ETYEN MAHÇUPYAN

e.mahcupyan@todayszaman

ETYEN MAHÇUPYAN
February 14, 2013, Thursday

Dani Rodrik for the last time

It is quite natural for a person to exhibit extra sensitivity and subjectivity toward a specific topic when it concerns his relatives. We can understand such a person if we come to accept that we should be more tolerant toward them and put ourselves in their place. At the beginning, many people in Turkey shared this approach for Dani Rodrik, a successful academic with international fame and a scholar known to be an advocate of democratic values. But he had come face-to-face with a very unexpected situation.

As a matter of fact, he wouldn't be expected not to be cognizant of what views or political opinions his own father-in-law held. Indeed, what his father-in-law, Çetin Doğan, the retired former 1st Army commander, did during the postmodern coup of Feb. 28, 1997, was unacceptable even to the least fervent supporters of democracy. But the Turkish public chose not to discuss these matters in detail so as to give Rodrik an opportunity to protect his prestige. But as it turned out, he hasn't had the sensibility to understand this, as he continues to walk on a path that might lead to the complete destruction of his reputation.

Actually, he has exhibited symptoms of his disease early on. It is sad to see an objective scientist bustle about along the narrow channels of kinship while he is supposed to be after the facts. I experienced this during a one-to-one e-mail exchange with him. After I wrote several articles assessing the investigation into the Sledgehammer (Balyoz) coup plan, he sent me responses via e-mail arguing that my approach to the matter was flawed, as there was a conspiracy against the generals who were arrested under the investigation.

To prove his case, he claimed that the members of the military were so well-trained, disciplined and meticulous that they wouldn't have made the factual errors found in the documents that have been used as evidence in the case. (Today, on the contrary, Rodrik claims that it is “manifest” that the contradictory points in question were “human errors.”) In one of these messages, Rodrik misspelled my surname as "Mahçupoğlu," perhaps due to an excessive emotional surge, and I hadn't placed much emphasis on this matter. But when he claimed that the members of the military wouldn't commit factual errors, I, referring to his misspelling of my surname, noted that if he, as a meticulous and knowledgeable person, could make such a grave error, it wouldn't be logical to argue that the members of the military couldn't make factual errors.

It may not be easy to adopt an objective position concerning a trial like Balyoz. For many, this trial represents an ideological confrontation in the first place, and they tend to wield a certain level of bias toward the politics of the ongoing trial. It is alleged that the court delivered a legally problematic verdict concerning the Balyoz trial and that many defendants were victimized during the litigation process. This may be true, but it is equally true that some members of the military were preparing to overthrow the government, that they developed a coup plan and that the senior members of this junta were therefore equitably punished. In this process, people like Rodrik acted, knowingly or not, as promoters of the neo-nationalist propaganda and eventually became part of the efforts to whitewash the coup mentality.

They focused basically on two arguments: First, the documents referring to the coup plan can be found on only three CDs used as evidence in the prosecution, and second, these three CDs were tampered with. Both of these arguments are true. But the heart of the matter is that these three CDs contained documents also found on other CDs, and the court didn't need three CDs to convict Doğan and his friends. The audio recordings of the war game seminar, accepted by the defendants, already indicate what their intention was.

If we read the journal entries of Cumhuriyet journalist Mustafa Balbay and former Land Forces Commander Adm. Özden Örnek, we naturally conclude that they had paved the groundwork for a military takeover. Rodrik chose to focus on inconsistencies in names and times in the documents used as evidence, claiming that these inconsistencies might be the work of conspirators. However, the General Staff was unable to discover a single member of this so-called network of conspirators who, Rodrik claimed, were able to penetrate the military and capable of modifying the documents hidden in a secret military cache.

But there is an interesting possible corollary to what Rodrik is suggesting: The inconsistencies in the documents used in the case suggest that someone could have had access to them even in 2009, but we don't know who tampered with them. Broadly speaking, the possibility is equally strong that either the conspirators or coup perpetrators could have done the tampering. But Rodrik claims that the suggestion that coup perpetrators could have done so is a lie and, in his blog, he calls me a liar. He thinks that by calling one of the possibilities a lie, he can make his own suggestion the correct one.

It is a pathetic situation, particularly for a person who advertises himself as a scholar.

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