SALI TKR: 13:30
CAMİ KIŞLA PARANTEZİNDE TÜRKİYE
Mehmet Altan'ın imzalı "Cami Kışla Parantezinde Türkiye" kitabı www.kitapyurdu.com' da
Söyleşi ve imza günü 12.Mayıs.2012
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Röportajlar > [MONDAY TALK]
Altan says neither optimism nor despair prevails in Turkey An intellectual, academic and writer, Mehmet Altan says Turkey has been rapidly sliding toward militarization although the government swept almost 47 percent of the vote but finds itself on the brisk of a cross-border operation only 90 days after its landslide victory in the July 22 elections.
Analyzing the first three months of the government in power in his most recent book “The AK Party with Its Rights and Wrongs,” Altan argues that since the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) did not take the initiative to produce a civilian constitution quickly and expedite the negotiating process with the European Union, the country is facing a climate of terror.
“Perhaps because we don’t ask the most important questions, Turkey is being carried away toward a climate of terror instead of democracy. We have fallen into this trap where the killers of our soldiers control the agenda and become a country steering toward the direction desired by terrorism,” says Altan, a professor at the İstanbul University Faculty of Economics and chief columnist at Star newspaper.
For Monday Talk, Altan explained what the most important questions are, why the government has fallen into the trap of choosing military options and why the Turkish nation has been unable to question its institutions.
Evaluating the government’s first three months, you don’t think the AK Party is as strong now as it was following the election. Why?
As one out of two people voted for the AK Party, the election result was also perceived as people claiming democracy against the army’s e-memorandum of April 27. So we were expecting an AK Party government that would be far more reformist, revolutionary and ready to connect the world with Turkey. However, we don’t currently have a scene in which people’s hopes are being met, and they’re given the strength to look to the future with greater confidence, although it has already been three months since they came to power.
What could the government do to meet expectations?
The AK Party had two main instruments to meet these hopes and to respond to the people’s desire for more democracy. One was the promise to expedite the EU process and the other was to improve the reformist side of Turkey while drafting a new and civilian constitution that would transform the military and civilian bureaucracy into the people’s sovereignty. It was brought to public attention but since then has been forgotten. What’s more, the constitution of a country which has become so intimate with the EU should not be so hard to draft. Not only has the civilian constitution been forgotten, but also there is no trace of the ninth harmonization package. As a result of a faulty analysis that political nationalism was on the rise, the AK Party did not bring the package to notice deliberately, even though it was obvious that Turkey’s progress report would be negative; more importantly, the package contained elements that would better serve the Turkish nation’s interests.
So what is the situation now?
The AK Party’s decision not to take these steps has given rise to a bigger wave of militarization and nationalism and caused terrorism to occupy the entire agenda while the government has begun to lose its grip on the situation. If the AK Party had taken this initiative in the first 90 days of its government, we would not be at this point. The political power has slipped out of the government’s hands. The country is burning under the scorching sun of political nationalism and rapidly sliding toward militarization. Perhaps because we don’t ask the most important questions, Turkey is being carried away toward a climate of terror instead of democracy. We have fallen into this trap where the killers of our soldiers control the agenda and we become a country steering toward the direction desired by terrorism.
What are the most important questions which should be asked?
It’s as simple as questioning the reason for a water cut. For example, the US Army suffered from battle casualties to such a great extent during the Vietnam War that army officials developed a strategy called “zero casualties.” Their objective in this strategy was to protect the soldiers at all costs and not condone any further losses in the army. Yet the Turkish nation loses its tongue when the subject is its military. As we all consider the military to be the boss of the country, we abstain from discussing its flaws. Some 90,000 Turkish soldiers froze to death during the Sarıkamış campaign in World War I because of Enver Pasha’s incapable commandership; he ordered his desperately weakened soldiers to attack. In the wake of the tragedy, some other commanders questioned Enver Pasha, who defended himself by saying, “They would have died anyway.” No one questioned him again, perhaps because of the reservation within the population to discuss weaknesses and flaws of the army.
And today, the society doesn’t question how it was possible for an outstanding Turkish brigade to be attacked by the PKK?
