[Originally published in Hurriyet Daily News]
Have you taken a look at the recent exposure about the amazing adventures of Turkey’s Dr. Strangelovish generals? It is a must-see.
What I am referring to is the action plan called “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) that the liberal daily Taraf published a few days ago. The extensive document, whose full name is the “Sledgehammer Security Operation Plan,” was apparently drafted in 2003, a little after the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, came to power.
This was a popularly elected government that most generals disliked – as they probably still do today. Hence they brainstormed together to save the nation from its mistake. And, quite patriotically, they planned a road map for a military coup that would, allegedly, cost the lives of some innocent citizens. (Don’t be surprised: Collateral damage has never been an obstacle to the heroic efforts of our mighty military.)
Against ‘reactionary forces’
The masterminds of the plan, reportedly, were retired Gen. Çetin Doğan, the then-commander of the 1st Army, retired Former Air Forces Cmdr. Gen. İbrahim Fırtına and another retired general, Ergin Saygun. According to Taraf, their scheme was devised at a military meeting attended by 162 active military members, including 29 generals.
One bold idea was to stir up chaos in society through violent acts so that a military takeover would be justified. Options included bombing an Istanbul mosque during the Friday prayer, which would provoke the Islamic masses and lead them to a clash with security forces. In the face of this “Islamist uprising,” the military would roll its tanks, and save the country from the incumbent “reactionary forces.”
Another option was intentionally bringing down a Turkish warplane on the Aegean, putting the blame on Greece, and thus creating tension between the two countries – something that would show the dovish government as weak, and, again, lead to the military’s ascendance.
The Sledgehammer document also included creative solutions about the media. Some 36 journalists, mostly liberal columnists, were listed as “those to be arrested.” One of them is Cengiz Çandar, whose column I hope you enjoy in these pages. (Personally, to be honest, I was a little disappointed to be out of the list. But then I recalled that I wasn’t writing at all when this document was drafted, i.e., in 2003. I am just hoping to show up later in updated versions.)
On the other hand, there was another list of 137 journalists that the generals put under a category of “those who can be helpful.” I am sure you must have heard at least some of them before.
What the generals ultimately wanted to do with all this, apparently, was “a return to 1923.” That year marked not only the beginning of the Turkish Republic, but also the coming of the “single party” dictatorship of the Kemalist ideology, during which Turkey had not the slightest touch of democracy and political freedom.
So, the main goal of the generals was to restore a bygone dictatorship. (Well, what else can you do with a military coup, right?) What needed to be done the day after was also nicely planned. “All the assets and financial resources of individuals and groups suspected of involvement in acts of reactionaryism will be confiscated,” a paragraph from the document reads, “and necessary steps will be taken to freeze their financial resources abroad.”
In other words, the junta would steal the money of all citizens and institutions that it deemed too Muslim.
So, at the end of the day, some citizens would be killed, others would be arrested (and God knows how they would be treated in military prisons), and many others would be financially crushed.
All for the sake of saving the Turkish nation – from its own religious beliefs and political choices.
All internal enemies
There are many other details of the Sledgehammer plan, and you can read them in the press.
The military’s response, so far, has been bizarre. The man under the spotlight, retired Gen. Çetin Doğan, first spoke to a Web site and said, “It is the job of the Turkish Armed Forces to protect Turkey from external and internal threats.” He also noted, “The military of course has plans against the internal threats … which include [religious] reactionism.”
Later he only rejected parts of the plan, such as mosque bombings and bringing down warplanes.
The General Chief of Staff, too, made an ambiguous declaration. It did not deny the existence of the plan, but argued that it was only about “foreign threats” and “martial law.” It also said, “nobody with conscious and reason can accept the allegations,” but did not address the fact the “allegations” just came from what is apparently written on the military document.
Of course, the “allegations” will remain as allegations until they are proven to be true by a court.
But what court? Yesterday, the Constitutional Court, an ideological ally of the military, annulled a recent law that would allow military personnel to be tried in civilian courts, instead of the military ones. (Here is one of the niceties about our regime: Soldiers can be tried only by other soldiers.)
So, how can we, the People, ever be able to get the real answer to the chilling question that the Sledgehammer plan, besides previous others, puts in front of us:
Does the Turkish military really make plans to kill Turkish people?