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Çağaptay’s latest: ill-informed, ill-intentioned

Today's Zaman. Ihsan Yilmaz, February 28, 2010

A piece titled “What’s Really Behind Turkey’s Coup Arrests?” by Soner Çağaptay, who works for the pro-Israeli Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), was published very recently by the Foreign Policy journal. He starts his unsubstantiated claims by saying that the Gülen movement is a shadowy Islamist movement.

I have written here several times that unless you call every single practicing Muslim an Islamist, Fethullah Gülen and his movement can never be called Islamist. Quite the contrary, the movement has always stayed away from politics. It is well known that if someone is called Islamist, it is implied that he is not an ordinary Muslim but is instead a radical and possibly a pro-violence one. Some hooligan right-wing Islamophobic tabloid journalist could write such a thing, but an academic such as Çağaptay must know that serious academics never call the Gülen movement Islamist. Even this misuse of the term shows that Çağaptay is not objective or unbiased toward the movement.

Çağaptay tries to dilute evidence against the coup attempts and writes: “When I asked a former US ambassador to Turkey for his views on the news, he thought the scenario was ridiculous. ‘If the Turkish military was going to do a coup, they would not be writing a 5,000-page memo about it,’ he stated.” But on Friday the military prosecutor confirmed that experts agreed that the coup documents were authentic. I am sure the experts know this better than a former ambassador who only relies on speculation. What is more, we know that the coup-plotter generals say in the recording that they themselves recorded and archived that the plan they imitated was the Flag (Bayrak) Plan which was a written document prepared to plan Sept. 12, 1980. The fact that the plan is longer this time is only a sign that coup-plotting junta knew that this time civil society is much stronger thanks to the Gülen movement and many others, so the plan had to be more detailed, careful and vigilant. They recorded everything, and one reason could be that they did not trust each other. On March 9, 1971, some generals betrayed their colleagues and the leftist coup and sided with the rightist generals who successfully staged a coup on March 12, 1971, and the next generation of coup-lover generals never forgot this.

The fact that no one has been prosecuted for the wiretap of the chief of General Staff is interpreted by Çağaptay as a sign that the balance of power in Turkey has shifted decisively. Bu he never mentions that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself and several other Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputies also were wiretapped and that Ergenekon suspect Doğu Perinçek’s newspapers and TV stations published them. They were not prosecuted, either. Çağaptay prefers to give us half the picture, as he has done many times before, for instance, when he was arguing that Turkey was changing its axis from a Western-alliance position to pro-Iranian, etc., position. This was repeatedly and vehemently denied by the US State Department, EU politicians and Eurocrats. Not surprisingly, only rightist Israelis, Likudniks, Zionists and some neocons advocate these views, which are not based on evidence and facts but on pure conspiracy or speculation. It has repeatedly been shown by academics that the main engine behind the success of the AK Party, the Anatolian middle classes and the nascent elite, are fully supportive of the EU process and that is why they support the AK Party. Otherwise they would support Necmettin Erbakan’s Felicity Party (SP), which has an anti-West and anti-EU discourse.

Speculation and accusations

Çağaptay tries again to blacken the Gülen movement by labeling it an “ultraconservative political faction.” What is conservative? What is ultraconservative? Why is it political and why is it a faction? Çağaptay simply borrowed all the negative words and terms that would irritate the Western reader, but none of these are true, and clear definitions are never given. Again, he writes that the movement aims to “reshape secular Turkey in its own image, by securing the supremacy of Gülen’s version of religion over politics, government, education, media, business, and public and personal life.” But these are pure blanket accusations, mind-reading and pure speculation without a shred of evidence.

He also claims that “today, it is those who criticize the Gülen movement who get burned.” It seems that Çağaptay never reads Turkish newspapers and never watches Turkish television. The lies and accusations that Çağaptay is fabricating here are not original whatsoever. Every day on television and in newspapers several pro-oligarchy journalists, so-called writers, academics and so on keep repeating these conspiracy theories. Nothing happens to these people. In the past, Gülen always sued them and got compensation for libel, but as far as I can see, Gülen is no longer interested in them; maybe he does not want to make those marginal voices happy and famous.

Çağaptay states that “Zekeriya Öz, the chief prosecutor leading the Ergenekon case, and Ramazan Akyurek, the head of the police’s domestic intelligence branch, as well as other powerful people in the police, are thought by some to be Gülen sympathizers.” Everybody who is anti-oligarchy or not corrupt is thought to be a Gülen sympathizer. What can Çağaptay say if I write here that Çağaptay is thought to be a Mossad agent by some as he always writes along the lines of the pro-Israelis, and what is more he works for an openly pro-Israeli think tank? Writing this here seriously would be ridiculous, but this is what so-called academic Çağaptay does when it comes to police officers and prosecutors without -- again -- any shred of evidence.

Çağaptay portrays Türkan Saylan as just a grandmother; he never mentions that she could not explain a document discovered on her computer mentioning encouraging girls to make every sacrifice needed to become close to young officers. Several other original documents that were filed by the prosecutors also show similar activities.

