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The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan
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As Donald Trump prepares for his inauguration, he is struggling with opposition from the US media, intelligence agencies, government apparatus, parts of the Republican Party and a significant portion of the American population. Impressive obstacles appear to prevent him exercising arbitrary power.

He should take heart: much the same was said in Turkey of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2002 when he led his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to the first of four election victories. He faced an army that, through coups and the threat of coups, was the ultimate source of power in the country, and a secular establishment suspicious of his Islamist beliefs. But over the years he has outmanoeuvred or eliminated his enemies and – using a failed military coup on 15 July last year as an excuse – is suppressing and punishing all signs of dissent as “terrorism”.

As Trump enters the White House, the AKP and far right nationalist super majority in the Turkish parliament is this month stripping the assembly of its powers and transferring them wholesale to the presidency. President Erdogan will become an elected dictator able to dissolve parliament, veto legislation, decide the budget, appoint ministers who do not have to be MPs along with senior officials and heads of universities.

All power will be concentrated in Erdogan’s hands as the office of prime minister is abolished and the president, who can serve three five year terms, takes direct control of the intelligence services. He will appoint senior judges and the head of state institutions including the education system.

These far-reaching constitutional changes are reinforcing an ever-expanding purge begun after the failed military coup last year, in which more than 100,000 civil servants have been detained or dismissed. This purge is now reaching into every walk of life, from liberal journalists to businessmen who have seen $10bn in assets confiscated by the state.

The similarities between Erdogan and Trump are greater than they might seem, despite the very different political traditions in the US and Turkey.

The parallel lies primarily in the methods by which both men have gained power and seek to enhance it. They are populists and nationalists who demonise their enemies and see themselves as surrounded by conspiracies. Success does not sate their pursuit of more authority.

Hopes in the US that, after Trump’s election in November, he would shift from aggressive campaign mode to a more conciliatory approach have dissipated over the last two months. Towards the media his open hostility has escalated, as was shown by his abuse of reporters at his press conference this week.

Manic sensitivity to criticism is a hallmark of both men. In Trump’s case this is exemplified by his tweeted denunciation of critics such as Meryl Streep, while in Turkey 2,000 people have been charged with insulting the president. One man was tried for posting on Facebook three pictures of Gollum, the character in The Lord of the Rings, with similar facial features to pictures of Erdogan posted alongside. Of the 259 journalists in jail around the world, no less than 81 are in Turkey. American reporters may not yet face similar penalties, but they can expect intense pressure on the institutions for which they work to mute their criticisms.

Turkey and the US may have very different political landscapes, but there is a surprising degree of uniformity in the behaviour of Trump and Erdogan. The same is true of populist, nationalist, authoritarian leaders who are taking power in many different parts of the world from Hungary and Poland to the Philippines. Commentators have struggled for a phrase to describe this phenomenon, such as “the age of demagoguery”, but this refers only to one method – and that not the least important – by which such leaders gain power.

This type of political leadership is not new: the most compelling account of it was written 70 years ago in 1947 by the great British historian Sir Lewis Namier, in an essay reflecting on what he termed “Caesarian democracy”, which over the previous century had produced Napoleon III in France, Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany. His list of the most important aspects of this toxic brand of politics is as relevant today as it was when first written, since all the items apply to Trump, Erdogan and their like.

Namier described “Caesarian democracy” as typified by “its direct appeal to the masses: demagogical slogans; disregard of legality despite a professed guardianship of law and order; contempt of political parties and the parliamentary system, of the educated classes and their values; blandishments and vague, contradictory promises to all and sundry; militarism; gigantic blatant displays and shady corruption. Panem et circenses [bread and circuses] once more – and at the end of the road, disaster.”

Disaster comes in different forms. One disability of elected dictators or strongmen is that, impelled by an exaggerated idea of their own capacity, they undertake foreign military adventures beyond their country’s strength. As an isolationist Trump might steer clear of such quagmires, but most of his senior security appointments show a far more aggressive and interventionist streak.

A strength of President Obama was that he had a realistic sense of what was attainable by the US in the Middle East without starting unwinnable wars as President George W Bush did in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the presidential election campaign, Trump showed signs of grasping – as Hillary Clinton did not – that Americans do not want to fight another ground war in the Middle East or anywhere else. But this naturally limits US influence in the world and will be at odds with Trump’s slogan about “making America great again.”


The disaster that Namier predicted was the natural end of elected dictators has already begun to happen in Turkey. The Turkish leader may have succeeded in monopolising power at home, but at the price of provoking crises and deepening divisions within Turkish society. The country is embroiled in the war in Syria, thanks to Erdogan’s ill-judged intervention there since 2011. This led to the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) establishing a de facto state in northern Syria and Isis doing the same in Syria and Iraq. At home, Erdogan restarted the war with the Turkish Kurds for electoral reasons in 2015 and the conflict is now more intractable than ever.

Every few weeks in Turkey there is another terrorist attack which is usually the work of Isis or a faction of the PKK – although the government sometimes blames atrocities on the followers of Fethullah Gulen, who are alleged to have carried out the attempted military coup last July. In addition to this, there is an escalating financial crisis, which has seen the Turkish lira lose 12 per cent of its value over the last two weeks. Foreign and domestic investment is drying up as investors become increasingly convinced that Turkey has become chronically unstable.

Erdogan and Trump have a further point in common: both have an unquenchable appetite for power and achieve it by exploiting and exacerbating divisions within their own countries.

They declare they will make their countries great again, but in practise make them weaker.

They are forever sawing through the branch on which they – and everybody else – are sitting.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump, Erdogan, Turkey 
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  1. “They are populists and nationalists who demonise their enemies and see themselves as surrounded by conspiracies. Success does not sate their pursuit of more authority.”

    Give me a break. First, Trump was Hitler. But then, Putin is Hitler. So now Trump has to be a different villain – ergo, he’s Erdogan!

    Erdogan is the head of a nation within NATO, which is on the warpath against Russia – at the bottom of it, is the bottom line – vast windfall war profits for the corporate merchants of death, now become the biggest of our businesses. He’s not rocking that warship.

    In our case, there really are conspiracies, by our own professional conspirators, the “intelligence community,” who thrive on finding out everything about you, but allowing nothing to be known about them. The folks who put all our communications under mass surveillance, doing a “full take” to be used against anyone later if that is seen as useful. The folks who find out the truth we aren’t allowed to know, then output leaks and lies to manipulate opinion and policy. Should real information be disclosed to the public, the whistleblower becomes Enemy of the State #1.

    We don’t need populist conspiracy theories, when we have a Washington crowd of power holders and power seekers fomenting plenty of their own, exposing to the people the kind of disinformation campaigns formerly used to overthrow or even assassinate foreign leaders who try to be accountable to their own people, instead of to the covert Deep State’s controllers.

    Someone who deviated from the status quo loyalties to globalism and its transnational elites just got elected. And as yesterday’s lies endlessly repeated, become the foundational truth for today’s
    greater lies, the propaganda blitz does away with truth altogether, in the interests of power preservation. Before the person can even take office – if that is even allowed. And with the Deep State’s long standing record of defenestrating leaders it doesn’t control – what then?

    Yes, populism’s bad – the electorate might decide they want someone who represents them, for a change. There has to be an elite mechanism to overrule democracy when it makes the wrong choices. It used to be called the Divine Right of Kings. We could better call today’s megalomaniacal dissemblers, the Devil’s Advocates.

    • Replies: @Corvinus
  2. I like Erdogan. And military coup is hardly an ‘excuse’.

    And really, the choice is: the elected leader or an unelected cabal of global business elites. Have your pick, Patrick.

  3. 22pp22 says:


    The branch on which I am sitting is already being sawn off and it is not by Trump.

