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The Mythology of Erdogan and the Kurds. The Reorientation of the World Order


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“Turkey’s Erdogan Wants to Crush the Kurds and Recreate the Ottoman World”

It’s true, with Western propagandistic headlines like this, who needs NATO, who really needs them as even friends. Perhaps the barrage of such vitriol has caused two vital allies of Washington, Ankara and Islamabad, to be fare more cautious from here on out.

It was bad before in previous decades, but headlines like this – NOT in right wing cheerleaders of empire like Fox News – but in virtually all of the “Liberal media” (who consider themselves more sophisticated and nuanced), we see one ridiculous (and dangerous) headline after the next.

It’s not Erdogan or Imran Khan per se who bother Western elites.

It is what they represent: the de-centering of the West, the re-orienting of the world order, and the profound crisis and rapidly collapsing  world system of the 500 year project of coloniality.

The Erdogans, Khans, etc., In a nutshell, represent the irresolvable crises of ‘whiteness’ (in a world that is finally beginning to mentally decolonize from prostrating before the Western “White Man” – used here as a political category rather than merely a racial one).

It is a crisis of that white supremacist world order, and a crisis of the post-WWII liberal international order that Western hegemony thought it could dominate endlessly – all culminating now in the relative structural decline of the Western plutocracies.

Of course, the leading American politicos and financiers fully grasp this situation but keep getting convinced by the warmongering neocons and Zionists in Washington DC that the Empire can reverse its decline by reckless threats and flexing its military muscle. Or, if that doesn’t work, learn from the German and Italian leaders of the 1930s about how to deal with the ‘Muslim Question’.

Indeed, headlines like this infantile one reflect that. They have become indistinguishable from any utter nonsense one may expect from many one-man, one-party, and one-media kind of states (many of which are close allies of Washington), something to be reflexively dismissed because everyone knows it’s pure state propaganda.

And in the headline referred to here, the mythology we are expected to swallow is just too insulting to our intelligence. Erdogan and the AKP were the first forces ever to make overtures to the Kurds, to both integrate them and grant them autonomy. In fact, Turkey’s worst crimes against the Kurds peaked in the 1990s with complete military and political support from Washington. A decade ago, Erdogan and the AKP were ‘NATO’s Islamists’ and promoted as a model for the Muslim world, repeated ad nauseum by every Western think tank.

So yes, the Kurds have been treated horribly by the state of Turkey, but that is a long history of secular military repression long preceding Erdogan and the AKP party that initially tried to ameliorate the conflict.

The fact of the matter is that the Gulf petro autocrats, their best friend the Zionist Israeli regime, and Washington never can tolerate any leader – from the global South and especially if s/he happens to be Muslim – getting too big for their boots…

The Saudis in particular are aching to punish Erdogan since he made sure that the Saudis would not just run roughshod and take over Qatar, since Turkey sent its troops immediately to defend Qatar from the Saudi invasion.

After all, the House of Saud believes that the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and indeed all Muslim nations exist to serve them and their interests alone. They are – or at least claim to be –  the custodians of the two holy mosques and Islam more generally, so the House of Saud expects a default genuflection to its tyranny by all Muslims of the world.

Fortunately, that is the fictitious  fantasy land of the ‘reformer’ Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman(MBS), whose wet dreams undoubtedly are instigated by the smile on his face knowing Yemenis, Gazans, etc. are being butchered.

MBS should know not let his feelings get hurt by the fact that overwhelming majority of the Muslims throughout the world only care to visit or even think of Saudi Arabia when it comes to performing their mandatory religious ritual of Hajj (pilgrimage). Other than that, they see the House of Saud as the curse upon the Muslim world that it is, always on the side of oppression and subjugation, and ingratiating itself with its protectors in Washington at whatever price demanded. The Emiratis play the exact same game.

It is incredulous that in light of the criminal wars  and humanitarian catastrophes in Yemen, Gaza, and at the US-Mexico border where entire families are being ripped apart, the Western plutocracies and their media are involved in the most vulgar hypocrisy imaginable – when it comes the ‘non-West,’ the ‘non-White,’ and especially, the Muslim.

