Michael Collins: Things are Different (and sometimes much better) in the East

Michael Collins

The nation formerly known as the Ottoman Empire is building a strong foundation for a bright future. That nation is also addressing its scandalous recent past as it reaches out to old enemies. The dynamics producing real change in Turkey are well worth understanding. Turkey is on a path to rapid economic growth, cultural liberalization, and will emerge as a key player in world affairs.

The Turkish people elected a new government in 2002. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan became Prime Minister after his AK Party gained an absolute majority in the nation's unicameral legislature. The United States corporate media tagged the AK party as a threat to Turkey's secular democracy. This is, as usual, a perversion of the political and social realities.

Here are the key elements contributing to Turkey's success.

Steady Economic Growth

The annual change in gross national product (graph above, Turkish Review, January 2011) developed through Turkish management of the economy.

During the critical period that included the global recession, Turkey fared better than most industrial nations. (Trading Economics)

Negative growth hit Turkey in only three quarters, with a solid rebound starting in 2009. Forth quarter 2010 economic growth was 9.2%. Only China led Turkey during that time with 9.8% growth. This is what a government and business community who care about the people do during a recession. They work together, plan, and get out it of quickly. What a concept!

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced an end to its formal agreement with Turkey in 2010. In fact, the Turks ended IMF involvement with economic management in 2007 when they rejected IMF's "austerity" requirements for a stand by loan. Since that time, Turkey has paid off 75% of its IMF debt and managed the economy without IMF help.

Highlights - How they did it

These highlights of the 2010 Turkish economy are from an annual review published by TurkishPress.com, Turkish economy in 2010 January 1

December 2010 (Selected highlights)

Turkish car market grew 30.8 percent year-on-year between January and November 2010.

December 5: Renault decided to produce Clio RS in Turkish northwestern province of Bursa in 2011.

December 8: Industrial production index rose by 9.8 percent year-on-year in October 2010

Motor vehicle production increased by 27 percent to 983,000 units between January and November 2010.

Employment in the industry sector rose by 5.5 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2010.

December 15: TurkStat said that unemployment rate dropped by 2.1 points to 11.3 percent in September 2010 compared to the same month of 2009.

December 17: Central Bank dropped maximum monthly interest rate for credit cards to 2.26 percent from 2.44 percent for Turkish lira transactions.

Five Turkish companies have won a tender to construct "Baghdad New Sadr City" to be comprised of 75,000 dwellings.

Business organizations from Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan formed the Levant Business Forum and adopted an action plan to carry out joint projects on integration of these economies. Turkish economy in 2010, January 1, 2011

How could this happen?

The Turkish government focused on manufacturing and foreign trade.

The Turkish Central Bank offered a consumer credit interest rate that allowed people to pay off their debts.

The nation became the leader and ally of the nations that the Ottoman Empire occupied for centuries, standing as a counterpoint to United States military actions, invasions, and general hostilities for nearly three decades in the Middle East.

The Turkish Finance Minister, Mehmet Simsek , recounts how the government dealt with the issue of local debt:

"In 2009, I had an urgent meeting with nearly 2,000 mayors in Antalya. Everyone at that meeting expected me to say I was going to give them more money. On the contrary, I raised the deficit issue, telling them that this could not go on any longer and that they should get back on track. As a result, we shifted away from a deficit of some TL 7.1 billion in 2008 and achieved a surplus of over TL 1 billion last year…" Today's Zaman, May 26

For years, Turkey has sought admission to the European Union. The fiscal policies over the past decade focus on EU admission criteria. Now, it seems, the pupil has become the teacher. The question may be, will Turkey join the EU if invited.

Reaching Out to Old Enemies

The Ottoman Empire ruled large portions of the Middle and North Africa from the 16th through the early 20th centuries (Image). The project of empire leaves varying degrees of enmity and resentment. The successors to the Ottomans, the "Young Turks", led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, initiated a program of strict secularization and looked to Europe as the model for development. Over time, the modern Turkish rulers allied with Israel on a number of occasions. None of this endeared the Turks to their former subjects in the Middle East and North Africa.

Nevertheless, the AK Party immediately began looking to the former Ottoman lands as trading partners, offering their services in diplomatic efforts, and they avoided any hint of militarism or military intimidation to its neighbors and former colonies. The Turks have the advantage of extensive knowledge of the region and the opportunity to fill a huge gap left by the US reliance on military conflict as the key tactic to achieve its goals.

The efforts have been well received. The model of Turkish democracy and the AK Party's advancement of constitutional and civil liberties while maintaining a nominal Islamic identity are examples to the people of Arab and North African states.

