"My name is State, Deep State"

I didn''t hear it with my own ears, since I was on my own TV show at the time, but I was told by several reliable sources that former President Suleyman Demirel, when confronted with the basic question of, "What do you mean by ''deep state''?" equated it with the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).

Well, this sounds too simplistic. Simple explanations can come in handy when necessary to understand complicated matters, but our major political reality isn''t that simple. What we envisage whenever this issue is raised and blame the army for it, is totally unjust towards our armed forces.

The army is most visible when things get out of hand. It does this by stepping in, or pushing politicians away from the political scene. But how can we forget the role played by Demirel himself when he tactfully instigated the process of Feb. 28, 1997, the so-called "postmodern coup?"

Some nightmares have a tendency to recur. Our fixation with the "deep state" is one of those. We''ve not only lost 30,000 lives in our fight against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers'' Party (PKK) since 1980, but before each military takeover terror on the streets also took innocent lives, making everybody feel insecure and then ready to accept any quick fix to remedy that insecurity. The last serious coup took place in late 1980, and the months leading up to military intervention witnessed at least 5,000 street killings, including some political assassinations, which created havoc at the time.

I may have expected all along that Mr. Demirel has been under the impression that the army is solely responsible for any out-of-the-ordinary happenings in Turkey. It''s on record that he voiced this suspicion long after he was overthrown in 1980. He remarked once that on the last day of his civilian government in September 1980 the streets of Ankara, together with many cities of Anatolia, were covered in blood, and the next day, when the military relieved him off his duties as prime minister, calm and tranquility reigned in Turkey. "How did this come about?" he quipped.

Gen. Bedrettin Demirel, a high-ranking junta member during the Sept. 12 coup, and no relation to our former president, once said very clearly that their original intention was to take over power sometime in July that year, but they waited a bit longer so that public opinion would mature as a result of terrorist activities in the meantime. We never took this slip of tongue as a confession of the army''s complicity in street fighting, and I still don''t.

Whoever accepts the simplistic definition of the "deep state" arguably existing in Turkey, they would face a real dilemma when the time comes to pass judgment on the second coup.

In March 1971, the army forced the elected government to tender its resignation, but kept the Parliament open. This happened on March 12. Several months later, it was revealed that the "soft" coup of March 12, was in fact a counter-coup organized to counterbalance another one planned for three days earlier (March 9) by leftist officers.

This dichotomy of leftist-rightist elements was also an issue in our first-ever military coup carried out against the popular Democrat Party (DP) government which ruled the country between 1950 and 1960. The officers responsible for the coup of May 27, 1960 were at war with each other within a year. A right-wing faction was purged from the ranks of the governing National Unity Council by the others.

When we accept that "deep state" is equivalent to "military," as Mr. Demirel asks us to do, how can we understand the complexity of relations between coup-plotting factions? Which faction represented the "deep state" in the coups of 1960 and 1971?

One of the most intriguing aspects of our recent history is the so-called "postmodern coup" of Feb. 28, 1997. It needed a set of conspiracies to realize it. Some young ladies with headscarves took the stage, convincing the public that some shenanigans were going on behind the scenes and Turkey would have become the captive of the forces of fundamentalism.

Years later, a transvestite known as Sisi confessed to a lady journalist that everything which turned the public''s stomachs at the time was orchestrated by her. How can we believe that the army is exclusively responsible for paving the way for the government change in 1997? Nobody in their right mind can accept that Sisi was working for the military.

It''s all very well for our former president to tell "deep state" stories retrospectively. He''s been overthrown twice during his long political life, and with his aptly gained experience in politics he himself prepared the way for the last one when he was president. His only military credential is a short tenure as second lieutenant, like all university graduates.

There''s no doubt that in Turkey we have a mechanism which goes into action automatically whenever politicians show a lack of vigor when they''re in power, but this isn''t what we call a "state within the state," or "deep state." "Deep state" is the name of a body what makes politicians look bad after some intrigue, and even conspiracy, in the eyes of the public. It''s totally unjust if we put all the blame on the army.

With all due respect to his vast experience, I must emphasis that our problem is more complicated than what Mr. Demirel thinks it is.

From The New Anatolian, April 19, 2005

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