Since the start of the “domestication of the Turkish military” program in the 2007 elections, expecting the vengeful prime minister to telephone a former general sentenced to a lofty 18 years behind bars for plotting to overthrow the government was just unthinkable. The prime minister visiting that former general at the hospital after he underwent a critical heart surgery and the state news agency issuing to its subscribers a photo showing a caring premier at his bedside, his right hand affectionately holding the hand of the former general… No, no, no… all these must be hallucinations, if not a dream.
Was there anything wrong in that photograph? Definitely not. On the contrary, there is nothing abnormal in a premier paying a visit to a retired four-star general who might have undergone such a critical operation. Then what’s the problem? Why did the media make such a big story out of a telephone call and a hospital visit by the premier? Though I am confident in a day or two the allegiant media will digest the telephone call and visit to retired General Ergun Saygun and probably start running articles explaining what great, divine messages the attitudes of the prime minister carried. What’s clear for now is that like insects captivated by light, they are appalled. Was the visit yet another indication of the widening rift between the premier and the Fethullah Gülen Islamist brotherhood?
Was the prime minister declaring with the visit that his revanchist crusade with the military was now over? Did the premier, who publicly complained last month about the excessive detention of commanders that left the military without available commanders unveil just another gesture with the visit? Was it indeed just another step towards “normalization”? Opposing the government for the sake of opposing it won’t help anyone. We have to concede that this government has replaced a democracy under the boots of the military with one under the clogs of the imam. Compared to military boots, hopefully it will be easier to remove the imam’s clogs from politics.
The neo-liberals and the Islamists were outraged by the visit. Setting aside everything – including the suspension of the sentence of Saygun because of his health condition – was it not a social tradition, a teaching of Islam to visit ill people and boost their morale? An Islamist-liberal wrote that he wondered when the prime minister would visit Silivri prison, where most of the former generals, senior officers, academics, journalists and others accused of plotting to topple the government have been banished for the past several years. A die-hard conservative Islamist was more sarcastic: “When will the prime minister visit the 1980 coup leaders as well as other pashas accused of plotting to stage a military coup?”
With the domestication of the military completed successfully and no longer having the capability of staging a coup, the military has become unable to find commanders for its Navy vessels. Was this the all-powerful Turkish military that used to have the habit of intervening once every ten years in politics? Obviously the taming of the military program has gone far beyond the synopsis this government was given. The premier has made efforts for some time to contain the damage, as a castrated military was not what he wanted. That is why he has been talking about the excessive detention of commanders; building pressure on courts to release those who have been behind bars for many years without a sentence. Whatever his motivations might be, the premier and his normalization efforts deserve support.
He sure must visit Silivri as well.