  4. Randal says:

    Hopes in the US that, after Trump’s election in November, he would shift from aggressive campaign mode to a more conciliatory approach have dissipated over the last two months. Towards the media his open hostility has escalated, as was shown by his abuse of reporters at his press conference this week.

    This kind of wildly unfair comment undermines the credibility of the rest of Cockburn’s piece.

    Trump has been subjected to a media campaign of aggression against his victory and his legitimacy that has been unprecedented both in its scope and in its fundamental dishonesty and the underlying ridiculousness of the charges made against him. To criticise him for being “hostile” in response to that campaign by the media is frankly stupid.

    Much the same applies to the senior levels of the US intelligence community.

    It seems likely that they will either succeed in their evident aim of forcing him out or neutering him completely as an effective executive power, or the first things he will (and must) do once in power is to thoroughly purge the top levels of the said intelligence community, and bring to heel the elements of the mainstream media that have openly rebelled against the US political system. These measures will include aspects that are, of course, exactly what one would expect of a “Caesarian democracy”, making this kind of criticism of Trump rather self-fulfilling.

    Nevertheless, these kinds of fantasies about Trump are overblown here, as they always are. There is no reason to suppose Trump, even if he manages somehow to overcome his present enemies, will be able to overturn the formidable constitutional protections the US has against over-mighty executives. If he defeats his present enemies it will only be because his present supporters stick with him. They will soon start to turn away from him once in power if he does not produce what they expect from him (and the realities of national life mean that some who voted for him will always be dissatisfied with what any elected leader does in office), and his enemies will be waiting, in the houses of Congress and in the judiciary, even if big media has been broken up. And while the power of big establishment media can and should be broken up, the First Amendment is under no threat from the right (it’s the left with its “hate speech” nonsense that is the clear and present danger on that front). Criticism will always make itself heard.

    Cockburn here is just giving in to the usual hysteria of the left, faced with any politician who is successful despite straying off their reservation.

    • Replies: @Big Bill
  5. polistra says:

    I would LOVE to see parallels but I don’t. Trump shows no sign of the firmness and courage needed to rip out Sorosian tentacles from an entire country.

    Erdogan is heroically and relentlessly restoring civilization. Trump is flipping and flopping and surrendering evey time he encounters a serious obstacle.

    • Replies: @Uebersetzer
  6. The electricity grid in significant parts of Istanbul has been failing, and during the coldest, darkest time of the year. The relevant Turkish government minister, a relative of Erdogan by marriage, is blaming it on US cyber warfare. The possibility that it might be the result of his own incompetence or that of the AKP government as a whole cannot be entertained. If he was in a slightly different mood he would be blaming it on the Jews. I guess that’s Caesarian democracy for you.

    • Replies: @Wally
  7. @polistra

    Interesting civilisation he is restoring, when hoods close to the AKP were assaulting people in Santa Claus costumes and his appointee as head of the Diyanet (Turkey’s religious affairs office) denounced New Year and Christmas. The Ortakoy nightclub gunman (still uncaught, by the way) built on this civilisational work.
    Even the purges aren’t “relentless” either – it is widely known for example that many of the AKP members of parliament are close to Gulen, but if Erdogan takes action against them he risks the parliamentary majority he is using to push through his changes. He might go after them later but for the time being he can’t risk them splitting the AKP and forming another party.
    And there has been nothing heroic or relentless in his foreign policy. One month he shoots down a Russian plane, only seven months later he tries to mend relations with Russia, at the start of last year he was calling Russia accessories of the “murderer Assad”, then when the Russian ambassador got shot last month, Erdogan had the nerve to complain about anti-Russian “incitement”, some of which he himself has uttered. On planet AKP it is always someone else’s fault.

  8. “His abuse of reporters”

    This is an outright lie and profound distortion of facts.

    He did not “Abuse” any reporters, rather he was the “abused” party.

    You leftist scoundrels simply have no limits to to your dishonesty and deception.

    Authenticjazzman “Mensa” society member of forty-plus years and pro jazz artist.

  9. Virgile says:

    There is a major difference between Erdogan and Trump. Erdogan has used religious piety and violence as a tool of domination. Trump is secularist and business oriented. Erdogan wants to enslave it neighbours through force, Trump wants to make advantageous business deals.
    Erdogan wants to change the constitution to dominate all the institutions, it is not Trump’s intentions. Erdogan is a dictator, Trump is an authoritarian leader.
    Last point. The first coup failed, the second one of a smaller scale will probably succeed. The question is when, before of after the constitution change? I believe that Erdogan will never enjoy the presidency that he has forced through the throat of the Turks, as he will be eliminated physically or politically.
    If the constitution is changed, the irony is that someone else, less charismatic will become the all power ‘dictator’.
    Happy days for Turkey!

  10. “A strength of |President Obama was that he had a realistic sense of what was attainable by the US in the Middle East without starting unwinnable wars as President George W Bush did in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
    The very bloody Syrian Civil War would have been long over by now but for US intervention starting in autumn 2011. Likewise, the Libyan quagmire would never have happened without US support of the rebels. He can try and hide behind Hillary Clinton all he likes, but the buck stops with him.
    Enabling the Saudi intervention in Yemen is another unwinnable war that Obama has ignited.
    Then there is the drone war that is ongoing and has set a very dangerous precedent. No law is necessary to execute your fellow citizens abroad, just send out a drone and blow them up. With Hillary Clinton as President, how long would it have taken for droning to be implemented INSIDE America ?
    And that’s not even dealing with his reckless and inflammatory actions in the Ukraine, where he has helped depose the legitimate government and replaced it with an American puppet, Baltic States, S E Asia and elsewhere.
    Obama is no sort of realist, but a very dangerous sociopath. He has hidden behind Clinton and others, but historians will not be fooled.

  11. I have lost patience with this kind of bullshit. I know what side I’m on. Bring it!

  12. Cockburn shows once again that he understands nothing about the United States. Yes, he is correct in seeing Trump has being in opposition to an entrenched “Deep State”. That is as far as it goes. Erdogan is an Islamist, the proponent of a primitive and retrograde “religion” that Kemal Ataturk tried quite rightly to rein in in order to build a modern Turkish state, shedding areas of the old Ottoman Empire that they would have to fight to hold and consolidating the Anatolian homeland of the Turks.
    Trump was elected by the core population of the U.S., in every sense the “real” American people, as much as that term upsets some leftists. Trump’s mandate is to stop the insane slide towards a leftist/Progressive nightmare that Americans reject. At the same time, he wants America to rebuild itself for the good of all the people, not the Globalist financiers. He has no plans to construct a hermit kingdom but he has no use for military adventures that have all ended in fiasco.
    Sensitive to “criticism”? Trump has every right to be furious with the outrageous conduct of the U.S. media, and he is backed by the people.
    I don’t know if Trump will eventually have to use an iron hand to crush the parasite class in the U.S>, but if he does the will have plenty of support.

    • Replies: @Corvinus
    , @Peter Akuleyev
  13. dearieme says:

    Trump is not a Hitler, he’s just an oaf. But he’s an oaf who won fair and square. This elementary notion seems to be too difficult for a large chunk of the US population to grasp.

    Hitler could tour a German city in an open car, exposed to any decent marksman with a rifle. Trump couldn’t remotely do the like without taking an absurd risk. I wonder whether the first serious attempt on his life will be before, at, or after his inauguration.

    I used to say that I had a low opinion of the US govt but a high opinion of Americans. The latter feeling is waning fast. Half of you seem to be off your bloody heads.

    • Replies: @Steve
    , @Hibernian
  14. Steve says:

    Oh dear. What a load of baloney. Trump is an American (‘populist’) democrat, with a max of 2 terms, Erdogan is a Turkish Islamist with clear aims at becoming a Neo-Ottoman Sultan (and maybe even Caliph) for life. And a lot of blood on his hands. There are many more differences but it’s unnecessary to enumerate them.

