Posts in English

Why The CIA Funds Me and Other Nonsense

[Originally published in Turkish Daily News] If there is one thing that the Kemalists never lack, that is imagination. They can make up, and then believe in, all sorts of fantasy. Their pundits have recently created a vast range of conspiracy theories from the lunacy that “Islamist” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is in fact a crypto Jew who serves the Elders of Zion to the more popular nonsense that the U.S. government aims at establishing a “moderate Islamic republic” in Turkey. I am used to seeing such bilge in the crude side of the Kemalist camp, but these days even their most sophisticated representatives seem to follow a similar line. My column neighbor, Yusuf Kanlı, a most articulate and respected writer, surprised me by doing so just two days ago. In his column titled “Muslim Democrats” he wrote, “‘Muslim democrats,' some people on the payroll – or who were on the payroll – of some foreign intelligence agencies… are conducting psychological warfare against the patriot and Kemalist Turks through a disinformation campaign in the media outlets.” Enemies United I often don't take such broad accusations personally, but Mr. Kanlı left me with no choice by explaining what these foreign-intelligence-agency-paid misinformers do: “In this psychological war, even Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was implicated with terrorism and some insolent penslingers have started using the ‘Kemalist terrorism' terminology to describe people who resist the growing Islamofascist trends in this country.” Well, it was me who wrote a piece titled “Turkey meets ‘Kemalist terror'” just two days before in order to explain the ideology of the controversial Ergenekon gang. “Therefore,” I said, “Mr. Kanlı must be talking about me.” So, let me say a few words. Of course, accusations such as this — or that I am in fact a space alien designed to look like a human in order to infiltrate the blue planet — is impossible to disprove. I can't get documents from “foreign intelligence agencies” stating that they don't really pay me, right? I can only make a statement. So here it comes: No, I don't get any money from any foreign intelligence agency, such as, most probably, the CIA. And with such a low dollar rate, I am even not that interested. I think the real question here is how Mr. Kanlı “knows” that Turkish commentators like me are “on the payroll” of some secret and wicked powers. The “knowledge” that lies behind this accusation is, actually, a presumption that the Kemalist ideology has installed into the minds of its believers. Since Kemalism became a state-ideology by wiping off all political opposition in 1925, it has blamed all dissenters, which were labeled as “internal enemies,” to be the agents of “external enemies.” The Islamo-Kurdish revolt of that year was explained as a “British conspiracy,” although there was never ever any evidence to support such a claim. Over the years, “the external enemies” who supposedly finance and tutor the non-Kemalist groups (conservative Muslims, Kurds, liberals, the democratic left) diversified by adding on the United States, Armenians, “Zionists,” Iraqi Kurds, Arabs, the European Union or even individuals such as George Soros. This line of thinking brings intellectual poverty on the Kemalists. Instead of trying to understand their critics, countering them with reason and inferring some self-criticism, they shut down the debate by simply blaming them as “traitors.” And when they feel threatened by the democratic power of these “traitors,” they call the state powers (the military, the high judiciary, and even “deep state” gangs like Ergenekon) to save “the Republic,” which has become a euphemism for oligarchy. Yet Kemalism is a big tent and not all of its adherents are as crude as the shall-we-gather-at-the-coup choir. The more cosmopolitan a Kemalist becomes, the more his arguments against democracy become nuanced. He can even abandon some aspects of the ideology, but as far as he remains attached to its two main pillars — a strong distaste toward conservative religion and an elitist contempt for popular sovereignty — he has a place under the Atatürk sun. Bekdil, Hitler, Marcus, etc. Which brings me to my other column neighbor, Burak Bekdil. His stylish, sharp and witty pieces are full of oft-repeated but hardly convincing arguments against the democratization of Turkey. At least a dozen times, for example, he has reminded us that Hitler came to power through popular vote. What we should infer from that must be something thus: Hitler came to power by elections. So elections are untrustworthy. So we don't need to respect election results. Facts such as that Hitler's dictatorship was based on not election results but that he had a paramilitary force (the SA) and that he wiped off all political opposition by using violence, are, of course, not what Mr. Bekdil reminds you. Another beloved example of Mr. Bekdil is the “yes” vote the Turkish people gave to the 1982 Constitution. “Did 92 percent of our ‘enlightened' nation not vote for the 1980 coup, its Constitution and leaders as untouchables,” he was asking yesterday, as he has done again at least a dozen times, in order to imply how dumb the Turkish nation is. Yet he was carefully avoiding telling you that the 1982 Constitution was also a ticket from military rule to free elections. Had people said “no” to the constitution, the military regime would probably be extended indefinitely. Yesterday Mr. Bekdil was also telling us that Turkey needs “checks and balances” against the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government, which is, on paper, an absolutely true statement. What he was not telling us was that the country is now on the brink of a judicial coup, not an act of “checks and balances.” And while he was bashing journalist Aliza Marcus for her co-authored piece in The Washington Post, he was evoking the standard Kemalist line of traitor-hunting. The “love affair” Ms. Marcus allegedly had with the AKP, according to Mr. Bekdil, was the reincarnation of her “love affair” with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. Another, and much better, recent piece in these pages (by H. Akın Ünver) was referring to Turkey's “unevolved secularists.” Alas, I wonder if there is any “evolved secularist” around at all.
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