And during this period Turkey would call the Palestinian rebels "terrorists," just like the Americans did. Israel’s intervention in terror events were also seen favorably back then. Even Israel occupying Lebanon, or sending Palestinians into exile would not have attracted that much attention.
But the situation changed within one or two years.
I researched the reason and found the following basic data:
The reflection of reactions from the international public in the Turkish media against Israel’s brisk and stiff treatment of Palestinians. The spreading of images via TV of especially the ferocious intervention during the recent Gaza operation, that caused people’s deep reaction and a feeling of "that’s enough now." The incredible increase of books and articles or TV shows in Turkey regarding Sabataizm and all conspiracy theories including either this group or Israel indirectly. Nationalists in all international events and the pious in respect to religion spoiled the image of Israel. Despite the fact that the AKP does not take on a negative attitude toward Israel, on the contrary the prime minister shows special sensitivity, local administrations are not able to avoid taking on an anti-Israel attitude, which stirs from their roots in the national view and is deep in their genes. the impact of the "one minute" argument between our prime minister and Israeli President Peres in Davos.
Of course this list may be prolonged but this is a general outline.
So what will happen now?
Turkey’s benefits require close relations with Israel
There is some good in being concerned about it, for if we continue like this, Jewish citizens will be affected by the negative atmosphere and a process of abandoning Turkey will start. Even now speaking to Jewish friends you can feel their unease.
They say, "You still perceive us as the others." They never used to show such reaction before. They have started to talk about an estranging environment.
Turkey for the sake of long-term benefits needs to keep good relations with Israel and embrace its Jewish citizens.
Changing the course of things depends on governments in Turkey as well as on Israel’s attitude, meaning that not everything depends on us.
As long as Israel continues its approach to Palestine it won’t be able to fix its image that persists everywhere in the world. Basically, Israel needs to take important steps. Israel will pushed into a more difficult position with each passing day if it exercises politics that repeat what happened in Gaza, or if it enlarges its territory, or if it does not acknowledge Palestinian rights, or if it decreases Palestinian territory.
Governments ruling Turkey need to see how dangerous this course for them. The prime minister, as the sole determiner of politics needs to make symbolic gestures to win the hearts of Jewish citizens and stay away from brisk reactions. Turkey and Israel are both secular and democratic countries in the region. They are obligated to appreciate each other’s suggestions and live together without hurting each other.
Almost every day I open the papers, watch TV news and live with the same "winds of lies." Everybody, every institution is two-faced.
One face is the one reflected on the outside and the other the real one.
One is very bright, nice, civilized, kind; the other is ugly, jealous, grim.
The Turkish Republic is also two-faced.
When making its own propaganda the Turkish Republic compares itself to a compassionate mother.
Like a mother watching over its children. A mother who does the best to contribute to their growth. A mother who does not distinguish between one and the other.
But the reality is different.
But to our regret the state’s real face is very grim. We make up the state. Bureaucrats acting on behalf of the state, politicians making decisions and applying them are the law enforcement officers.
The state is similar to a jealous guardian. It behaves like a guardian who is peremptory, who beats people when angry and who instead of helping people despises them. The state always talks about "the law." It likes to be defined as the "state of law." Whereas it only uses the law when it suits itself.
Let me give one or two examples.
You know the adventures of Cıngıllıoğlu. I am talking about Halit Cıngıllıoğlu who trusted the state and filled his safe with government bonds. When he was short of cash the state did not pay his money and said, "Did I reassure you?" He then went bankrupt and lost Denizbank.
Then there is Mehmet Emin Karamehmet.
Imagine yourself as a businessman. You make a decision and carry it out. Years pass and nobody says anything. Then after nine years a law passes and the lawmaker says, "I will also apply this law retrospectively."
Meaning the rules of the game change after the game is over.
In a country where laws can be changed like this, who can trust the future? How can a person that does not know what kind of problems he will face in the future take on responsibility? The same thing happened to Çukurova. Çukurova Group sold Interbank to the Çağlar Group in 1996. Then after 12 years the TMSF says that in this transaction there was fraud on part of Çukurova Group. Why? Because Çukurova Group issued a credit to Çağlar before the sale of Interbank. The TMSF claims that Çağlar, in order to buy the bank, took a loan from the same bank. Thus it claims that Çukurova emptied its own bank in an indirect way.
But there are two important points to it.
The first point is that authorities of the Turkish Republic knew about Interbank’s sale and issuance of credit at Interbank. This huge bank was not sold secretly. It is impossible to realize sales without the necessary formal permission. So, if there is a crime then why didn’t anybody interfere?
The second important point is that during the period of the sale according to laws in the Turkish Republic, the statute of limitations for crimes pertaining to banking transactions was one year.
But nine years later the state says, "No, buddy, I’ll change the law and also apply it to the past."
When does this change take place? Nov. 1, 2005. And not enough with that. After this change in law took place the TMSF keeps quiet. It did not accuse Çukurova Group in this respect for about a period of three years. On Jan. 7, 1999, Interbank then owned by Çağlar was transferred to the state owned fund. Meaning that three and a half years after Çukurova Group sold the bank, it was transferred to the state.
The state knew about all transactions within the bank but did not take any action.
So when did the TMSF take action? In May 2008. Here is the problem: If this transaction were a crime, then why didn’t anyone take action in 1999? Let’s say nobody took any action back then and the rules of the game were changed illegally and statute of limitations was increased to 20 years with retrospective ability, why didn’t anyone still take action?
I could give countless examples like these.
Some pertaining to trade, some to politics.
The worst part is we can’t call the state to account. Since the "state of law" is only an expression, those acting on behalf of the sate can behave as boorishly as they want.
And if we add to that the habit of perceiving every rich person as a thief and enemy, the expression "this is the state, it beats you or loves you as it pleases" becomes somewhat tolerable. But what a pity this boorishness can be seen in every part of society. Those who don’t consider the possibility that what happened to others today may happen to them applaud the state, sometimes out of fear and sometimes out of envy. Of course, only as long as they encounter the same situation.
After I realized this, I didn’t believe in "mother state" stories anymore.
Fikret Bila’s headline story in the daily Milliyet on Sunday reminded us of a painful truth. Bila, in his article, revealed reasons for the General Staff’s objection to military personnel under certain circumstances being tried before a civil court. The General Staff sent these valid objections to the president. Gül, who has consulted the government, will either today or tomorrow make a decision about the bill. But what a pity that this change in law, baring a revolutionary value, was made hastily, which has caused an adverse reaction in public. It was perceived as if it was planned to hit the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, below the belt.
If only it would have gone through the normal procedure.
If it would have passed commissions or would have asked for different views and then became legitimate, then there wouldn’t have been an increase in mistrust between the TSK and the government.
If the change in law is realized without any drawbacks it would be a revolution. For now it is an unfinished deed. Why does the AKP persist on immunity? Because it does not trust the jurisdiction and is afraid prosecutors will take action based on nonsensical and political reasons.
Among the reasoning of the General Staff, the one that gives me a headache the most is the part when it says that trying military personnel before a civil court means "politics will enter the military."
The reasoning put forth and AKP’s resistance on the subject of immunity for congressmen is based on almost the same concern. The AKP first was very sensitive about immunity.
It came to power saying that immunity in the case of crimes like embezzlement, abuse and insult should be lifted.
Then it changed...
The reason is because they don’t trust the judiciary. The AKP got scared because prosecutors have adopted a habit of passing the ball to the courts without examining even simple cases carefully or sufficiently.
And they are not wrong in being scared. In a country this solidified in opposition and where personal vendetta is perceived as "politics," prosecutors unfortunately cannot perform their duty of only filtering important things.