    As for the incident with the reporter, the CNN guy was totally out of line trying to aggressively browbeat and talk over Trump (the President-Elect ffs) for FAR longer than was remotely acceptable. He should have been expelled from the building for it.

    Cockburn what a pathetic piece of snivelling garbage this lefty whine is!

  15. Steve says:

    An oaf? Hardly. From billionaire businessman to POTUS is no oaf’s path.

  16. Cockburne consistently manufactures a particular and wierd strand of establishment disinformation. Either that or he actually believes what he writes and is unbelievably stupid.
    Enough bullshit already.

    • Replies: @Avery
  17. Avery says:

    {Cockburne consistently manufactures a particular and wierd strand of establishment disinformation.}

    Yep: establishment disinformation.

    {….or he actually believes what he writes and is unbelievably stupid.}

    Nope: he is very smart and been around the block a few times.
    It’s disinformation.
    The title give it away: “The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan”.
    By no stretch of anyone’s imagination – except Establishment disinformation agents – is there an iota of so-called ‘parallel’ between a Christian American, descendant of civilized people, Magna Carta, English Common Law, etc, etc,… and a progeny of UygurTürkoğlu nomads – savage mongrel IslamoFascist Erdogan.

  18. Jason Liu says:

    “Caesarian democracy” is the democracy of of the future, because most people do not seriously desire democracy deep down. What they really want is a leader who will smash their domestic enemies, democratic pretenses be damned.

    Nothing wrong with that, really. Erdogan is a finer president than almost every European leader.

    • Replies: @bossel
  19. Big Bill says:

    Well, one nice thing. Cockburn didn’t go straight to “Hitler”. If he had gone straight to Hitler, he would’ve sounded like a stringer for

  20. Wally says:

    “If he was in a slightly different mood he would be blaming it on the Jews.”

    You wish.

    As usual, Jews want everything to be about them.

    the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral

    • Replies: @Uebersetzer
  21. “see themselves as surrounded by conspiracies”

    Can’t imagine why they might think that.

    This article gives the impression Cockburn is on the side of the guys who supported the coup against Erdogan and want to do the same to Trump. That makes Cockburn an anti-democratic bad guy in my book.

  22. Political invective masquerading (poorly) as analysis.

    Our democracy has been busily committing suicide for quite some time and Mr. Cockburn suddenly notices because his side lost an election.


  23. Gabriel M says:

    This is exactly why the whole premise of the Unz review is wrong. Alternative Right views are a mixed bunch, some bad, some good, but they are united by being in actual opposition to the permanent regime. Alternative Left views are just the views of the permanent regime, but without the need to make any compromises with reality. In effect, the alternative Left “critiques” the establishment by angrily demanding that it does what it wants to do anyway, but can’t (in this case “stop Trump”). This is why figures from the “far” or “extreme” Left can transition seamlessly from “denouncing” the establishment to being part of it, without having to substantially change their views in between, i.e. Obama.

  24. nsa says:

    Cockie is a vile prototypical Brit leftie….writing for a vile prototypical Brit leftie rag….exuding vile prototypical Brit leftie bile. Specifically, Der Trumpster has not yet assumed the imperial throne….invaded no countries, droned no miscreants, signed no legislation, started no illegal wars, never unleashed the JD and IRS on his enemies….nothing. We here in the New World, having fought a couple of wars with the vile Brits, suggest the filthy hypocrites stay on their side of the pond and worry about their many problems: the ongoing invasion of pakkies and other turd worlders, the bad food, the crappy dental work, the unreliable autos, the bad weather, the vile royal tards, etc.

    • Replies: @Hibernian
    , @Matra
  25. nsa says:

    As to the silly gratuitous comparison of Der Trumpster to J. Caesar, the ignorant vile Brit leftie, Cockie, might obtain a copy of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius to witness what the conversion of a republic to an autocratic police state actually looks like.

  26. Corvinus says:
    @Fran Macadam

    “There has to be an elite mechanism to overrule democracy when it makes the wrong choices. It used to be called the Divine Right of Kings.”

    Absolute monarchies had weak or symbolic legislatures. Dissent by the people for making “wrong choices” was brutally put down. Note that those who embraced the DRK exclusively commanded that they were God’s chosen leader and used whatever means at his disposal to enforce his pronouncement. Populism in and of itself is not “bad”–the choices made by the people may reflect poor choices.

    • Replies: @Fran Macadam
  27. Corvinus says:
    @Chris Bidges

    “Erdogan is an Islamist, the proponent of a primitive and retrograde “religion”…”

    There is nothing primitive about Islam, nor is it other than a religion. Praytell, what are your religious beliefs? Are they “religious”?

    “Trump was elected by the core population of the U.S., in every sense the “real” American people, as much as that term upsets some leftists.”

    “Real” Americans are those by whom have been conferred citizenship through naturalization or were born here. Leftists or liberals or Democrats who voted for Hillary are “real” Americans. Why would you purposely debase yourself?

    “Trump’s mandate is to stop the insane slide towards a leftist/Progressive nightmare that Americans reject.”

    SOME Americans reject. You seem to forget it was a close election, and that those who had voted twice for Obama (gasp!) voted for Trump.

    “At the same time, he wants America to rebuild itself for the good of all the people, not the Globalist financiers.”

    Has not Trump been one of those globalist financiers through his international business dealings? Is he not part of the elite?

    “I don’t know if Trump will eventually have to use an iron hand to crush the parasite class in the U.S>, but if he does the will have plenty of support.”

    Who is this parasite class you refer to? Who will support his this “iron hand to crush” them? Would his conduct be within or outside Constitutional bounds?

  28. The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan

    Does anybody believe Cockburn is terrified? You can’t write elaborate lies when you are terrified. No. Cockburn is writing to terrify people stupid enough to believe his lies. He is with the CIA and George Soros and John McCain. He is not just a writer I happen to disagree with. He is an enemy of the people of Earth.

    • LOL: Hibernian
  29. @Wally

    Well, sometimes the pro-AKP press gets Christian missionaries in there as well. The incitement results in a murder or two, as was the case back in Malatya some years ago. This is why the Ortakoy nightclub slaughter didn’t surprise me much, because it has happened before. Islamist media incites, a few days later someone gets killed.

  30. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    Ignore Wally. One suspects that he merely searches threads here for the word ‘Jew’ and then spouts wholly unrelated, uneducated nonsense, along with a link to his Committee for Open Despising of the Hebrews.

  31. @Chris Bidges

    Trump made his money in casinos, overpriced hotels and reality television. He is the definition of parasite class. His first move was to stack his cabinet with globalist financiers from Goldman Sachs. Wake up.

  32. bossel says:
    @Jason Liu

    “What they really want is a leader who will smash their domestic enemies, democratic pretenses be damned.

    Nothing wrong with that, really.”
    Which is pretty idiotic, really. Aside from the fact that it goes against everything a liberal (in the original sense) society is about, it only works as long as you are on the side of the leader. & it is all too easy to fall foul of that leader (as many former allies of Erdogan in Turkey now experience).

    • Replies: @Uebersetzer
  33. @bossel

    Exactly. Fethullah Gulen was a long-time ally of Erdogan’s, and there was and is widespread speculation that both of them arose from a “moderate Islamist” project with roots in the United States. Now he is apparently the root of all evil in Turkey, to the point where recently a man who murdered a relative claimed in court that he did it because the relative was allegedly a Gulenist. As in all purge atmospheres, there is an element of black comedy in the Turkish purges, in addition to tension and fear. A woman whose son happens to be named Fethullah Gulen (Gulen is a very common surname in Turkey) attributed her son’s inability to find a job to his sharing the same name as Turkey’s current Emmanuel Goldstein from 1984.
    The Istanbul provincial governor who sent in the police armoured cars to crush Gezi protests in 2013 was praised by Erdogan at the time. Now he is in jail as a suspected Gulenist, following the failed coup attempt. The list goes on. But although he has his followers, none of them, especially the prominent ones, are really safe either and like Macbeth, Erdogan is cursed deeply by many, if not necessarily loudly.

