CLAIRE BERLINSKI & ALI KINCAL ON TURKEY: Dark Days Ahead.
President Erdoğan immediately asked the United States to extradite Gülen. Then began the purge. As many as 9,000 have so far been detained and 60,000 dismissed from their jobs. Many have been casually accused of being the top plotters. Serious news channels and publications have been more careful, but pro-government news organs have shown little regard for the principle of presumption of innocence. From the beginning of the coup attempt, the former commander of the Turkish Air Force, Akın Öztürk, was portrayed in the media as the leader. Yet in his testimony to the prosecutor, the general denied that he was in any way involved: He claimed the Chief of the General Staff, the head of the intelligence service, and many others as witnesses of his innocence. His testimony is internally consistent, at least. The former Chief of Staff, Necdet Özel, said, “Akın Öztürk did not raise any suspicions. If he had such an intention [the coup], why did he not do it when he was the Commander of the Air Force?” . . .
But it is not over. Two horrible truths have been revealed. First, it is now beyond doubt that the military has long possessed a faction that is both homicidal and suicidal, men in uniforms with access to heavy arms and a willingness to turn them on their fellow citizens. They have posed a grave threat to an unwitting Turkish public, and it is not clear that the threat has been nullified. It is moreover obvious now that the AKP has a street force, with a demonstrated willingness to kill, and both the ability and the willingness to commandeer the mosques to serve its own partisan purposes: Throughout the night, the mosques summoned people to the streets with the sound of the Sela—not the ezan. And while the coup plot was interrupted, the purge in action could be every bit as horrible as the purge had the plot succeeded. It is certain to ensnare the innocent.
How will this affect Turks’ view of the military? Until now, the military has been widely loved, held sacred, and regarded as a source of stability. A SONAR poll last April showed that the Turkish Armed Forces were the most trusted institution in the country (84.2 percent) and the government the least trusted (49.5 percent). Turks send their sons to military service with celebrations. Now that the rebels with uniforms have rained fire on them from above with F-16s and helicopters, and run them over with tanks, will their view change? It’s an unprecedented trauma, and it will surely have wide ramifications. The military’s identity is not easy to disambiguate from the nation’s. With real and growing threats to the nation in the form of the PKK and ISIS, Turks need their armed forces more than ever. Even the AKP, long at odds with the military, seems to have understood the people’s view of the Armed Forces and its significance. Two days ago, Prime Minister Yıldırım said, “I am saying this once again: This incident cannot be attributed to our military and our military’s chain of command. This is the work of a group within the military. Because our military is called the Prophet’s hearth. Our military, on the one hand, is dealing with these [putschists], on the other hand it is struggling in the Southeast. We should never ever not allow any incident that could diminish their morale.”
It’s easy to say, but hard to enforce. Trust in the military has been shattered, and will not easily be repaired.
I think Erdogan’s happy with that, as dictators don’t like rival power centers of any kind.