It took a year but at least we are now finally seeing a grudging and somewhat tacit acceptance by Western authorities and the press that the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) was responsible for the deadly coup attempt on July 15, 2016. In the section on Turkey in a report titled "Country Reports on Terrorism 2016," by the U.S. Department of State, FETÖ was mentioned as a terrorist group and its activities were assessed in a surprisingly objective way.
The report says: "Turkey's National Security Council designated the religious movement of self-exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen a terrorist organization on May 26, referring to it as the "Fethullah Terrorist Organization" (FETO)."
This at least shows that the U.S. is aware of Turkey's perception of FETÖ as a terror group, which must be a first. It also might be interpreted as a tiny step toward recognizing FETÖ as what it is. However, irrespective of what either side says, this report indicates a new degree of appreciation by the U.S. over the terrorist activities of FETÖ.
The initial remarks by U.S. authorities on the July 15 coup attempt were both chilling and inconsistent. At first, there was silence. Then came the belated statement by then Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Moscow at the time. He emphasized the importance of peace and stability, but said nothing about the threat to democracy or the throngs of Turks on the street fighting and dying to defend their rights. The second statement came from then President Barack Obama's press office at the White House, expressing his condolences to those who died, calling on "both sides" to abide by the rule of law. He had the temerity to advise "both sides" to avoid deeds and actions that would destabilize the country.
What the Turkish public heard from the leaders of their NATO ally that fateful night was to remain calm while your rights are trampled underfoot. Disappointment is too weak a word to express what the Turkish public felt toward the U.S. on July 15.
The next weeks and months would prove that those initial remarks were no accident.
The U.S.'s lack of desire to cooperate in properly prosecuting those responsible for the deadly coup would even lead to the overt protection accorded to the fugitive leader of FETÖ, Fetullah Gülen, who continues to reside in his expensive compound in Pennsylvania. Turkey's repeated calls for the extradition of the fugitive came to naught in the face of constant prevarication by U.S. authorities.
The conduct of U.S.-based media outlets was no better. They practically became a front for FETÖ members to spread their leader's messages to his followers in Turkey and around the world.
One of the many pro-coup articles and opinion pieces to appear in U.S. newspapers was "Why there are so many conspiracy theories about the Turkish coup?", published by the Washington Post. Only a few days after the coup attempt, the article, by Kristin Fabbe and Kimberly Guiler, is simply a list of arguments usually spread by Gülenists on social media.
In this article and many articles published by the U.S. media at the time, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was presented as the cause of the coup for being a strong leader. At the time, nobody blamed Erdoğan for staging the coup for his own purposes. That came a few days later, in a deeply insidious way, through citing claims made by unknown persons.
Many articles, including the one above, were blind to what took place on the streets across Turkey on the night of July 15. One article in the Huffington Post, a week after the coup, was even titled, "Turkey's Reichstag fire."
In an effort to attack the government and the president of Turkey, reporters displayed not only poor understanding of what was taking place, but also disregarded all ethical considerations that should guide the profession of journalism.
The U.S. Department of State's belated efforts to recognize what took place a year ago is far below what is warranted. However, compared to what is still taking place in the western media, goes some way to correct the past mistakes.
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