Counter-Terrorism: The Turkish Old Boys Terrorist Network On Trial

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November 17, 2008: Over the last five months, Turkish police have uncovered a plot by "secular fundamentalists" to destabilize the government and try to coerce the military into staging another coup (there have been four in the past fifty years.) At the moment, 86 people are on trial, many of them retired generals, academics, journalists and leaders of organized crime.

It's called the "Ergenekon case" (after the legendary homeland of the Turks in Central Asia). What the case is all about is the radical fringe of the "old boys club", that has long supported a secular Turkey, forming a secret vigilante organization and using assassination and media manipulation to try and overthrow the current (and quite popular, especially at election time) Justice and Development Party (or AKP). The basic problem is that the "old boys" represent a corrupt way of doing business, using government access to get their way and not really believing in clean government and the will of the people. The AKP is all about fighting corruption and making the Turkish democracy more democratic. To that end, the AKP has attracted the support of a broad coalition of Turks, including religious conservatives (who always had a hard time of it from the secularists who turned Turkey into a democracy after the end of World War I, and the overthrow of the Sultan.) It's another case of yesterdays radicals becoming todays conservatives. While the original "Kemalists" (after Kemal Ataturk, the young general that led the 1920s revolution) were all about reforming Turkish society, they were never able to destroy the "old boys" network and all the corruption that went with it. Now the AKP is trying to overthrow the "old boys", and this trial is part of that. The army, long a bastion of Kemalists beliefs, is cooperating with the government, and distancing themselves from the "old boys." But the secular fundamentalists have lots of money, and lots of supporters (a large minority of Turks, 10-30 percent of the population, depending on how you measure that support.) What's going to kill the "old boys" is the revelations about misdeeds going back decades. This includes death squads, corrupting government officials, buying votes and all manner of skullduggery. No wonder they were a secret society.

 


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