Hard drives and the ‘Shadow State’


I was genuinely impressed by Italian director Marco Tullio Giordana’s film about the infamous Milan bombing in 1969. I regretted not watching it earlier. It was such a powerful reminder of Turkey in the same period, and what followed after.


Based on a meticulous historic and legal investigation, scripted as a first-class thriller, “Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy” tells about a demonic web of political intrigue in the top echelons of Italian power, as its “shadow state” — murky structures of agents, spies and informers who operate with the CIA’s rogue “Cold Warriors” and Italian fascists — managed a series of terror acts to unsettle the fragile democracy and join Greece and Portugal as dictatorships by staging a coup.

As they secretly conspire, we see a very gloomy Aldo Moro sensing the plotting, uncovering some of it and struggling to prevent it from happening. The rest is naked history: the entire 1970s as a nightmare not only in Italy, but also in Germany and Turkey, the climax being an attempt to assassinate the pope in 1982.

So many years after the end of the Cold War, we are still too busy — elsewhere (Pakistan and Afghanistan) desperately so — to face the remnants of the dirt mainly created by ill-thought-out American policies during that period. Turkey also has a long way to go because its civilian forces have in the past two decades faced fierce resistance from within.

In a recent interview with the Yeni Şafak daily, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the aftershocks of the Cold War have only started to hit the shores of this side of the world, the Balkans and Turkey, for real.

It is clear what he has in mind: the confrontation with Turkey’s deep structures, which managed to keep the country unstable and in a constant state of emergency since the 1950s until not so long ago.

Davutoğlu’s analysis is a valid one. It is also a widely shared view among those who tried to excavate the depths of the state that the most resilient Gladio-type of structure after the fall of Berlin Wall was in Turkey.

Why so long? Turkey’s remarkable delay, while other parts of NATO did some housecleaning and Eastern Europe bloomed into democracies, can be explained partly by its unbending generals, entrenched in their Kemalist dogma believing they can engineer society without changing an inch in a rapidly changing world.

But it has also to do with the civilian elite’s elevation of militarism to cult status, quasi-democracy as an ideal form of government, its media-worshipping and it fearing the army enough to be its servant, and a left — militarist also at its core — without any ability to relate itself to the fabric of Turkey’s reality.

The current struggle to deal with the remnants of the “shadow state” is very bumpy, but crucial. Militarism here is so deeply internalized in the mindset that cries such as “Ergenekon is fiction!” never lose their strength. The elite still seeks shelter in primitive reflexes so that subversive state structures remain in place because they are at a loss for any alternative to the current ruling party.

This fierce confrontation, as an unclosed chapter, reminds me of Spain, which keeps its ghosts of the Franco era under a lid.

The question is, of course, what will happen beyond Davutoğlu’s analysis. How determined is the civilian government to expose and abolish Turkey’s “shadow state”? The answers lie in the Special Warfare Department (ÖHD) within the army. Parliament’s investigation commission has already been given, by the state itself, lists of people belonging to “sleeper cells” — a total of around 100,000 people. In the most recent move, the army’s central command sent some hard drives to the prosecutors of the Ergenekon trial that show that the ÖHD, having been founded according to the “American theory,” was out of control for the past five to six decades. It reveals that if its “secret acts” (i.e., crimes) are exposed now, it will have a devastating effect on the army in the eyes of the public.

Need we say more about the urgency of the task?


About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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