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  • My wife and I were already nervous when our teenage daughter walked alone through the security portal to board a late-night flight on Turkish Airlines. In Istanbul she would have to negotiate passport control and then make her way through Atatürk Airport to the attached domestic terminal, passing through the arrival lobby that was the scene of a jihadist massacre barely two weeks earlier. She speaks some Turkish, but we didn’t want her asking random strangers for directions, and so prepped her about what to do, even going so far as taking a virtual street map tour of the Ataturk main terminal with her.

    We anxiously waited to hear from her after she landed, but never did. It seemed the promised international service for her cell phone wasn’t working. We held our breath for another six hours to see if she would emerge from her connecting flight into the bosom of her Turkish relatives. It turned out that she did, and in good spirits, proud of herself for finding her way to the right gate. We exhaled.

    And then we got word of the military coup d’état that was launched while she was airborne that rocked Turkey and the world. Had our kid had a slightly later connection, she would have been out of luck because Atatürk Airport was shut down for about the next 24 hours. She would have to sleep there and then be jostled by thousands of anxious passengers all trying to get the hell out at the same time. Thankfully, that was not to be, and with our personal concerns out of the way, my Turkish wife and I glued our eyeballs to all channels trying to understand what in Allah’s name was going on in the fatherland.

    We were never fans of Recip Tayip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party for how it egged on fundamentalists, but paid grudging respect for his early efforts as PM to clean up corruption and stabilize the foundering Turkish economy. Much earlier than pundits started taking him to task for overreaching, we saw him attempting to undo Kemalism and secularism, as he packed judgeships with fellow ideologues and purged ranks of the military of potential enemies to replace them with his minions. And then he campaigned to change the constitution so he could govern indefinitely from the thousand-room palace he built for himself at taxpayer expense. He didn’t win that one, but we’re sure we’ll see him try again and probably succeed this time.
  • Too many Turks and pundits were surprised by the coup, even after warnings and rumors—planted or not—have circulated for months about such a possibility. And too many have yet to see the coup attempt as the self-serving ruse that it likely was, but I am sure they will, and soon. It may have been an officers’ plot. Beforehand, the operation was described within military ranks as a war game, a training exercise, no big deal. It was deliberately kept small-scale and played out mostly in Istanbul and to a lesser extent in Ankara, the capital. All in all, it amounted to a few tanks rumbling along streets, blocking bridges and intersections, one or two low fly-overs, and occupying and shutting down two airports. Oh, and invading the headquarters of Turkish State Broadcasting and telling newscasters what to say, which wasn’t much—but not the independent stations. As coups go, it was pretty wimpy, but hundreds of people died nevertheless, including a score of gendarmes machine-gunned from a military helicopter in their headquarters and civilians who were shot down trying to walk across a Bosporus bridge.

    However, it could just as easily have been self-inflicted. As the coup unfolded, Erdoğan was vacationing in a Marmaris resort, on the southwest coast. He eloped to an airfield to board his Gulfstream in the nick of time, he said, to avoid paratroopers who stormed his hotel with machine guns. That was a nice touch. The Air Force, which seemed to lead the uprising, could have scrambled over there faster and blown him to bits had they been as seriously opposed to his emasculation of secular democracy as coup spokesmen claimed they were. From Marmaris, his plane flew north to circle around near Istanbul (not Ankara) for hours with its transponders on. From on high, Erdoğan tweeted desperate pleas for the Turkish People to rise up to quash the insurrection, which a lot of them apparently did. While he was up there—a sitting duck on a magic carpet—he was even more vulnerable to being picked off by a fighter jet or a missile. Indeed coup-dispatched jets locked radar with his plane. Had they intended not to do him in, they could have shot over his bow, escorted his plane to an airfield, and taken him into custody. Why would he take such a chance if he was at all unsure about what was going on? The answer can only be that he knew what was going on either because he had been briefed about the coup far enough in advance to organize a counter-coup, or had staged the whole thing himself.
  • Coup d'états are mostly nasty affairs that occasionally can lead to a better future, as the brutal 1960 and 1980 ones in Turkey seem to have eventuated, but Reichstag revivals like this one always bode ill. As a result of this inside counter-putsch, we will soon see further purges, more unconstitutional acts, total intolerance of dissent, and accelerated Islamification of public life under the Sultan of Ankara.

    Meanwhile, my daughter vacations with her family in southern Turkey. During her time there, some truth may emerge from the fog of disinformation. Perhaps members of the military will publicly announce or anonymously breathe that the orders came from the top, and that while the exercise may have been illegal, it was not disloyal. But forget Erdoğan’s favorite punching bag, Fetullah Gülen. His acolytes in Turkey will be under pressure and may lash back, but they’ll be a small part of the protests that will gather once the truth of the coup is known or widely suspected. Already 2,800 military personnel have been detained and about as many judges have been dismissed. Whatever the coup's genesis, you don't straightaway haul away thousands of public servants the day your power is restored without a fair amount of forethought. It will be hard for the government to mask the smell of premeditation.

    The tighter the screws turn, the more blowback we’ll see, most of it ugly. I’m extremely sad to see this happen in my adopted country. My in-laws, who rued Erdoğan’s rule, feared a coup might come—but as his just desserts, not this artificial flavor. Now I’m eagerly looking forward to the day my kid slips away from all that madness and returns safely to asylum in the madhouse we call the United States of America.

    An earlier version of the story that contained some factual errors appeared in CounterPunch.


    @image: Turks protesting the attempted coup d’état of July 15, 2016 occupy a tank, location and photographer unknown.
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