October 29, 2014

Erdoğan's personal propaganda tool, the MGK

Mümtazer Türköne

Like the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US, or the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) in Germany, the MGK in Turkey -- the National Security Council -- is the land's highest coordinator for state security. With constitutional reforms made in the wake of European Union reforms that led to an increase in the number of civilian members on this high security board, the general weight of government representatives on the MGK became much more formidable. Debates surrounding the MGK always reflect power struggles within the ranks of the state. And in the past, of course, the military used this board to design and guide politics. In fact, the most recent military coup in Turkish history -- the Feb. 28, 1997 process -- sprung from a MGK meeting and the decisions reached at this meeting.

These days, in the newly civilianized MGK, the military doesn't carry nearly as much weight as in the past. But while the roles may have switched, the content of undemocratic decisions has not. There is less of a struggle over security coordination and more of a struggle over power that we see sitting at the top of the agenda of this council.

There are some very critical security problems that compose the agenda of the MGK. The whole Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) problem, as well as the clashes underway in Kobani, has turned into both a domestic as well as an external security problem for Turkey. The recent killing of three unarmed soldiers in Hakkari's Yüksekova was just one piece of the ongoing armed threat of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). In the meantime, the opening up of a corridor into Kobani, and the fact that armed peshmerga will be travelling through Turkey and into Kobani, represents the most pressing issue for the MGK at this point. The Turkish public is hearing directly from its commander in chief of the armed forces that in fact he is not in the loop and informed when it comes to either the peace process underway with the PKK or the passage of peshmerga over Turkish land and into Syria. The MGK is not even able to fulfill its most basic duties of coordination. So what is it doing these days?

What we see instead is that the MGK is being used as a propaganda tool for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's personal policies and priorities.

In statements made to the press by Erdoğan, one can see how he himself has manufactured the agenda for the MGK and thus how this new kind of propaganda is functioning. After all, Erdoğan is using every tool in hand to wage a war against the Fethullah Gülen movement. His extraordinary campaign against Bank Asya is just one facet of this war. He is now using the MGK to try to condemn the Gülen movement, which must be one of the world's most peaceful movements, as an “illegal organization.” It is almost inconceivable that as a foundation known to be close to Gülen in Geneva works to help coordinate a United Nations meeting, this same foundation is being presented in a Turkish MGK meeting as a “threat.”

Erdoğan has asserted that the Gülen movement is to be included in the Red Book as a “prioritized threat.” But never mind the fact that he acts and speaks as though this has all been decided upon already. The fact is, he does not have the proper authority to do this. What's more, there is absolutely no document or piece of information that would support such a move.

On top of that, the prosecutor's office has still not opened a single investigation into this peaceful movement. Nor is there any official complaint against the movement lodged with the courts.

In short, the war being waged by Erdoğan against the Gülen movement really only serves his political interests. What Erdoğan is now aiming to do is extricate himself from the difficult position into which he's been placed by way of the Dec. 17-25 investigations by opening up a war against the Gülen movement. He is trying to strengthen his own political position by painting the rightfully respected and esteemed Gülen movement as evil. Trying to get the Gülen movement placed on the MGK agenda as a “priority threat” is nothing other than a blatantly simplistic propaganda technique.

So, will the other members who sit on the MGK go along with this technique? With so many pressing items on the agenda these days, will the MGK really work as Erdoğan's private propaganda machine? We don't believe so. It is particularly impossible for the military members of the MGK to not ask this question: “According to which evidence and which reasoning are we to place the Gülen movement on our agenda as a 'priority threat'?”

Published on Today's Zaman, 28 October 2014, Tuesday