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"Ataturk's leagcy" as cherry-picking (1936 words , not 112)

Reader comment on item: Turkey's Islamist Turn, 10 Years Later
in response to reader comment: "Ataturk's leagcy" as cherry-picking

Submitted by Ianus (Poland), Dec 21, 2012 at 01:51

My comment contained more than 1800 words, not 112. So I re-send it hoping it will appear in full.

I regret not being able to answer Dr. Pipes' reply earlier but first my computer broke down and then I had no access to the Internet. But when major issues are involved I hope that a late answer is better than none.

Dr. Pipes wrote : > This is called cherry-picking - finding a few quotes and claiming they have more importance than almost two decades at the top of Ottoman and Turkish politics, plus implementing policies that remain of deep consequence close to a century later.

Further, I characterized Atatürk's legacy, not he personally, as one "of looking to the West for inspiration and leadership." I stand by this description. <

You may dismiss any quotes you like , but I wonder how you will dismiss 10 mln gold rubles Kemal received from Lenin together with 35 000 rifles , 327 heavy machine guns , 54 cannons , 63 mln rounds of bullets ,147 000 artillery shells, all military equipment that had remained of the Tsarist army in the Caucasus after 1918, two destroyers (the Zhivoy and the Zhutkiy) , 2 powder factories built in Ankara by the Soviet engineers, machines and raw materials and technicians for a bullet factory and much much more which the quotes you call "cherry picking" resulted in ? And all of this when the fate of Turkey or rather of his own rebellion was at stake and the Greek troops stood 40 km from Angora !

The quotes and the numbers certainly show Kemal in a different light than the official Turkish hagiography which you reproduce wants us to see him - not as a far-sighted and infallible pro-Western knight without fear and reproach but as a ruthless and perfidious political opportunist and liar he was.

Be as it may, as a professional historian you should know better than most of us that important contemporary sources beg for an explanation not a dismissal. But even supposing that all I had quoted were cherry-picking , then I am afraid that what you suggested is too - a few sanitized generalities to serve a definite pre-conceived scheme.

You speak of "Ataturk's legacy" as opposite to my "cherry picking". That sounds good but what legacy is it anyway ? You deny his Soviet alliance – i.e. that which precisely saved him from certain ruin in 1921/1922 - as his legacy. That's interesting. Will you also deny the second phase of the Armenian genocide (e.g. the Kemalist-Armenian war of 1920), the Greek genocide and the Assyrian genocide and their official Turkish denials as being part of Ataturk's legacy and of deep consequence ? A "Yes" or "No" answer would be most welcome.

Are the persecutions, discriminations and forced Turkification or soft expulsion of the Jews in Kemalist Turkey that made their numbers shrink dramatically from 200 000 in 1923 to 81 000 six years later, the Jewish pogroms he instigated in Eastern Thrace in 1934 Ataturk's legacy or is it also irrelevant , more cherry-picking ? Let me note that Kemal's followers denied Israel the right to exist in 1947 voting staunchly against resolution 181. But what do we hear from Turkish hagiographers and some Israeli wishful thinkers instead ? That Turkey was the first Mahometan land to recognize Israel ... for which favor Israel was kind or imp(r)udent enough not to recognize the Armenian genocide and to later sell its advanced weaponry to Turkey ! Familiar ... every inch Ataturk's legacy , isn't it ?

Now let's take a look at Ataturk's legacy in the aspect of his "looking to the West for inspiration and leadership " in terms of the political regime he established. He was a man who tolerated no opposition and no dissent. He systematically eliminated all opponents cost what it may. His methods varied from rigged elections and intimidation to show trials, political police or "the Independence Tribunals", disappearances and public executions, finally establishing a one-party dictatorship and total censorship and effective elimination of any free speech, jailing and even killing journalists for a politically incorrect joke. Did he learn all of it in the West ? It looks in my eyes like Ataturk's legacy par excellence and in yours ? I mean whatever one may think of how bad Erdogan is, under him Turks have more freedom of speech than under "Western-inspired" Ataturk.

Let's add Kemal's megalomaniac and narcissist personality cult, his chauvinism, his racist views of the Turks as the human superrace , his absurd views on history and language imposed upon his subjects making them believe they are descendants of the Sumerians and the Hittites and creators of all civilization!

As far as I know such a political system as his is called here fascism. This is why Hitler admired Ataturk him so deeply declaring once "I am his second disciple" (the first one being Mussolini.) Yet, for you Kemlist form of fascism it is not part of Ataturk's legacy, is it ?

It is interesting to compare your Romantic phrase "looking to the West for inspiration and leadership" with his real actions which included such monumental frauds as the Chester Concession that show what he was really looking to the West for. I mentioned on a few occasions this well-hidden aspect of the US-Kemalist relations . I leave aside Kemal's early proposals to implicate the US in mandate wrangling over mandate territories in Turkey so as to further disunite and angtagonize the Allies. With generous false promises of fabulous profits Kemal induced the Americans to play down or cover up his genocides and later work for him at the Lausanne Conference. As George Horton remarked at the time : " The Turks committed their fearful acts against the Christians and humanity in general in the full conviction that they would meet with no opposition nor even criticism from the United States. They were led to this belief by a loud pro-Turk and anti-Christian propaganda carried on in the American press by certain concession hunters, and other interested writers." This Kemalist swindle looks quite familiar to a contemporary observer, doesn't it ? It's been repeated time and again by the guardians of Ataturk's legacy.

