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And Now, The Plot is Proven...

[Originally published in Hurriyet Daily News] Something very important happened last Monday. A short statement from the Turkish General Staff noted that its investigators had gathered "evidence that might prove the existence of the document in question." "The document in question" was quite a terrible one. It was a military plan to overthrow the AKP government and suppress the popular Islamic movement led by Fethullah Gülen, a retired preacher who lives in the U.S. One idea was to "find" weapons in the homes of people from the Gülen movement by planting them there first and thus portraying the peaceful community as a terrorist group. At a time when the world is understandably sensitive about Islamist terrorism, this certainly would be a good sell. And even a good justification for the Turkish military to roll its tanks once again -- against its own people. Just a Bad Apple? This mind-boggling four-page document was first exposed some eight months ago. It was initially found by the police in the office of a lawyer of one of the officers who had been arrested in the Ergenekon case. Soon, the whole country learned about it through the media. The daily Taraf, a newspaper founded in 2007 by a cadre of anti-militarist liberals, ran a full first-page story with a bold headline: "The plan to finish off the AKP and Gülen." The original title of the document was "The action plan for struggle with irtica." The last word here, which is very popular in Turkey, is hard to translate into English. It literally means "backwardness," but what it more specifically refers to is the religious movements in society that the Kemalist establishment finds not modern enough. A lady who wears a headscarf, for example, is a perfect symbol of "irtica," for she refuses to make her hair visible, as Atatürk would have preferred to see. (Similarly, a Kurdish citizen is considered as a "bölücü," or a "separatist," when he simply dares to speak in Kurdish in public. Atatürk would have also preferred that every citizen speak only Turkish, and finds true happiness by proclaiming, "I am a Turk.") Yet the authenticity of plan was denied by the military. All that Taraf had, after all, was a photocopy. The chief of General Staff, Gen. İlker Başbuğ, gave a press conference in late June saying there is no such document but only a "piece of paper." He even launched a counter-attack. "We believe this piece of paper has been forged by certain circles," he said, "to wear out and smear the Turkish Armed Forces." The same line of reasoning, as you can guess, was also repeated in the media, especially by the journalists who seem to believe whatever the Turkish military does and says is absolutely right. Three months later, though, a copy of the original document, with the "wet signature" of Col. Dursun Çiçek, was sent to Istanbul prosecutors by a "deep throat" in the military. The same pro-military voices in the media dismissed this, too, by pointing out there are now "signature machines" that can produce perfect imitations. But with the original document, a forensic process began. First the police, then the official Council of Forensic Medicine and then TUBITAK, the national science academy, examined the papers, and all concluded that the signature really belonged to Col. Çiçek, who kept on denying the accusation. The real turning point came last Monday when the Turkish General Staff announced the criminal laboratory of the gendarme forces, too, found the signature authentic. That confirmation, which came from the very sources of the military itself, changed the whole picture. The same day Col. Çiçek was taken to a military court by the military, and now he is on trial for "misusing his duty." Still, this is not a convincing accusation. It is certainly good that Col. Çiçek will be facing justice for the crimes devised in the plan, but he cannot be alone. He was an "intelligence officer" working in the military's headquarters. So his "action plan" must be created for a hierarchy that he is a part of. This is not a matter of a bad apple, in other words, as some would have us believe. It is a matter of a lot of bad apples. The Army Way Of course, it is impossible to know what is really happening in the military, for it is such a closed box. But here is my informed guess: The military, like most other ideological institutions, has both a radical wing and a more moderate mainstream. None of the officers are fans of "irtica," I bet, but while the moderate mainstream is willing to remain "legit," the radical wing is ready to do whatever it takes to "save the country." All the mind-boggling "action plans" we have read in the past few years in Taraf, I guess, are the work of these hotheads. The problem is that while the moderate mainstream of the military, clearly represented by Gen. Başbuğ, wants to pacify and even exclude the radicals, they are trying to do this all too silently and secretly. "The prestige of the institution," which they constantly uphold, seems to be all too important. Well, perhaps this is how things are done in any military. "There are three ways to do something," people say in America, "the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way." I just wish the way of the Turkish army was just a bit closer to the right way.
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