Fear of the military: a Turkish genetic imprint
We have yet to be delivered from this fear of the military. There has been something odd in the air in Ankara for several days now: “If İlker Başbuğ is arrested, the force commanders will resign.” “The Turkish Armed Forces cannot maintain its quietude over Başbuğ’s arrest, something will certainly follow.”
These rumors have been circulating in nearly every quarter, and not just among media circles, business people or universities. The arrest of a chief of General Staff, though retired, was such an unusual development that the military would surely have reacted.
This fear or expectation has been imprinted on our genetic codes. We cannot lash out and question the military’s reaction or inquire about the alleged significance of a mass resignation by the force commanders. We still have difficulty internalizing the civilian authorities’ empowerment over the military.
We turn a blind eye to the transformation Turkey has undergone. We still do not bother to take personal responsibility to claim democracy. We expect political authorities to fulfill that function.
İlker Başbuğ had attended my television program “32nd Day” last September. We had met and talked a few times for that reason. He was deeply vexed in those times. The apprehension of his closest brothers in arms (his subordinates) pending trial in the Internet Memorandum case was the source of his troubles. He frequently reiterated he was ready to testify.
Allegations he had abandoned his comrades in arms served merely to ratchet up his incubus. The strain intensified even further when his subordinates indicated they had just been following orders from their commander, as if they were giving Başbuğ away.
He knew his door was someday going to be knocked upon, but he had not expected to be apprehended in the least bit. He was massively confident: “I am not the one who initiated the Internet sites that were established to combat reactionism. To the contrary, I had these [sites] shut down,” he had said, making his case by citing precise dates.
Başbuğ had always appeared before us with a pro-democracy narrative, whether it was during his service as the General Staff’s second in command, or his term as Turkey’s chief of General Staff. On the other hand, he also ended up being the one chief of staff who lashed out the hardest during the Ergenekon and Balyoz trials.
[HH] The websites were a product of the Feb. 28 intervention
The establishment of these websites by the General Staff had been authorized in 1999 by former Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit during his term in office. The goal was to combat “separatist forces.” The General Staff launched 44 Internet sites to this effect. Websites to “combat reactionism” were also included in the package, however, along with anti-terrorism sites. No one objected.
Nonetheless, things took an entirely different turn starting from 2003. Once the Justice and Development Party (AKP) acceded to power, the news articles on these websites began targeting the government. Psychological warfare was clearly in the works.
Former Gen. Başbuğ, who was appointed chief of General Staff in 2009, had requested the closure and modification of the websites in question. The unfortunate accusations publicly directed against Başbuğ, such as “leading a terrorist organization” or “establishing a gang,” bear no plausibility.
Why would a suspect be arrested? Because there is a risk the suspect could try to run away or tamper with evidence? Just as it is out question for Başbuğ to run away, however, sufficient evidence has also been gathered, nullifying the possibility of tampering with it. Surely, the judiciary got ensnared in its own trap.
The court was forced to order Başbuğ’s apprehension, as it would appear strange if he were to be released while his subordinates remained under arrest. We shall never break this vicious cycle unless the disgraceful practice of arresting pending trial comes to an end.
It is highly significant for people to see that a chief of staff could also be arrested in this country and called to account for their actions. This is a rule of democracy and rightly so. The parties responsible for this freak show are none other than political authorities who just do not want to fix the situation. They either need to tell us why or take the necessary steps forward.