Was the failed coup a Reichstag fire?

Was the failed coup a Reichstag fire? July 20, 2016

So I told you in my prior post that we drove to Lindau as one of our last activities on our vacation.  And, since this was the day after the coup attempt in Turkey, we listened to the local news station on the radio as we drove, and I tried to follow along.  Now I’m trying to play catch-up, especially with emerging reports that the coup itself was so badly managed that there’s speculation that Erdogan himself was behind it.

Oh, and I have a good dozen tabs open in my browser right now; it’s a wonder that it’s not causing my computer to crash.  So I’m going to share these links with you and add some commentary.

The bottom line:  I really, really hesitate to engage in conspiracy theory discussions.  Did Erdogan instigate the coup in some manner?  It’s not outside the realm of possibility.  But of greater importance is the actions that Erdogan has taken since then, and continues to take — a massive purge, which so far has resulted in sacking upwards of 50,000 government employees and detaining nearly 10,000.  (See, most recently, this AFP article.)  So far this isn’t a Night of the Long Knives-style purge, insofar as no one has been extrajudicially killed, though he has raised the prospect of reinstating the death penalty that the country had abolished in 2004 as a precondition for entering the EU, and whether the detainees will be afforded due process of law or subject to show trials is not clear to me.

Erdogan is following a Putinesque model, maintaining the appearance of democracy while installing himself as an ever-more authoritarian ruler.  How far he will go is unknown, but of greater concern is how the U.S. and the European Union will react.  Does Erdogan wield enough power, with the threat to send 3 million refugees onward to Europe, and due to the (at least nominal) military cooperation against ISIS, for the U.S. and the EU to stay silent about the purge, and shrug it off as not really particular bad compared to other unfree allies such as Saudi Arabia?

That being said, Legal Insurrection cited a Reuters report that quoted an EU commissioner,

“It looks at least as if something has been prepared. The lists are available, which indicates it was prepared and to be used at a certain stage,” [Johannes] Hahn said.

and also shared an Independent article that said,

Ryan Heath, the senior EU correspondent at Politico, used Twitter to share comments from his “Turkish source”, who called the events of Friday night a “fake coup” which would help a “fake democracy warrior” [Erdogan].

The source said: “Probably we’ll see an early election [in] which he’ll try to guarantee an unbelievable majority of the votes. And this will probably guarantee another 10-15 years of authoritarian, elected dictatorship.

“We’ll possibly see a change in the constitution for worse, which secularism will be gone and Islamist motifs will be in!”

Using the hashtag #TheatreNotCoup, a Twitter user calling himself Subsidiarity Man wrote: “Two words: Reichstag fire. The year was 1933 and you know what happened next.”

Another Twitter user quoted “my special friend in Istanbul” as calling what happened: “Most probably a real coup attempt, which was vaguely known beforehand, and was allowed to proceed, because they knew it to be disorganised and weak.

A PJ Media article further reported on the various ways in which the coup leaders seemed fundamentally incompetent and suggested that it was entirely possible that the coup was staged.

And a Slate article reported on the coup mismanagement, then speculated

That these arrests and suspensions have come so quickly hints that they were most likely prepared beforehand, and may well have triggered the coup when word leaked out.

There’s further analysis from the AEI, which again, reports on the conspiracy theory as one possible explanation, as does Observer.com, which says

The military has always represented a stumbling-block to Erdoğan’s increasingly overt plans to re-Islamize Turkey. Although the country is 99 percent Muslim, the Kemalist legacy of official secularism meant that for decades Islam was kept out of politics in way that’s seldom encountered in the Muslim world. That the AKP has undone.

To achieve that, Erdoğan has ruled Turkey in a manner similar to how Vladimir Putin has run Russia. There are elections, sometimes of dubious validity. Increasing numbers of officials are appointed by the ruling party rather than elected. The state indirectly controls most of the media, with newspapers and websites the ruling party doesn’t like being shut down unceremoniously. Thuggish police do dirty work as needed. Arrest awaits more forthright regime opponents, real and imagined.

No Turkish institution has suffered more from the heavy hand of Erdoğan than the military. Its senior ranks have been purged several times in an effort to force out secularists in favor of officers of an Islamist bent. The biggest purge came with the so-called Ergenekon trials, which lasted from 2008 and 2013, and posited a vast military-led conspiracy against the government. Even in Turkey, which loves conspiracies in every form, this was far-fetched. Nevertheless, several top generals received extended prison terms for their alleged roles in the alleged conspiracy—which never seems to have existed outside the imagination of the AKP.

After that debacle, which destroyed the morale of secularist officers, many of whom left the service in fear and disgust, it’s difficult to see how the Turkish military could have managed to plan a serious coup against the ruling party.

According to The Daily Caller, the accused ringleader of the coup has denied involvement.

What’s to be expected next?  The Daily Caller, again, cites analysts concerned that Turkey could begin to resemble Pakistan, though the language seems fairly speculative:

And a report by the Institute for the Study of War warns that a stronger Erdogan regime might adopt a system of state-sponsored terrorism similar to Pakistan.

The parallel is drawn on the strategy of harboring al-Qaida operatives.

“A partnership with al-Qaeda could grant [Erdogan] a powerful proxy force to achieve national security objectives without relying on the Turkish Military,” the report says.

Heat Street takes the corruption angle and suggests that the funds that both Gulen’s supporters and the Turkish government have been sending off to the Clinton Foundation and to lobbyist groups mean that the U.S. government’s action will be based on who buys their support.

More immediate is the question of Turkey’s demand that the U.S. extradite the accused plotter Fethullah Gulen; Jazz Shaw at Hot Air looks at the situation and writes,

Turkey has most of the cards in this game. Yes, they could use the good will of the United States in their ongoing negotiations with Europe, but at the moment we seem to need them more than they need us. This demand to ship off Gulen to them may be a bridge too far however, since he’ll likely wind up with his feet dangling in a vat of acid shortly after he arrives. The question we need to wrestle with is precisely how valuable Gulen is to us and if we’re willing to sacrifice him as a pawn in the bigger game.

And that is the bottom line question for which we’re waiting for an answer.

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