US: State of emergency

DENIZ RENKVEREN
ISTANBUL
Published 09.08.2016 00:00
Updated 09.08.2016 00:58
A computer workstation bears the seal inside the Threat Operations Center the Washington suburb of Fort Meade.
A computer workstation bears the seal inside the Threat Operations Center the Washington suburb of Fort Meade.

Following the failed Gülenist coup attempt, Turkey's democratic victory has not been fully embraced in the West. Despite the Patriot Act and Freedom Act that have aggravated circumstances in civil life since 2001, the U.S. still continues to make disincentive statements against the ongoing state of emergency in Turkey

Turkey has witnessed a great victory for democracy since the failed coup attempt on July 15. During the attempted putsch, 265 people were killed by plotters and many were left wounded. Since then, the Turkish people have held "democracy watches" in public squares denouncing the coup, which started right after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's immediate call on the phone via FaceTime that night. For the last three weeks, a very comprehensive investigation has continued against lower and senior-ranked soldiers as well as civil servants linked to Fethullah Gülen, the prime suspect behind the coup and the leader of the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ).

The West, on the other hand, has turned its back on Turkey in a hypocritical display of disregard for the institution of democracy which it claims to defend. Certain Western media outlets have reported the incidents in an improper and non-objective way, casting a critical eye on the ongoing investigation. Western media has whitewashed the death toll in the wake of the coup attempt, passively supporting the treacherous putsch that is entirely against the democratic values. Both NATO and NATO-member Turkey prioritize and promote democratic values as the "basic point."

In France, where a state of emergency declaration was extended for 14 months in the wake of terrorist attacks in that country, harsh criticism was raised against Turkey's own state of emergency declaration which was put into effect for three months. Germany, another country that criticizes Turkey on the same grounds, had to declare a state of emergency right after a recent terrorist attack in Munich. In short, a significant majority of Western media outlets aim to depict plotters and anti-putsch operations in Turkey as a way for President Erdoğan and the Turkish government to strengthen authoritarianism. Despite U.S. President Barack Obama having denied any allegations that the U.S. is behind the coup plot, the extradition of Gülen is being beclouded. Turkey, as a country dedicated to preserving democratic values, certainly has the right to fight against coup attempts and to have the support of its allies. The lack of support Turkey has seen from Western countries may, in fact, be evidence of efforts to exclude Turkey and block it from entering the EU, in attempts to shove Turkey into the same category with war-torn countries including Syria and Iraq, in the future. However, the U.S. could not prove its passion for democracy by passing the Patriot Act after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 that substantially restricted and harmed personal rights and freedoms.

Patriot Act overrode basic

civil rights

Ufuk Ulutaş, the Director of Foreign Policy Research at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) said: "The Patriot Act limited American people's individual rights and freedoms and gave the U.S. president splendid authorization. The American people, foreigners and others who are considered a threat were exposed to inhuman implementations. According to this act, unlawful practices like the unlimited detention periods, domiciliary visits and illegal eavesdropping became legal."

Ulutaş continued: "The Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp was turned into a detention center in a third country outside the U.S., where anyone - mostly Muslims - could be detained for any period of time and exposed to any torture through the Patriot Act. These practices, which included detention without trial, restricting personal rights and extending the president's power in an extraordinary way, affected both the lives of U.S. citizens and citizens of other countries."

Dr. Murat Yeşiltaş, the director of security studies at SETA Foundation in Ankara, also said the Patriot Act can be defined as one of the most important reactions of the U.S. against Sept. 11, adding that Muslims got hit the hardest: "The most important thing is that a new security paradigm that screens and controls the ordinary life of American people emerged with this act. These security practices were completely implemented and turned into an intelligence network that screens and controls Muslims. The frequent focus of media on Muslims in security issues, made the act not only a tool against terrorists but also to trigger some perceptions and practices that consider Muslims as potential terrorists," he said.

Naysayers labeled

as terrorists

American people normalized the law package like a drowning man clutching a straw. Ulutaş said that the voices of media companies raised against the restriction of human rights remained weak and the act started a new period in the U.S. so that defending the most basic human rights can be associated with sympathy to terrorism. Despite the fact that the law package flouted the 4th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, saying, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated..." is evidence of this.

Yeşiltaş said that after the Sept. 11 attacks, media outlets and politicians played a big role in the legalization of interference in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said: "Both in the media and in politics, a hawkish language was dominant. Media organs like CNN and Fox TV often published arguments of politicians and hawkish Republicans saying Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein was helping al-Qaida, but all those accusations were made up."

Turkey maintains basic human rights that the U.S. violates. After facing a big threat, Turkey tries its best to prevent any other coup attempts in the future. Ulutaş stressed that Turkey abides by basic human rights despite the West's allegations: "In the U.S., a political environment was produced that no one could raise their voice against the restriction of personal rights. The biggest difference between our state of emergency and the Patriot Act or Freedom Act is that the U.S overrides the most basic civil rights. We have suspended the European Convention on Human Rights but there are some provisions that we must abide by. We continue to abide by our obligations with respect to human rights. The U.S., on the other hand, does not feel responsible for carrying out basic human rights and many unlawful implementations were put into practice because the U.S. regards itself as the unique lawmaker."

'US tries to obscure Turkey's victory for democracy'

Yeşiltaş said that the Western world tries to exclude and does not embrace Turkey's victory for democracy. He said, "The U.S. does not want to understand the coup attempt and the other incidents in Turkey. Because, if the attempted putsch were successful, the U.S. would show a reaction like it did in Egypt. The U.S. would legitimize the coup by pretending to promote the army to establish the democracy and uses arguments against Erdoğan. Turkey criticizes the West and responds to the West regarding democracy, about which the Western world is the most assertive. Turkey's attitude disturbs everyone so much. Therefore, the U.S. tries to criticize Turkey to obscure the victory of democracy."

'US has lived in state of emergency since 2001'

Although Turkey is in the state of emergency, people are exercising their democratic rights and there has been no change in everyday life; however, for the U.S., civilian life has been increasingly militarized and damaged. For Turkey, the only aim is to get rid of terrorists. Ulutaş said that the U.S. could declare a state of emergency like Turkey but the Patriot Act was preferred and the Freedom Act that came into force last year, has made no substantial changes:

"The Patriot Act has been restricted partially with the Freedom Act. Despite this, security officials have extraordinary authorizations. Any U.S. citizen or even a foreigner in any country may be targeted with drones, as was the case for Anwar al Awlaki in 2011 in Yemen. This is very interesting. In the U.S. even though there is no terror threat, the Freedom Act was preferred and has wider authorization to the detriment of human rights. We can say that the U.S. has been living an extraordinary state of emergency since 2001 even if they don't name it."

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