Nevertheless, we must never forget the courage of the many in the West resisting the creeping fascism that their elites are trying to impose on them and the world.

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Erdogan: The Sultan Of An Illusionary Ottoman Empire


This is the fourth and last in a series of articles based in part on eyewitness accounts about the rapidly deteriorating socio-political conditions in Turkey and what the future may hold for the country. The first, second and third articles are available here: First, Second, Third.

In many conversations and encounters I had over the years with former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, he emphatically echoed his boss President Erdogan’s grandiose vision that by 2023 (the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic), Turkey will become as powerful and influential as the Ottoman Empire was during its heyday. Under the best of circumstances, Turkey cannot realize Erdogan’s far-fetched dream. Had he stayed the course, however, with his socio-political and judiciary reforms and economic developments, as he had during his first nine years in power, Turkey could have become a major player on the global stage and a regional powerhouse.

Sadly, Erdogan abandoned much of the impressive democratic reforms he championed, and embarked upon a systematic Islamization of the country while dismantling the pillars of democracy. He amassed unprecedented powers and transformed Turkey from a democratic to an autocratic country, ensuring that he has the last word on all matters of state.

In retrospect, it appears that Erdogan had never committed himself to a democratic form of government. The reforms he undertook during his first nine years in power were largely induced by the European Union’s requirements from any country seeking membership, which he exploited as a means by which to propel himself toward his ultimate goal. A quote attributed to him in 1999 describes precisely what his real intentions were from the day he rose to power. “Democracy” he said, “is like a bus, when you arrive at your destination, you step off.”

His role model is Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (meaning “Father of the Turks”), who founded the Turkish Republic in 1923.  Both share similar personal attributes as they sought to lead the nation with an iron fist while disregarding any separation of power. However, Atatürk was determined to establish a Westernized secular democratic state while Erdogan went in the opposite direction.

Erdogan steadily moved to create a theocracy where Islamic tradition and values reign supreme while assuming Atatürk’s image, which is revered by most Turks. Erdogan presents himself as one who leads with determination and purpose, generating power from his popular support, ultimately seeking to replace Atatürk; with the new amendments to the constitution, he will be endowed with powers even greater than Atatürk ever held.

With his growing popularity and most impressive economic growth, Erdogan successfully created the status of a strong and resolute leader—the “father” of a new Turkish Republic—and artfully penetrated the consciousness of the Turkish public while using Islam as the undisputed pathway that will lead Turkey to greatness. He is determined to preside at the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic over a powerful nation among the top ten largest global economies and that extends its influence East and West, akin to the prodigious influence that the Ottoman Empire enjoyed.

To realize his grand vision, Erdogan took several measures to consolidate his absolute power.

First, clearing the way: Erdogan embarked on the complete marginalization or elimination of anyone, in and outside the ruling AK Party, that challenged his authority or advanced new ideas for solving the country’s problems. Those who did not support his policies and dared to question his judgment were not spared. He resorted to conspiracy theories, accusing his political opponents of being enemies of the state aiming to topple his government, in order to continue unopposed to realize his vision for the country, analogous to the influence and outreach of the Ottoman Empire. He even fired his long-time friend and confidant Davutoglu because Davutoglu differed from him in connection with the Kurdish problem, and especially because of Davutoglu’s reluctance to support the constitutional amendments that will grant the president sweeping and unprecedented powers.

Second, the need for a culprit: Erdogan needed a scapegoat to blame for any of his shortcomings, and found the Gulen movement to be the perfect culprit that would provide him with the cover to overshadow the massive corruption that has swept his government. This also provided him with the “justification” to crack down on many social, political, and institutional entities, silencing the media, controlling the judiciary, and subordinating the military.

The aftermath of the attempted military coup in July 2016 gave him the ammunition to conduct a society-wide witch-hunt, providing him with the excuse to purge tens of thousands of people from academia, civil society, judiciary, military, and internal security. This has allowed him to assume total control of all departments in the government and private sector. He described his purge as a necessary evil to cleanse the public of the ‘cancer’ that has gripped the country. In so doing, he ensured that the political system revolves around the presidency, leaving him completely unchallenged to pursue his imperial dream to resurrect the stature of the Ottoman Empire as the country prepares to vote in the constitutional referendum on April 16.