You can rest assured that as soon as immunity is lifted a hunt for congressmen based on political reasons, lies or even conspiracy games will boom and every application will be passed on to courts before they are pre-examined.
As long as our prosecutors are not properly trained and required to pre-examine, to play the role of the filter, then nobody can lift immunity.
It’s a pity that disbelief in justice is this widespread. The military’s objection is based on the same reason. The military worries that civil prosecutors will accept each case coming before them whether it be bad intentions or based on conspiracy. The content of the basic approach in the military objection to the bill is similar to the AKP approach: Disbelief in justiceÉ
This is a valid objection.
I’m thinking about what will happen and I agree with the General Staff.
Some person who gets mad at the military, or whose benefits are destroyed, or who wants to take revenge against the TSK would, with insufficient data, apply to the prosecutors. And if today’s administration persists, each application will be passed to the courts.
To that we need to add the Chief of General Staff. And the Chief of General Staff Ñ if no precaution is taken Ñ will be open to the justice trap. If looked upon in this way, we have no choice but to veto Gül’s civil court bill.
It is only natural that the president wants to add buffers to a bill that could create such deep issues before confirming it in order to prevent attempts of bad intention.
But what we need to underscore here is the justice reform. As long as justice reform cannot be realized and this country is not placed on stable ground, artificial precautions won’t do any good.
As long as all people, institutions and politicians are managed according to their view, then we cannot reorganize the state. The European Union does not say "you need to realize a justice reform" for nothing. They already see what we long to see.
The rest is just verbiage.
I decided to write this article after I listened to a speech by Halil İbrahim Akpınar, the governor of the district of Bolu, after I witnessed the positive reaction of Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arınç. But then such developments took place that the situation became tenser. The headline was supposed to end like this, "...isn’t it a little too much?" This sentence openly shows what is meant. Nevertheless, let me tell you about my purpose in a little more detail. Those of you who read my articles and books know my criticism of the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, very well.
I believe the TSK is the most important and trustworthy institution in our country. I keep repeating, since we cannot replace it with another security force, we need to cherish it. Besides, I witnessed that this institution is better in operation than any other institution when it comes to education, discipline and seriousness.
And beside all this, recently I criticized all commanders and civilians who contaminated this institution with politics. Those who pushed the TSK into politics believe that they have done it in order to protect and watch over it, using their legal authority to put democracy on the right track.
I criticized the TSK very much because of their recent attitude and interference in politics. But I also saw that part of the responsibility belongs to the civil administration that was unable to say "no." And I always took a stand against this attitude. The TSK in recent history has influenced this country’s basic politics and mostly took place above the civil administration but took on an attitude of preventing or delaying a solution. I do not entirely hold the military responsible for the development coming this far. I agree with retired Gen. Atilla Kıyat that we’ve come this far because civilians and especially the civil administration have never said "no" to any approach from the TSK, on the contrary welcomed it.
It seemed that people got used to the TSK’s attitude, which has made its mark in history but certain events changed everything.
In Turkey a "balance tuning" is being made in the relationship between the civilian administration and the military that started on April 27, 2007. If we were to look at former applications you’ll see how important this event is and how balances continuously change. There is no need to go way back to former times. Let’s remember how the latest coalition was scolded at although they had no problem with the military.
Former Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz once reacted to criticism from former Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Bir in Tbilisi. Bir said, "In the struggle against political reaction there is not enough effort spent." Yılmaz’s response was that beneath this criticism lies the desire to prolong Chief of Staff Karadayı’s term, and all hell broke lose. With a mutual statement from chief of staff and commanders in chief of armed forces they scolded the prime minister. All civil administration and military relations developed like this. Daily operations are the government’s job, the military represents the state, the government oversees it, protects border lines and is held responsible for the country’s long term benefits.
This accustomed attitude has for the first time been spoiled by the AKP that came to power in 2002. The "balance tuning" for the first time bloomed with the Cyprus issue and difference of opinion in relations with the EU and formally started on April 27, 2007. The Turkish Armed Forces did not want Gül for president and criticized the AKP in a harsh way and didn’t want votes to go to the DTP. Election results in July 2007 and events that followed proved the opposite of what the TSK intended. Developments recently added insult to injury in "balance tuning."
The general perception of the public is along the lines that the military does not act like it did before. The chief of General Staff does not go beyond stating his view.
He does not go beyond the law. And openly says that it is the security for a democratic process. In view of this attitude some of us might say, "The military understood that it can’t put its fist on the table and backed off." Gen. Başbuğ is doing the right thing. He does not put his fist on the table. He does not drag the country into a havoc.
I view it differently.
The military has an extremely realistic attitude. It sees that amid the internal and external conditions we are living in and with a government headed by Erdoğan it is very dangerous and unnecessary to put one’s fist on the table or take on former attitudes.
In summary, Gen. Başbuğ does the right thing. He does not draw his sword or put his fist on the table. He contents himself with stating his view. This attitude may or may not be liked by others but with this attitude he drags neither the institution nor the country into a havoc.
Civil administration stands tallÉ
The above article (the military’s reaction to Mesut Yılmaz) is only an example of how the military scolded the government and it did not touch on how the civil administration reacted to that.
You’ll remember, former Prime Minister Yılmaz talking to journalists who joined him on his Tbilisi trip about the desire of the military to extend terms. As far as I remember Yalçın Doğan, Muharrem Sarıkaya and I were present. When upon publication of our articles the chief of General Staff and chiefs of armed forces in return published a brisk statement, all eyes were turned to the civil administration, especially to Mesut Yılmaz who was the target. If Yılmaz was to administer the government by himself he would have behaved differently but upon the brisk statement by the military the prime minister backed off. He said he was misunderstood, that journalists who accompanied him (and especially me) reflected his words differently. He blamed us and took a step back.
He did not stand tall.
If we were to look at recent developments, we could say that just as the military reacts more realistically according to current conditions, the civil administration exhibits the same amount of changed attitude.
Even if the AKP’s standing aloof from the TSK surfaced during Cyprus’s full membership in the EU venture in the 2003-2004 period, the real "balance tuning" started with reaction to the brisk statement of April 27, 2007. Then it continued open declarations in succession. Each criticism from the TSK was answered by the prime minister, the military’s image in public was shaken by the 2003-2004 coup diaries and the Ergenekon case and we have come as far as a change in the law that allows for a trial of military personnel in civil courts, and alleged military plans to topple the government.
In old times on a scale regarding Turkey’s administration, the military would outweigh it. Today this scale is gradually balancing out.
The AKP tries to tune this balance in a boorish and hasty way. Instead of fine tuning it takes steps from time to time without much consideration, pulling the string tighter.
But it is very determined.
It doesn’t look as if this struggle is going to end anytime soon. These events will surely attract reaction from the TSK and those in favor of the military but whatever happens we should not expect former balances to come back into place.
Perhaps one of the most important bills in Turkey’s political life passed last week. A bill that leaves the military and justice disabled in regards to crimes committed against order and crimes like coups, junta, terror, gangs and alike that need to be investigated and prosecuted. In summary, a way has been paved that allows for military personnel involved in such crimes to be tried in a civil court and Parliament passing this bill is very important.
Turkey for the first time has openly put forth that coup or junta type attempts will be taken to a court of law. We are experiencing this type of development for the first time in recent history. For the first time, a civil administration is rebelling against the military and is taking action.
No matter from which angle or how you look at it, we see that a civil administration in Turkey is rebelling against the authority of the military. If we leave aside the way this bill passed Parliament and arguments thereof, if we look to the heart of this, we see how important this bill is for the country’s future political life.
