Democracy came under attack in Turkey on Friday night. A group of soldiers broke the chain of command and occupied strategic locations in Istanbul, hijacked aircraft and launched attacks on the symbols of our way of life: Parliament, the Prime Ministry and the Presidential Palace.
When it became clear that the putschists would not succeed, what started out as a military coup turned into a terrorist attack of historic proportions. For the first time in history, Parliament became the target of airstrikes as elected representatives of the Turkish people had to run for shelter. Meanwhile, armed troops stormed the headquarters of CNN Türk and the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT). While millions of pro-democracy protestors took to the streets to stand up for their rights, the United States kept silent. Speaking from Moscow, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was the first member of U.S. President Barack Obama's administration to make a statement about the situation in Turkey. He did not say that Washington stood in solidarity with the elected government of Turkey, a NATO ally and active member of the anti-DAESH coalition. Nor did he urge the military to go back to their barracks. Instead, Kerry told reporters: "So I think it's inappropriate for me to comment except to say that we've heard the reports that others have heard. I don't have any details at this point in time. I hope there will be stability and peace and continuity within Turkey, but I have nothing to add with respect to what has transpired at this moment."
At the time, it was unclear how the showdown would end. The official line was that a rebellion, as opposed to a coup attempt, was underway in Turkey. The Obama administration's ambiguity about the situation in Turkey encouraged policy experts to side with the putschists. In an op-ed piece published in the New York Post, Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, celebrated the coup attempt as a source of hope. Others appeared on live television to make the case that the violent overthrow of Turkey's democratically elected government would serve U.S. interests. No, we are not saying that the United States government tried to overthrow the government. But Washington will have to prove its loyalty to the Turkish people, many of whom are openly questioning the nature of Turkish-American relations. Needless to say, the above-mentioned facts only added to existing suspicions about the alleged cooperation between the U.S. government and the secretive movement led by Fethullah Gülen, who operates out of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.
Over the years, the official line has been that the United States considers Gülen an ordinary resident. But Friday's coup attempt, which was perpetrated by self-identified members of the movement, means Washington has a choice to make between Gülen and the Turkish people. The Turkish government has made it clear that foreign governments that continue to support the Gülen Movement cannot be considered a friend of Turkey. The mastermind behind the failed coup that claimed 161 lives has to face justice. We have reached a point of no return in the relationship between Turkey and the United States. If Washington aids and abets the leader of a global terrorist movement, U.S. troops have no business in our country. Until now, Turkey has acted in good faith by tolerating the Obama administration's shady partnership with the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, an armed group that the United States, at least on paper, considers a terrorist organization. But protecting Gülen is a step too far.