Third, the creation of Ottoman symbolism: To project his grandiose vision, Erdogan needed to instill Ottoman images into the public consciousness, including the building of a 1,100-room ‘White Palace’ as his residence at a prohibitive cost to taxpayers. His most recent project was the Çamlica Mosque, the now-largest mosque in Istanbul, standing on the eponymous hill that overlooks the entire city.

Recently, Erdogan started the construction of another mosque in Taksim Square—once the site of the fiercest protests against Erdogan in his career—with all the style of the Ottoman era. Erdogan has even instructed that the national anthem be played on modified drums and brass instruments to make the music sound as if it were being played by bands of the Ottoman period. His purpose is to indoctrinate the public in a subliminal way to his perspective of the glorious Ottoman period.

Fourth, foreign policy assertiveness: Under Erdogan, Turkey has become increasingly assertive and forceful in the region. In Cyprus, he is determined to strike a deal largely on his terms. In Iraq, he placed Turkish troops over the objections of the Iraqi government to maintain his ruthless war against the Kurds. In Syria, he allowed thousands of foreign fighters, including many who have joined ISIS, to cross the border to strengthen the anti-Assad fight, while fighting the Syrian Kurds to prevent them from establishing their own autonomous rule, fearing that the Turkish Kurds would also demand autonomous rule of their own.

Erdogan further promoted the policy of “zero problem with neighbors,” and although presently Turkey has problems with just about every neighbor (and its prospective EU membership has completely diminished), he continues to claim that Turkey enjoys good relations internationally. Erdogan still uses Turkey’s membership in NATO as a sign of greatness; the fact that Turkey has the second-largest number of ground troops in  NATO reinforces his illusion that Ankara enjoys unrivaled military prowess in the region and commands the respect and attention of the international community that the Ottoman Empire was accorded.

Fifth, promoting Islam as a powerful tool: Erdogan is also using Sunni Islam to promote the country as a republic with Islamic ideals supported by a loyal state apparatus. He portrays himself as the leader of the Sunni world that would restore the Ottoman era of influence while cementing his authoritarian rule in the form of a neo-Sultan. To be sure, Erdogan is vigorously promoting – with the support of his party – Islamic nationalism systematically and meticulously. Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish analyst of politics and culture and author of the new book The Islamic Jesus says that “political propaganda is in your face every day, every single moment. If you turn on TV, if you open newspapers…”

Former Prime Minister Davutoglu said in 2015 that Turkey “will re-found the Ottoman state.” Although Davutoglu was fired, he—like most Turkish officials—depicts the government as the rightful heir of the Ottoman legacy. To that end, Erdogan uses Islam as the unifying theme that would propel Turkey to the greatness that the Ottoman Empire enjoyed. In fact, Turkish religious leaders have always thought of themselves as the standard-bearer of Islamic civilization, and though this failed with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, to them it must now be corrected. As they would have it, “Turks once again should lead the ummah [Islamic community] as the new Ottomans.”

Sadly, Erdogan, who is still seen as a hero by nearly half of the Turkish population, is leading the country on a treacherous path. Turkey and its people have the resources, creativity, and institutions to make Turkey a significant power. Erdogan, who demonstrated an uncanny ability to harness his country’s natural and human resources, could have made Turkey such a power on the global stage. Indeed, he would have been the Atatürk of the new era had he simply continued with his historic reforms while protecting the rights of every individual and creating a real model of Islamic democracy.

The collapse of the Ottoman Empire was largely precipitated, among other things, by its internal political decadence, the arbitrary exercising of power, and gross violations of human rights that dramatically eroded the foundation on which the empire was built.

In whichever form Erdogan wants to resurrect the Ottoman Empire, he will fail because no country can survive, let alone become great, as long as the government walks on the backs of the people and stifles their freedom to act, speak, and dream.

There is where the greatness of any nation rests and endures—the Ottoman Empire never provided a model worthy of such emulation.

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