According to the new bill, whatever the crime may be, civilians will no longer be tried in military courts. The important change has been made to paragraph 250/3 of the criminal court law. Accordingly, military personnel in times of peace committing a crime that falls under the authority of the court established as per paragraph 250, a trial will be provided by these courts of law. This also encompasses coup attempts or any other attempts trying to prevent the government or Parliament from performing their duties. The truth of the matter is that the authority to investigate junta or coup attempts rests on civilian prosecutors.
We need not interpret this bill as if the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, is waiting for an opportunity and won’t take any action. I know that the TSK is not after a coup and is aware that even if it wants to, the period for coups has passed. Nevertheless, this bill has started to apply an extremely important moral pressure. A step has been taken no other civil administration thought about or even had the courage to take. But we also shouldn’t see this bill as an enemy of the military. We are entering a period in which natural and international rule has been applied in Turkey and a balance in the relationship between the military and the civil administration in favor of civil administrations has been struck. A step that as the source of all former interventions introduced a new period that will also lead to a change in the Internal Service Act of the TSK. That’s why this last bill is of vital importance.
Why is the CHP against it?
The CHP was not able to explain to society why it opposed the bill regarding the trial of military personnel involved in crimes of intervention in politics in civil courts.
The general perception is that CHP deputies, while voting last Thursday night, "skipped" while an amendment was made or as the prime minister said, "they slept." If they had been alert, they’d at least have objected. Their complaints - "they have staged a coup, we were deceived" - do not quite satisfy the public. To be more precise, CHP spokespeople were not quite convincing in their statements. On the contrary, the AKP’s statements were more trustworthy, despite the fact that such a bill was passed after midnight and hastily. This objection can be read only as the CHP’s carelessness. It becomes widespread with each passing day that there is some clumsiness involved on the part of the CHP regarding the act of voting for the bill.
The CHP does not say it aloud but it is not in favor of military personnel being tried by a civil court, but it is unable to explain why.
Then there is an aspect regarding the contents of the bill, which brings this question to mind: Does the CHP oppose military personnel being tried before a civil court no matter what this person does?
The CHP does not want to say it aloud but its attitude is along the lines of "I won’t victimize military personnel to civilians." The same CHP fought in 1961 during the preparation of the Constitution to "have the General Staff report to the prime minister instead of to the Minister of Defense." Members of the CHP probably don’t want the status quo to change because they don’t believe in civil justice or because of the possibility that civil justice could be under the influence of the AKP.
But this attitude only reveals a continuation of a traditional loving bond between the TSK and the CHP.
Or it is interpreted this way because they are unable to explain this in a proper way. Under these circumstances the only thing the CHP evokes with its attitude is affection, a CHP that wants to try pro-coup people from 29 years ago by eliminating temporary paragraph 15 in the Constitution.
A process that started with the ANAP administration established by Turgut Özal in 1983 is accelerating these days. With Özal coming to power a "power struggle" between civilians and the military had started. The discussion was public: Who was to be more powerful, more effective, more outstanding? Was it those elected by people or those desired by the appointed military-civilian coalition?
Who was to speak the last word, the military or the civilian administration?
Özal did not bother the military. Instead of disagreeing with them he pulled them onto his side. He did not allow them to cross certain boundaries. For example, during Gen. Öztorun’s appointment to the Land Forces Command, Özal interfered in matters of the General Staff and limited its authority in appointments.
After Özal, the General Staff became stronger, especially during fights between Çiller and Yılmaz, and during the coalition between Çiller and Erbakan. The limitations implemented by Özal were lifted. The Feb. 28 interventions were the date of the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK’s, establishment of crushing weight on civil administrations.
The Fethullah Gülen movement was driven into a corner and Gülen was forced to leave for the United States because of health problems. Political parties Refah and Fazilet lead by Erbakan were closed. The "National View" lived through its historical split and old accounts were settled by stripping off the "old clothes" to give birth to the AKP.
The period of taking the military under control started with Özal in 1983, and revived with Erdoğan coming to power in 2002.
The AKP coming to power after general elections in 2002 inflamed the fight between the military and civilian anew. This time they entered an obvious "power fight." For, Erdoğan was different. He is not as flexible as Özal. We all remember what we have experienced since 2002.
Coup preparations, presidential elections, attempts to close the AKP, the April 27 memorandum and the increase of AKP votes to 47 percent during elections in 2007, breaking a record. Within this period the Fethullah Gülen movement got itself together, got organized and became strong once more.
And the AKP became rich in a ratio no party ever had seen and obtained power in media never seen before.
On one side Republic meetings, on the other side the Ergenekon investigation and in return the Lighthouse case. The civil administration and the TSK drew their swords. To sweep conspiracies under the carpet both parties started to hit each other below the beltline.
In the period of 2006-2008 the AKP was saved from hanging. Now it has become stronger and calls the past to account, he is after revenge. The AKP has quite quickly gotten over the shock created by the danger of being closed and in 2008-2009 it has completely taken on an attitude of settling of accounts, to be more precise of taking revenge. It addressed the bill of events experienced in 2006-2008 to the TSK. And during this campaign it was not alone.
It was greatly supported by the Fethullah Gülen movement.
Three different elements contributed to the campaign’s power:
- the AKP and Gülen media carried out extremely effective publishing politics...
- the Doğan Group being under the government’s pressure and discouraging it...
- the European Union and United States, contrary to the Cold War, not supporting the military...
These are the impressions of what we experienced viewed from the outside, to be more precise, from the public.
Maybe intentions and purposes are very different but our picture of what we see is a "settling of accounts." It is understood that this settling of accounts won’t end easily. The AKP does not want to let go of this opportunity that it has obtained.
It is not sure where and when this escalation will end.
The AKP obtained an opportunity. It does not matter whether or not it is authenticÉ be it a conspiracy, or originate from the General Staff, it looks like it won’t let go of this "piece of paper" easily and will take it as far as it can.
And the opposition stirs the fire to crash the AKP’s image of "the military always beats us" by provoking the government.
"Let’s see you change the General Staff, you are authorized." The military experiences increasing difficulties because it keeps repeating itself but does not get beyond defending the institution against "smear campaigns."
No party intends to change its position. Nobody gives in.
Escalation continues like that.
The civil administration breaks the military’s arm and calculates how to eliminate its effectiveness.
The military fights in order not to lose its power. Whoever stands up to this process will win. Actually what scares me the most is the increased possibility for accidents on this road. I wonder if it will be settled by the National Security Council, or MGK, today or whether this struggle will be put on hold for some time. This is very important from the view of the MGK.
The story of the document alleging military plans against the government has gotten even more confusing. The statement by the General Staff is very clear: - Since this document is a photocopied version, it is not clear whether the signature is real or fake, or added later. (It would have been easy to copy the colonel’s signature and put it on this document, so to determine whether or not the document is a fake, the original needs to be examined.)
- The General Staff has not released an order pertaining to this document and there has been no document printed on the computers of the General Staff. For this reason, the colonel will not be prosecuted.
This statement will not be accepted by one part of this country, which will say that the General Staff is hiding something.
And the other part will characterize this event as a great conspiracy and produce new scenarios. Right now, minds are very confused. Suspicion grows. Nobody believes anybody anymore.
If a group outside the military prepared this document, then it has achieved one of its goals, namely the ill treatment of the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK.
But it has not caused the military to fight with the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.
I do agree with retired Vice Gen. Atilla Kıyat, whom I hosted on 32.Gün last week and who said if those who prepared the document are preparing for a coup, then they are fools. Until the opposite is proven, I feel obligated to believe what the General Staff has said. I don’t want to think of anything else. Under these circumstances, there are only conspiracy scenarios left.
So what might these people have intended to do?
1. Probably their most basic aim was to wear down the Turkish Armed Forces or impose a blow to the military’s image. Wasn’t it to further strengthen the progressively increasing impression in public since the Ergenekon case that the TSK is after a conspiracy to remove the AKP from power?
