Hard drives and the 'Shadow State'


I was genuinely impressed by Italian director Marco Tullio Giordana’s film about the infamous Milan bombing in 1969. I regretted not watching it earlier. It was such a powerful reminder of Turkey in the same period, and what followed after.


Based on a meticulous historic and legal investigation, scripted as a first-class thriller, “Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy” tells about a demonic web of political intrigue in the top echelons of Italian power, as its “shadow state” — murky structures of agents, spies and informers who operate with the CIA’s rogue “Cold Warriors” and Italian fascists — managed a series of terror acts to unsettle the fragile democracy and join Greece and Portugal as dictatorships by staging a coup.

As they secretly conspire, we see a very gloomy Aldo Moro sensing the plotting, uncovering some of it and struggling to prevent it from happening. The rest is naked history: the entire 1970s as a nightmare not only in Italy, but also in Germany and Turkey, the climax being an attempt to assassinate the pope in 1982.

So many years after the end of the Cold War, we are still too busy — elsewhere (Pakistan and Afghanistan) desperately so — to face the remnants of the dirt mainly created by ill-thought-out American policies during that period. Turkey also has a long way to go because its civilian forces have in the past two decades faced fierce resistance from within.

In a recent interview with the Yeni Şafak daily, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the aftershocks of the Cold War have only started to hit the shores of this side of the world, the Balkans and Turkey, for real.

It is clear what he has in mind: the confrontation with Turkey’s deep structures, which managed to keep the country unstable and in a constant state of emergency since the 1950s until not so long ago.

Davutoğlu’s analysis is a valid one. It is also a widely shared view among those who tried to excavate the depths of the state that the most resilient Gladio-type of structure after the fall of Berlin Wall was in Turkey.

Why so long? Turkey’s remarkable delay, while other parts of NATO did some housecleaning and Eastern Europe bloomed into democracies, can be explained partly by its unbending generals, entrenched in their Kemalist dogma believing they can engineer society without changing an inch in a rapidly changing world.

But it has also to do with the civilian elite’s elevation of militarism to cult status, quasi-democracy as an ideal form of government, its media-worshipping and it fearing the army enough to be its servant, and a left — militarist also at its core — without any ability to relate itself to the fabric of Turkey’s reality.

The current struggle to deal with the remnants of the “shadow state” is very bumpy, but crucial. Militarism here is so deeply internalized in the mindset that cries such as “Ergenekon is fiction!” never lose their strength. The elite still seeks shelter in primitive reflexes so that subversive state structures remain in place because they are at a loss for any alternative to the current ruling party.

This fierce confrontation, as an unclosed chapter, reminds me of Spain, which keeps its ghosts of the Franco era under a lid.

The question is, of course, what will happen beyond Davutoğlu’s analysis. How determined is the civilian government to expose and abolish Turkey’s “shadow state”? The answers lie in the Special Warfare Department (ÖHD) within the army. Parliament’s investigation commission has already been given, by the state itself, lists of people belonging to “sleeper cells” — a total of around 100,000 people. In the most recent move, the army’s central command sent some hard drives to the prosecutors of the Ergenekon trial that show that the ÖHD, having been founded according to the “American theory,” was out of control for the past five to six decades. It reveals that if its “secret acts” (i.e., crimes) are exposed now, it will have a devastating effect on the army in the eyes of the public.

Need we say more about the urgency of the task?