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January 10, 2012, Tuesday

Saving Başbuğ…

The arrest of former Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ has once again raised strong objections by the supporters of the status quo. They are extremely critical and furious: “The image of the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK] is being eroded; we are being dragged into a state of civilian guardianship by the judiciary.”

There has been strong resistance from politics and the media, which has been trying to undermine the coup investigations since the beginning of these probes. There have been meticulous attempts to dilute and undermine the investigations and to erode the image and prestige of the prosecutors and the judges. The chorus, uneasy with the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) rule, also puts the prime minister and the government on the target list. The tool and excuse that they frequently use is the allegation that the process means hostility towards the army.

And because he is aware of this, Başbuğ recalled that he was the 26th chief of General Staff and argued that accusing him of having links to a terrorist organization is a grave allegation. Above all, I must say this: Serving as the 26th chief of General Staff is not something you can rely on to be exonerated because it was the chiefs of General Staff who toppled the elected governments through coups in this country. Memduh Tağmaç was the 14th chief of General Staff in the March 12 [1971] coup; Kenan Evren was the 17th in the Sept. 12 [1980] coup; İsmail Hakkı Karadayı the 22nd in the Feb. 28 [1997] postmodern coup; Hüseyin Kıvrıkoğlu, who argued that Feb. 28 would last for 1,000 years, was the 23rd; and Yaşar Büyükanıt, who said he drafted the April 27 [2007] memo and tried to prevent Abdullah Gül from being elected as president, was the 25th chief of General Staff. In other words, there are many chiefs of General Staff who do not have a good record of democratization in the past; instead, their records reveal their involvement in coup attempts.

Let us not forget what happened to the chiefs of General Staff who had a good record for taking a democratic approach. The sixth chief of General Staff, Nuri Yamut, was the first who assumed office during the Democrat Party (DP) administration. He was appointed as chief of General Staff on June 6, 1950 and retired on April 10, 1954. He was a military serviceman who served during the Balkan Wars, World War I and the War of Independence. He was also the İstanbul deputy for the DP and was arrested in the aftermath of the May 27 [1960] coup, during which he was beaten and insulted by officers. He died during the Yassıada trials after he was tortured in his cell.

Rüştü Erdelhun, the 10th chief of General Staff, was a commander who joined the National Army on April 2, 1921. He also received a medal for his involvement and service in the War of Independence. He was removed from office, which he assumed on Aug. 23, 1958, by coup-makers and was arrested on May 27. He was tried at Yassıada and sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment.

The activities of the junta within the armed forces have never ended since the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) came to power. Military officers and generals who just did their jobs and believed that the elected governments were the backbone of democracy were removed from power during coups. Our army has been turned into a place of power struggles between junta figures. Those who dedicated themselves to undermining politics and the government, and not those who demand an end to guardianship, have eroded the image and prestige of the army. Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli share the same position. Instead of manipulating public opinion, they should have raised their voices and criticized the creation of propaganda websites by the General Staff to discredit the government and the president.

Let me remind those who expect support from the EU and the US with regard to the ongoing coup investigations of something: The 2009 EU Progress Report on Turkey stressed that the ongoing Ergenekon investigation was a great opportunity for Turkey to strengthen the confidence in the democratic institutions and the rule of law, and further noted that during this process, Chief of General Staff Gen. Başbuğ had made some remarks and statements that could be taken as attempts to influence the judiciary.

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