Despite the shocked reactions of your worldly Facebook friends, there was nothing particularly surprising about the recent coup attempt in Turkey. Foreign Affairs ran a story back in May with the elegantly simple headline: “Turkey’s Next Military Coup.”
But you don’t have to be a foreign policy nerd to understand why Ankara was ripe for regime change. Just crack open a history book ― or Wikipedia. The Republic of Turkey is no stranger to military coups. But see if you can spot a pattern:
1960: With money from Washington’s Marshall Plan drying up, Turkey sought financial aid from Russia. When prime minister Adnan Menderes announced that he would be traveling to Moscow for negotiations, Turkish officers trained by the United States launched a military coup in order to “bring the country with all speed to a fair, clean and solid democracy”. As Wikipedia dryly notes: “Thus the coup removed a democratically elected government while expressing the intent to install a democratically elected government.”
1971: For Turkey, the 70s were a decade-long proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1971, a US-backed military coup cracked down on left-wing (i.e. “dirty socialists”) groups in Turkey. In the years that followed, “democracy” flourished in Turkey:
[Y]outh organisations were banned, union meetings prohibited, leftist (but not militant neo-fascist) publications proscribed and strikes declared illegal...[H]undreds of students, young academics, writers, trade unionists and Workers’ Party activists—not just leftists but also people with liberal-progressive sympathies—were detained and tortured.
By the way: The “advanced interrogations” were carried out by CIA-trained “specialists”.
1980: Another military coup graces Turkey, of course with the sole intention of preserving the nation’s democratic institutions. There is very little debate about who was behind this coup:
American support of this coup was acknowledged by the CIA Ankara station chief Paul Henze. After the government was overthrown, Henze cabled Washington, saying, “our boys [in Ankara] did it.”
Which brings us to the present day.
Just a few short weeks ago, Erdogan apologized for the Russian jet incident and made it clear that he sought rapprochement with Moscow; Putin accepted his apology, and both countries said they were ready to renew full economic and political cooperation. Heck, Ankara even hinted that Russia could use Turkey’s (NATO’s?) Incirlik airbase to carry out airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. (Incirlik is currently being used by the US, German, British, Qatar and Saudi air forces.)
And surprise surprise, not long after Turkey was blessed with yet another military coup vowing to “reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms”.
And who backed this coup? Most likely the same people who have been backing Turkish military coups since 1960.Turkish Labor Minister Suleyman Soylu has openly accused the US of involvement in the coup attempt. Other high ranking Turkish officials have made similar statements.
And the fact that General Bekir Ercan Van, Incirlik’s base commander, was allegedly involved in the coup suggests some level of US involvement or at least foreknowledge. (The Turkish general reportedly sought asylum in the US-controlled sector of Incirlik, prompting Turkish authorities to cut power to the air base. He was eventually arrested along with 11 other service members from the air base.)
In fact, Ankara has singled out Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania, as one of the lead instigators of the failed coup. Turkey has just confirmed that an official request was sent to the United States for the extradition of Gülen.
Erdogan is hardly a model of democratic virtue, but can we at least be honest about the true motives behind this botched military coup? It had nothing to do with restoring democracy or human rights, and everything to do with ensuring that Turkey remained obedient to Washington’s dictates.
And the most important rule set by Washington ― which has been carved in stone since time immemorial ― is no playing nice with Russia. Ever.
It’s amazing that no media outlet is interested in reviewing the historical record and connecting the dots. Instead we’re supposed to believe that the coup attempt was manufactured by Erdogan himself, a modern-day Reichstag fire. Amazing that conspiracy theories are allowed to enter the public conversation, but only when they fit Washington’s narrative.
If you really think this coup had anything to do with democracy or human rights, keep the tin foil hat on. You’re going to need it.