Army mistakes helped advancement of political Islam, says retired general

Army mistakes helped advancement of political Islam, says retired general

Cansu Çamlıbel - ANKARA
Army mistakes helped advancement of political Islam, says retired general Mistakes made during the military coups of 1971 and 1980 contributed to the advancement of political Islam in Turkey and led the country to its present state of turmoil, retired Maj. Gen. Ahmet Yavuz, who is also the former commander of the army war college, has said in an exclusive interview with daily Hürriyet. 

“Those who led military coups in the name of Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk] are never representative of Mustafa Kemal’s philosophy,” Yavuz said to counter the claims of Kemalism by coup leaders during the two successful military takeovers of 1971 and 1980, arguing the way to preclude coups was to return to the “founding philosophy” of the Turkish Republic. 

“If we are going through such days, it is because of the mistakes made during [the military coups of] March 12 [1971] and September 12 [1980]. The chief of staff during March 12 said, ‘We need to take measures against social progress which surpassed economic progress,’ and injustices followed. September 12 was an application of the United States’ [Islamic] ‘green belt policy’ as a Turkish-Islamic synthesis,” he said, adding that “cults” like the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), blamed for the July 15 failed coup attempt, became dominant factors within the state following the 1980 coup. 

“The most important measure against military coups is to keep politics away from religion and vice versa, hence, the principle of secularism is of utmost importance,” the retired general underlined, adding the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was also guilty of paving the way for FETÖ operations such as the Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) cases, which caused the discharge of scores of senior commanders and commissioned officers. 

“If the political will and the command staff were able to stand against the preparations of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization such as Balyoz and Ergenekon, if the public managed to question what was going on, if they could stand against [FETÖ] before it threatened themselves during [the graft probe of] December 17-25 [2013] Turkey would not have gone through [the failed coup on] July 15,” said Yavuz, who was himself imprisoned for 40 months over the alleged Balyoz coup plot, before being acquitted in 2014. 

He also criticized a state of emergency decree law published in the Official Gazette following the failed coup attempt of July 15, saying expansive measures inflict “psychological harm” on the military at a time when the country should struggle to keep the army’s morale high. 

“The government’s decision struck a second blow to the army when resilience is needed in the short term,” Yavuz said, while acknowledging that it was any government’s right to establish a control mechanism over military power. 

“It is a government’s right to establish full control over military authority. This is a democratic right and should be respected. However, we see that steps are being taken extremely hastily with this decree, without being properly debated and without preparing the public beforehand,” he said, adding the reason for this swiftness may be related to the AKP’s plans to shift to a presidential system.

“They had a plan regarding sharing the power of the armed forces. They put that plan into force in a very fast and untimely manner, without discussing it with the public, as a fait accompli,” the general said, highlighting his theory that the weakening of the military served the interests of the coup plotters. 

Yavuz said the coup attempt had three possible consequences, including a full takeover of the administration, partial success of the coup which would produce a civil war and the current situation where Turkey’s military is weakened by governmental measures – all of which could have benefited the coup plotters, according to the retired soldier.

“Nonetheless, the TSK [Turkish Armed Forces] lost hard power, though temporarily. And we will see in the coming periods that this had a negative impact on its deterrence,” he stated, adding this benefited “those in the U.S. who were behind this [attempt],” allegedly the people who were working to realize the “Greater Middle East.”