Watching former Education Minister Hasan Celal Güzel recently on Samanyolu TV, I remembered a phone call I made to him as a young journalist at a critical stage in the Feb. 28, 1997 military intervention.
He was getting ready to hold a press conference where he would publicize some serious documents and evidence on a junta within the Turkish armed forces that organized the Feb. 28 postmodern coup. The documents in his hands were accounts of the West Study Group whose members have been recently arrested in connection with an ongoing investigation. On the phone, he gave some details on the content of these documents and said that he would establish an East Study Group to expose the coup vis-à-vis the West Study Group and that he would declare this in the press conference.
I said to him: “Why are you acting reactively and naming yours East Study Group. Would it not be better if you call it the Democracy Study Group? Would this not be more proper? Güzel took the offer without hesitation. On July 27, 1997 he declared the establishment of the Democratic Study Group. In this case, the replacement of the “West” with “Democracy,” as offered by a journalist to deal with a junta organization could be seen as important. But what is more important is why the unit that would hold the planning of the Feb. 28 coup include “West” in its title. Why did they do this?
Should we not consider this statement: “We are subscribed to NATO and CENTO,” which was made by those who staged the coup right after they interrupted the democratic process, in reference to this “west” mindset?
Should not we recall this famous anecdote on the Sept. 12 military coup? Paul Henze, a CIA agent who knew Turkey and our language well, was on night shift when he was informed about the coup, he told Jimmy Carter, who was at a concert with his wife, “Our boys have done it.” Henze shared this anecdote with journalist Mehmet Ali Birand.
By West, not only some countries could be implied. Every power or state that benefits from the status quo in Turkey and views the preservation of this status quo as consistent with its interests could fall in this category. The title of the article by Çevik Bir, co-authored with Martin Sherman, which was published in Middle East Quarterly in 2002 is interesting: “Formula for stability: Turkey plus Israel.” If this had remained limited to this, it could be called a mind exercise. But this is not the case. Of course, the awards Bir received from the Jewish institutions in Washington should not be ignored. A regular relation with Israel could be a card for Turkey; but nobody could see any benefit or interest for Turkey to get onto the bandwagon with that state.
Considering that the main goal in Feb. 28 was not only getting rid of the Refah-Yol coalition government but also preventing the rise of national-conservative approach, the alliance between the domestic and international Islamophobic circles could be better understood. There is no doubt that some interesting details will be revealed as the Feb. 28 investigation goes further. For instance, it is interesting that Oriental studies scholar Bernard Lewis, who manipulated some European politicians and recommended them to take side with Bush and who served within the academic circles to raise awareness on the so-called Islamic threat in the US paid a visit to Bir.
At the meeting held on Nov. 14, 1996, Bir said to Lewis: “[Necmettin] Erbakan is busy with recruiting his supporters; it will be a great mistake for the US to have good relations with the Welfare Party; the US is a bystander to the developments; it needs to support Turkey.” It should also be noted that Prof. Lewis coined the paradigm that Turkey will remain on the side of the West only if it remains under control of the military.”
In consideration of all these, it is hard to say that it is a coincidence that serious papers including Washington Post, Le Monde and Der Spiegel have made no report on Turkey’s junta and coup experience, as well as its struggle with coup attempts over the last six decades, they currently feature frequent publications which practically sabotage the process of dealing with coups and those who support this process.
Of course, Turkey has been changed; and there are also some positive changes in the Western approach towards Turkey; the contribution of the European Greens, Social Democrats and some Liberals who appreciate democratization in Turkey and view this process as normalization to the process is essential and important. However, it is also no secret that there are some other circles which see Turkey’s normalization as further Islamisation and as a danger for the Western interests. This is an ongoing discussion between those who see this as an opportunity for Turkey’s democratization and as a risk.
In discussing the difficulties involved in the democratic transformation of Turkey and of the Middle East in general, it will be a flawed analysis to ignore the flawed perspective by the West towards the issue.