- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 28, 2001

Columnist Amos Perlmutter´s defense of the Turkish military is replete with Orwellian distortions and serious omissions (“Turkish anxieties,” Commentary, April 24).

According to Dr. Perlmutter, “The military in Turkey has demonstrated over the last 50 years that it is dedicated to sustaining a democratic political system, even at the price of political weakness.” He even asserts that the military in Turkey acts as the guardian of the Turkish constitution. However, the extent of the Turkish military´s hand in the government has been greatly underestimated.

In reality, Turkey is and has been under the control of a self-perpetuating military junta composed of the six military members of Turkey´s National Security Council and headed by the chief of staff, General Huseyin Kivrikoglu, who decides on nominations and promotions within the armed forces and names his own successor. The Turkish military controls foreign and domestic policy under the Turkish constitution and its political control is augmented and supported by its ownership of substantial business and financial assets and control of its own budget amounting to one-third of state revenues.

Military control of the government whatever the extent of that control is inherently non-democratic. Any definition of democracy must include civilian control over the military. The issue in Turkey is civilian versus military rule, not secular versus religious rule, which is what the military likes to propagandize.

Former French Ambassador to Turkey Eric Rouleau, in an exceptional article in Foreign Affairs that should be required reading for anyone dealing with U.S. relations with Turkey, describes the Turkish military´s control over the Turkish state: “A rigid, nationalist ideology and a powerful, activist officer corps: this is what the EU is up against in trying to persuade Turkey to totally revamp a constitution that institutionalizes the army´s dominant power and blocks any move toward democratization.”

The IMF has bailed Turkey out of 17 financial crises over the past decades, yet these rescue efforts have not stabilized the Turkish economy because of the failure to identify and address the key factor in Turkey´s financial crises: the Turkish military. Shoring up the Turkish economy without reforming the military hold on the modern Turkish state is self-defeating and only ensures that U.S. interests will not be served. The IMF, the United States and other outside assistance to Turkey should be conditioned on reform of the military´s control of the Turkish state and its military-industrial complex.

Dr. Perlmutter´s failure to mention Turkey´s horrendous human rights abuses is a serious omission. Ambassador Rouleau details the Turkish military´s actions between 1984, when the war started, and 1999: 35,000 Kurdish civilians killed in military campaigns and 18,500 assassinations by mercenaries working for the security agencies. Also, 2,500 villages were burned creating 2,500,000 Kurdish refugees.

A genuine democracy in Turkey is in the interests of the United States, Turkey´s neighbors and, above all, the Turkish people. We should be giving full support to the democratic forces in acquiescing to the military´s power through continued financial assistance without contingencies for democratic reform attached.


EUGENE T. ROSSIDES

General Counsel

American Hellenic Institute, Inc.

Washington


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