In an interview with the Taraf daily on Monday, journalist Cengiz Çandar, who was a target of the Feb. 28 generals along with several other journalists, said that in addition to the media, employee unions, some professional unions and businesses supported the intervention, but that the US and Israel were also involved.
“The US did not support a direct intervention, but supported Feb. 28,” which was an unarmed intervention that forced the government to resign after a National Security Council (MGK) dominated by the military issued a series of threatening resolutions. Çandar said he was an eyewitness to US involvement in the Feb. 28 project.
“I was in the US in 1999 and 2000. I was co-authoring a book about Turkey. We had meetings with the other writers of the book. The editor was former US Ambassador to Ankara Morton Abramowitz. Alan Makovsky, the head of the Turkey department of the Washington Institute, a think tank of the Israeli lobby in the US, frequently came to Ankara and visited the General Staff. At the meeting of the writers working on the book on Turkey, he asked me why I wasn't at the meeting “on the seventh floor.”
I was really curious. It turned out there was a meeting called by then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the seventh floor of the US State Department building on March 12, 1997, about Turkey. The meeting was held two weeks after the MGK meeting of Feb. 28. Recall that the Refah-Yol government stepped down in June.
Bernard Lewis, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle -- they were all in that meeting. They talked about what to do about Turkey. The general trend in the meeting was that “this government should go without a direct intervention.”
Çandar said in response to a question on why the US would want the Necmettin Erbakan government to leave -- as his government was not a threat to the US and in fact Turkey's ties with Israel improved during his time in office, Abramowitz said Erbakan had disrupted some unwritten rule that needed to be observed in relations between Turkey and the US, and he appeared as an unpredictable and uncontrollable ally. Abramowitz did not specify what kind of rule Erbakan broke, but Çandar noted that Erbakan's first foreign visit as prime minister was to Iran, although he had been warned against going to that country. He also maintained friendly relations with Libya, Egypt and Nigeria, where he went on his second visit abroad.
The veteran journalist also spoke at length about the slander campaign against him in the media. He was accused of writing pro-Kurdish articles in return for money he received from the PKK. Other journalists who were targets of similar stories were Mehmet Ali Birand and Akın Birdal. There is even a word in Turkish -- andıç -- for the practice of “publishing lies under orders from the military.”
In related comments, journalist İsmet Berkan, who worked as the Ankara bureau chief of the Radikal daily during the Feb. 28 era, told the Yeni Şafak daily that the support of the media was immense. “Feb. 28 would have failed if it wasn't for the media. The media almost voluntarily became a part of the psychological operation the military conducted against the nation. We were all used, and we allowed ourselves to be used. We all have our sins in the Feb. 28 period.”
Berkan also recounted an event exemplifying the role played by the media. According to his account, retired Adm. Güven Erkaya said, “This time, let the civilian forces do it [stage the coup],” speaking to Ertuğrul Özkök, the former editor-in-chief of the Hürriyet daily.