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Has Obama Conspired Against Turkish Nationalists?

[Originally published in Hurriyet Daily News, with readers’ comments] The credit for the question in my headline goes to Osman Durmuş, a senior member of Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party, or the MHP. “Obama has given the orders: the MHP will not be in the parliament,” he said last Friday, in a meeting with his party members. “Instead, PKK militants will go there in mass… This is the project of Obama; the project of the AKP; the project of Tayyip Erdoğan.” The “project” Mr. Durmuş was referring to were the series of secretly taped videos showing various senior MHP members in sexual acts with females who do such things for a living. In the past few weeks, these “sex tapes” indeed have shaken the MHP severely, leading to the resignation of 10 senior members of the party. Many predict that this will influence the MHP negatively in the upcoming general elections. The party, Turkey’s third largest, might face the risk of falling under the 10 percent national election threshold. Sex and videotape In other words, these “sex tapes” are clearly an operation against the MHP or its current cadre. In that sense Mr. Durmuş might be right. But I really don’t think President Obama, the United States government, or any other foreign power has anything to do with the “project.” We must rather look at home. (Having mentioned Obama, I must say that I liked his recent “Arab Spring” speech, including his call for a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine based on the 1967 borders. If only Benjamin Netanyahu, and his base, would listen.) First of all, I should note that it is hard to make a judgment about the nature of the sex tapes. In one sense, people’s private lives are their own business, and we should not care about with whom the MHP folks, or anybody else, sleeps. But the private lives of politicians become an object of scrutiny elsewhere in the world as well. Besides, the MHP is a party that claims to subscribe to “family values,” so its base has such moral expectations from its leadership. Plus, the content of the videotapes in question reveal not only sexual acts, but also shocking statements about Turkish society and its values. In other words, it is only normal for the videotaped MHP members to resign, once their scenes were exposed on the Internet. The more important matter is the culprit of the conspiracy. Here I freely use the C word, from which I often refrain, for this is undoubtedly a well-crafted plot. Someone must have been monitoring MHP members for a long time to infiltrate into their private lives, and find the safe houses they use for secret intimacies. Then they must have broken into those places to install hidden cameras. Then they must have archived and edited the scenes to release them at a critical moment — like a few weeks before general elections. From the beginning, a shadowy website ( claimed to be behind the operation. The name of the site literally means “different idealists,” the ideal being that of the Turkish nationalist movement. The unknown masters of the site claim to be a splinter group within the MHP, which is fed up with the corruption in its leadership. But one really wonders whether such MHP-loving nationalists would launch such an internal war at a time when their party is heading toward a critical election. That’s why I find it more plausible to think that an agent outside of the MHP is more likely to be behind the plot. Unknown unknowns But who is that agent? Here, as usual, the two opposing camps in Turkey have totally opposite theories. For the anti-AKP camp, this certainly must be a plot cooked up by pro-AKP forces, most probably elements within the police. The loss of the MHP will be a gain for the AKP, according to this theory, and therefore the culprits of videotapes must be the “new deep state” created by Erdoğan and his party. For the opposite camp, the usual suspect is the “old deep state,” the one mastered by staunch Kemalists and their allies. The intention behind the plot is to “redesign” the MHP, and make it more supportive of the old establishment. Those who advance this argument also recall that a similar “redesign” was made on the CHP about a year ago, when its old and weary leader Deniz Baykal was replaced by the more promising Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu via a similar sex tape. As for me, well, I can’t decide which theory, if any, is true. As the Rumsfeldian language goes, there are many known unknowns and unknown unknowns in this story. Filling such gaps in knowledge with presuppositions might be national pastime in Turkey, but it really is not a safe way to search for the truth. Yet it is certainly the job of the police, and the AKP government to which it is tied, to find the conspirators of the sex tapes. If the party falls below the 10 percent electoral threshold, and stays out of the parliament for the next four years, the tapes will be remembered as an “intervention” into politics by nonpolitical means, leaving a stain on Turkish democracy. Few people will continue to put the blame on President Obama, but more people will put it on Prime Minister Erdoğan. So Erdoğan, for his own sake, should do whatever it takes to find the hidden men behind those hidden cameras.
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