Magazine article The Progressive

Turkey's Terrorists: A CIA Legacy Lives On

Magazine article The Progressive

Turkey's Terrorists: A CIA Legacy Lives On

Article excerpt

On November 3, a truck crashed into a Mercedes Benz in Susurluk, ninety miles south of Istanbul, and killed three Turkish passengers: a fugitive heroin smuggler and hitman, a former high-ranking police officer, and a former "Miss Cinema." The lone survivor was a rightwing member of parliament. In the car's trunk, police found a forged passport, police identification papers, ammunition, silencers, and machine guns.

Abdullah Catli, the fugitive heroin smuggler, had escaped from a Swiss prison. The dead beauty queen, Gonca Uz, was his girlfriend.

The police officer was Huseyin Kocadag, head of a Turkish police academy and a former Istanbul deputy police chief who reportedly organized hit squads in the southeast that kill Kurdish guerrillas and their supporters.

The survivor, Sedat Bucak, a member of parliament from the conservative True Path Party, is reportedly in charge of 2,000 Kurdish mercenaries paid by the government to fight Kurdish guerrillas.

The car crash has created a sensation in Turkey and has led parliament to hold hearings on the ties linking the True Path Party, the police, and thugs like Abdullah Catli. Newspapers in Turkey are making connections between what they are calling the "state gang" and a secret paramilitary force that for decades has attacked the left. But as Turkish investigators dig, they may come across one more hidden connection: The United States set up that secret paramilitary force at the height of the Cold War.

In the 1950s, the United States was concerned that the Soviet Union would conquer much of Western Europe. The CIA and the Pentagon came up with a plan to establish secret resistance groups within various Western European countries that would fight back against the predicted Soviet occupation. These groups were called "stay-behind" organizations: little cells of paramilitary units that would take on the Soviets behind enemy lines. Belgium, France, Holland, Greece, Italy, and Germany have all acknowledged that they participated in the covert network.

The United States funded these stay-behind groups for decades. Even though there was no Soviet occupation, some of the groups did take up arms -- against left-wing dissidents in their own countries. Some descendants of these groups are still at it, especially in Turkey.

Abdullah Catli was one of those.

"The accident unveiled the dark liaisons within the state," former prime minister Bulent Ecevit told parliament in December. Now leader of a small opposition social-democratic party, Ecevit knows a lot about those liaisons. He first told me about them -- and the American connection -- back in 1990, when I interviewed him in his Ankara office, where he sat in a soft, brown chair sipping a cherry drink.

Ecevit is a genial, seventy-one-year-old man with a high forehead, deep-set eyes, a beakish nose, curly black hair, and a moustache. The son of a doctor and a painter, Ecevit is an intellectual and a poet who has translated T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. He graduated from the American-run Robert College and lived in the United States as a student and a journalist. He once led the major social-democratic party; there was a split, and he now heads the smaller of the two.

Ecevit became prime minister in 1973. He told me he was startled the following year when the Turkish military high command requested money from the prime minister's secret fund to pay for a new headquarters for the Special Warfare Department. General Semih Sancar, Turkey's army commander, told him about the department. He said the Americans had funded it from the start, but now they were allegedly pulling out. Sancar advised Ecevit not to look too closely at the matter. Ecevit investigated and found no such organization in the state budget.

"There are a certain number of volunteer patriots whose names are kept secret and are engaged for life in this special department," a military briefer told Ecevit. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.