Erdelhun to Başbuğ
Since Thursday evening in many reports there are claims that retired Gen. İlker Başbuğ has been the first-ever Turkish former chief of General Staff to be arrested by a court since the creation of the republic.
Wrong. On May 27, 1960, when “young officers” staged a coup, the chief of General Staff of the time was Rüştü Erdelhun. The first coup was not against the government but against Erdelhun. He was detained by young officers. According to claims from that period he was humiliated to the extent that some officers spit onto his face. Along with the executives of the overthrown Democrat Party (DP) government he was tried at the special Yassıada Court, the proceedings of which were broadcast live on the radio. He was accused of collaboration with the DP governance in anti-constitutional undertakings. What those undertakings were was never disclosed. He was among the group who were sentenced to death. His death sentence was first commuted to life imprisonment. Later he was pardoned by Cemal Gürsel, a former land forces commander (who was sacked just 24 days before the coup after he suggested in a letter to Ethem Menderes, the defense minister and brother of Premier Adnan Menderes, that President Celal Bayar should better be replaced by the premier “who was loved more by the people”), who was made president by the 1960 coup. Erdelhun silently passed away in 1983.
Erdelhun was “overthrown” in a humiliating style by his juniors because he was “collaborating” with the civilian government. He was carrying the bag of the defense minister and in many accounts of that period it was reported that he was even helping out the minister to put on his overcoat. He was against the military involvement in politics and influence in political decision-making mechanism further than making inputs limited with national defense.
The group of young officers who staged the 1960 coup and who after staging the coup recruited retired Gen. Gürsel as their leader (in order to maintain integrity of the military and prevent a counter-revolution), however, were of the opinion that defending the legacy of founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk of the secular republic could not be interpreted as interfering in politics, but a “patriotic duty.”
Thus, the “Kemalist ideology” that the overthrown DP started to forge in hopes it would help it survive was rewritten by the “young officers” of the then “National Unity Committee” and the military was officially given with a law on duties of the armed forces the duty of guarding and protecting the republic and Atatürk reforms.
Başbuğ was a 1965 graduate of the War Academies. Naturally he was one of the first post-1960 officers to become the top commander of the country. He has always been known for his devotion to the secular democratic republic. At least in two classified briefings this writer heard him stressing civilian governments should undertake political openings to end separatist terrorism, because the military could only “contain” terrorism.
Now, he is accused of organizing and heading a terrorist gang aimed at overthrowing the government…
Some sanity please!