When Recep Tayyip Erdogan jailed an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, and held him as a hostage, Donald Trump tried to get the fellow released. This effort failing, he chose to respond with sanctions. Erdogan struck back with demagogic speeches about this being an attack on Turkey.
The man in the Oval Office is unlikely to back down. He is not one to let go if someone locks horns with him. While there could be a cooling-off period, both sides are going the other way. Here is a preview of what Trump may be saying next about Erdogan:
Last year, Erdogan had an American pastor arrested for preaching Christianity. He did this as part of his campaign of persecuting non-Muslims in his country. The man in the Big Palace has been holding the pastor the same way he has held several Europeans: As a hostage, so he can get more of what he wants out of the West.
He has had this good pastor falsely accused of participating in an alleged coup attempt two years ago. The only reason he’s doing this is to whip up nationalistic hatred.
This only reinforces the doubts that every intelligent person had about whether it was a real coup attempt at all two years ago in Turkey, or just a staged one. There are plenty of people who thought it was put on by the government, for the sake of purging and jailing its opponents.
We need not do more than to listen to Erdogan’s own declarations. He openly called that “coup” an opportunity for purging his enemies. Just as soon as he defeated the alleged coup attempt, he had a very long list of thousands of enemies at the ready.
His forces moved immediately to arrest these folks. For most of them, their only failing it is that they don’t blindly follow Erdogan.
Erdogan was also immediately ready to organize a mass mobilization against the alleged coup, and to synchronize the mosques for this. These are steps that required lots of advanced preparation.
Ruling in an ever more totalitarian fashion, Erdogan has taken control over all public institutions – the media and the schools, the courts and the police, the civil bureaucracy and the armed forces.
At least 50,000 people have been arrested and 150,000 purged. His Islamist party, AKP, has used these methods to consolidate control in practically all of the structures of Turkish life.
Already years ago, Erdogan marginalized the traditional secular Turkish parties, leaving only his fellow Islamists as potential rivals to himself. That is probably why he turned to accusing his former main Islamist ally, a fellow named Gülen, of plotting against him.
Previously, Gülen was Erdogan´s most important domestic ally. He led the Islamist religious movement, while Erdogan led the Islamist political party.
Very much with the support of Erdogan’s party, Gülen had built up a state within the state. But then Erdogan decided that, to consolidate his power, the imprint that Gülen left on public life in Turkey needed to be removed completely.
The corruption issue
Let´s also remember that the real reason for the fallout between the two was that Gülen´s forces, strongly represented in the body of public prosecutors, were closing in on the massive acts of corruption that Erdogan and his immediate family systematically organized.
We now see the economic fallout from that the completely unacceptable way in which Erdogan and his clan rigged the system. To continue their pilfering, Gülen´s forces had to be removed from any and all levers of power in Turkey.
Little wonder then that Erdogan was immediately ready to blame the alleged coup on Gülen. No surprise either that Erdogan´s supporters physically attacked houses owned by the Gülen movement in Belgium, where they had to be protected by the police.
It was also only logical that Erdogan demanded the extradition of Gülen and Gülenists from the West. Now, the Gülenists are anything but squeaky clean. But Germany, Britain and the United States have all found that Erdogan had produced no convincing evidence to justify his extradition demands. They want no part of Erdogan´s witch hunt.
Erdogan responded to this refusal to oblige him with demagogic attacks on Western countries. He has lied repeatedly to accuse us of supporting terrorism and threatened us with various forms of harm.
We need to defend our values
Up to now, ours has been a minimal response, politely and honestly defending ourselves against his demagogic attacks, but not saying much more. Meanwhile Erdogan has been constantly on the offensive with his dishonesty, riling up the Turkish people against us.
So that we prevent Turkey´s continuing drift and stand closely with the freedom-loving and rule-of-law respecting segments of the Turkish population, it is time for us to be more full-blooded in our honesty and defense of our values.
Our press and governments should from now on always call the events of two years ago what they are — not a “coup attempt” but an “alleged coup attempt.”