  34. @Corvinus

    I surely was not defending the bogus “Divine Right of Kings” concentration of power.

  35. Hibernian says:

    “Hitler could tour a German city in an open car, exposed to any decent marksman with a rifle.”

    Anyone who channeled Gavrilo Princip or foreshadowed Lee Harvey Oswald would have provoked a massive reaction such as in fact did happen when the assassination of Hitler was finally attempted, I believe in 1944.

    • Replies: @Uebersetzer
  36. Hibernian says:

    nsa, are you a fellow Irishman?

    • Replies: @nsa
  37. nsa says:

    Six counties are still under John Bull’s tyranny……


    You can go to jail in Turkey now for insulting Erdogan in a Tweet. This guy murdered a Catholic missionary (this was one of the murders I alluded to up the thread). He is now free, being released after the coup attempt, because Erdogan needed to free up some prison space, and a substantial part of the AKP base would regard his deed as meritorious anyway.

    • Replies: @Mao Cheng Ji
  39. @Hibernian

    Hitler’s public speeches were usually given from behind a protective screen of SS men and he was a little selective about his tours of German cities – in the propaganda newsreels (made to emphasise his ties to ordinary Germans) it is often Nuremberg, a particularly Nazified city. Hitler did not particularly like Berlin, a city with too many SPD and KPD voters for his taste during free elections. As WW2 drew on he became less and less prone to show himself to the German people, much less tour even Nuremberg in an open-topped car, and it was increasingly Goebbels who visited bomb-damaged areas – Hitler was not to be seen.

    • Replies: @Marcus
  40. @Uebersetzer

    You can go to jail in Turkey now for insulting Erdogan in a Tweet.

    I don’t know if this is true or not (and what’s with the weasel-word ‘can’? you do or you don’t?), but surely: desperate times, desperate measures? The country is – officially – under a state of emergency, for an obvious reason. Isn’t it a bit silly to blame the government; you want to blame someone, blame the putschists…

    • Replies: @Uebersetzer
  41. @Mao Cheng Ji

    People have gone to jail for insulting Erdogan in a Tweet. Not everyone who does that on Tweet or Facebook is jailed, because they can’t all be tracked down, so I used “can”. And laws exist that can be used for jailing people who insult the President, another reason to use “can”. The Cologne-based TV channel Yol TV was closed down for content deemed insulting to Erdogan. Because it is based in Germany, Erdogan’s police could not raid it, beat up and jail its workers, as they have done in media offices in Turkey, but Yol TV’s satellite feed to Turksat was terminated.
    “Desperate times, desperate measures.” The Reichstag fire was used to justify 12 years of emergency rule in Germany, and may have been started by the Nazis anyway. (How much foreknowledge Erdogan had of the July 15 attempt, if any, and even whether it was a fake coup, are hotly debated topics. That he regarded it as advantageous to himself is certain because he said so.) You see, under fascism, states of emergency are long-lasting and sometimes last as long as the regime itself. The putsch attempt just accelerated an authoritarian trend discernable long before it.

  42. And as I indicated above, Turkey is now the kind of place where you can be released from jail despite having murdered a Catholic priest (anti-Christian incitement is widespread in Turkey), presumably so your place in jail can be filled by someone suspected of supporting Gulen, or being a “terrorist” (an incredibly broad category now), or insulting the Fuehrer.
    I don’t incidentally think Trump and Erdogan have all that much in common. Erdogan builds on a tradition of authoritarianism stretching back to Ottoman times but also including the semi-fascist aspects of Ataturk’s Turkey as well as the practices of military coups and influences from Al Qaeda and related reactionary ideologies. He unites within himself Osama Bin Laden and Adenoid Hynkel. Yol TV was partial to showing Chaplin’s The Great Dictator and Adenoid Hynkel’s presentation has obvious parallels with Erdogan’s TV performances which I watch (I understand Turkish, by the way). Perhaps their partiality towards a Chaplin film played a role in their banning?

    • Replies: @Mao Cheng Ji
  43. @Uebersetzer

    And as I indicated above, Turkey is now the kind of place where you can be released from jail despite having murdered a Catholic priest

    You can’t build the whole case on one incident. Anything can happen. A murderer gets released, an innocent gets executed. So what, shit happens. You need to demonstrate the pattern. Were there dozens of Catholic priests murdered, with impunity?

    The putsch attempt just accelerated an authoritarian trend discernable long before it.

    ‘Authoritarian’ is not a swear-word (not in my dictionary anyway). Where the society is healthy, relatively united and peaceful and there’s no external threads – yes, authoritarian methods are unnecessary and harmful. But where there are troubles (and there were troubles even before the the coup: millions of refugees, the military-civilian discord, the ethnic conflict, etc.), ‘authoritarian’ is probably just what the doctor ordered…

  44. There is a definite pattern of closing down opposition TV stations. Nor is the murder of Santoro unique – a couple of Protestant converts from Islam were murdered at about the same time. Whether their killers were ever caught or are still in jail, I don’t know – but Christians are at best subtly unwelcome in Turkey especially if they seek converts, sometimes considered foreign spies and in times of crisis, like WW1, considered to be traitors and murdered on a massive scale (an HDP member of parliament – one of those not yet in jail – who referred to this as “genocide” has just been suspended for three months).
    As to what the doctor ordered – “millions of refugees”. Turkey backed “revolution” in a neighbouring country thinking Assad’s government would quickly collapse. It didn’t, but Turkey has over 600 miles of frontier with Syria. You don’t think Erdogan and co. bear no responsibility at all for this huge miscalculation? They also heated up a civil war in a neighbouring country but the violence and radicalisation has begun to affect Turkey itself. It also reinvigorated the Kurdish issue of which more below.
    “Military – civilian discord”. Long a feature of Turkey, but more complex than you describe. Erdogan earlier in his rule got help from the Gulen movement to jail large numbers of military officers and Kemalists in the “Ergenekon” trials, alleging a secret movement to control Turkey – the “deep state”. Then around 2012 he went cold on Gulen and most of those jailed under Ergenekon were released. This seemed to be a bribe to Kemalists to mobilise them against his old ally Gulen.
    “Ethnic conflict” – a quarter of Turkey’s population are Kurds, though Turkey’s culture and education system attempt to drive into everyone’s heads that they are Turks. The AKP seemed to be moving towards a “peace process” and fighting dwindled to almost nothing. Then in June 2015 the AKP lost its overall majority in parliament, mainly because the HDP breached the (ridiculously high) 10% threshold and got into parliament. The AKP pretended to negotiate for a coalition but clearly did not and does not want to share power. In July 2015 a major bomb attack killed dozens at a leftist gathering in Suruc, just across from Kobane in Kurdish-held Syria. Erdogan trumpeted that it was necessary to stamp out terrorism, made some arrests of IS suspects (blamed for Suruc) but mainly concentrated on attacking the PKK, both inside and outside Turkey. The “peace process” ended. Suruc was the first of a series of bombings attributed to IS, but there is widespread suspicion that the AKP government connived at these bombings, because it wanted to call new elections in an atmosphere of tension and hoped in that way to get its majority in parliament back. The last major bombing in October 2015 targeted an HDP gathering in Ankara and over 100 people were killed – still the worst bombing in modern Turkish history, despite a lot of recent competition. When more HDP supporters came to the scene to protest, Erdogan’s police attacked them. Erdogan got his majority back in November 2015 in elections held in a state of emergency atmosphere that existed well before the attempted coup, but it did not solve his problems and since the coup attempt he has cracked down more and more.
    Basically you are praising him for his authoritarian non-solutions to crises which in many cases he caused in the first place. He restarted the war with the PKK rather than accept a parliament lacking an AKP majority. He took enthusiastic part in a regime change process in a neighbouring country that went bad, and of course it is everyone else’s fault. He has instrumentalised chaos in an attempt to firm up AKP control and his personal rule and then rants about the decline in the lira and economic problems being due to terrorists and foreign plots. No, you don’t have a strong currency or economy in a country with a major bombing every week and Adenoid Hynkel heading it.