2. They might also have been trying to drive a wedge between the TSK and the AKP by creating tension or even a fight between the two institutions.
To tell the truth, if those scriptwriters really exist and these are their aims, then they have reached one of their goals, but not both. They have succeeded in harming the TSK’s prestige.
But they have not succeeded in causing a fight between the TSK and the AKP.
It’s not over yet. We’ll encounter more of these events. Let’s be prepared.
DTP did the right thing
Many of us will now get angry with the Democratic Society Party, or DTP, for recalling its appointment request with the prime minister.
We’ll call the party ungrateful and blame its members for not chasing a solution. We’ll drag them through the mud. I think differently. People get tired of chasing. The prime minister was supposed to give an appointment for weeks now, but has made life miserable for the DTP. He surely has a valid reason for this, but there is a limit to all patience. We too, just like the DTP, want a peace process to start.
The DTP is very right in recalling its request for an appointment. So much chasing made the party tired. And besides, this dialogue was supposed to benefit the whole country, not just the DTP.
If there will be an effort, if there is really an "historic opportunity" present and if we need to make use of it, then the prime minister should not have made the DTP wait like a principal makes his students wait in front of his door.
This is not how peace is made. While we thought everything was back on track, this negative development has been a great misfortune.
What needs to be done now is to give up this appointment game.
The prime minister needs to create a different environment and open a door for dialogue with the DTP.
The important thing is to ensure that not a single human being is killed anymore. Who will account for the loss of even a single child with each passing day? Is it worth losing people due to these types of games?
What is our purpose? Isn’t it to eliminate the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, terror or at least reduce it to the point of tolerance? And how are we getting there? With extreme difficulty and military methods, we are trying to oppress the PKK. We pressure the Democratic Society Party, or DTP, in order to isolate the PKK. We want the PKK to submit and accept our conditions. And they blackmail Turkey with terror weapons and imply, "Either you accept our wishes or we spill more blood."
As you see, an extremely long and complex process is ongoing. So then, why don’t we try to take into service our Kurdish origin citizens while leaving aside the PKK process or continuing alongside it?
To convince the PKK or force them into a solution is very difficult. But is it so difficult to draw those onto our side who are said to help the PKK but do not think like them, or even those Kurds who watch the PKK from a distance? No.
Why doesn’t Turkey try the easy way instead of the difficult one?
And what comes first in this regard is the mother tongue. Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Deniz Baykal repeated this on his recent visit in the Southeast. He underlined that the Kurdish language needs to be legitimate, all limitations need to be lifted. What bothers our Kurdish citizens the most is that we do not allow them to use their mother tongue in education and communication. And this is what factionalizes them. I’m not sure if you are aware? A short while ago it was forbidden to speak Kurdish, to sing or listen to Kurdish music and name newborn children in Kurdish. Even Kurdish named villages were renamed.
Turkey thought that it would protect its integrity this way. Each Kurd was viewed as a member of the PKK, and Kurdish was viewed as a means of separatism. But times have changed.
Just as society views events differently now, it has a different opinion of the government. The military understood that it won’t get anywhere with weapons, that they have done the best they could and that it is now up to politicians.
No matter from which angle we look at it today’s environment compared to the one of five to 10 years ago is more suitable.
So then, what are we waiting for?
The state-run TRT, Turkish Radio and Television, which allows for Kurdish to be aired, will win the hearts of Kurds, except those of members of the PKK, by lifting all limitations Turkey imposed on the Kurdish language.
Renaming villages in their Kurdish version will only make those happy living there. To leave those alone who want to name their children in the Kurdish language will lead to winning the hearts of millions.
To allow Kurdish radio and TV broadcasts and to even encourage them, on the condition to conform to law, and lift limitations on Kurdish education will send a message to Kurdish citizens saying Ankara is ready to embrace them.
Eliminating old attitudes in the law and preventing lawsuits from prosecutors based on simple views like "pertaining to being Kurdish or supporting the PKK" will pave the way for easing Kurdish politicians.
To take these steps does neither require consultation nor negotiation with the PKK nor coming to terms with the DTP. The government decides and passes the necessary laws. But first of all, courage is a must.
We need to decide whether or not we want to live at ease with our Kurdish citizens and win their hearts. When making this decision we need to face criticism in a brave way. The AKP can do this.
However it doesn’t go all the way. What will force the PKK into a corner is such a change in attitude.
If only there is desire...
We heard that about 40 days ago we were facing a "historic opportunity" for eliminating the PKK terror and progressing on the Kurdish issue. We all got exited. Everybody, from the president to the prime minister, from the chief of General Staff to opposition leaders was talking about this opportunity. Even PKK leader Karayılan in Kandil took advantage of this opportunity.
But up to now there has not been a concrete step taken. Or a step was taken but we didn’t understand because it was hidden very well. But it is understood that everybody waits for each other. In the meantime, Abdullah Öcalan will outline the basics for his road map to be announced in August. Everything looks fine but this waiting period should not be too long. As time passes it takes away opportunities.
The second problem in this process is with whom and how will this interchange of opinion take place. Since Turkey cannot meet with the PKK. To be more precise it must talk to someone. At least part of our Kurdish origin citizens are represented by the DTP. But the government does not speak to the DTP.
The prime minister says that the DTP is obviously an extension of the PKK and as long as it does not decline the PKK he won’t accept it as an addressee. Ruşen Çakır recently correctly identified and wrote that there is no logic whatsoever in expecting the DTP to decline the organization and cutt off relations but it would cause a continuation of the insolvability of this issue. He drew attention to the necessity to accept the DTP as is and continue our dialogues with this awarness. This is the right approach. I agree with Ruşen and take a step further believing that the prime minister needs to meet with the DTP especially now. If he can prevent terror, prevent the death of one person, what objection might there be in meeting the DTP?
The prime minister says: "I was about to give the DTP an appointment when we encountered another murder attempt by the PKK." It is understood that he takes the public’s reaction. Whereas, wouldn’t it be better to crack down on the event?
If we wait for the PKK to stop laying land mines before we start this dialogue, we won’t get anywhere.
We need to behave realistically and include the DTP in this process. Only this way can we increase the effectiveness of the DTP. Or else the PKK will maintain its power and continue to view itself as the Kurdish representative.
In summary, the PKK won’t like it if the dialogue with the DTP starts but it will be more suitable for Turkey’s benefit in the long run.
Surely the bridge needs to be fixed but not like this
I’m one of those long-time sufferers because of the bridge. My house is on the Anatolian side of Istanbul and every morning and evening I use the second bridge. And now I try to calculate how I will make it through the 40 days ahead. Though I acknowledge those mending the bridge. Of course they are supposed to mend it. And we are aware of it when passing the bridge. If they did not fix it this year we wouldn’t be able to cross it anymore.
I am just curious about whether it should have been done this way. I don’t know the techniques of this job. But there are bridges all over the world in other countries and they are being mended as well and there is not as bad as a congestion as in our country. Why? I was curious and did some research.
In the United States for example, all mending is almost always done after midnight and in the morning open for traffic. In order not to prolong this type of mending there is a team of 4-5 working. And in general one lane is closed during the mending, all other lanes are open.
We like living a relaxed life. When trapped in traffic we start complaining. But this time tops them all. We never before faced such scenes. I did not understand why we experienced such a disaster this time. It must be because of congestion during the first few days that yesterday the situation was not as bad. Probably people were afraid to take their cars and passed the bridge by other means. I noticed that all of a sudden ferry boats on the Bosporus were discovered and interest in public transportation grew.
Nobody knows what the situation will be like tomorrow. But obviously this repair job will influence our lives until the end of July, which is how long it is supposed to last.
