The Honorable Barack H. Obama President of the United States The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500 USA
Dear Mr. President:
There is little need to review in depth the grim details about conditions in Turkey; I wrote to you about this subject twice last year. You can easily reread the letters at the addresses cited, if you wish (1). If not you, then someone in your administration surely should. For the existence of the secular, democratic Republic of Turkey hangs in the balance, brought to its knees by a civilian coup in the name of democracy. Yeats said it best back in 1933 when he wrote:
What they undertook to do They brought to pass; All things hang like a drop of dew Upon a blade of grass.(2)
Turkey is now in precisely this precarious position, a drop of dew hanging upon a blade of grass. And THEY have done their subversive job extraordinarily well. Just who are the “THEY,” Mr. President? I will come to that. But first, a most brief summary.
The sine qua non for democracy is an independent judiciary. There is no democracy in Turkey. Constitutionally guaranteed human rights provisions are widely and blithely ignored. There is also no freedom of speech. Neither is there freedom of assembly. Nor is there the freedom of privacy. The entire country is being listened to, including the judges and the army. Emails are monitored. In a country whose government cannot even properly pave roads, suddenly there appears the most modern of police state listening devices. From whence they came, Mr. President? Is this the so-called “intelligence-sharing” program courtesy of America? Even the Turkish army is being listened to! And by the government! How disgraceful! How dangerous to the nation’s security! From these terrifyingly vile and traitorous acts all else follows. Again Yeats got it right: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity” (3). Moreover, any demonstrators are regularly gassed and beaten. The police—in the best traditions of Hitler’s Sturmabteilung, the brownshirts—is now in direct opposition to the Turkish army…and the Turkish people, since the army is, in its essence, OF the people. An enormous muzzle has descended over this land, Mr. President. Simply stated, it’s Islamo-fascism. The Orwellian ruling power calls it democracy, a ruling party—the AKP—that lies, cheats, and steals with wanton abandon. Such is Turkey today.
Opposition writers are jailed and held indefinitely without specific charges. Habeas corpus, while provided by the constitution, is in reality a joke. The media is the lackey of the ruling party. Every branch, every limb, every root of constitutionally-derived governmental power remains firmly in the hands of the prime minister. You remember him, Mr. President? He’s the one you met last month and gave the stirring message that you wanted Turkey to be an “Energy Conduit”! A “conduit?” Is that really what you think, Mr. President? And you should also remember that this same prime minister and his ilk, that is, his fellow AKP members, stand convicted by the Constitutional Court for being the “center of anti-secular activities.” For most prime ministers this would be a great shame. But not for this prime minister. He is experienced in such matters, and has a rap sheet for prior offenses as long as your arm and mine outstretched together. But he, like all members of parliament, is immune from prosecution. This is the prime minister that you metaphorically made an energy conduit. This prime minister is a man of many conduits. And clearly, this prime minister is on another mission. What he undertook to do, he brought to pass...almost.
Of course, Turkey has a president who has sworn an oath to work in the best interests of the country and thus to be above partisanship. This, too, is laughable; the man is a mere notary, root and bole of the same tree, of the same ruling party mentality—dark-minded, anti-secular, anti-female, and retrogressive. Fifteen years ago, in an interview on 27 November 1995 in The Guardian, he proclaimed the end of Turkish secularism. “This is the end of the republican period,” he said. “If 60% of Ankara’s population is living in shacks, then the secular system has failed and we definitely want to change that” (4). Today, this same man—the current president of the secular Republic of Turkey—stands accused of fraud involving the embezzlement of millions of dollars of party funds (5). But he too is immune from prosecution. Mark Twain once noted that there is no inherently criminal class in America except Congress. But Mark Twain never saw today’s Turkey.
Sadly, Mr. President, America has been complicit in bringing these dark-minded, grim-faced people to power. And in so doing, our country has given grave disservice to the vast majority of the Turkish people. But then again, our country has brought grave disservices to the Iranian people, the Chilean people—indeed most of the people in South and Central America, the Vietnamese people, the Cambodian people, the Palestinian people, the Iraqi people, the Afro-American people, and the Native American people. Our country seems to have specialized in “grave”disservices. But that can change, Mr. President. You campaigned on “change,” encouraging all of us to work with you. And I am working with you, Mr. President. In your book you spoke of bringing to America a “different kind of politics” that reflected peoples lives “as they are actually lived” (6). Should the heirs of Atatürk’s secular, democratic legacy live as serfs and dolts under a repressive puppet government? Should they repeatedly be denied their constitutional rights by a criminal gang of poseurs? A government installed and supported by the United States of America, it casts great shame and disrespect on every country that calls itself “democratic.”