Erdogan has provided no good evidence, not even after two years, to demonstrate that it was a real coup attempt and not just a staged event.
There’s even a detailed report of the Stockholm Center for Freedom, which found evidence from four days before the ostensible coup that a plan was circulated, with Erdogan’s approval, in the Armed Forces to make it look like there was a coup attempt.
The closest thing we have to a competing explanation — the reason we’re not sure it was a faked coup — is that it could have been that Erdogan was starting to implement his plans for purging everyone even before the alleged coup.
Falling into Erdogan’s trap
Now, it´s certainly possible that a few people really did try at the last moment to stage a coup in order to save themselves and their country from getting purged totally. But they basically fell into to trap that Erdogan and Turkey´s very powerful domestic intelligence services had set for them.
We’re not getting honest information from the Turkish regime and given that it controls the investigation, we’ll never know.
It’s sad that most of our press and eager-to-please Western governments have become lazy about this. They have developed a habit of calling it a “coup attempt,” when they do not in fact know that it was any such thing.
It’s high time to stop being complicit in playing Erdogan´s PR game and start being honest to the public. From all we know for sure, it’s just an alleged coup attempt. The Erdogan regime is profiting from it enormously, to pseudo-legitimize its totalitarian turn and to conduct purges from top to bottom.
Calling a spade a spade
We need to start calling a spade a spade. As far as I´m concerned, from now on, it’s not “the coup attempt,” but “the alleged coup attempt,” and “the probably fake coup attempt.”
From now on, when Turkey takes hostages from the West, it’s a rogue actor in a class with the terrorists, and with the other rogue regimes that take hostages.
Erdogan needs to release all of his hostages from America, starting with Pastor Brunson but not stopping with him. And release all his hostages from European countries.
Until he does, we will build on the sanctions that we started with earlier this month against two of Erdogan’s cronies, and add sanctions on all his cronies and banks.
Turkey’s future in NATO
Let´s also not kid ourselves: Erdogan has been acting more and more as an enemy in major geopolitical situations in the world. He´s not much of a NATO ally. The most he could claim to be is a frenemy.
“We have to diminish our exposure with him. We are going to reduce our intelligence risk in sharing information with him. And he had better not imagine we would let him screw up NATO. Turkey is a member of NATO, but its role and influence there is entirely at the sufferance of the rest of us — the real-life allies.
No, we’re not going to kick Turkey out of NATO. Turkey remains legally allied with us, and it has to respect its obligations, the same way we do.
Fortunately, we have ample ways to prevent Turkey from wrecking the alliance. The courtesies of the alliance apply to real allies. When we wait for consensus before making a joint decision, as we usually do, this is a matter of courtesy. Nothing obligates us to do this.
We simply have the common sense to get a consensus among countries that are behaving as allies. We will also have the common sense not to wait for consensus with countries that are behaving as adversaries.
Making Turkey great again
But let´s also be very clear on this: In fact, we are not going to intervene in Turkey’s system of government. It is not our business. If Turks want to get out from under a totalitarian regime, as I think they should to make the most out of their country and its potential, then Turks must tackle that task themselves.
Countries cannot expect us to solve their domestic problems. We have a fond memory of the Turks as a people who heroically worked their way into the modern world. A people won for themselves a unique amount of freedom in Middle Eastern conditions.
We have not forgotten how they have been good allies for many decades, supporting us just as we supported them.
It is up to the good people of Turkey, not to us, to decide how to Make Turkey Great Again. What they can rest assured of is this: We are not against them.
Erdogan needs to release all of his hostages from America, starting with Pastor Brunson. And release all his hostages from European countries.
Erdogan has been acting more and more as an enemy in major geopolitical situations in the world. He´s not much of a NATO ally. The most he could claim to be is a frenemy.
We now see the economic fallout from the completely unacceptable way in which Erdogan and his clan rigged the system.
It is up to the good people of Turkey to decide how to Make Turkey Great Again.