General Özel pays the former bills of TSK
We are a strange society. We act not on principles, but rather on excitement and according to whichever way the wind blows. We are a society whose values change every day.
We are all the same: the media, its writers - famous or not - and its executives; politicians; the military. Whether educated or ignorant, we just do not know how to be prudent. We either make somersaults in front of a person or we charge at them with an axe in our hand.
These days, I laugh to myself when I read the publications, interviews and comments on the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), and especially about Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel.
A person emerges on T.V. screens or on newspaper pages and drags him through the mud. The words are close to insults, but the same person used to be ready to lick the boots of the commanders only a short while ago. Another person used to shiver with fear, thinking: “What would the soldiers say?” Now, they slam the TSK.
In former times, the general attitude was to fear the military. Now, the fashion is to beat up the military.
In former times, the constitutional article on “alienating the military from the people” would be activated against critics, who could find themselves in front of the military court - as I did myself. Now, most who slam the military do so because they think it is too sympathetic to the government.
There are also some who criticize without ulterior motives, without insulting. When these two groups come together, such a wind blows that everything is mixed - nobody can understand what is right and what is wrong.
Three mishaps of Gen. Özel
Özel has had three misfortunes. The most important one is that he was appointed to be the chief of general staff during this government’s term. In 2011, when top generals resigned in reaction to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), then-Gendarmerie Commander Özel was promoted to the top post.
Neither he nor the government was expecting such a development. However, this appointment which should have been be considered natural, was considered “treason” by certain segments of the TSK, secularist former commanders, retired officers and the opposition.
These segments nicknamed Özel “the commander of the PM” or “the PM’s general.” A similar campaign was launched during the era of General Hilmi Özkök too, as he was also seen as “the PM’s chief of general staff.”
His second misfortune was that the regional developments suddenly rekindled the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). A campaign of attacks, the likes of which had not been seen for years, was launched.
The third misfortune of General Özel is that the TSK has not fully abandoned its former habits. The chief of general staff has thus had to pay for overdue bills.
It is not easy. An institution cannot change its established practices at once - it takes time. Society, on the other hand, demands a swift response to the PKK. It considers each attack to be further evidence of the incompetence of the TSK. Society does not want to hear or even understand that it is not easy to fight a guerilla war.
Indeed, there is also, as in the Afyon blast incident, a lagging behind in public relations. Informing the public late, with inadequate information and with a stance of looking down on the public, continue. They cannot even see the absurdness of a governor presenting gifts and plaques to a chief of general staff. Nobody stands out and says: “Enough of this, don’t do this anymore.”
But, no matter what the mishaps are, it should be normal to criticize General Özel and the wider TSK.
It is now inperitive that the TSK draws lessons from these criticisms and pulls itself together. It must opt for modernization not only in weapons, but also in minds.