Turkey is a country whose army has interfered with its political system numerous times, to the extent that military “guardianship” of the state was institutionalized. Turkey suffered six military coups, –two successful (27th May 1960, 12th September 1980) and four failed (22nd February 1962, 21st May 1963, 9th March 1971, 15th July 2016). It also faced military memorandums, warnings, and ultimatoms, of which two forced the resignations of administrations (12th March 1971, 28th February 1997) and one was thwarted (27th April 2007).
All these nine coups, coup attempts, and memorandums have one thing in common: They have all been done in the name of Atatürk.
The 27th April military memorandum stated that “In short, anyone who opposes the Supreme Leader Atatürk’s credo, “Happy is the one who says I am a Turk,” is and will always be the enemy of the Turkish Republic.”
Announcement “Number one” of 12th September included 13 references to Atatürk. One of them was: “We have no doubt that our great nation will trust the Turkish Armed Forces administration which takes no sides in this polarization in our country and acts only in accordance with Atatürk’s principles.”
The failed coup attempt on March 9th, 1971 had the aim of fulfilling Kemalist reforms. Had the coup succeeded, the Revolution Party, whose party constitution had references to Atatürk in every paragraph, would have ruled the country. Two of the three sentences in the March 12th military memorandum — which was a response to the March 9th coup attempt — referred to Atatürk: “…has lost the hope of achieving the level of civilization that Atatürk set as a goal…”, “…it is deemed vital to establish a strong and reliable administration within democratic regulations in order to fulfill the reforms envisioned in the constitution in a pro-Atatürk manner and to execute the revolution laws…”.
The declaration read by Tank Commander First Lieutenant İlhan Baş on the radio during Talat Aydemir’s second coup attempt underlined that the armed forces “acted fully in compliance with Atatürk’s principles.” The first Aydemir coup attempt on 22nd February 1962 didn’t have such a declaration but Aydemir was a strict Kemalist whose “blue eyes” were said to be “reflecting Atatürk” in them.
Contrary to popular belief, Atatürk’s name was mentioned only in the last sentence of the coup memorandum that Alparslan Türkeş read on 27th May 1960:
“We adress to our allies, neighbours and the whole world. Our purpose is to completely abide by the UN constitution and human rights. Our flag is the Great Atatürk’s principle of “Peace at home, peace in the world.” We are loyal to all our alliances and all our commitments. We esteem NATO and CENTO and adhere to them. Our motto is “Peace at home, peace in the world”.
56 years later, you may have re-lived those calamitous moments while watching the putsch declaration being read on TRT.
But before we go there, we must say what these coups have in common is that they try to woo the world with various statements.
That was the case with the 27th May 1960 coup. On 12th April 1980, Kenan Evren had this to say:
“We believe that any threats to our country will be thwarted by sticking with “Peace at home, peace in the world” principle in policy, by fully comprehending the spirit of national struggle, and of being loyal to Atatürk’s principles and revolutions.
The Republic of Turkey is determined, based on mutual respect and sovereignty, to improve its economic, social and cultural relations with all countries on equal terms and with the condition of not interfering with each other’s domestic affairs and by abiding all alliances including with NATO.”
It was later revealed that Cemal Madanoğlu, the member of the junta which attempted an anti-American, third-world coup on March the 9th,1971, visited CIA Ankara Chief Ruzi Nazar to ask for support for the coup a few days before.
There was also a reference to Atatürk in the July 15, 2016 coup memorandum which was put up on the website of the TAF and read on TRT: “The Turkish Armed Forces, the guardian of our republic which was founded by Great Atatürk’s leadership and our people’s extraordinary sacrifice, moves from the principle of Peace at Home…”.
But this memorandum has a difference from the previous coup memorandums.
The putschists chose their name directly from Atatürk’s quote: Peace at Home Council. But this wasn’t a coincidence.
What was more interesting is that this coup memorandum, published at 00.45, discussed “basic human rights, the struggle against corruption, the creation of a constitution without discrimination against any language, religion or ethnic groups” and even “an autocracy based on fear.”
If you translated this text to English with a few modifications here and there, it might be confused with a NY Times editorial. Or if this was a petition, a good number of intellectuals would sign under it.
In this text we come across a certain concern and a criticism for the first time. In fact two times. First in the portrayal section:
“Our state has lost the reputation it deserves in international arena…”
Then among the assurances: “To re-acquire the lost international reputation of our country and its people…”.
The coup memorandum was designed as if it were addressing the international community, starting with the junta’s choice of name. However, it wasn’t just addressing; it also made promises and gave guarantees. Even better, it did exactly that in the sentence containing the catharsis moment of all military memorandums: “… seizes state control with the intention to restore more powerful cooperation in the international arena in order to ensure peace and stability…”.
The Obama administration and European leaders perhaps took this sentence as a sign of full cooperation against ISIS, got excited, and waited for the coup attempt’s outcome for quite some time.
But this is the one way to take it with the best of intentions. If you look at the next quote from the text, you might infer that this wasn’t the first time they heard about those commitments and guarantees: “The Peace at Home Council took all necessary measures to fulfill all obligations to international institutions, including the UN-NATO…”.
Exactly how did they take these measures? Apart from the obvious measures at hand, what could they have done and who could they have talked to about international commitments? We are going to continue tracing the version of Turkey which Gülen promised to the world and its keen buyers. Gülen, the leader of the Peace at Home Junta, to whom, on the night of the coup, the Chief of Staff was offered the opportunity to talk with…