I wonder whether or not the highway authority could increase the size of the repair team and shorten this torture process a little.
"This opportunity should not be missed" is what we still hear and it is still valid. There has never been a better time to wipe out the PKK terror and progress in the Kurdish issue. For the first time those in Ankara holding the power and those in Çankaya are of the same opinion. They do not look in a different direction. No difference in opinion. And again for the first time is the command level in the TSK generally in line with the govenment, even if not in details. They believe that a step needs to be taken in order to wipe out the PKK terror. International conditions have never been this stable for condemning terror and solving the Kurdish issue with political means. The United States and Europe say "enough now" and the northern Iraq and the Kurdish government want the PKK issue to stop being an obstacle to relations with Turkey.
And the PKK administration says that this issue cannot be solved with weapons but they don’t negotiate seriously. It tries to save the organization’s upper level management and those in prison.
Öcalan’s statement is expected in such an environment. According to PKK sources, Öcalan will print a "road map" for the future. He will state his expectations of Ankara and advice to the PKK.
Öcalan gives importance to this statement and it is thought that developments will accelerate afterward. This "road map" from İmralı might accelerate this process or on the contrary confuse everything. Öcalan’s suggestions will be adopted like a constitution regarding the PKK and nobody will dare to change anything no matter how much difference in opinion there is within the organization. Öcalan’s own balance is extremely complex. On one side there are some facts.
The PKK needs to decide whether to carry this out with or without weapons. But when making this decision they know that such a terror organization will not be eliminated without obtaining something in return.
On the other side there is Turkey’s changing attitude. Ankara is taking brave steps for the first time not taken in a long time and is also signaling a continuation of this path.
This has come to such a point where each act with a weapon, each drop of blood shed, each conspiracy or assassination attempt only slows down this process.
Allergies or reactions to the PKK by democratic forces in this country prevent expected steps to be taken in the Kurdish issue.
Öcalan is facing an extremely difficult and complex equation.
If he comes forward with exaggerated and unacceptable demands this will stop the process before it even starts. Blood will be shed in vain. The "insolvability" of this situation will be of benefit to those in favor of the terror.
And if he does not request anything satisfactory to his own public then he will lose the Kurdish front.
Opportunity for peace?
Because we have arrived at such a critical point, Öcalan with the help of his lawyers is taking the pulse of the public before his August statement.
He indirectly asks those who deal with this issue, even if they are of a different opinion, "What do you say? What do you recommend?"
The lawyers only listen, gather mutual points from who they asked and will probably communicate it to İmralı. They also came to me. I repeated what I wrote in my articles:
"ÉWeapons won’t lead anywhere. On the contrary, even those who want to eliminate deficiencies in the Kurdish issue keep quiet because they show reaction to the PKK terror.
The PKK has come to a point of hindering the solution of the Kurdish issueÉthe PKK needs to take its finger off the trigger and not get in the way of security forces. Blood-shedding should be stopped.
If Kurdish origin citizens have a request they need to come forward in Parliament and on a political platform.
Only democratic forces can solve the Kurdish issue, not the PKK..."
The liberal-democratic wing in this country is really fed up with PKK terror. It put the Kurdish issue in an even more difficult position. Now there is a need for a new start.
Let’s see how Öcalan will make use of this opportunity.
French President Sarkozy now constantly uses Turkey as material for domestic politics. He is looking for a way to receive votes from the extreme right wing by opposing Europe’s expansion and intimidating foreigners. And a short cut to this goal is to oppose Turkey’s full membership. This scenario was repeated in the European Parliament elections. Prime Minister Erdoğan became very angry over this.
And he is right in showing this reaction.
But this time he sent the message to the wrong audience.
He reacted to the "Turkey Season" that will start on July 1 in Marseille and continue until 2010.
President Gül supported the prime minister and cancelled a dinner that was planned to collect lots of money from companies and organizations.
This program that will cost millions of euros and includes 352 different shows ranging from concerts by Dede, to sultan’s robes at the Louvre museum, to Ramadan nights full of entertainment.
The majority of the expenses were to be covered by the French government and the private sector.
There was no important contribution by Turkey. In summary, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I can neither accept the prime minister’s nor the president’s method of punishment.
I agree with Erdal Şafak at the daily Sabah and İsmet Berkan at the daily Radikal.
The initiator of this project, aiming only to promote Turkey, is former President Chirac. The purpose of this project is to change Turkey’s former image and to popularize it in the eyes of the French.
Sarkozy first opposed the "Turkey Season." He planned to cancel it but with the interference of influential people like Pierre Lellouch he backed off.
Now if the prime minister retreats from this project, who will win and who will lose?
The French probably won’t feel sorrow for not having the chance to get to better know Turkey.
The prime minister complains that France is acting like "they are being so kind."
A very wrong attitude.
Let Sarkozy work against Turkey for his domestic politics or his country’s long-term benefits in Germany.
And Turkey will in exchange do its own math. But it is extremely wrong to punish Sarkozy in a different area, knowing this will turn against Turkey.
This means to "punish oneself and cut the branch you sit on."
I hope our dear prime minister changes this attitude.
Note: when this article was about to be produced I saw an announcement in the daily Radikal that read, "Head Negotiator Egemen Bağış convinced Prime Minister Erdoğan in this matter and the ’Turkey Season’ project in France will proceed."
This announcement signed by Hilal Köylü is definitely correct. And for this I congratulate Egemen Bağış as well.
Starting July 19 the smoking ban finally becomes widespread.
From then on smoking will not be allowed in coffee shops, patisseries, restaurants and other closed places.
My biggest fear is, as the ban date approaches, people with a vested interest will take action surrounding the state to convince political authorities to postpone this ban.
Minister of Health Akdağ says, "No way. The date July 19 will not be changed."
But I am still in fear.
But what a pity it is that our politicians cannot withstand pressure from craftsman. This time it seems there is a different attitude but still I am suspicious.
I’d like to warn managers of the places where the smoking ban will apply.
If I ever see someone smoking in a restaurant or coffee shop that I go to, and even it is my relative who smokes, I will complain.
The rest is up to the restaurant owner or person in charge.
Today I prepared a completely different story for you. But it was Thursday, namely the day of "32.GÜN." And Rıdvan and I hosted Atilla Kıyat. He is a well-known man but for those who don’t know him I’ll remind you briefly.
In August 1999 he retired as a result of a very dubious council.
Vice Adm. Kıyat represented Turkey in NATO (TMR) and was a very competent and well-respected commander.
He was the Northern Sea Area Commander with prospects. He was an officer expected to ascend to the title of admiral, fleet commander and finally to commander of naval operations. But he also possessed some qualities not liked by the TSK. He had a liberal view.
He became famous for expressing his views openly and having a sharp-tongue. He was at odds with some unspoken rules of the TSK.
Quite frankly, Kıyat was wasted because of these qualities. He was dispatched for retirement. The commander was very offended by this but did not say a word. He did not complain about anybody. But he never gave up what he believed in.
Together with Rıdvan, we invited him to discuss the subject that has bothered our heads for months now.
Where is the relationship between the military and civilians going?
He made such interesting evaluations that I changed my article.
What struck me the most were his answers to questions regarding the TSK’s general attitude. Why does the TSK behave as if it does not quite assimilate democracy? Why does it conduct coups, constantly interfere in the government’s work and make up the political agenda?
According to Kıyat, the civilians have no right whatsoever to complain about TSK’s attitude. If I were to summarize, he made the following evaluation:
"ÉYou accepted whatever the military said. You did not attempt to control its budget or steps that it took.
You accepted whatever the military wanted. You never questioned anything. The military identified the danger, determined a strategy and weapons against this danger.
And you watched and paid the invoice. You did not oppose. You did not want to lose your comfort.
