...The immense and destructive crackdown underway in Turkey now, with at least 10,000 Turks taken into custody and as many as 100,000 others dismissed from their positions — not only soldiers, but judges, civil servants, police and academics — isn’t an end-game. It’s a beginning.
Declaring a state of emergency in the wake of the botched coup attempt, Erdogan and his allies claim that 100,000 Turks were in on the plot.
It’s one of the most preposterous claims of our time, but it does the job (any coup with that many conspirators wouldn’t have remained a secret long—coups don’t work that way).
Erdogan didn’t need a reason for this pre-planned purge. He had his reasons and his lists of names. He needed an excuse. The failed coup was a gift.
Now we’re witnesses to the destruction of Turkey’s secular society and the forced-march reversion to religious regimentation and obscurantism, to intolerance and oppressive fundamentalism. This is the triumph of mosque over modernity, not of the rule of law, but of its supersession. It took almost a century in Turkey, but faith proved stronger than civilization again — a trend across the bleeding Islamic world.
Professors have been forbidden to leave the country. The government demanded the resignation of all the deans of higher-level schools and universities. Book-banning is on the way, and book-burning wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
Erdogan also used the coup to demand the extradition from the United States of Fethullah Gulen, a cleric and one-time ally. Shamelessly insisting that Gulen orchestrated the coup attempt from the Poconos, Erdogan is determined to crush even the faintest spark of dissent or resistance.
Various observers have likened the coup’s effect to that of the Reichstag Fire, the murky arson at the German parliament that provided Hitler with the excuse to stamp out all political opposition. The parallel is chillingly precise. The Turkish intelligentsia is about to find itself in the precarious condition of Germany’s intellectuals and Jews in the 1930s.
Erdogan wants power for himself, but he also, sincerely, wants it for his faith. He’s a true believer and a megalomaniac. His ambitions will ultimately lead Turkey, its neighbors and, quite possibly, its blind, bewildered allies into a succession of bloody tragedies, but for now he has real support among half of the population, those for whom the fever of faith is the ultimate intoxicant. He polls better than Hitler did. “Mein Kampf” is no match for the Holy Koran.
In recent years, the term “Islamo-fascism” has been thrown around a good bit, usually by those who understand neither Islam nor fascism. But “Islamist fascism” genuinely fits Erdogan’s program: populist intolerance justified by faith and harnessed by a leader who explains any failure in terms of victimhood. Erdogan offers exaltation and revenge, the tastiest dish in politics.
And, as in Nazi Germany, those confident citizens who deluded themselves that the new leader could be managed find themselves in prison cells or desperate for visa stamps in their passports (if their documents haven’t already been confiscated).
The double-speak language, the naked propaganda, is present, too — as in Erdogan’s claim that his purge of the opposition will strengthen Turkish democracy. His version of democracy is less convincing than Putin’s.
From Reichskanzler to Fuehrer, or from president to sultan-and-caliph, to Erdogan the step appears inevitable. It’s only a matter of timing.
Among the would-be sultan-and-caliph’s cynical initiatives this week has been floating the revival of the death penalty for treason — in order to finish off key opponents permanently and intimidate those permitted to survive. But the real execution warrant has been issued: Erdogan killed the secular Turkey of Ataturk, the dream that a Muslim nation could take its place in the front rank of civilization.
*Strategic analyst, retired U.S. Army officer and the author of prize-winning fiction and non-fiction books on the Civil War and the military.
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Excerpted from the piece published on Fox News, 21 June 2016, Thursday