Dealing Openly with Recent Scandals

Conspiracy theory is used as a pejorative in the west. But in Turkey, conspiracies are a fact of life that must be addressed. There are two key public prosecutions ongoing focusing on conspiracies by elements of the military and the secular political elite.

The Ergenekon plot and prosecution is based on evidence discovered near Istanbul and much more unearthed since. Prosecutors charged over 100 military officials and private citizens with planning a series of highly disruptive events intended to create chaos in Turkish society. The chaos would then justify a coup d'etat by the secularist generals who strongly oppose the current ruling party.

As Der Spiegel noted,

"The idea, as prosecutors see it, was for Turkey to sink into fear and chaos before being rescued by an army coup that would reinstate peace and order. The armed forces, after all, see themselves as protectors of the nation."

The acts to create chaos included the murder of a Turkish Nobel Prize wining author, assassinations of various political leaders, and bombings in public areas.

Another plot by the same military-political alliance, Operation Cage, is being investigated and prosecuted. This 2009 conspiracy was discovered, in part, as a result of the Ergenekon investigation. The planning document by military officers is chilling. The entire operation focuses on psychological terror through planned chaos. A justified and welcomed military coup to restore order was the ultimate goal. Here are just a few of the items from the action plan. As your read this, imagine if such a plan were discovered by factions of the US military and political elite. Would they ever be prosecuted? Would they ever be exposed?

Headquarters Preparing : Special Operations Force Command (Turkish Navy)
Place of Preparation : ISTANBUL
Date and Time Group : 300950 C MARCH 2009

(1) Bombs will be detonated at various quarters in the Adalar district/the Princes islands near Istanbul.
(2) Assassinations will be organized against persons known as fierce defenders of minority rights.
(3) Sound bombs will be placed in identified locations such as the vicinity of AGOS Newspaper.
(4) By placing suspicious packages at many spots and informing the police of them, the security forces will be kept preoccupied.
(5) Actions with bombs will be carried out at piers from which boat journeys to Adalar originate.
(6) Sensational operations will be executed towards the cemeteries of non-Muslims.
(7) One or several popular non-Muslim businessmen and artists will be kidnapped.
(8) In regions with a dense non-Muslim population, vehicles, houses and workplaces will be set on fire at close intervals.
(9) Similar actions will also be conducted in provinces with a high population of non-Muslims, such as Istanbul and Izmir.
(10) Responsibility for sabotage, kidnapping and assassination operations will be claimed by reactionary organizations. The organisations themselves will be determined by way of coordination with the special plan cell leaders.

Both trials, Ergenekon and Operation Cage, were generated by local law enforcement officials and local prosecutors based on evidence that they discovered or that was provided to them.

Instead of making a deal to keep this quiet or otherwise denying the public the truth about what the Turks call deep state corruption and conspiracies, these cases are ongoing, open to all, and very closely followed in Turkey and Europe.

When Will We See Some Effective and Intelligent Governance Here?

Turkey is not put offered up as an example of a perfect government. The nation and leaders will have ups and downs there as time goes on. But the nation is headed in the right direction, the politics are inclusive (in the sense that those elected respond to those who elected them), and the benefits flow throughout the economy.

It is different here.

The economy is a disaster. Government actions to mitigate the harm to citizens are simply non existent. The only beneficiaries of government programs are the perpetrators of the crisis, Wall Street, the big banks, and their ultra rich investors who run The Money Party. The president who promised hope delivered that (and much more) to the wrong people. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not awake.

We have old enemies that most unlikely leaders approached and engaged, Nixon's opening to China for example. Today, we're all about creating new enemies everywhere. The Bush doctrine of military aggression has been maintained with brand new targets. Military personnel, mercenary forces run by US citizens, and anonymous drones are the new Voice of America. It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a new idea (e.g., the Turkish diplomatic model) to enter the minds of the decrepit, decadent, anti social political leadership that dominates both parties.

There is never a huge national tragedy without a years or decades long quest for the full truth. Citizens are left to speculate after inadequate investigations produce contradictory and incomplete findings. In the case of the obvious, documented lies that took us to war in Iraq, there was no investigation. Why is that? Lying down does not reflect the will of the people. Who benefits?

We are in a political dead calm characterized by inaction, ongoing profit taking by a very few, and ridiculous public posturing by the incumbent president and his party, whose new theme seems to be, "At least we're not crazy." Maybe not. But there is no doubt remaining that you are extremely ineffective, insincere, and, by being so inept, harmful to the citizens of this country.


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