The General Staff's decision to decorate Air Forces Commander Gen. Mehmet Erten with a medal was criticized by several Kurdish deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy (BDP). The story was a sub-headline for the Taraf newspaper.
"I wouldn't have believed the time would come when I would lend support to the military," I muttered to myself as I was writing this article, but I am still penning it for the sake of fairness. In my opinion, both those deputies, particularly those from the AKP, and Taraf daily are being unfair when it come to military.
Let me elaborate. Those who oppose giving the medal to Erten have two main reasons. The first is the Uludere tragedy, in which 34 civilians were mistaken for terrorists and killed by military airstrikes in Şırnak's Uludere district due to false intelligence. The second concerns the downing of a Turkish jet off the Syrian coast. I can assure you that in both incidents, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the Air Forces are at fault at the lowest level. The fault in both the jet crisis with Syria and the Uludere tragedy belongs to the intelligence units who had the grave insistence of deploying those planes on their respective missions. The official statement concerning the Syrian jet crisis is clear: the jet in question was conducting radar tests in the area. Although the jet was warned several times by Syrian authorities to cease its violation of Syrian airspace, it was sent to the area for another run upon the insistence of the Electronic Systems Command (GES), an institution that runs a comprehensive communications interception unit. The jets were deployed to Uludere upon orders by the same institution.
Moreover, I have written about it a number of times: We know that Turkey has come to the brink of tragedies more than once due to manipulation by the members of the GES, but that, thanks to the attentiveness of military personnel, other tragedies like Uludere have been averted at the last minute.
Thus, the Air Forces Command deserves a medal simply for not walking into another Uludere-like trap.
Those who voice criticisms about the commander who received the medal are, in my opinion, attempting to put the blame of the Uludere tragedy solely on a commander and save themselves. Possibly, they know very well why they are doing this. Their intention is to ascribe the role of the Oslo trumpeters, those who support government negotiations with the PKK, previously held in the Norwegian capital, in the Uludere tragedy to other people. Indeed, the Oslo trumpeters say what they believe in. We share the same world view with them, they believe, so it does not matter whether they err or falter. We can settle the problems within our intimate circle. Let us find a scapegoat to burden with all the blame, they must be thinking.
But why don't they utter a single criticism about the true perpetrator, i.e., the intelligence department that sent those jets to Uludere, while you criticize the medal? Are they trying to hide behind the award and protect the intelligence department from there? You Oslo trumpeters, are you living in a common universe with the fancy advocates of negotiations with the PKK so much so that you turn a blind eye to the real perpetrators, pouring scorn on those who were defective only in a secondary sense?
Additionally, the commanders deserve medals just for the TSK's refraining from meddling with civilian politics for the last one year. The AKP's Galip Ensarioğlu might have forgotten them, but we haven't forgotten about those commanders who talked about the "pipes" or "a piece of worthless paper," or those who prepared the black propaganda websites or the plan to finish off the AKP and Gülen movement. Moreover, the Chief of General Staff deserves a medal for keeping the military away from any involvement in politics, and force commanders deserve medals for making people forget their names by avoiding public appearances and most importantly, the Air Force Commander deserves it fully for just doing his job, and no more. That medal is perhaps one of the few truly deserved medals in the TSK's past.
I recently phoned the TSK and asked several questions. They gave me an account of the operations conducted during the last year.
Since the start of the year, Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) militants have been killed and 134 captured during operations. In operations outside of Turkey's borders, 346-369 PKK militants have been killed. Overall, 1,034 PKK militants were killed. This means that about 25 percent of the PKK militants were eliminated in one year.
During the same period, 521 targets were destroyed in 312 sorties within the country, while 383 demolished in 317 sorties abroad. In other words, the TSK and the Air Forces Command have been doing their job. And possibly because they have done their job well, someone in Ankara plotted the Uludere trap in order to bring a halt to operations and start negotiations with the PKK.
The figures suggest that the effective use of air forces have boosted the success of counter-terrorism efforts. And this naturally disturbs the Oslo trumpeters, the pro-negotiation camp, Kurdish nationalists and the PKK. This is because the latter group is producing much noise.
There is no success that goes unpunished in Turkey. My suggestion is: take that medal from the commander and give it to the pro-negotiation minister and Oslo trumpeters, who have caused the PKK to grow out of proportion since 2009 and establish a state in northern Syria, and particularly to Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed PKK leader who has twisted the state around his little finger while sitting in his prison cell and making the PKK a player in the power balance of the Middle East. And the jury's special award goes to those pro-negotiation people who parrot songs of peace every November. But just be quick and give it before spring comes. Indeed, every spring, terror starts again.
In the end, this is a team accomplishment, and this "magnificent success" should not go unrewarded.