Terrorist atrocities tend to provoke a predictable stock response from politicians and governments. Invariably there is a great deal of sonorous rhetoric, accompanied by exhortations to the population to stand firm and show unity in the face of the universal evil of ‘terrorism’. Nearly always there is a lot of use of the first person plural, as in ‘we’ will never will never give in, ‘we’ never surrender, ‘we’ will stand firm against attempts to divide us etc, etc.
Rarely is there any attempt to understand or analyse the very specific and contingent motives, strategy or political context that may behind even the most vicious acts of violence, let admit to any suggestion whatsoever that the actions of the government or the state may in some cases have a bearing on why such acts took place.
All this has become so predictable, so stale and banal that it is not surprising that the politicians who make such pronouncements sound as though they are reading from a script. But rarely as this post-atrocity rhetoric sounded more hollow and meaningless than it has coming from the mouths of Turkish PM Recep Erdogan and his ministers in response to the savage and disgusting massacre of peaceful demonstrators in Ankara on Saturday that has so far killed 98 people and wounded more than 500.
We don’t know – and we may never know – the perpetrators of what is a crime against Turkish democracy and a crime against humanity. It might have been the dregs of some Turkish fascist organization like the Grey Wolves or a more recent ‘nationalist’ anti-Kurdish group. It might have been ISIS/Daesh, acting on its own behest or as an instrument of some false flag operation directed by the Turkish ‘deep state’.
What we do know is that the response of the Turkish government has been manipulative, tricksy, deeply dishonest, cynical and deeply suspicious – pretty much everything you might expect from the Erdogan administration in fact. Erdogan’s ministers have blamed ISIS, but they have also blamed the demonstrators themselves. One minister called the demonstrators ‘provocateurs.’ Naturally the government has blamed ‘foreign intelligence services’ – an obvious reference to Syria suggesting that Erdogan may even use the massacre to further its Syrian ‘regime change’ program.
The government also had the gall to suggest that the perpetrators might be Kurds or members of the ‘far-left’ or Erdogan’s main political rivals, the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP). Why would Kurds or the ‘far-left’ kill leftwing Kurdish demonstrators calling for an end to the new war between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)? Why would the PKK blow up a demonstration calling for peace when it has just called a unilateral ceasefire?
No reason really, at least none that makes any sense. Erdogan’s cronies have suggested that the HDP might have done it in order to present themselves as victims – a grossly cynical bizarre statement of the type that Erdogan and his ministers are only too prone to making.
It makes far more sense for supporters of that war to attack people calling for an end to it, and some of these supporters are also supporters of the government that has wanted this war and deliberately provoked it. It makes more sense to attack a demonstration attended by many members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party( HDP), the main threat to the hegemony of Erdogan’s ruling AKP.
All this certainly raises the question that the state played a role in facilitating the massacre and allowing it to happen. Some demonstrators have raised the question why there were no security checks going into the square at Ankara, even though there usually are. The Turkish police did act after the massacre however – to stop ambulances entering the square and pepper spraying people who were trying to call ambulances in.
The police also teargassed members of the HDP who attempted to lay carnations at the scene of the massacre. The Turkish Ministry of Health has even denied there is a blood shortage in Ankara hospitals, even though survivors, relatives and health officials have been issuing calls for donations through social media.
And still this gangster-prime minister has the temerity to reach into terrorspeak and describe this ‘heinous’ attack as an attack on ‘our unity and our country’s peace.’
All of which is true. There is no doubt that whoever did this wants civil war and civil strife in Turkey. But Erdogan’s condemnation from a government that has done so much to promote both these things, not only inside Turkey but outside it, and that as late as last year was prepared to let Kobane fall to ISIS rather than allow the Kurds to save it.
In the face of this awful tragedy, it can only be hoped that Turkish civil society responds in the same way that the Spanish did when their government attempted to manipulate the Madrid train bombings to its own advantage. Because whether Erdogan’s government was responsible for the Ankara massacre, or whether it has merely tried to use it to its own advantage, it has demonstrated once again that it does not deserve to govern, and that if it does, it will only take Turkey even further down the dark road that Erdogan the would-be sultan has already set out on.