Turkey's Government Blames Its Past Mistakes on Gülenists

by Burak Bekdil
"The Cemaat did it," says the child in this cartoon, using popular shorthand for followers of exiled Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen.
The Gülenists' failed putsch has provided the government with an unconvincing opportunity to blame all past mistakes on this clandestine group. Because it is shadowy, you can blame every failure on its shadowy elements, real or fake.

Even a National Security Council (chaired by the president) order to shoot down any foreign military airplane that violates Turkish airspace, executed on orders from the (then) prime minister, is now being blamed on "Gülenist pilots." This columnist cannot recall how many times the prime minister said it was HIS orders to shoot – and that any further aircraft that violates Turkish airspace would also be shot.

Most recently, a senior official told this newspaper that elements in the Turkish military with ties to the Gülenists worked to stall Turkey's operation in the northern Syrian city of Jarablus for over two years. According to this theory, the Turkish government has been working on a ground incursion for more than two years. It came close to putting boots on the ground there for over two years and contingency plans were drawn up as a first step toward military action. But "certain commanders within the military worked to stall Turkey's plan to move" as they came up with excuses, such as a lack of military capability, to make it impossible for the government to move forward. Nice one.

But did the government, over and over, not emphasize in bold letters in the past several years that it was making the decisions, not the military? Were/are there crypto Gülenists within the cabinet ranks? Why did the president and the prime minister decide to put off the incursion into Syria when they claimed that the mighty Turkish military could reach Damascus in a few hours – and when Jarablus is a few minutes' drive from the border?

Don't be surprised if in a year's time Operation Euphrates Shield is blamed on a crypto cell of Gülenist officers....

We are going through days when even the Gülenists, crypto Gülenists, repentant Gülenists or opportunistic Gülenists cannot decide which category they should belong to: Schizophrenia is Gülen's gift to Turkey after the putsch attempt.

Don't be surprised if in a year's time Operation Euphrates Shield is blamed on another crypto cell of Gülenist officers. Try to get used to this cycle. "It was a silly operation planned by Gülenist elements within the military." Or, if Turkey decides to withdraw, claiming victory, then the decision to withdraw could also be blamed on crypto Gülenists if it is not a success.

After all, the race has begun and there are no limits.

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.