The Bolu Commando Brigade is one of the most outstanding brigades in the Turkish army. I just don’t understand how one of its squads was entrapped, another group of brigades was attacked, a bridge was blown up and eight soldiers taken captive. We’ve even forgotten the captives. We all know how Israel defied the whole world for one of its soldiers; Turkey wants to launch a cross-border operation. But we don’t ask ourselves whether we will suffer further losses if we embark on such an operation without analyzing the attacks waged within our borders, re-examining the flaws of the military and scrutinizing the reason why the terrorist organization martyred so many soldiers. The ones who prevent us from pondering all of these are busy with sparking a wave of nationalism within society. The Turkish state will undoubtedly grow stronger if the army revises its structure and discovers out its weaknesses. If we don’t ask these questions, we will go and keep looking for the answers outside. Let us first deal with the elements within our borders. How did they dare to attack the battalion? There has to be an answer.
You were in Europe recently. How do they perceive Turkey’s problems there?
In addition to the AK Party’s loss of initiative, efforts to make a civilian constituton got a hit, and an inward-looking atmosphere prevailed so Turkey’s image in the international arena is going down. The world doesn’t regard the terror activities of the PKK as we do, as how it has caused us to suffer. It considers this matter a regional Turkish-Kurdish question. Looking at foreign news, Turkey has the image of a country which has been continuously developing for five years, getting more global in terms of economics and which began the negotiation process with the EU and took some steps; but it also has another image: the image of a country that is militarized, going into a war, dealing with the deaths and distressed by ethnic conflict.
You always argue that Turkey’s biggest opposition is the European Union.
The EU is Turkey’s historical fault line. Here we could never be abreast with the times, because the Ottoman land system was against the accumulation of capital. This prevented the development of a bourgeoisie, a proletariat or an industrial movement. The Ottoman land system was very different from feudalism. Unless the accumulation of capital is allowed, it is unavoidable to remain backward. This country has understood since the 1600s that it has to keep abreast of the times. It has been trying to make reforms since 1622, under the reign of Osman II, but the line of the reforms has always been wrong. It was thought that imitating the consumption model of the West would bring us modernism. Kemalism made the same mistake as well. The mistake at the core of all reformist movements from Osman II to Kemalism was assuming that imitating that model would take us further. However, the component that has brought the West the success is production, not consumption.
Did the EU process introduce the value of production in Turkey, where the individual is so weak?
The European Union process helped Turkey’s production system to transform. The number of villagers was reduced to 27 million from 33 million. This process, which brought about the formation of democratic legislation and implementation of the Copenhagen criteria, was not welcomed by those favoring the status quo. Therefore, those who oppose Turkey’s accession to the EU will, unfortunately, be a component of the status quo. The individual is strong in the West. The freedom, life and prosperity of the governed have value there. They are human-centered societies, whereas here, those who govern are important. The regime of the sultanate hasn’t undergone a major change in Turkey. The real boss of the state is still bureaucracy, and people continue being the subjects of the system. As people still try to lean on the state as much as possible and expect benefits, we’ll be unable to form a human-centered structure as in the West.
Are you hopeful about the future?
In the first three years of AK Party rule I witnessed changes and developments that I wouldn’t have imagined I’d witness until the end of my life. This party assumed a significant role in introducing striking reforms in various fields thanks to the EU project. Taking this into consideration, there is no need for despair -- or too much optimism. Turkey is a country full of surprises. It is a multi-faceted, labile and interesting country; it is always difficult to analyze. The government, which swept almost 47 percent of the vote, currently finds itself on the brink of a cross-border operation, only 90 days after its landslide election victory. It’s like they pushed a button to disrupt the country’s stability.
We lost 97 of our citizens to traffic accidents during the Ramadan holiday, and nobody moved a muscle. It is like there is a secret hand trying to use the PKK problem to its own benefit, rather than concern over whether our people live or not. And this hand might be devising a plan to detach Turkey from the West -- to force it to retire into itself, drag it into greater trouble and finally, cause the civilian government to lose all its power
Isn’t the government aware of it, if there is such a plan?
The AK Party has two faces; the former is stuck in the status quo while the latter strives to take steps to change the country’s traditional ways. One conveys the demands of the status quo seekers to the state and one endeavors to represent the state. It will not be possible to smooth this process of transition unless the AK Party clarifies its stance and identity. It has followed a zigzag course in the past, as well.