Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Turkey, Post-Coup No Free Pass for Purges, but Let's Try Some Empathy

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Turkey, Post-Coup No Free Pass for Purges, but Let's Try Some Empathy

Article excerpt

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's response to last week's attempted military coup d'etat has been strong, and is being chastised as an attack on Turkish democracy by some European and American critics. At the same time, it calls out for some understanding.

First, there is a long recent history of Turkish military overthrows of Turkish governments. They have occurred in 1960, 1971 and 1980. Second, last Friday's attempt took place against a history of grapplings for power between, roughly, secular and Islamic political groupings. The Turkish military sees itself as the guardian of the secular side. The Islamic side, represented by Mr. Erdogan and his AKP party, is currently in power.

Perhaps the best way for Americans to understand what is going on in Turkey is to imagine the American population's probable reaction to an attempted military coup d'etat here. The constitutional, civilian, democratically elected authorities would come down on the U.S. military like a ton of bricks. There would be arrests of generals, confinements to barracks, and actions against government officials and others who were considered to have supported the coup attempt, just as there have been in Turkey in the past few days.

It gets worse. Some Americans seem concerned that the Turkish government is going to present a long list of charges against Fethullah Gulen, the Islamic cleric in exile in the Poconos region of Eastern Pennsylvania, and demand his extradition to Turkey to face trial. The Erdogan government is worried about him, first, because he is its most prominent political enemy, and, second, because he has a widespread, strong network in the United States and within the Turkish military, which has close ties to the American military. …

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