When the Americans had done the dirty job Kemal needed, this Turkish chauvinist spat them out as he detested them as much as any other foreigners. In his jingoistic paradise there was no room for concessions and foreign leadership , only for his ! But even a more remarkable thing about this fraud is that there is a collective memory hole in the US about it. Kemal's Chester Concession scam has no place in either Turkish or American hagiography. But nevertheless will you tell us when exactly it stopped being part of Ataturk's legacy and being of deep consequence ? The fact that it is never mentioned by the official hagiography and its believers and parrots is to me irrelevant. How about you?

Now your main point. You seem to present Kemal's conflict with Islam as a matter of principle, a conscious premeditated action on Ghazi Kemal's part to secularize Turkey. This is the core of your argument, isn't it? Now nothing in Kemal's career justifies such a conjecture and disconnecting Kemal's career and personality from "Ataturk's legacy" is fraught with serious difficulties and contradictions as the relation between Islam and Kemal shows ! The movement he started in Eastern Anatolia -the most backward and unenlightened part of Turkey - was jihad pure and simple , waged under the banner of Islam to liberate the caliph and exterminate and expel the infidels. Not a single trace of secularism or republicanism and tons of documents that prove Kemal's Islamist ambitions and ideas , his struggle was to to restore the Ottoman Empire . He did organize secret Moslem societies and a congress where he was president. His Islamist goals included a Pan-Islamist empire with Turkish primacy in Islam, the restoration of the Ottoman state through a union at least of Turks and Arabs.

It looks like a very strange starting point for a self-proclaimed secularizer and terminator of the caliphate, doesn't it ? To understand his motives and the failure of his ad hoc project of secularisation of a purely Islamic society which his own earlier jihad and policy of genocide and expulsion of everybody non-Mahometan cleansed of most kafirs one has to bear in mind a few historical details.

His calls on Caliph Mehmet VI to join him and lead the jihad in Eastern Anatolia were answered with a cable telling him to resign and come back to Constantinople. The cable was soon followed by a formal death fatwa against him and a bloody civil war with the Caliph's Army massacring Kemal's followers and trying to assassinate him personally. In Iconium his officers were quartered after their finger-nails had been torn out. Under these circumstances his big initial lie that the caliph was in secret on his side and his mission was still to liberate the caliph from foreign "captivuty" did not look very convincing. He did not have many options left if he wanted to survive. And in his revengefulness he never forgave anyone who posed a threat to him. Secularism was therefore a matter of expediency, of saving one's power and life , not a matter of of principle as you suggest. It obtained more for him personally than for all other Turks on whose head no curse of the caliph was cast. Therefore Turkey's rapid re-Islamisation (if it had ever stopped being Islamic at any time) and showing in public what was hidden under the forcelly conned hijab of secularism is absolutely natural and necessary. And one general consideration which looks like a historical law makes the official story of Turkey's secularism even more unlikely. If one changes a regime without changing the population what one gets in the process is a regime that closely resembles the previous regime. If one changes a regime in a purely Moslem society (Kemal's merit or fault) , what one gets is a Moslem society. i.e. exactly what we have got in Turkey .

As to the Westernisation of Turkey , given Kemal's chauvinism and resentment towards the Westerners (in his biography of Kemal Jacques Benoist-Méchin shows this with a disarming clarity) it was not the aim in itself , but a means to achieve a chauvinistic anti-Western aim. And the goal was to restore Turkey's great power status and enable Turkey to successfully oppose and then beat its historic enemies. Turkey should become more powerful than Europe and defeat Europe with its own weapons. Kemal was too much of a Turkish jingoist to cherish any sentimental illusions with which Turkish propaganda and its Western believers and parrots are feeding us.

Finally, I have a question to you, if possible. You were a board member of the American Turkish Council of which the ATC seems to be particularly proud. Am I wrong in supposing that membership in this organization – especially on such a high level - puts certain strains and limitations on what one may and may not say about Turkey and furthermore leads to a conflict of interests between free search for the truth and complying with the ATC's agenda ? I am asking this because I have always wondered why you have never mentioned in your writings the Armenian genocide – not to speak of other genocides perpetrated by Kemal. Of course, I will be glad if I have missed this in your writings. But if I have not, then it poses to me a serious problem and a much graver one than just dismissing the Soviet-Kemal axis.


Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

Daniel Pipes replies:

My membership on the advisory board of ATC was years ago, never involved any benefits or payment, and not once constrained me from speaking my mind.

More broadly, no membership limits me from speaking my mind, with the single exception of government positions, none of which I have had since the first days of 2005, or eight years ago.

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