Saturday, July 16, 2016 at 10:14 AM

Turkey: Bungled Coup Fails. Grave Purge Begins

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport Saturday morning and declared the attempted coup against his government to be a failure, but also a ‘gift from God…’

He vowed to ‘clean up’ the armed forces and ‘eradicate’ those who had operated aerial forces against his government. As of Saturday morning, nearly 3,000 people have been rounded up, ranging from foot soldiers to senior officers, Reuters reported.

(Huffington World Post, July 16, 2016)

According to the Turkish prime minister, 161 people (including 20 coup plotters) are dead, 1,440 injured. He failed to mention, however, that thousands of judges and other civil servants – who clearly had nothing to do with this coup – have been either suspended or arrested.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 7.51.56 PM

When news of it broke yesterday, you’d have been hard-pressed to find commentators condemning this coup, especially early on when it seemed a fait accompli.

Instead, they rationalized it as due comeuppance for the democratically elected Erdogan – who they claimed was ruling Turkey more like a dictator than a president. They also cited his fraternization with Islamists as a betrayal of the global fight against ISIS, and his Islamization of Turkey’s secular culture as a betrayal of the Western values they once hailed this Muslim country for adopting.

Truth be told, almost every criticism ever hurled at him is true. But none of it justifies a coup.

1468655679021Ironically, Erdogan gave credence to claims that he is a paranoid conspiracy zealot – who is unfit to lead– when he immediately blamed Fethullah Gulen for masterminding this coup. Gulen is a progressive Turkish cleric and former Erdogan ally who is now living in exile in Pennsylvania. He categorically denies any involvement in or knowledge of this coup attempt.

But Erdogan’s fixation on settling scores, no matter how irrational, explains why so many Turks took to the streets to defend democracy, not to support him. Except that, if they thought he was a dictator in democratic garb before, they have just emboldened him to reveal his true colors – with all of the repression of civil liberties that portends.

But what I found most interesting was the way the 2013 military coup in Egypt figured so prominently in the expert commentary. In fact, as I listened to commentators criticize Turkish President Erdogan for provoking this coup, I got the sense they were reading from transcripts of commentators criticizing Egyptian President Morsi for provoking that coup.


The only saving grace for the United States came when President Obama issued a belated statement calling on the Turkish people to support their democratically elected government. Never mind that he hedged his bets by carefully avoiding any mention of support for Erdogan himself. No doubt, if the coup had succeeded, he would have hailed the military for fulfilling the democratic will of the people; you know, like the military did in Egypt.

By contrast, my immediate denunciation of the Turkish coup plotters was surpassed only by my excoriation of these commentators: I ridiculed the former as misguided and inept for failing to execute the first stage of any military coup, namely, arresting the leader; and decried the latter as shortsighted and hypocritical for making a mockery of universal democratic values.

Above all, though, I could not help thinking of this coup attempt as Obama’s tacit support for the coup in Egypt coming home to roost. Here’s why:

Obama is effectively calling on the Egyptian military to guarantee the protesters’ democratic aspirations. Ironically, he and other Western leaders seem to believe that the best way to transition from Mubarak’s dictatorship to democracy is by installing a de facto military dictatorship.

The problem, however, is that in almost every case where this strategy has been deployed (e.g. in Pakistan and Burma) the military ends up overstaying its welcome … by years, if not decades.

(“Crisis in Egypt: the End Game,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 4, 2011)

Sure enough, the post-Mubarak fallout in Egypt has developed exactly as I feared. I lamented each step in such commentaries as “Egyptians Continue March Back to the Future,” December 20, 2013, “Egypt’s Arab Spring Spawns Brutal Military Dictatorship,” March 25, 2014, and “Egypt Sentences Morsi to Death; Exposes Fecklessness of U.S. Middle East Policy,” May 20, 2015.

3020adbe-f5ea-4b0d-9248-29e0119b4037In fact, Egypt is more of a dictatorship today than it ever was under Mubarak. Yet its relationship with the United States is as good as it has ever been. This, despite Egypt’s democratically elected president now withering away in prison under a death sentence.

This is why these Turkish coup plotters could be forgiven for thinking that, if they were as successful as their Egyptian counterparts, it would only have been a matter of time before the United States embraced them too. This, even if Turkey’s democratically elected president were then withering away in prison under a death sentence … too.

Good luck, Turkey! Your struggle for democracy is far from over….

Related commentaries:
Egypt favors dictatorship
Egypt sentences Morsi

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