Tip of the Iceberg: Hilmi Özkök and internal dynamics of the Turkish Army
Last week, Ertugrul Özkök of the Hürriyet Daily Newspaper reflected an anecdote he heard from former Chief of the Naval Forces Ilhami Erdil (Erdil was trialled during his tenure due to misuse of his post and forced out of the army). Erdil told Özkök, that after every National Security Council meeting, the chief commanders meet in one of their houses and have dinner together, to discuss the meeting and to relax. Erdil explained Özkök that Hilmi Özkök was actually not drinking alcohol was pretending to do so, which was revealed by then Chief of Staff Kivrikoglu during the dinner. This is one of the various attacks on Hilmi Özkök and his style of dealing with the so-called Islamists.
What is more interesting is Hilmi Özkök remarks on this incident. He sent a letter to Radikal’s Murat Yetkin. I quote:
“”I was not built to be ordinary or to choose the easier way, nor do my background and education support that. Had I acted like everybody else, everyone would leave me alone today and I would be enjoying a happy retirement. But I was not ordinary. I chose to be a good observer. I chose not to be condescending to others and took lessons from the things they did. I chose to improve what I thought was good and find new methods for what I thought was inadequate.
I always strived to realize goals worthy of Turkey and its glorious military. ” My experience with working in international command centres gave me the opportunity to see various approaches. I always tried to apply these to the military instead of opting for the ease of continuing the practices of the past.
I never did any of this to look different. Perhaps I was misunderstood because I couldn’t express myself very well. I became a target of accusations by people who thought I was opposing them. Some really did not understand, while others acted as if they did not understand in order to continue their ‘lion trainer’ role.”
I always made an effort to avoid involving the military in politics, staying faithful to my oath. I did not do anything the law forbade me to do, but I did everything the law told me to do in the best way I could. The irony is that there were those who fought me for not openly fighting with the government; there were those who condemned me for being a democrat; there were those who were not pleased with me doing my duty to protect the interests of the military behind closed doors. But they would have been applauding me had I gotten into battles of words. I never felt that I needed to kowtow to anyone.
“Those who ignored me, saying that ‘the effect won’t change as long as the cause stays in place,’ accused me of being silent against [Islamic fundamentalism]. But the reality was that Feb. 28 was an unavoidable move that was demanded by the conditions of the day. I would never blame them for anything. What’s more, those officers did not have a Feb. 28 experience to rely on from the past. But I did have such an experience from the past. I have seen, how things done for the goodwilll by purging others opened the road of the others as well. Looking back at the events of the past, that when the military touches politics, this causes ‘tremendous benefit’ for politics and politicians in this country. This is why my style was different.”
The letter clearly shows the inside games within the Army. we will continue to comment on this letter.
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