    • Replies: @Mao Cheng Ji
  45. Matra says:

    Cockie is a vile prototypical Brit leftie….writing for a vile prototypical Brit leftie rag….exuding vile prototypical Brit leftie bile.

    I thought the Cockburns were Irish. Wasn’t his late brother pro-Sinn Fein? If I’m right then you need to revise your comment to “Cockie is a vile prototypical Irish leftie”.

  46. @Uebersetzer

    You don’t think Erdogan and co. bear no responsibility at all for this huge miscalculation?

    I think Erdogan’s government does bear some responsibility, but obviously things need to be viewed in context: their role was relatively minor. But yeah, they did jump on the bandwagon; probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

    Similarly with the Kurdish ethno-nationalism. These sorts of things go up and down; of course there’s the narrative where every crisis is Erdogan’s fault, but I would take it with a grain of salt. There’s just too many variables, to blame it on a single factor.

    I mean, this is a highly, highly unstable region, especially after the Iraq war. It’s even hard to imagine how all the pressures and crises can be managed: Iraq, Syria, US, NATO, EU, Greece, Russia, Iran, Israel… That’s a freaken 11-dimensional chess right there. Tightrope walking. For better or for worse, the guy is managing, and you’re blaming him for being authoritarian?

    • Replies: @Uebersetzer
  47. fnn says:

    Yeah, let’s all get behind the CIA, John McCain and Lindsey Graham. :) Red Diaper Baby Cockburn surely knows the old song, Which Side Are You On?

  48. @Mao Cheng Ji

    “Too many variables” – You seem a little reluctant to blame Erdogan or the AKP for anything at all. But the AKP has been the parliamentary party with an overall majority since 2002, throughout that time Erdogan has been either President or Prime Minister. That is the least variable element in the complex equation of Turkish politics and society. When something goes right in Turkey, Erdogan and the AKP are the first to claim credit and presumably you would back them up. But what about when things are not going right? Increasingly, and obviously, they are not going right. There is a character in the American film MASH, Frank Burns, I believe, sanctimonious and something of a hypocrite. Another character, Hawkeye observes about Burns that if something goes wrong, like a patient dying, “It’s God’s will or somebody else’s fault”. That is much like the AKP/Erdogan behaviour.
    “Tightrope walking. For better or for worse, the guy is managing” – Erdogan is walking a tightrope and I suspect he will fall off, and before very long. Critical commentators in Turkey (the kind who get thrown in jail nowadays) note that AKP rule seems to be about skidding from one crisis to another. In opposition circles it is common to refer to the AKP’s “yonetim krizi” (“crisis of rule” or “crisis of management”). So is the guy really managing? Pro-AKP media virtually have a personality cult of Erdogan going, and this is the other side of the coin to the police arresting people for insulting Erdogan in Tweets. But European commentators (ie. not in danger of being arrested on a trumped-up charge for what they write – it does happen in the Turkey you admire) have noted the paradox of apparently iron control by Erdogan in a country where there is a bombing every week and the economy is tanking. Of course in some cases the bombing has suited Erdogan, who has shown an ability to instrumentalise chaos – frequently a trait of dictators. But chaos does not attract investors, so the lira sinks and Erdogan tries to prop it up by muttering threats.

    Authoritarianism benefits some people, of course. This character, a functionary in the AKP’s youth wing, was caught with a large amount of heroin. You have to search quite hard in the Turkish media to find this story, though. Because if you associate the AKP with drug smuggling or things that are not nice, you can be arrested. And “can” is not a weasel word- there are many journalists in jail in Turkey now. Because if you write a story that is so negative about the AKP after nearly 15 years of its rule, you must be a terrorist, or a follower of Gulen, or directed by “foreign centres”, or a Christian missionary, or an Armenian, or a Jew…


    And despite Erdogan threatening people who profit from the decline of the lira, calling them terrorists and traitors, it is declining again after briefly recovering a little. Unfortunately international money markets are not as amenable to the screams of the Fuehrer as he would like.

    A former intelligence chief says Erdogan gave the instruction for the Ergenekon and the related Balyoz investigations. Supposedly the Prime Minister, which Erdogan was at the time, is not allowed to interfere in judicial investigations, and more recently Erdogan has seen fit to blame Fethullah Gulen for them. Yurt newspaper bills itself as independent but is close to the CHP, which is the main official opposition party. Still, if you want to bathe in Erdogan love, there are most of the other media outlets in Turkey…

    The Turkish police reportedly caught the Reina nightclub gunman, so there is that, I suppose.


    Pro-AKP commentator, who in the past has made statements favourable to IS, calls for the wife and children of the IS-affiliated Reina attacker to be tortured to get more information out of him. I guess this swamp creature is what the doctor ordered.

  51. A former MHP candidate briefly jailed for insulting Erdogan (yes, Mao Cheng Ji, it happens). The MHP is the party of the Grey Wolves, a somewhat more “secular” fascism than the AKP. With characteristic fascist solidarity and civic courage, he blamed his driver for sending the Tweet.

  52. A little more on the swamp creature at no.50. Some reports cite him as wanting the wife tortured too, but I guess he is more liberal here as he only seems to want a child beaten and tortured with electric shocks in the approved Turkish police manner. Like I say, the swamp creature Barlas has a track record of supporting IS, and allegations of the AKP fostering its growth when it was still pursuing regime change in Syria are rife, as are claims of AKP figures including Erdogan’s son actually profiting from oil and gas transactions with IS. But the wheel of fortune of Turkish politics is that today’s regime loyalist can be tomorrow’s “terrorist”, and typical AKP flunky that he is, Barlas is trying to keep his footing in this slippery environment. If a kid or two has to pay the price for people like Barlas not sleeping in a jail cell, that’s too bad. But hey, tightrope walking, unstable region, 11-dimensional chess etc. etc.

    • Replies: @Marcus
  53. Marcus says:

    I think he gave one speech in Hamburg in his entire career.

    • Replies: @Uebersetzer
  54. Marcus says:

    The Turkish government has such a schizo relationship with the jihadis: they’re freedom fighters or proxies of its enemies (including the US) depending on what the latest news is. Either way it’s always a massive conspiracy against Turkey

    • Replies: @Uebersetzer
  55. @Marcus

    Yes, Hamburg had a lot of SPD and KPD voters too and he would not have felt totally safe. Hitler was genuinely popular at some points but he never did without the security detail even before the war, the newsreels of him with crowds are carefully stage-managed propaganda constructs, and after 1942 he withdrew more and more from the public eye.

  56. @Marcus

    Some of my links and comments point to a government and a society that is certainly not at all well. Erdogan does the “strong man” bit but in reality they are all over the place. Hostility and suspicion towards the USA is widespread in government and semi-government statements, yet they were desperate for the USA to bomb IS in Al Bab (where Turkish and Turkish-backed forces are not doing well although the Turkish media does its best to draw a discreet veil over it) and the Americans reportedly did, today. I have seen no evidence that Turkey is about to leave NATO, despite all the huffing and puffing. There is hostility also to Europe and especially Germany, yet the AKP economy minister was on CNN Turk today saying that Germany was Turkey’s best export market (I am not sure if he meant in Europe or worldwide). Despite the hot air, Turkey cannot afford to tell Europe to get lost, especially since the economy is in poor condition.
    Surveys suggest about a third of AKP voters are sympathetic to IS, so something of the order of 15% at least of Turkey’s adult population is pro-Islamic State and this is another factor in the schizoid behaviour – the AKP says it wants to “smash terrorism” but it has more than a little Al Qaeda/IS in its make-up and actions. Apart from him being a typical courtier type, the behaviour of Swamp Creature Barlas is representative.

