Thirty-five smugglers were killed at night on Dec. 28 because they were mistaken for terrorists. Assuming that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) seeks to avoid harm to civilians in the new era of counterterrorism, I want to believe that there is no evil intention behind this incident.
Speaking to Fikret Bila of the Milliyet daily, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel stressed this new mentality as follows:
“We are very happy when they surrender. When we see them reunited with their families, we understand the importance of the humanitarian and democratic stance our colleagues display, at the expense of their lives.”
The Uludere tragedy has considerably undermined this stance. It has dealt a heavy blow to the recent success and harmony in counterterrorism efforts.
The most critical point that confuses people’s mind: A group of 40 smugglers crossed the borders and went to the Iraqi side with their mules around 4 p.m. The military outposts located near the borders saw them -- actually, they know that they use this route habitually. Moreover, Hacı Encü, a smuggler who survived the airstrike, said they heard the sound of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) passing overhead. In other words, the UAVs sent images of this group to the TSK.
Most importantly, three hours passed between the detection of the group around 7:30 p.m. and the airstrike. Suppose the intelligence based on phone and wireless conversations, intelligence reports received previously and finally the images obtained from the UAVs created a delusion. Suppose further that the military authorities failed to understand whether the incoming group consisted of smugglers or it was a group of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, including terrorist leader Fehman Hüseyin. But three full hours were available to them.
The Uludere district governor, who was beaten while on a visit to express his condolences to the victims’ relatives, says he knew all of them. These smugglers are also known to the military authorities serving in the gendarmerie outpost near the border. The UAV reported to the center when they were going to the Iraqi side. How did they forget about this report? Why didn’t they reason, saying: “Forty people went to the other side with their mules earlier. They might return. Let us examine this”? Why didn’t they reach out to the relatives of these people and the muhtar (village headman) during these three hours?
Another important point needs to be made. Before they made their re-entry, 40 smugglers were made to wait with their 50-60 mules, and they were not allowed to pass to the Turkish side. Why wasn’t a last-minute check or verification made? Why were they hit at the location where they were waiting? OK, we accept there was no ill intent, but there is obviously a chain of negligence or omission bordering on ill intent, difficult-to-explain, faulty behavior and horrible mistakes. In the end, 35 citizens who were not terrorists were killed.
Like many people, I personally believe a plot was devised at Uludere. As I noted in my previous article, it is very likely that this plot was devised by the shady network nested within the state in collaboration with some groups within the PKK.
Why was the Uludere plot devised? Because someone does not want the Kurdish issue to be solved, and so they sabotage all initiatives to do so. Because someone does not want terrorism to end in Turkey. Because someone does not want Turkey to be stable. Because someone cannot bear seeing Turkey become an international actor. Because someone cannot accept Turkey proceeding to become a powerful state in its region. Because someone does not want Turkey to draft a civilian constitution. And so they try to block it at any cost.
They resist the abolition of red lines by fomenting tension and conflict. Someone is provoking people so that the cases against Ergenekon, a clandestine organization nested within the state trying to overthrow or manipulate the democratically elected government, and the Sledgehammer (Balyoz) action plan, are undermined. Everyone should know that pro-tutelage groups will never stop trying to prevent Turkey’s democratization. They cannot compromise with them.