Travail of new Turkey

"Foreigners" like Gareth Jenkins, who obviously has difficulties in making sense of what is happening in Turkey, and "locals" like Soner Çağaptay, who are aware of what is really happening but who deliberately distort the truth, should not mislead Western diplomats, academics and journalists.

What is happening in Turkey is as clear as day. Let me say at the beginning what I will say at the end: The waters are returning to their bed, and the pieces are falling into their proper places.
Looking at the closure statement of the summit held on Thursday at the Çankaya presidential palace, everyone can have a clear idea about the "image of the new Turkey." The closure statment of the summit reaffirmed that this country is no "banana republic." What can be said to those who want to have an idea about what will happen next is that we may not known what will happen next, but we can be sure about what will not happen. This summit has confirmed that three things will not happen in the future. What are these?

First, coup investigations cannot be stopped. Given the 5,000 pages of documents and voice recordings, neither the government nor any other institution can block these investigations. As a bureaucrat of this state for at least 40 years, the chief of general staff knows well that no one can openly demand for these investigations to be stopped. Indeed, it appears that the pasha has no such demand. It appears that during the tripartite summit, Gen. İlker Başbuğ expressed his uneasiness about the manner in which retired or active commanders, who are his brothers-in-arms, were detained.

Second, detentions decided on by prosecutors cannot be blocked. Neither the government nor any other organ can interfere with the prosecutors. No one can phone a chief public prosecutor or other prosecutors or issue instructions or make suggestions to them. Given the substantial evidence, any politician who makes such a demand will pay a great price in the future.

See, Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek has been having a hard time explaining a phone call he made to a prosecutor in order to get information about an investigation being conducted in Erzincan. This is expected and this is what should be the case. A minister cannot and should not call a prosecutor even to get information about sensitive cases. If he does, he will then be called to account for it. "How dare you call a prosecutor conducting an investigation?" people will ask.

In such a case, even the prime minister or other ministers can't be expected to meddle with the ongoing investigations in İstanbul. What else will not happen? Third, the decisions of judges to arrest or release someone cannot be discussed.

You may claim that decisions to detain may be controversial to some extent, but it is the judges who issue decisions to arrest. Judges issue decisions to arrest or release based on evidence submitted to them. They have issued these decisions to arrest retired or active military officers, including generals.

Objections to these decisions may be made. So, why was the tripartite summit held at Çankaya? This summit was a "crisis management" summit. What is at the heart of the crisis? The ongoing investigations or arrest decisions are not at the heart of the crisis. It is the trauma the detention of once powerful pashas has created in the military. What is the solution? There is no solution to this trauma. The military's top management must confront its tradition of overthrowing governments and purge its members who aspire to maintain that tradition. Because they have failed to do so to date, they now have to suffer from this trauma.

Nothing is too late. Can Chief of General Staff Gen. Başbuğ do this when only five months remain until the end of his tenure? It's unlikely. But it seems that they will suffer from greater traumas as long as they do not do this. Indeed, Turkey is no longer the old Turkey.

This crisis won't end if the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) return to their original domain of professionalism. Politics is the job of politicians and political parties. The military must take its hands off politics.

No one should misunderstand. A civilian dictatorship is not being established in Turkey, but the system is evolving into what it should be. Turkey is normalizing. If these developments can be called a crisis, then it is the crisis of the old Turkey, or the travail of a new Turkey.

27 February 2010, Saturday
GÜRKAN ZENGİN