    Although not new (this dates from September) it is a good example of the AKP in action – brittle, stupid and authoritarian. From Erdogan down, they have trouble dealing with media questions that are remotely tough, because interviewers are just there to receive to transmit the AKP line and if they don’t they must be working for Gulen or something.

    • Agree: Marcus
    • Replies: @Marcus
    , @Talha

    MHP leader Devlet Bahceli is supporting Erdogan’s constitutional reform desires but is facing a growing backlash in his own party. Sex tapes were used to drive then CHP leader Deniz Baykal from office some years ago and it is rumoured the AKP was behind it (Baykal was with a woman other than his wife).
    There have been rumours for years of something of a similar, though perhaps same-sex, nature regarding Bahceli.

  58. Marcus says:

    Yes, I was lucky to visit Turkey shortly before and after Erdogan took office, I wouldn’t go now. For all the faults of the military old guard, they generally weren’t idiotic/insane.

  59. Talha says:

    Hey Uebersetzer,

    a third of AKP voters are sympathetic to IS

    Scary stat – any links to sources for this? Even in Turkish would be nice. Thanks!


    • Replies: @Uebersetzer
  60. @Talha

    I’ll have a look where I picked that statistic up. Recall that over 70% of the population of Turkey are Sunni Muslims, the AKP has been undermining secularism diligently for the past 15 years (and before that even the Kemalist establishment used Sunni bigots when expedient), the Syrian conflict is radicalising the situation (refugees, plus hate campaigns against the large Alevi minority in Turkey, some of whom are being radicalised in their own way) and the statistic feels right to me.
    Nor is it the only armed formation with a large footprint. A Turkish friend told me that the PKK has at least three million sympathisers in Turkey. Turkey is like the boiler room in The Shining. It is going to blow, and before too long.

    Meanwhile, the fear and suspicion of the foreign journalist grow apace…

    • Replies: @Talha

    This points to a significant part of the Turkish population not seeing Daesh as a terrorist organisation in spring 2015. That tends towards, but is not the same as, them actually supporting it. I would construe this as some degree of support for Daesh which at that time was being openly tolerated in Turkey, given that in Turkey and most countries the warning light tends to go on when the word “terrorist” is used.

    Dating from early 2016. This part is particularly pertinent.
    “Crucially, the jihadists also benefit from an atmosphere of ideological identification with their cause among conservatives in Turkey, both at societal level and among the state elite. According to surveys, ten percent of the population in Turkey thinks that the “Islamic state” is not a terrorist organization. Yet it is perhaps even more important that there is widespread endorsement in Turkey of the “Sunni cause.” The common view is that the “Islamic state” is an expression, albeit a militant and extremist one, of what is nonetheless a legitimate, Sunni defense struggle against Shiite power in Iraq and Syria – a response to the disempowerment of the Sunnis after the regime change that the United States carried out in Iraq after the invasion of 2003.

    It is telling that even though the “Islamic state” is deemed responsible for what is the worst terrorist attack ever in Turkey, there are no indications of any efforts being undertaken to disrupt jihadist networks which are presumed to be strongly entrenched in the Turkish provinces bordering Syria. No mass detentions of suspected ISIS sympathizers have taken place, something which otherwise might have been expected after terrorist attacks whose perpetrators were identified as jihadists by the Turkish police.” Since that time there have been more raids on IS although the Turkish state seems half-hearted in them compared to its anti-PKK zeal.

    I think the surveys downplay the extent of Daesh support – it was known to be controversial even in 2015, and people in Turkey might not trust the motivation behind survey questions and those asking them, and have to reckon with the possibility that they might be talking their way into a jail stint by expressing certain opinions.

    Although this is anecdotal, a Turkish friend (different from the one who commented on PKK support) told me about a third of the AKP voting base is pro-IS, and given that the AKP polls between 40 and 50% of the vote (in April 2015 it just missed an overall majority with 42% of the vote) we are looking at something like 15%.


    At a tangent from much of the discussion, but it seems to me to well-describe the state of the Turkish armed forces. They and their allies are not doing well in Al Bab. Could this be a reason why, interspersed with abuse of the Americans, they are wanting air attacks by American planes? “You are Christian missionaries, Jews, you are sheltering Gulen, you are supporting terrorism but please bomb IS for us.” Mao Cheng Ji might call this flexibility and 11-dimensional chess. It could also be considered the spasms of semi-lunatics in a country on the edge.

    • Replies: @Mao Cheng Ji

    Continuing the anti-Christian purge I have already alluded to.

  64. @Uebersetzer

    Mao Cheng Ji might call this flexibility and 11-dimensional chess.

    I don’t see any hypocrisy (I guess that’s what you’re implying?) whatsoever. One can protest American meddling in internal affairs of Turkey, while welcoming American support in a war outside Turkey’s borders.

    To you, perhaps, everything appears as a Manichean struggle between Good and Evil, but luckily most people are capable of a more nuanced approach…

    • Replies: @Uebersetzer
  65. @Mao Cheng Ji

    Hypocrisy? Perish the thought. I just think you’re wrong.
    I don’t think you have a nuanced approach. You have to be poked pretty hard to come up with any criticism of the AKP at all. I pretty much supplied a history of Turkey of the past few years, so I will try not to repeat myself, but on Russia Erdogan went through a 180 degree turn from shooting down a Russian plane to seeking friendship with Russia and this was done in the space of seven months. You called that “flexible”. Others might call it rudderless, erratic or even treacherous. Also they aren’t “welcoming American support in a war outside Turkey’s borders”. (Who invited them into Syria anyway?) They have been haranguing Washington to support them, while shouting the odds about the dollar, “enemy agents”, “Christian missionaries”, “support for terrorists” etc. Despite the outpouring of venom, they have not in reality made the break from the USA and gone into the Russian camp or pursued independence. Their relationship with the USA is a little like an embittered wife complaining about her husband in the office of a marriage guidance counsellor, but she has still to mention even the possibility of divorce. And in a sense Turkey has been married to the USA since about 1950 (Turkish participation in the Korean War, followed by NATO membership). It is hard to end that kind of marriage and I doubt whether they will really make the break.
    You also said you thought there was nothing wrong with being “authoritarian” – I pointed out the practical consequences of this, like a court jester of Erdogan’s doing a 180 degree turn of his own, from supporting IS to calling for the Reina gunman’s kid to be tortured for information. Do you have a “nuanced approach” to the torture of children?
    The reality is, nobody is more Manichean in approach than the AKP. They are allegedly the pure expression of Turkish nationalism blended with Sunni Islam, but there are evil foreigners all around them! And not everyone inside Turkey is loyal to Allah and the glorious Turkish nation! There are traitors! A cowed and censored media can allow them to live the lie. An AKP youth official got caught with heroin, and it is hard to blame the usual scapegoats for that, but praise to Allah, few people know this in Turkey because most of the critical TV stations and many of the newspapers have been closed down, and the rest won’t report it out of loyalty or fear.