We made coups, justified or not, and you applauded us. Part of you applauded. You carried us on your shoulders.
When you didn’t like it you pressured us to leave the governmentÉor delegated dirty and difficult jobs to usÉ now you are complaining."
These were correct identifications. I’d recommend them to those who don’t think of it this way.
"AKP caused confusion and resistance in the military"
According to Kıyat, the AKP coming to power caused confusion and resistance in the military. Kıyat saw coup preparations since 2003 and actions subject to Ergenekon as a reflex to resistance and said, "But none of these ventures became concrete.
None were carried into action. And does this reflect the TSK’s common sense? You just complain, but don’t you in fact reward the TSK for developments that never went anywhere?"
Within this framework, he thinks the latest plan to "dismantle AKP and Gülen" is funny. He said that if there were people trying to prepare such a coup they could only be called "fools."
He underlined that this document carrying the signature of a colonel should not be misunderstood.
He said another subject nobody touched on until now was that Büyükanıt should have resigned when he saw what happened after his memorandum came out on April 27.
"The memorandum said that Gül must not move into Çankaya and drew attention to the dangers of voting for the AKP. Gül became president, meaning commander-in-chief of the military, increased his vote in the AKP and received 47 percent. In this case did our Chief of General Staff not need to resign?"
There were many more interesting points in this chat. For those who like to take a different look at the TSK, I recommend to go onto the Web site of 32.GÜN (www.32gunhaber.com) and follow the complete chat.
During my visit to European capitals this week I researched an important subject and encountered unexpected fixations. I’m sure you noticed that the most dangerous alternative for Turkey’s full membership in the EU is the privileged partnership formula.
According to it, it is suggested Turkey receives a privileged partnership status by adding some more to the present situation, instead of a full membership (i.e. participation in all decisions to be taken, representation in parliament, council and commission).
There are two supporters of this formula.
Foremost France, and even if it stays a little distanced, then Germany.
During our tour of European capitals we did not come across a serious debate regarding the privileged partnership, except in those two countries. Such tendency persists neither in the commission nor in the council. Nobody knows in detail what this attitude repeated by Sarkozy and Merkel really means. It is hollow.
In Berlin I discussed the same subject with the president of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Frank Spengler. He said, "Germany is not against Turkey’s full membership. But neither Europe nor Turkey are ready yet for a full membership. Negotiations will take some time. And to keep Turkey during this process we suggested a privileged partnership.
This is the name of the process. If by the end of negotiations a full membership will not be realized, then the privileged partnership will continue." But still I was not convinced about how the blanks in this subject would be filled.
France’s privileged partnership project is not even as full as that of Germany.
We probably did not reach any consensus with Spengler regarding the contents but our conversation signaled danger.
Turkey, instead of complaining about this privileged partnership, should roll up its sleeves and do what it is supposed to do.
Complaining and not fulfilling its obligation just does not work. If Turkey views the privileged partnership as a real danger, then it would make reforms without losing more time. Then you’ll see there won’t be any Sarkozy or Merkel objections left.
In summary, let’s stop complaining about Sarkozy and Merkel and do what we needs to be done. If we are unable to do so, then let’s sit down and negotiate with Merkel and Sarkozy.
Maybe we’ll be more beneficial.
Taraf does a different kind of journalism
The daily Taraf receives criticism from different circles for its publications and comments.
According to some their sole target is to wear down the Turkish Armed ForcesÉ According to some helping those who want to split the countryÉ According to some they are a pair of tongs used by the Gülen movementÉ
You may or may not agree with Taraf. Comments are personal evaluations of the writer and acceptable in every normal democracy. But papers live with news not with comments or commentators.
If we were to take a look at Taraf’s news, we’d notice that some false or exaggerated news have appeared. But the majority of the news made us drool and were news that required courage to publish.
Let’s not fool each other.
Taraf is the Turkish media’s courageous and different paper that provoked all of us to conduct different journalism.
Taraf is able to say openly what nobody else dares to even touch on because of habit based on accumulations and fears over the years. And since it first came out, it is a paper that needs to be read every day.
In other democratic countries there are many publications similar to Taraf but in our country we look for bad intention. Somehow we cannot accept that Taraf conducts a different type of journalism.
People, among them many democrats and even some known as liberals, question "How is this paper financed?" and wonder "Who does the paper serve?"
Isn’t it about time to view this paper as a color of the media, even if it from time to time criticizes the TSK or prime minister, and in general everybody (including me)?
It is easy to sue in court and make life miserable for Taraf or to shut it down by tiring of its employees. And this state knows that very well. But a media without Taraf, rest assured, will continue to remain without courage.
Never mind who gets upset but let Taraf continue with all it’s provocation. And let it continue with its contributions to our democracy, ideas and freedom of press.
You can be assured that I feel like a fool. How could I not... I paid all of my accumulated debt to credit cards. When I had no money on hand I took a loan and paid off my credit card debt. Now I understand that I made a mistake and am furious. You see, the debt will be reduced for those who don’t pay or can’t pay their debt, and who are prosecuted for it or who received attachment of debt. Our government thinks it has to roll up its sleeves and save those who bilked.
Sometime ago the prime minister took an extremely clear attitude regarding the dismissal of credit card debt. He said saving those who spend money that does not exist would be an insult to those who pay their debt. And he was applauded for that. It seems that that was yesterday. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not after anybody’s money. And my congratulations go to those who will benefit from the government’s action. They spent much and now they will pay it back more easily and cheaper. I’m not jealous that aid is going out to citizens short on money. However a credit card debt is something else. It is nothing but a bunch of people spending much too much money by playing with credit cards.
It’s true; banks do cash an incredible interest rate for credit cards. The users should either chose the one with a low interest rate or not get him into debt. And it’s true; the government decreases interest rate with this venture. Congratulations. But why were we forced to pay unreasonable interest rates? What was our sin?
If the state is so warm-hearted for millions of people, then the state should forgive medium-sized or small-sized businesses that owe a lot of money to banks, as well and decrease their interest rates.
In summary, there is obvious injustice. And this injustice is formally done by the state. And it calls this operation "saving the people."
In this dear country everything is viewed in reverse order. Those who pay their taxes are fools. Out of their pocket they pay the state their dues. Those who don’t pay taxes are smart. They use the money in their pocket to earn more money and one day they are forgiven. Even if they are not forgiven, the state suggests such easy conditions that in the end they are beneficial.
How could you stick to this country’s rules and be a good citizen?
Then in the end you start thinking of yourself as a fool and there is only little time left till you regret it.
However listen to me. Pay your taxes and credit card debts. But don’t forget what I told you! It is not for sure whether these days there is tension between the military and civilians or it is much exaggerated. Someone is stirring something up but we don’t know who. TSK’s tension regarding the AKP is nothing new. Then there is a Dolmabahçe argument floating around. If the prime minister during a chat hadn’t said "it’s a turning point in the relations between the military and civilians" when he was talking about the famous meeting with former Chief of General Staff Büyükanıt in Dolmabahçe, and turned around and said "I’ll take these words to my grave" the subject would have been closed.
Büyükanıt in the chat in 32.GÜN said that "it has been argued about the contents of the announcement he prepared by himself on April 27." And this was a very plausible announcement. For example, the prime minister asked," Why did you write such a message?" and Büyükanıt answered, "Your party’s attitude attracted reaction from the TSK and I wanted to appease them." The prime minister complained about Büyükanıt acting in unison with the opposition during the endeavor of closing his party and during presidential elections, whereas Büyükanıt might have just reflected the views of the General Staff and the subordinates. And this would count as an acceptable "announcement."