Mr. President, last May you came to Turkey and spoke so glowingly of Atatürk. And now you condone and encourage his enemies. What happened? Mr. President, remove American support from these enemies of Atatürk’s secular republic. To me, they are mere entities, puppets, a boring, ignorant residue of the bankrupt Bush policy of making Turkey a “moderate Islamic nation.” Mr. President, “moderate Islamic” is like being moderately pregnant, or moderately stupid. It is nonsense.
Believe me, Mr. President I am grateful for my democratic right to express in writing my concerns about the behavior of my country. It has vast consequences for the Turkish people. Your coming to office gave great hope to the world for peace and intelligent, articulate leadership. Your star, which shone so brightly, now risks being dimmed by the most shameful and indelible of stains. What filth this shameful situation in Turkey casts on the name of America! I despair that history shall record that the democratic, secular republic of Turkey, founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was destroyed by vile criminal elements that came to power to do America’s bidding. To make Turkey an “energy conduit,” an oil pipe built at the expense of the secular republic? Is that what America has in mind, Mr. President? A sewer pipe would be a better analogy.
Mr. President, my duty is to speak out not to become an accomplice in this tragedy. The biggest travesty of justice and human decency is the ongoing nonsense called Ergenekon. Innocent men have already died in jail. Many others are wasting their lives in this vilest of confinement. Now, the image of America—not wholesome to begin with—risks irreparable damage. The danger is clear. The danger is present. The normal channels of journalism do not work here in Turkey. The normal channels of justice have similarly failed. Many people have dared greatly to speak out. As they have dared, so do I dare. And so, as Emile Zola wrote to his president in an earlier no less disgraceful time, I write to you, Mr. President.
“And I proclaim the truth with all the revulsion that an honest man can summon”--“Et c’est à vous, monsieur le Président, que je la crierai, cette vérité, de toute la force de ma révolte d’honnête homme” (7).
What I have told you over the past year are plain and terrifying truths. The current parlous state of Turkey was a long time coming. As I earlier noted, religious fundamentalism and fanaticism did not vanish with the arrival of Atatürk. If you read Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Great Speech that I sent to you last year you will readily see that. You will also readily understand where these current dark-minded politicians came from. I realize, Mr. President, that you have no power over the particulars of the devastating internal events now transpiring in Turkey. Except you do. To the extent that the CIA is involved, as it is always involved, you do. To the extent that the Department of Defense (and its secretary, Robert Gates, a CIA careerist) is involved, you do. To the extent that the Department of State is involved via the interconnection of its embassies, consulates, and CIA undercover operators, you do. But whether you do or don’t is really not my business. The seriousness of the situation in Turkey today is vastly beyond finger-pointing and blame. Something must be done, Mr. President. Zola wrote “that when truth is buried underground, it grows and it builds up so much force that the day it explodes it blasts everything with it.” We are now at such a point in Turkey; the nation faces disaster. Hopefully, my letters demonstrate that truth is on the march, and nothing will stop it. “La vérité est en marche et rien ne l’arrêtera.” (8).
But this letter is too long, Mr. President, and it is time to end it. Listen again to Zola on 13 January 1898 come to the defense of Alfred Dreyfus, and France. It is as if he were describing Turkey today.
"And what a nest of vile intrigues, gossip, and destruction that sacred sanctuary that decides the nation’s fate has become! We are horrified by the terrible light the Dreyfus affair has cast upon it all, this human sacrifice of an unfortunate man… Ah, what a cesspool of folly and foolishness, what preposterous fantasies, what corrupt police tactics, what inquisitorial, tyrannical practices! What petty whims of a few higher-ups trampling the nation under their boots, ramming back down their throats the people’s cries for truth and justice, with the travesty of state security as a pretext. Indeed, it is a crime to have relied on the most squalid elements of the press, and to have entrusted Esterhazy's defense to the vermin of Paris, who are now gloating over the defeat of justice and plain truth. It is a crime that those people who wish to see a generous France take her place as leader of all the free and just nations are being accused of fomenting turmoil in the country, denounced by the very plotters who are conniving so shamelessly to foist this miscarriage of justice on the entire world. It is a crime to lie to the public, to twist public opinion to insane lengths in the service of the vilest death-dealing machinations. It is a crime to poison the minds of the meek and the humble, to stoke the passions of reactionism and intolerance… that, unchecked, will destroy the freedom-loving France of the Rights of Man.It is a crime to exploit patriotism in the service of hatred, and it is, finally, a crime to ensconce the sword as the modern god, whereas all science is toiling to achieve the coming era of truth and justice." (9)
Mr. President, the words I have written are the plain truths, and they are terrifying...for Turkey and for America. May they hasten the inevitable explosion of truth and justice.