  66. I should add also that the reason they are haranguing the Americans over Al Bab is because IS are a formidable foe, Turkish state and its allied forces are not doing well and the effects of the post-July 15 purges mean that the Turkish armed forces, ground and air, are in poor shape for foreign adventures at precisely the time Erdogan is demanding foreign adventures of them. Suddenly they need American air strikes because many of the Turkish pilots have been jailed as putschists etc.
    Strangely they are not asking the Russians to fill the gap – could it be that they do not want a divorce from the Yanks, or Russia’s desire to accommodate every Turkish whim has its limits?

    • Replies: @Marcus
  67. Marcus says:

    They want American help now, so no more accusing Washington of being IS’ founder or threatening to close Incirlik, at least until the war’s over; or is that too much to ask? Erdogan seems to play a similar game with Israel, antagonizing them publicly to win some to cheap Islamic points while collaborating with them on important strategic issues.

    • Replies: @Uebersetzer
  68. @Marcus

    Yes, after the “one minute” business with Peres in Davos and the Mavi Marmara incident, Turkey did not have proper diplomatic relations with Israel for several years, and only resumed them recently. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Turkish-Israeli trade actually increased. After the Russian plane shoot-down, I think Putin said something about the Turkish state leadership being perfidious and he was quite right. Despite rapprochement, I don’t believe Putin has taken his words back – people like Erdogan who can turn on a dime can always turn on a dime again. The Pasha is very much for turning.
    But this is a region with a fair number of “true believers” and not everyone can be got on board or adapt like that. Erdogan dropped the Islamists in Aleppo over the side when the situation demanded it in his opportunistic view, but my interpretation of the Karlov murder is that it was a consequence of not everyone being able to turn on a dime in the same way Erdogan and his kind can.

    • Replies: @Avery
  69. To Patrick Cockburn:
    Shame on you for being so negative and abusive on Trump who tomorow will be the next US president. He has not yet started that you have condamned him. That is not democratic and in doing so, you are insulting the people who vote for him.
    The former administration was not successful . It has generated choas in the Middle-East and in Ukraine, pushed India to institute a demonitization program that will probably kill indians by the millions and is letting the US as a divided country.
    I am not expecting much from your new President as the opposition is so strong and so negative that they will do everything to counter him even at the expense of the US Citizen.
    I still hope that he will do everything to avoid a war with China, Iran or Russia and that he will be able to reduce the aggressivity of Israel, Saudi-Arabia and Qatar.
    He has a tremendous job to try to reconcile the US with the rest of the World ( corrupted elite excepted).
    I am making the best wishes for the succes of President Trump!


    Yeni Safak is in competition with another newspaper, Akit, to be the Der Stuermer of the AKP.
    Akit briefly tweeted its approval of the shooting of Karlov and called the shooter a martyr, until adverse reaction and presumably a phone call from Erdogan’s office caused them to delete it.


    I regularly read Husnu Mahalli’s column. He is a bitter critic of the Turkish government’s Syria policy, basically he thinks the AKP, Saudi Arabia, the Americans etc. attempted regime change by funding, training and arming a bunch of “monsters” and turning them loose on Syria. For this he has been thrown in jail, for yes, insulting the president. It happened around the time Erdogan turned on a dime in his Syrian policy and was probably meant as a small sop to the jihadis. Mahalli is actually Syrian and writes in both Turkish and Arabic.

  72. Avery says:

    {…and the Mavi Marmara incident, Turkey did not have proper diplomatic relations with Israel for several years, and only resumed them recently. }

    Turkey and Israel resumed relations, because Israel finally, officially apologized for the Mavi Marmara, and paid $20 million compensation – as Erdogan had demanded. I hate to give any kudos to the mongrel nomad, but he forced Israel to blink first: Israeli leaders were singing the same chorus for years – “Israel will never apologize…”. But they sure did. And paid (….with American taxpayer dollars, of course).

    As to President Putin:

    After the Su-24 shootdown, Putin was visibly and understandably furious.
    He demanded three things (if memory serves): official apology, compensation, and punishment for those responsible for the shootdown.
    RF turned on the screws on Turkey, and Turkey lost $ billions in exports to Russia and loss of Russian tourism.

    So Erdogan kinda-sorta gave in, but not-quite.
    Erdogan issued a non-apology ‘apology’, and Putin accepted it – too quickly.
    No compensation was paid, no Turk was punished, the Turkmen terrorist who murdered the Russian pilot on the ground was arrested on some unrelated charge, but quickly released. And the non-apology was issued to the dead pilot’s family – not to the Russian state.

    At the time I couldn’t figure out why Putin was so eager, but later events showed what he was planning: liberation of Aleppo. Apparently Putin was trying to drive a wedge between US/NATO and Turkey, so there would be no interference in Aleppo. Without outside help, especially from Erdogan, the terrorists holding part of Aleppo quickly folded and left.

    We have to wait and see what new dance Putin/Russia and Erdogan/Turkey will perform going forward.

  73. Talha says:

    Hey Uebersetzer,

    Recall that over 70% of the population of Turkey are Sunni Muslims

    Yes indeed.

    AKP has been undermining secularism diligently for the past 15 years

    Yup, pendulum swinging the other way after decades of secularism being forced down their throats. This makes sense – I just hope it doesn’t swing too far the other way. The thing I’m concerned is about is your statistic which alarms me. The Islam that is native to Turkey is the old-guard traditional Sunni with due respect for Sufism. Salafi/Wahhabi extremism hasn’t traditionally had much sway. If this is changing, I am alarmed.

    the Syrian conflict is radicalising the situation

    Agreed – involvement by Turkey was a major blunder especially any support given to the extremists.

    It is going to blow, and before too long.

    I pray it doesn’t and that resolution of the Syrian conflict resolves Turkey’s problems as well. Turkey going postal is not the same as say Libya going postal.

    The common view is that the “Islamic state” is an expression, albeit a militant and extremist one, of what is nonetheless a legitimate, Sunni defense struggle against Shiite power in Iraq and Syria – a response to the disempowerment of the Sunnis after the regime change that the United States carried out in Iraq after the invasion of 2003.

    That’s actually fairly accurate, most Sunnis around the world did not like the fact that Sunnis were demographically pushed out of certain areas (I know, there is a huge history behind this and it was not just one-sided) or that Shia militias were lording it over them in their majority areas. Sunni resistance was bound to happen in parts of Iraq – the fact that the resistance came under control (actually was taken over mafia style) by militant extremists (who themselves are a threat to most normal Sunnis along with everyone else) was neither anticipated nor has backing from most Sunnis.

    told me about a third of the AKP voting base is pro-IS

    If this is true, this is scary.

    The whole thing is a mess, I hope it can be resolved sensibly.


