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April 30, 2012, Monday

Unsupervised power and the resulting corruption

These days I am reading the book “İmaj ve Hakikat” (Image and Reality) by journalist Alper Görmüş, based on the daily journals kept by retired Naval Forces Commander Adm. Özden Örnek.

As Görmüş stresses, the book is also the story of how Örnek came to hate the political classes of Turkey and how he came to embrace the idea of a coup. As I have noted in the past, the Turkish Armed Forces' (TSK) resource for new officers is based on the Ottoman recruiting model. The only real difference is that the Ottomans would gather new recruits from the Balkans, and these young men would then become Muslim.

The Turkish Republic, by contrast, has chosen to gather up its young men from all over Anatolia and then have them become “Turkicized.” What has been created in the process is a system in which these young men actually become enemies of the very same society and sets of values from which they have emerged.

The truth is that the aforementioned book really does explain quite well through the story of Örnek how this recruiting system worked.

But what really surprised me was the section of the book that describes the corruption within the ranks of the armed forces' chain of command, and how this corruption is covered up with negotiations over promotions, etc.

While foreign readers might not know this, the commander of the Naval Forces who preceded Örnek was Adm. İlhami Erdil, who after retiring was tried in court along with his wife on corruption allegations and was stripped of his military rank.

It is quite clear from Örnek's notes, though, that the corruption was revealed during Erdil's time at the helm of the Naval Forces, but that despite this no one did anything about it.

The fact that there is no supervision of spending by the armed forces from either Parliament or government auditors is of course a factor for some of the wrongdoing by those holding power and authority in the ranks of the military.

Generals with a predilection for personal wealth and who are at the same time controlling budgets of billions of dollars can easily take commissions from everything they do or set up trade relations between the military and family members if they wish.

And while all of this is the case for the armed forces, the same can also be said for those with power and authority in the civilian leadership as well.

The ruling party, which enjoys a clear majority these days in Parliament, has the power to shut down any sort of investigation it wishes to. At the same time, the justice system can ignore things taking place in city municipalities staffed by ruling party members, while carefully pursuing every last thing that happens in municipalities staffed by opposition party members.

More than anything else, anyone who is even a bit interested in what is going on these days sees what is happening in the various İstanbul municipalities, but there is not a single prosecutor pursuing these things.

These are problems rooted in Turkey's various deficiencies on the road to being a democratic state of justice and in the fact that the concept of a truly independent justice system has not settled in. These are problems that are -- on their own -- enough to show us the importance of the European Union accession process.

Thanks to the accession process aimed at full EU membership, Turkey has undergone incredible change and new initiatives, but the process is not yet complete. I do hope that the upcoming important elections in Europe result in the election of a political cadre able to perceive the importance of Turkey for Europe and the defeat of those who try to collect votes through the expression of hostility towards foreigners and Muslims in particular.

Sadly, it appears that without the pushing force of the EU behind us, the desire to change is fast being lost in Turkey.

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