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    Lessons learned from ‘Uludere’

    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD05 January 2012 - Okunma Sayısı: 1205

     

    The approaches and debates regarding the unfortunate Uludere incident are quite educational.

    Data provided by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and their transformation to intelligence instantly have made it rather popular in the last decade. Since the military are at less risk thanks to this technology, it provides a great advantage to generals and politicians who abstain from public opinion pressure. However, the system is not flawless. It might aim at the wrong targets, as demonstrated in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example. The most dramatic aspect for Turkey is its being used on its own soil, and there are legal, political, ethical and psychological bitter fruits of fatal errors.

    We have learned bi-directionally how strong and important the tribal structure is. Firstly, we see tribal structure is a reality. Tribes exist not only on the Turkish side but also on the other side of the border, and they are an important factor in social, economic, criminal and political life. Secondly, we have learned the district governor was from Muş, Kurdish originated and member of a tribe.

    This is important for two reasons: It means there are Kurdish originated governors and they may be assigned to the regions where the Kurds live, but also, following the attack intended for the district governor, his tribe acted more swiftly than the state authority. The district governor blocked the incident from escalating into a fight between the tribes by refusing his tribe’s offer of assisting him with his security.

    We had information about regional economy and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) finances. We learned how important smuggling (cigarettes, fuel, sugar, etc.) is not only for financing peasantry but also the PKK. We saw the PKK collecting “tariffs” from smugglers has not had many financial and logistic problems.

    The incident has shown us who acts faster in the race between organizations and states. Naturally, while the PKK and its sympathizers exploit the problem in their favor quite dynamically and rapidly, bureaucracy and government could act rather slowly. In the end, the PKK has gained unlimited propaganda possibility.

    We also saw that competition is held not only between the “state” and the PKK but among non-state actors as well, the nature of the struggle has started to change and there is a religious domain involved in this. As a matter of fact, we saw where the “religious figures,” who became a side of the problem, stand in the problem and how they embrace the developments with their actions and statements made.

    We saw battles for taking a role among compartmented security and intelligence bureaucracy over “Uludere case.” A fight continues over putting each other’s nose out of joint, zeroing in on each other’s professional capacity and debasing the opponent.

    We saw “deep analysts” in the media, their ability in writing higher-up “creative scenarios” and how far they are from being “about the ethics of drones and law,” which is an issue all over the world.

    In the end, the “Uludere incident,” beyond being an unfortunate disaster where 35 people lost their lives, also shows us how chaotic the situation is we are facing and how confused we are.

     

    This commentary was published on 05.01.2012 in Hürriyet Daily News.

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