  74. The statist Sunni Islam of the Ottoman Empire, much of which was carried over into the Republic, despite Ataturk’s secularism, was not all that moderate, especially when hostilities with Shia Persia were on, or when the Empire was in decline. There is a significant Alevi minority in Turkey (very roughly speaking, indigenous Shia Muslims) and they often had to outwardly conform to Sunni Islam, while secretly continuing Alevi rituals. They would be persecuted periodically, and sometimes massacred. Alevis have tended to the left politically and with some of the radical and even armed left in Turkey, it is difficult sometimes to know exactly where the Alevism finishes and the Marxism begins. In terms of the leadership of Turkey’s political parties in parliament, it is worth noting that (of course!) Erdogan is a Sunni Muslim, MHP leader Bahceli is a Sunni Muslim, CHP (official opposition) leader Kilicdaroglu is an ethnic Turkish Alevi and jailed HDP leader Demirtas is a Kurdish Alevi. Alevis tend to favour secularism – because in a state where they are in a minority it is potentially dangerous for them when the Sunnis get some of that old-time religion. You can imagine the polarising effect that the Syrian conflict has on this, especially since in Turkish the English words “Alawite” and “Alevi” can both be rendered in Turkish Alevi . Alevis increasingly have the letter A spray-painted on their houses by Sunni vigilantes (cf. Nazis painting the Star of David on Jewish houses.)
    The Republic has not been as secular as all that, especially in crisis periods. The career of Adnan Menderes is a sign of that. He was not as demonstratively pious as Erdogan but to some degree he is Erdogan’s role model and was the first prime minister of modern Turkey to play the populist Sunni card that Erdogan does. He brought Turkey into NATO, orchestrated pogroms against Greeks and what was left of the Armenians in Istanbul in 1955, using the same toxic mix of chauvinism and bigoted Islam that Erdogan resorts to, was increasingly authoritarian (people were thrown in jail on often dubious grounds and publications banned – like today) and was overthrown by the army with covert US backing and perhaps encouragement in 1960. He was executed in 1961 by hanging.
    Turgut Ozal was the first civilian PM following the 1980 military coup and he too played the religion card, and may have belonged to an Islamic religious order, which should have disqualified him under the constitution if true. He was also a populist as well as an encourager of privatisation, but the PKK conflict escalated under his rule which was increasingly troubled, and he was shot in the arm in I think 1993, in what might have been either a serious assassination attempt or a warning. He died not long afterwards, apparently naturally though some, especially the AKP, maintain he was poisoned. His body was exhumed for tests but they failed to bear out the poisoning theory.
    For a short period in the 1990s, Necmettin Erbakan was prime minister and he even more openly played the neo-Ottoman and Sunni Islam card. Some of his party’s election materials were quite anti-Semitic though relations with Israel were in fact good during his tenure of office. But the army forced him from power in 1997, not with a coup, but with the threat of one.
    Erdogan builds on these prior developments and has been longer-lasting. In the West, he and the AKP tended to get favourable media coverage from about 2002, when the AKP was first elected, until about 2013 when the Gezi events happened. The USA and EU may have felt that the old-style generals were no longer the way to go and it was time to give “moderate Islam” a chance. As early as 2010, though, a Wikileaks-published message noted Western ambassadors complaining that AKP officials they dealt with were stupid and incompetent, so it seems stresses were developing. Inside Turkey, complaints that he was undermining secularism were growing, and the backwash from the Syrian conflict took and is still taking its toll. A “peace process” with the PKK seemed to be going well until it abruptly ended in 2015 in circumstances I have already described, and then there was the putsch attempt last July. Which is where we came in.
    My point is, however, that under the Republic the pendulum often swung in the direction of a kind of populist Islam for a time before being pushed back the other way, sometimes brutally. Erdogan in his turn has been trying to keep the pendulum from swinging back, also brutally, explaining many of the phenomena I have been referring to earlier in the thread.

    • Replies: @Avery
  75. Avery says:

    {The Republic has not been as secular as all that,…orchestrated pogroms against Greeks and what was left of the Armenians in Istanbul in 1955,…}

    And before that, the much praised (secular) Mustafa Kemal, ordered the massacre of (mostly) Alevi Kurds/Zaza at Dersim 1937/1938. Up to 80,000* were massacred or ‘disappeared’. Turks dispute that number, of course: what a surprise. What is not disputed is that Zaza old men, women and children were massacred by Turks. Families who had sought shelter in caves were burnt alive and subjected to chemical attack. Interestingly, some years ago Erdogan kind-sorta apologized for Dersim on behalf of the Turkish State.

    This was no isolated deed of the mass murderer Kemal. Mustafa Kemal continued Turks’ genocidal policies against Armenia and the Armenian people living on their own ancestral lands.
    Here is the order that Kemal issues to General Karabekir on Nov 8, 1920:
    “…destroy Armenia not only ‘politically’ but also ‘physically’ (siyaseten ve maddeten)….”
    The AG continued under Kemal’s watch until 1923.

    * Western sources put the number at 40K-50K.

    • Replies: @Uebersetzer
    , @Uebersetzer
  76. @Avery

    Dersim (Tunceli) is the most traditionally rebellious part of Turkey, mainly because of the Kurdish Alevi nature of the population and the history of massacres. Erdogan did make a kind of apology some years back – the AKP has allowed some chipping away at Ataturk’s legacy, and this contributed to that (it was something that could not be blamed on the Ottomans, after all) and it embarrassed the CHP, who are very Ataturk-pious but whose voting base is heavily Alevi.
    Dersim today has a significant number of PKK and Marxist guerrillas operating in its mountains.

  77. @Avery

    You face all manner of legal and personal safety complexities in Turkey if you say genocide was committed against the Armenians. Hrant Dink, an openly declared Armenian, was murdered 10 years ago in Istanbul in broad daylight. His killer was quickly arrested, but film recently released that was taken inside the police station at his arrest suggests the police there applauded his deed, and were it not for higher orders, they would probably have turned him loose.

  78. A small correction to 74 – Turgut Ozal was wounded at a rowdy congress of his Motherland party in 1988, he died in 1993.
    In the late 1930s, a Kemalist cartoonist depicted aspects of Ottoman Turkey and the Republic of his day side by side – in the Ottoman version, a sort of rural healer is shown trying to cure a sick man by breathing on him, while the Republican version is a modern doctor in a well-equipped hospital, an Ottoman policeman is unshaven, slightly hunchbacked and brutish, his Republican counterpart is younger and clean-cut etc. Good propaganda, but in reality the Republic’s police have not been that different from the Ottoman ones, the well-equipped hospitals exist but never reached everyone who needed them and could be expensive etc.

  79. Trump is deranged and unstable we all know but this comparison doesn’t hold water. The military is not behind him. The RP is not behind him. The IC hates him. Those who put him in office are quickly going to turn on him with a vengeance as he breaks all the promises. Once the RP gets what they want (or sooner), they will throw him under the bus, but we are still stuck with Pence who is no fool and a hardcore evangelical neoliberal neo-fascist.

    A regime change is in the works for certain to remove Trump but that is going to fail until the RP gets behind that movement and they are not going to do that just yet. It’s hard for me to see a military coup as I just can’t see our military doing a take-over. Yet.

    The moneyed have done that, and will continue to do that as they turn the PDs into a military force. Close the borders and, “Papers please”. It won’t be Trump, but Pence and his handlers who would and can do that. I’m not convinced we are there yet although things are going to be very bad for all of us for a lot of years. The damage these people can do in a short time is unbelievable.

  80. The military is not behind Erdogan either – he has to keep throwing them in jail to avert another putsch attempt, but I am picking up indications they are not happy about the Al Bab screw-up.
    Erdogan is certainly unstable and possibly deranged, but there is method in his madness – he has been inserting AKP cadres into Turkish institutions for many years, even if many are Gulenists now sitting in jail.
    Trump is certainly unstable and possibly deranged but he has barely had time to insert anyone into the institutions, other than picking a cabinet. There are far more checks and balances on him than there are on Erdogan.
    Erdogan has no Pence waiting in the wings and is probably morbidly afraid of potential successors, even though his health is reputedly not great.


    AKP-appointed governor was waving an automatic rifle around calling for Gulen supporters to be hunted down in the wake of the failed coup. He is now himself being investigated for Gulen links. He might be innocent of them – wide-scale purges often produce individual injustices. Or else his display of militancy was because he had something to hide…


    65-year-old woman in Antalya, Turkey dies of heart attack while trying to stop police from taking away her son during a raid.
    Apparently, it was the wrong house.


    I was familiar enough with this anti-Christian environment encouraged in Turkey, and which helped set up the Reina attack.

  84. we love erdogan more than our own lives we shall all rise to defend ,if any one threatens him he is just and our only figure. All Muslims love him with somalis holding greatest affection to him. So if u have minds Barry ur envies and join erdogan’s progress. my brother erdogan I wish u long life .may ur next successor be like you.

    • Replies: @Uebersetzer

    Erdogan certainly has done much to make Turkey resemble Somalia.

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