I never deemed likely that the prime minister would come forward with files and say," If you don’t change your attitude I’ll reveal this or start an investigation," involving in such blackmail. Similarly, I did not believe that Büyükanıt would spend in excess. The chief of General Staff is too smart and serious to involve in such casualness. Just as the Dolmabahçe file was about to close the prime minister and Büyükanıt kept repeating "take it to the grave" and evoked our curiosity and appetite.
We started saying, "It means that such important subjects were discussed and terms were made that Büyükanıt felt he had to decrease the dose of criticism later on."
If you wrap this event in such a secrecy and say "I’ll take it to the grave" or "this is a turning point in relations between the military and civilians," then you evoke curiosity.
Now, the prime minister should not get offended, angry or worried because he himself brought the Dolmabahçe issue this far. It’s up to them to sort it out. As long as they don’t come forward and tell the truth about what they discussed, speculations in this society will increase and conspiracy theories will spread.
What’s left to say; you’ve brought it on yourself. Either they should have not talked about it and increased our appetite or now they should come forward and explain what’s what.
I do not want to elaborate any more about how important the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, are in respect to our country. We all, opposition and supporters alike, know and see this obvious fact. However, the TSK is not able to adapt itself to current conditions.
Those who want the power of the TSK to decrease are asking for trouble. Its members, by themselves, are wearing down this important institution. The weird part here is that despite them knowing how to read the public, few of us will be satisfied by statements released to counter the growing "negative impressions."
For example, a statement by the General Staff regarding the below-mentioned document said that it was believed that this document was not prepared in any of its units.
In the following paragraph, it was underscored that in case this document was to be sent to a prosecution office, it would be investigated for criminal deeds. So how come one already believes that this document was not prepared in any unit of the General Staff?
I do not only base this article on a top story published by daily Taraf last week. But Taraf’s news is very important. Especially if it turns out that the initiated investigation is right, the situation will become more dramatic.
And if the "campaign to wear down the AKP and Fethullah Gülen" mentioned in the document dated April 2009 turns out to be an operation by the TSK, it will be the last straw. For now, let the investigation take its course. After the results come out, we will be better able to speculate. What I want to touch on is the erosion in the TSK’s image, even if the latest development is not confirmed. I am talking about a constant decreasing of its prestige.
I have no doubt that some spend "special" effort to provide for this erosion of prestige. Records of telephone conversations that are believed to belong to retired and active-duty officers and are leaked to the Internet are an indication of this. But do those who work out appendices and published documents associated with a coup tradition bear no fault at all?
We cannot ignore this fact.
Coup diaries from 2003 to 2004, statements and attitudes constantly interfering with politics during the period between 2005 and 2007 and, finally, acts reflected in public through indictments within the frame of the Ergenekon investigation.
Even if part of the document was false, exaggerated or a campaign to wear out the TSK, the rest should do.
Today’s image of the TSK is one that reflects an organization, including active-duty or retired personnel, constantly preparing a conspiracy against all civil governments that are not in unison with its own ideology.
Part of society likes, applauds and supports this attitude.
But a bigger part shows growing reaction to this attitude. In Turkey, the institutionalization of democracy and "workshops" for development of this or similar things are viewed negatively.
The TSK needs to make a decision.
Either it needs to accept that this country will be led by democracy and digest the vote results or the General Staff will have to change its current course and understanding.
Gen. Başbuğ in his last year
The period of coups has come to an end. More precisely, trying to make a coup would be a suicide attempt for this country, a civil war. Even if there was a big revolt, a threat of a true split, the military should not consider interfering.
If at this point, we share the same view, we might argue that the time has long come for the General Staff to take action.
I believe, or like to believe, that Gen. Başbuğ knows very well the danger of this course.
I also know that the TSK cannot change directions this easily or give up its 80-year-old habits. And I also do not believe that a chief of general staff would be able to sail this giant ship into calm waters all by himself. Change will take time.
But some need to take action in order to change things. It will, for sure, take many years, but it needs to start. If no precautions are taken and Turkey does not adapt to changing world conditions, we might encounter unexpected and unacceptable events.
Let us not forget that the TSK is important for all of us. But if we lay responsibility on the TSK besides its duty, then this institution will derail. I hope Gen. Başbuğ, who I believe shares at least part of my views in this article and has 13 more months to go until he retires, will make such a start, which would maybe mean a great sacrifice on his part.
BRUSSELS / BERLIN - At the beginning of this week, we, as a group of Turkish journalists, held upper-level meetings in Brussels and Berlin. I have shared part of my impressions. And today I would like to share the rest with you. One point that drew our attention during our meetings was the perception of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP. I remember the period between 2003 and 2004 when the AKP used to be held in high esteem. It was perceived as a godsend and much supported. Erdoğan’s every word was listened to carefully and had broad repercussions. Even more importantly, his every word was believed, and not questioned. The AKP was thought of as a step into a new age.
Important changes have taken place since then. Especially in 2008, the party’s image was damaged. Religion was given prominence and the impression arose that Turkey’s secular system was about to change. The party in power and its leader hit bottom.
This time, I noticed that the AKP’s situation was a bit better compared to last year, but still not like it was in 2003 and 2004. There are still suspicion and concerns. More importantly, people no longer believe Erdoğan will keep his promises.
Since promises regarding the European Union remain in the air, people hesitate to believe him before seeing concrete steps. The excitement about Erdoğan and Gül’s visit to Brussels in the new year, and about the appointment of Egemen Bağış as head negotiator, dispersed when no follow-up took place. Nobody wants to hear nonsense anymore. Opposition interference, internal political conditions or justifications for Merkel and Sarkozy’s statements are no good either.
All eyes are turned to Erdoğan.
People wonder when he will take action as the sole selector.
Let me tell the truth: As long as Ankara does not take action, Europe will pretend to complain, but will instead be very pleased, for it serves their purpose.
As long as Turkey is delayed, the more France and Germany are at ease. You see, we are shooting ourselves in the foot.
Some people, including me, are in search of something.
In negotiations between Turkey and the EU, the Cyprus issue is at a deadlock.
Remember, as long as Turkey does not open its ports to Cypriot ships, the eight chapters will be pending. That’s not all. As long as ports are closed, negotiations between Turkey and the EU will be put on hold. No matter which angle you look at it from, as long as there is no progress on the Cyprus issue, it is hard to achieve progress in negotiations.
Either there will be a solution on the island, which seems very difficult, or Turkey will open its ports, which also seems to be an impossible option in view of the politics.
So what will happen? Will we look at each other and wait for a miracle? Or can we overcome this obstacle by providing development in other areas instead of Cyprus? This is the much-debated subject for which we are looking for a solution.
Many people have the Halki Theological Seminary in mind.
If the seminary on Heybeliada is reopened, will the European Union give up on the condition of Turkey having to open its ports to Cypriot ships and give a green light for negotiation over the eight chapters? Can we thus get rid of the frustration in relations? Can we accelerate negotiations?
During my visit to Brussels and Berlin, I asked this question to everyone who was authorized in relations between Turkey and the European Union.
I asked Olli RehnÉ I asked Sweden’s undersecretary of the foreign ministryÉ I asked SteinmeierÉ I asked those who lead negotiations in the name of Turkey.
I almost always received the same response. I could outline it as follows:
"The opening of the seminary is inevitable. Turkey cannot leave the seminary on hold as it does now. But the opening of the seminary does not replace a solution to the Cyprus issue or the opening of Turkish ports to Cypriot ships. It won’t provide for a continuation of negotiations over the eight chapters. The opening of the seminary would change the Turkish image a lot, it would be a boost for which Turkey would receive much applause, and that would decrease pressure on Turkey, but would not provide for the eight chapters."
This is directed toward those who are involved in this discussionÉ
Let’s solve the seminary issue, but Cyprus is much more important.