No proof or evidence

Çağaptay writes without any proof or evidence that “the Gülen-controlled parts of the judiciary and police have also wielded illegal wiretaps against those entangled in the Ergenekon case, leaking intimate details of their private lives.” But is it a coincidence that several Ergenekon suspects were caught with those recordings and pictures and sometimes they were caught not by the police but by the gendarmerie? Remember when former Land Forces Commander Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt was to be appointed the chief of General Staff; there was a bombardment of every single cell phone, e-mail inbox and Internet Web site accusing him of being everything from a secret Jew to a corrupt officer and so on. The oligarchy’s men instantly blamed their scapegoat Gülen at that time, but afterwards all these materials were found in the office of Büyükanıt’s rival for the position of chief of General Staff, Gen. Şener Eruygur (an Ergenekon suspect ), well protected in the army compounds. Gen. Eruygur today claims that he cannot remember anything. What is more, referring to this, Gen. Büyükanıt himself said he was also a victim of Ergenekon. One wonders why Çağaptay never mentions these important details but instead talks about rumors ,repeating what the Ergenekon suspects keep saying.

Çağaptay also claims that “the military … opposes the AKP and the Gülenists because it sees itself as the virtual guardian of Turkey’s secular polity à la Atatürk’s vision, serving as a bulwark against religion’s domination over politics and government.” But why does Çağaptay not look at the EU progress reports on Turkey that totally discredit his claims and ask for a more transparent, democracy-friendly and accountable army? Why do EU officials always reiterate that the Ergenekon case gives them hope for the future of Turkish democracy? It seems that everybody in the EU has become Gülen sympathizers! It seems that they are not as intelligent as Çağaptay!

Çağaptay also allegedly writes that Gülen said “to his followers in a message broadcast on Turkish TV in 1999 that ‘every method and path is acceptable [including] lying to people’.” Even in the doctored video that Çağaptay mentions , he never said this. Also, a staunchly secularist prosecutor prepared an indictment against Gülen based on this doctored video recording, and the Feb. 28 coup’s mighty generals openly supported him, but the courts, including the highest court, the Court of Cassation, found Gülen not guilty, as Çağaptay mentions only briefly.

A Gülen-Erbakan alliance?

He claims that the Islamist Welfare Party (RP) government was supported by the Gülen movement. I am sorry, but this is a very silly lie. It is known by everyone in Turkey that Gülen and Erbakan do not like each other. Gülen never supported Erbakan. Çağaptay seems to be ignorant of Turkish social and political history. Gülen always said that mixing religion with politics is a satanic act. There are countless documents, evidence and academic studies to show this. Diametrically opposed to what Çağaptay writes, Gülen did something very “unGülenic” and appeared on TV at the time and stated very powerfully that Erbakan should quit the government because the situation was extremely tense and he feared a coup that would end with bloodshed. It is easy to find newspaper pieces, comments on this and even the recording of the broadcast itself. Can Çağaptay show us even a single piece proving that Gülen supported Erbakan for one moment in his entire life? What actually happened was that after getting rid of the Islamic government, the anti-Islam coup went after all religious people, banned the headscarf at universities, banned parents sending under 15-year-olds to mosques in the summer holidays to receive religious education, tried to bankrupt religious businessmen and so on. Today, almost everyone remembers those days with a feeling of total disgust. Did you also know that the coup’s leader, Gen. Çevik Bir, said publicly that the AK Party was beneficial for the country?

Çağaptay also claims that “the AKP … is largely a reincarnation of the banned RP,” but there is no evidence to support this. Erbakan went on to establish his own party, and he accuses Erdoğan and his friends of being children of the Byzantine Empire and sheepish slaves of the West. Çağaptay and his friends can never explain why the Armenians in Turkey reportedly voted for the AK Party in the July 22, 2007 general elections, when the AK Party got 47 percent of the vote. Is it again a case of those people not being as intelligent as Çağaptay? I must note that I submitted a paper on the AK Party and its non-Islamism to a respected journal, and one of the reviewers was upset by the information on the pro-AK Party Armenian voting and did not hide his feelings, saying that this information was irrelevant. I wonder why?

Çağaptay is himself solid proof that the conspiracy theories he repeats about the Gülen movement are based on fabrications and lies, blanket accusations without any evidence, mind reading and disrespect for the judicial process in Turkey. These desperate attacks on the movement by Çağaptay, Michael Rubin, Rachel Sharon-Krespin, Barry Rubin and so on, will only strengthen the movement’s respected peaceful and pro-dialogue status.

Believe me, if he had any evidence against the Gülen movement, instead of humiliating himself once more and abusing Foreign Policy and its readers, Çağaptay would not hide it from his readers, unless he is also a secret Gülen sympathizer sacrificing himself and his academic career by way of strange tactics.

I did not write this piece because I take Çağaptay and his friends seriously. I do not. Google the net, and you will find thousands of conspiracy theories about Gülen (by the way, none of their writers got burned) on marginal anti-Islamic or ultra-nationalist Web sites. But I take Foreign Policy seriously, and I am sure they will tackle this abhorrent abuse of their good intentions.

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