And Then The Wheels Fell Off

Filed in Articles by on 10th Sep 2016

We would do well to remember Edmund Burke’s oft-repeated phrase “ Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” On the 28th of June 1914, a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, assassinated Franz Ferdinand, the archduke of Austria-Hungary. In the preceding years, the various major powers in Europe had gradually formed alliances. Britain, France and Russia formed the Triple Entente, while Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy comprised the Triple Alliance. A month to the day after the assassination, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.gallipoli The Ottoman Empire and Germany signed a secret alliance five days later. On the 3rd of August Germany declared war on France and invaded the next day. That prompted Britain to declare war on Germany on the 4th, the same day Germany invaded Belgium. On the 10th of August 1914 Austria-Hungary invaded Russia. Essentially, the First World War came about because of the domino effect of each country coming to the aid of another.

Reichstag Fire

In late February 1933, a month after Adolph Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, a fire burned down the Reichstag or German parliament. A month before the fire, Hitler had made it clear that his government could not work with the left-leaning parties in parliament. While the National Socialist Party (NAZI) was the largest party in the Reichstag, Hitler did not have a working majority despite his coalition with the German Nationalist People’s Party because of the combined power of the Social Democrat Party and the Communist Party. Since the Reichstag was set to have new elections in early March, Hitler’s party risked losing support.

Burning of the Reichstag 1933. Germany / Mono Print

Reichstag Fire, Germany, 27 February 1933

Hitler took advantage of the situation by telling President Hindenburg that the fire was part of a Communist plan to overthrow the state, and persuading him to issue a decree giving him powers to arrest those responsible. The “Reichstagbrandverordnung” or Decree for the Protection of People and State led to a one-party state. By arresting political opponents without charge, dissolving political organisations, closing down publications, and giving the central government the authority to overrule state and local governments, Hitler effectively ended democracy in Germany.

alliance-allies-axisIn October 1936, Nazi Germany formed the Berlin Axis with Italy, and annexed Austria in March 1938. Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939 prompting Britain to declare war on Germany, beginning the Second World War. Other countries joined both the Axis and Allied Alliances expanding the conflict across Europe, northern Africa and Asia.


Turkey’s Failed Coup: the 2016 version of the Reichstag Fire!

Is the same dynamic in play again? On the 15th of July 2016, an attempted coup in Turkey failed when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the public to take to the streets to save the republic. In the next few hours some 300 died and 2100 were injured. Erdogan declared a State of Emergency, which was followed by mass arrests, starting with a purge in the military. This extended to the civil service, and even into the country’s schools. By mid-August, Erdogan had suspended or fired more than eighty thousand civil servants, including three thousand soldiers. Some twenty-one thousand teachers were stripped of their licence to teach. Turkish police detained some thirty-five thousand people, half of whom were formally arrested under the orders of a government tribunal. Erdogan also issued a decree giving him, and a handful of government officials, authority to issue direct orders to the commanders of the army, navy and air force.

turquie-plusieurs-morts-dans-une-explosion-ankaraErdogan blames the attempted coup on Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric who has been living in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1998. Gülen was a close ally of Erdogan until 2013 when Erdogan branded him and his followers terrorists, accusing them of being behind an investigation that uncovered several government ministers involved in corruption. Gülen denies any involvement with the attempted coup. Turkey issued an arrest warrant for Gülen, demanding he be extradited from the United States. Washington has asked for evidence to substantiate the allegations. A group calling itself “Peace at Home Council” claims responsibility for the attempted coup, accusing Erdogan of destroying Turkey’s constitutional order and secular democratic state.

It appears Turkish authorities may have known about the coup attempt in advance. Three days before the failed coup, Turkey issued an arrest warrant charging Vice-Admiral Zeki Ugurlu with being affiliated with the Gülen movement, which it accuses of trying to infiltrate Turkey’s armed forces. Ankara also asked NATO to terminate Admiral Ugurlu’s posting in Norfolk, Virginia and send him back to Turkey. NATO ignored the request. After the attempted coup, Turkey issued a second warrant charging Ugurlu with helping to plot the coup.

According to Al Monitor, a news website in the Middle East, there is a perception in Ankara that NATO was “involved in the coup attempt because of the active roles played by military units that are part of NATO’s Rapid Deployable Corps-Turkey.” This growing distrust of NATO comes amid Turkish and US involvement in Syria against rebels opposed to Bashir al Assad, against the Islamic State, the refugee crisis, and Turkey’s opposition to Kurds who claim part of Turkey as their homeland. In interviews with Russian and Turkish media, Turkey’s Minister of Defence, Mevlut Cavusoglu, expressed alarm at NATO’s unwillingness to cooperate with Ankara, and hinted that he was open to greater military, intelligence and diplomatic cooperation with Russia. He also accused the West of being responsible for the crisis in Ukraine.

Turkey has failed to be accepted into the European Union despite adapting its laws to European standards. One of the major changes to Turkey’s constitution was the abolition of the death penalty, as well as rewriting laws to ensure respect for human rights. With such a wide-reaching purge, and Turkey’s sta

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  1. Maria Caltabiano says:

    It was interesting, though not totally surprising, to learn that Erdogan is currently looking to stop Fethullah Gulen. I first heard of this cleric while on a cultural exchange trip to Turkey in 2007 organized by a Turkish organization from Montreal in collaboration with the Turkish government. Interestingly, cleric Gulen’s name came up on a daily basis as one who dreamed of building secular schools in Turkey and abroad. He appeared to be loved by all the people we encountered on the trip, which took us to into private homes, media outlets, schools, and businesses. All in all, he was a respected, if not, a revered public symbol of religious tolerance in Turkey. I was given a book written by Gulen as a gift by the organizers of the exchange trip. Given the news of his present circumstances, I must make time to read it.

  2. Derek Quinn says:

    Martin Gauthier says:
    11 September 2016 at 15:24

    1) your ending suggests that we could be on the verge of WW3. Yet, that war has already started, though we are collectively hiding our heads in the sand on this. If we take into account that a world war, by definition, is a war involving many of the world’s countries or most of the most powerful and populous ones, then what your article talks about is not only the premise of a world war, but the development of one. WW3 is not coming about as fast as WW1, but it is certainly at our collective doorstep;

    2) the Reichstag fire of 1933: the ‘rapprochement’ with Turkey’s latest ‘failed’ coup is certainly adequate, though it could have been mentioned that either event could have been fostered or orchestrated by the powers in place to secure and strengthen their stronghold – an old political tactic.

  3. Ian Porter says:

    What a tour d’horizon! Way spicy, even without a word on Dutarte.
    A bit reluctaant to buy all the way into analogy between the Turkish coup and the Reichstag fire . . . but the parallels are uncomfortably close, espy the aftermath. About Turkey and the EU rules: Ankara has been clamping down on press freedom for quite a while, as noted in the EU’s 2015 progress report: “the insufficient protection of freedom of expression, privacy and personal data and market access, and the overregulation in the sector, remain issues of serious concern.”
    What’s valuable though, is the way the perspective develops around the focus on Turkey and Syria: awfully familiar territory in world history.

  4. Steve Lemay says:

    The comparison of present events to those of the past illustrates an historical truism observed by Burke and Santayana among others… A real or perceived marginalization of the middle and working classes in Western society has permitted a profound, yet ignorant, cynicism to proliferate and erode public trust in media and public institutions, permitting the emergence of a renewed tribalism.