As long as ports are not opened for Cypriot ships, negotiations regarding the eight topics will not start. I believe that the difference in opinion between Erdal Şafak and I stems from this.
BERLIN - We were in Brussels yesterday. We went on this trip to examine how elections in the European Parliament would affect relations with Turkey. To be more precise, invited by the European Commission, an upper-level program was prepared for us, in which we first met with Olli Rehn and received a series of briefings. Yesterday I reflected on Rehn’s impressions. The same night we went on to Berlin and on Tuesday we had a one-hour chat with Walter Steinmeier, the foreign minister who is preparing for the leadership of the German Social Democrats. If Steinmeier wins elections in three days for his party, he will sit in the leader’s seat. He will sit in the seat of legends like Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt and Gerhard Schröder.
Actually the Social Democrats have obtained the worst result in the history of the European Parliament. They have decayed in the real sense of the word. Greens and Liberals lost votes. Despite that, Steinmeier, in the meeting with our group, exhibited an image of a "self-confident, single-minded" politician who is determined to save the Social Democrats from the cavity they’ve fallen into.
The main part of the speech was based on relations between Turkey and Europe, but upon one question, when he stated his view on the CHP, hell broke loose and headlines shifted to the CHP. I’ll let you know what he said but first I’d like to reflect on his words regarding relations between Europe and Germany.
Steinmeier, on the contrary, is not as pessimistic as we are.
When he said, "We knew that relations between Turkey and the EU would be difficult. And Turkey knew that this would hardly progress. The EU’s expansion is a difficult subject in itself. But no matter what, even if open-ended, the target of negotiations is a full membership. And this door will be opened by reform steps to be taken by Turkey." There was no sign of pessimism in his attitude. It was clearly what we wanted to hear all along.
He underlined that a Social Democratic administration will carry into Europe a Turkey that has fulfilled its obligations. I paid attention and noticed that Steinmeier does not adopt his coalition partner Merkel’s attitude of a privileged partnership. When answering persistent questions he watched out for Chancellor Merkel and only said, "Other parties may have differing views but up until now, nobody was able to tell me what a privileged partnership means." Whereas he might have very well persisted on the subject of a privileged partnership to besmear Merkel in the eyes of the Turkish-origin voter and solicit their votes for the Social Democrats.
He did not. He was content with saying only, "Our dictionary does not include such a thing." Turks who live in Germany and have become German citizens play an important role in German elections. Let’s not forget that 2.6 million Turks live in Germany. Out of those, 900,000 are German citizens. And 650,000 have the right to vote. In German elections a few thousand votes are of great importance. A few thousand votes can influence the elections.
Within such a context, Turkish origin votes to a great extent go to the Social Democrats, then the Liberals and Greens, rather than to Merkel’s party. And that’s the right thing.
Difficulties understanding the CHP
By the end of our conversation, when it came to how Hasan Cemal views the CHP’s politics, I encountered a response I did not expect to be so brisk. Steinmeier is a man who chooses his words carefully. Despite that, when he started talking about the CHP’s European politics he was very openhearted. He started out by saying, "The CHP within the past six years comes before us with different approaches and we are having difficulties understanding them," and briefly continued saying, "What I especially don’t understand is that Turkey does not put its weight on joining Europe. And not only is its attitude toward the European Union but its attitude toward some reforms is also hard to understand. Its attitude toward internal reforms and especially developments regarding penalty acts [he means 301] and opposition to freedom, I don’t understand at all."
Steinmeier stated that the difference of opinion between the CHP and other Social Democrat parties stems from "misunderstandings" and he accused the CHP of not being a true Social Democrat party. And he drew attention to the fact that because of these adverse politics there is a distance between the party and other Social Democrats. Then he said, "That is why we keep a close watch on the CHP in Socialist International. We are watching them." The removal of the CHP from Socialist International is out of the question. But it is obvious that there is an important sense of unease floating around. The perception among Social Democrats that CHP spokespersons oppose the EU and prevent freedom and other reforms is becoming more widespread.
Let’s put it this way, CHP leader Deniz Baykal was much talked about in Berlin.
BRUSSELS - We, as 10 Turkish journalists, came to Brussels upon an invitation by the European Commission. Monday we were first given a briefing by the European Parliament and then went to the commission to speak with Olli Rehn for over one hour. The first part was to be written and the second off the record. To tell the truth, I have been greatly disappointed. I often talked to Olli Rehn for long hours and each time learned something new. He chooses his words and gets the message across. This time he either had no message to give or memorized what has been said because what we heard was neither interesting nor new. At some point we even asked ourselves, "Why are we here?" Olli Rehn must have taken a lesson from being misunderstood, that’s why he was playing acrobatics with words. One approach of his I liked the most was his reminder to the prime minister.
Erdoğan recently said that he might change the name "Copenhagen criteria to Ankara criteria" and continue on his path. Rehn referred to that and said that they are waiting for the prime minister to set in motion these Ankara criteria, which Erdoğan requests for his people. I have not heard anything new. Again appeals are made, "Let’s get moving." And questions like, "This year started out fast then what happened?" Speculations as to whether or not the AK Party (AKP) lost its enthusiasm.
Olli Rehn especially drew attention that nothing had changed from their point of view, no matter what France and Germany say. "Our target is to realize Turkey’s full membership in the European Union." Let me say this much, a "privileged partnership" as put forth by France and Germany, has not yet reached the EU Commission. The Commission does not attach any importance to these calls. The only expectation is Ankara getting into motion.
- Keeping promised words and starting the reform process.
- Accelerating steps toward a solution in Cyprus.
- Finding a formula to reopen the seminary.
- Overcoming limitations of freedom of thought and those applied on the press.
By the way, I have news for those involved: the European Commission will allocate a broad chapter on limitations of Freedom of the Press in the Progress Report, which is to be published in Fall.
In Olli Rehn’s recent contacts and meetings with Washington and the Vatican, Turkey was also one subject. He talked about the importance attached to Turkey’s full membership by the Obama administration and couldn’t help but say, "But the final decision is not to be made by Obama but the 27 European countries," all of a sudden reminding everyone of not trusting Obama too much.
My impression is that Olli Rehn is waiting for a green light from Ankara and as long as this green light is not in sight discomfort will increase.
If I were to summarize, there was nothing new Rehn could inform us about.
Questions he asked us and answers he received, especially those regarding Hasan Cemal, were far more interesting. In the coming days I will more broadly tell you about my Brussels impressions. By the time you read these lines we will be at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I will tell you about how the pulse beats in Berlin in my article tomorrow.
EU gets ready for ’rudeness’
I chewed on my nails not to ask this question but finally could not resist and said, "Which abbreviation do you use for the party in power?" First he didn’t understand When Diego Mellado, representative from the EU Commission's Ankara office, became aware of this tricky question, he came flying across and whispered in his ear, "Erdoğan says those who don’t say AK Party are rude," saving his boss. To tell the truth, I did not intend to put Rehn in a bad position of course, but I wondered much.
Rehn gave a exsample from his country and told us about how these constraints create adverse reactions in public, no matter how much reaction is shown. During these conversations I realized that throughout all Progress Reports the abbreviation AKP was used consistently when referring to the ruling party. And this will continue until the fall. You see, the EU formally prepares for rudeness! Of course, if until then someone does not whisper something in somebody’s ear, that is. The situation in the European Parliament was different though. It drew my attention that Liberal Group leader Watson never said AKP. On the contrary he said Ak Party. Associate parliamentarians understood the severity of the situation quickly. Nevertheless, don’t be fooled by Watson. There is no doubt that when the parliament resumes you’ll hear the AKP abbreviation a lot. This speech by the prime minister was not intimidating, but on the contrary it caused parties to solidify in opposition even further.