He was a democrat commander, now charged with being a terrorist
When you review İlker Başbuğ’s term as top commander, you can easily conclude that he was an unfortunate chief of General Staff serving at a time when the military-civilian relationship was at its most critical period.
When Başbuğ took over the position from Yaşar Büyükanıt, military-civilian relations had entered an extremely tense period. You will remember that several top officers – primarily Büyükanıt – had reacted fiercely against the Justice and Development Party (Ak Parti), and they had expressed their opinions openly in their speeches. The memorandum dated April 27 with Büyükanıt’s signature especially crowned it all. Up until the Dolmabahçe talks between Erdoğan and Büyükanıt on May 4, 2007, the content of which was never made public, tension continued, and Başbuğ took over the flag in 2008.
The new chief of General Staff had an extremely realistic character. Even though their views of the world differed, he could see very well that relations between the General Staff and civilian powers (especially the Ak Parti) would never be like they were before. He very well knew the tendencies in Turkish society and the state of affairs with the Kurdish issue and knew the world conjuncture had reached a point where the supremacy of the military or a military coup would never be accepted.
It was the time of a democracy era. There should be no fights with political power. The era when the military intervened in political affairs was over now. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) had to be more transparent, more open to the media and closer to society. Media relations should be prioritized, and the TSK should be relieved of its introversion.
When he took office, his first steps were within the framework of these principles. But this stance could not be maintained for long.
‘Terrorist’ charges cause reactions
Almost everyone shares the same view. Nobody opposes the questioning of a former chief of General Staff or his being held accountable. On the contrary, everybody accepts that this is a rule of democracy.
Despite that, charges claiming that Başbuğ had formed a terror organization and tried to topple the government with his gang were met with disbelief. It did not fit with both Başbuğ’s personality and his performance up until that day. The judiciary or the law can have a definition like that, but public conscious did not accept it.
The second and more significant factor was the arrest and jailing of the former top commander of the army. Even top officials of the ruling party are irritated by the definition “terrorist” and his arrest. Despite all this, there is no (corrective) movement in sight. There is hearsay that the Justice Ministry has a preparation, but there is no apparent concrete step; it could have been very easy to eliminate these negativities.
When journalist Fatih Altaylı pointed it out the other day, I also remembered: Do you know who it was that inserted the method of “arrest and try” into the anti-terror law? It was TSK representatives of the time who intervened after the law was written.
The representatives of the office of the chief of General Staff considered the text prepared by the government extremely soft and inadequate and said they could not fight terror with this. They were able to toughen the text prepared by the government and were also able to make the wording ambiguous enough to enable the judiciary to act much more easily.
Planned for what, ended up where?