One of the fascinating aspects of the attempted military coup in Turkey has been the reaction of the Turkish people to the military coup attempt. It stands in stark contrast to the attitude of American and Chilean right-wingers who still sing the praises of the U.S.-national-security-state-driven military coup in 1973 that brought army strongman Gen. Augusto Pinochet into power.
At the time the Chilean coup took place, American and Chilean right wingers were celebrating Pinochet’s violent ouster of the country’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende. Even today, you’ll find conservatives singing the praises of Pinochet and his national-security state’s military defeat of Allende.
Keep in mind that Allende, like Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was democratically elected in a legitimate election. Keep in mind also that Chile’s constitution, like that of Turkey, did not authorize the national-security branch of the government to oust the president from power for any reason whatsoever, including “national security.”
Nonetheless, conservative Pinochet dead-enders, both here in the United States and Chile, hold that a nation’s constitution is not a “suicide pact” and, therefore, that it is entirely justifiable for the national-security branch of a government (i.e., the government’s permanent military and intelligence establishment) to violently oust a democratically elected president from office if, in the opinion of national-security officials, his policies pose a grave threat to “national security.”
Not so for the Turkish people. According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, most of them take a totally different position from that of the Pinochet dead-enders. Having experienced the horrors of military rule, their position is that a flawed and defective democracy is preferable to military rule. That’s because as bad as things are under a democratic dictatorship, they are inevitably much worse under military dictatorship.
Opponents of the Turkish coup attempt point to their own country’s experience with military rule. If asked, they would probably also point to the brutal and tyrannical military dictatorship in Egypt, a dictatorship that the U.S. national-security establishment continues to fortify with U.S.-provided weaponry.
The Turkish people realize that with a democratic system, there is always the possibility of ousting the dictator in the next election and electing someone else who moves the government in the opposite direction. Military dictators, on the other hand, inevitably delay a return to democracy for fear that the person they ousted, or his friends, might get elected.
Moreover, military dictators inevitably become so drunk with omnipotent power that they don’t want to relinquish power to someone else. That’s what happened with Pinochet. He ended up staying in power 17 years and then another 8 years as the commander in chief of the Chilean Army, where he could do it all over again if newly elected officials took steps that were not to his liking.
Even to this day, conservative Pinochet dead-enders, both here and in Chile, say that Pinochet’s 17-year period of horrific, brutal tyranny was a “transition” to democracy. It is a classic case of psychological denial and delusion, given the fact that Chile already had a democratic system, which Pinochet destroyed with his coup and his accompanying torture, rape, execution, and assassination programs. The argument of the dead-enders amounts to: Pinochet had to destroy democracy and kill, rape, incarcerate, execute, and assassinate tens of thousands of innocent people in order to carry out a 17-year transition to democracy.
Consider what some of the Turkish people who opposed the coup, some of whom had experienced military rule, said:
“You cannot rule by force. You have to rule by the will of the people.”—Nuri Donen, a local party official who joined other activists who turned out to guard a police station.
“It’s not a matter of party. It’s a matter of country, of homeland.”—Zerrin Kuday, 24, who operates a Turkish bagel cart.
“Now we have the sword at our neck, but not the sharp edge. If there is a coup, we’ll face the sharp edge.”—Halil Aydiner, a retired teacher.
That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t Turkish citizens who supported the coup attempt. Just like with the Chilean coup, there are those who say that the end justifies the means. Mustafa Zaya, a retired factory worker, stated, “I really, personally, wanted him to be ousted. It would be a step back for democracy, but we can’t improve without coups. That is our society.”
Zaya’s words perfectly capture the mindset of conservative American and Chilean Pinochet coup dead-enders, virtually all of whom fervently endorse the existence of a totalitarian-like national-security establishment in a governmental system.