We cannot possibly wonder if Başbuğ would tamper with evidence or leave the country. However, the office of the prosecutor relied on strong suspicions of his committing of a crime, and the court believed this argument. On the other hand, at a time when his former subordinates unanimously referred to the “command” (aka Başbuğ) and when all these people are still under arrest, Başbuğ’s release was not conceivable.
The argument raised by the office of the prosecutor has realistic grounding and the arguments offered by Başbuğ in defense of himself do not seem credible. Above all, when Başbuğ assumed office, there were already 43 Internet sites, and up until there were objections by the government, he did nothing to impose any sanctions in connection with the operations on these sites. However these sites published false information and reports in respect to a wide range of issues including the EU, Turkey’s Kurdish problem, religious communities and others in an attempt to manipulate the public view. The sites were closed down but four others were launched within two months. Başbuğ argues that he was not informed of the motion on the launch of these sites and that the relevant document did not make it to him for his signature and approval. Frankly, this is an argument that makes people laugh because it is unthinkable that any department at the general staff would not prefer sharing the responsibility with an upper office. Besides, the deputy chief of staff affixed a note to the document, indicating that it would be presented to the chief of staff. In this case, the only explanation that the document does not bear Başbuğ’s signature is that he put the document aside without signing it, but he indirectly allowed the operation of the sites as well. More interestingly, this document was destroyed five months later which is evidenced by an official statement. In other words, this motion, which Başbuğ argued was never made official and enforced, was actually official and in effect.
To better understand the role of Başbuğ in this incident, you do not have to act like a detective because these propaganda sites are part of a project held by identifiable people. Imagine that 43 Internet sites are updated every day by assigned people who collect information about national problems. This means that there existed a huge department with an internal hierarchy where a number of experts worked, which held correspondence with other departments as well. And this department was operated within the general staff headquarters, rather than a basement somewhere in an unknown building. In other words, it is unacceptable to argue that the chief of staff was not aware of what was happening in that department.
The most interesting detail explaining why the motion was put in effect without being signed by Başbuğ is that the relevant expenses for the operation of these Internet sites were paid with credit cards from four executives who worked in that department. This shows that the general staff was aware that what was done was a crime, and for this reason it relied on informal solutions. For those who are familiar with the custom of the army in Turkey, this is not anything new. Since the time of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), the military has relied on its political influence to remain immune to legal action. In times where it was politically weak it did not hesitate to use illegal means in an effort to bypass the law because keeping the Kemalist regime and military guardianship alive has been their number one priority. In this way, an informal hierarchy parallel to the official one emerged. Those who acted illegally were credited and praised and the path was cleared for their promotion within military institutions. This meant that the military servicemen who adhered to the laws never became generals. As a result, an army whose top command was preoccupied with illegal actions and which was involved in political affairs emerged.
It is only natural for this structure to generate propaganda sites that operate to collect evidence that would serve as the basis for the removal of the government from office, given the “culture” of the military. They see the protection of the authoritarian regime as their eternal mission. Maybe what need to be confronted are the media organs that promote and defend this military culture. In the presence of a media that ignores the motion and calls this document a piece of paper just because it does not bear a wet signature, and wants to think that it was produced by a “signature machine,” when the original version of the document was identified, this bravery on behalf of the military is not all that surprising.