The most resistant structure of a secretive “state within” in the post-Cold War era proved to be the one that belonged to Turkey. There was a specific reason for that.
With a republic founded on non-transparent, oppressive, violent rule in the early 1920s, it could only welcome the instruments that the Cold War later offered -- to keep society as a “frozen” entity, engineer it and interfere whenever the foundations were perceived to be “under threat” by civilian politics from the 1950s onwards. Strengthened and justified, it was a tough nut to crack.
It would take, therefore, more than a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and a huge economic crisis, for the Turkish “state within,” popularly called the “deep state,” to show serious cracks. So, after five decades of civilian politics often harassed and operating “at gunpoint,” a question became urgent when the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power in November 2002 with a sweeping victory that wiped out 80 percent of the old political class: “Will the deep state allow this party to conduct normal politics, as it promised the voters?”
The landslide of AK Party was a real wake-up call for a new path, leading to a new Turkey. A threshold was obviously being passed. So, without delay, the American ambassador in Ankara, Robert Pearson, sent a “secret” cable to the State Department two weeks after the elections.
Titled “Turkey’s Deep State,” it is impressive in its sharp insight into what it analyzes and fills in the blanks with authority (simply because Americans do share the collective memory of the Cold War with Turks). The rationale for the cable was simple. “Now,” it said, “Deep State supremacy is being challenged step by step with an openness rare in the history of the Turkish Republic.” It was clear that, as of 2002, “a great majority of Turks is frustrated, distrustful, even fearful of the State as an increasingly out-of-date, authoritarian, inefficient and unaccountable brake on their freedoms.”
What is the deep state? The secret cable, dated Nov. 15, 2002, then goes into detail, describing it: “One former [National Security Council ] NSC staffer explained to us that the heart of the Deep State is the presidency (which on paper has limited powers), the military (which formally reports to the P.M.), and the (formally independent) judiciary. The staffer … explained further that the elected government is only the Deep State’s servant. While the Deep State influences government activity, the government has virtually no influence on the Deep State…
“Contacts remind us that at times the Deep State has relied on extra-judicial enforcement of its views. While this usually means use of hints or indirect intimidation, in the past it has also involved an unsavory nexus among security and intelligence services; the armed forces; and groups such as (Turkey’s) Hizbullah and mafias fostered by them.”
While the military justifies its presence at the heart of the deep state through Article 35 of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) Internal Service Law (which was referred to in the four coups in the past four decades), the cable underlines, there are other key elements that complete the picture. Here comes the role of judiciary as vital.
“A long-serving Justice of the (Turkish) Constitutional Court recently described to us the workings and influence of the Deep State, by which he meant primarily military domination of the Turkish system. The judiciary, he explained, is not independent, but a subordinate, albeit important, part of the wider machinery perpetuating the Kemalist status quo. As he described it, the legal educational system is set up to produce unimaginative, narrow-minded judges and prosecutors indoctrinated with the state’s official Kemalist ideology. More important, judicial fealty to Kemalism and to the Deep State is the result of a fear so pervasive, the Justice asserted, that it is ‘difficult’ for Americans to appreciate. Mindful of the threat of force implicit in the Deep State’s orders to civilians, judges and prosecutors fear that if they deviate from the orthodoxy they will be entangled in career-blunting reprimand procedures, demoted, hounded out of office, or worse.
Those relatively few judicial officials willing to resist such pressure usually are transplants to the judicial bureaucracy from outside that system. “The Justice explained that while the Deep State can make its views clear by directly communicating them through ‘telephone justice’ to judicial officials, word is most often promulgated indirectly through the National Security Council, and by senior journalists who are known to have special relationships with the powers-that-be.”
The cable does not end here. It goes on to analyze the local networks. I will continue to share some other highlights with you. This one does not need any comments, other than being helpful to be able to understand a little more clearly the nasty struggle for power of the past eight years.