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    How did the chief of General Staff become a terrorist?

    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD15 August 2013 - Okunma Sayısı: 1143

    The Recep Tayyip Erdoğan government had two goals when it “trimmed” the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in legal, psychological, political, technical, intelligence and social terms: Establishing “absolute party control” over the military and “clearing the road” for negotiating with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

    The government worked patiently and systematically to reach its goals. It entered into interesting alliances both at home and abroad. It empowered the police forces to balance the army. It opened several legally controversial investigations. It used the pro-government media. As a result, many retired and active generals and officers were arrested. “Potential contrarians” in the lower ranks were preemptively removed. Some opted out voluntarily. The government, it seemed, was able to hit two birds with one stone.

    In the meantime, it continued to negotiate with the PKK. It was forced to “appoint” PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan as the leader of all Kurds and agreed to negotiate “power sharing” on minimalist terms.

    According to the “standard road map” in Erdoğan’s hands, the military had to comply with the cease-fire declared by the PKK, that is, the military’s non-involvement in “law enforcement” would guarantee that the cease-fire took effect. Despite the time-lag, high transfer costs and the fact that the military was still responsible for border security, the government achieved what it aimed. The reason was simple. That many generals and officers were under arrest ensured that those outside would refrain from standard duties. Still, they continued to keep records and file their permission requests ignored by the civilian authority in case they might either be called to account or held to account in the future.

    The standard road map also necessitated a general amnesty. The militants would have to be reintegrated into society in the next phase of the negotiations. Thus, former terrorists would be able to return to their homes.

    As this debate went on, the court determined that the former chief of General Staff General Gen. İlker Başbuğ was “the leader of a terrorist organization” and that the generals in his staff were “members of a terrorist organization.” If the peace process continues without further trouble, the two terrorist organizations – the PKK and the TSK – will benefit from a prospective “general amnesty.” Using the courts to establish party control and “trading” the convicted generals and officers with the PKK might be read as hitting two birds with one stone. But the standard road map assigns importance not only to the goals that enable a fresh start, but also to the legitimacy and morality of the means used to reach them. Initiatives that lack these properties might backfire, especially at the current stage of such developments as the Syrian conflict, the Egyptian crisis, the Gezi demonstrations, elections, the tension between the government and the Gülen movement, and negotiations with the PKK.


    This commentary was published on 15.08.2013 in Hürriyet Daily News.

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