by James Corbett
July 27, 2016
Since the failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15th, the name of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen is on everyone’s lips.
Not only is President Erdogan pointing the finger at Gulen as the mastermind of the coup, so is General Hulusi Akar, the Chief of Staff of Turkey’s Armed Forces and the country’s top ranking general. In testimony to prosecutors in Ankara earlier this week he stated that while he was being held captive by pro-coup soldiers he was asked to speak to Gulen, who he described as their “opinion leader,” but he refused.
“I believe those coup-plotters are members of [Gulen’s] organization,” Akar said. “I think they thought their organization would take a huge blow after our Supreme Military Council meeting in August — which we prepared for studiously. This terror organization probably foresaw the outcome of the upcoming meeting and attempted a coup by bombing the parliament building and security offices, killing civilians, attacking their own brothers-in-arms and units with a ferocity and dishonor never seen before.”
So who is Fethullah Gulen? Well, that depends who you ask. If you ask the well-coiffed liars of the corporate lapdog media, Gulen is a kindly old reclusive imam who is operating a multi-billion dollar global Islamic school network from his compound fortress in Pennsylvania…for some reason or other.
Here’s 60 Minutes’ take:
We went to Turkey to learn more and found Gulen’s schools are everywhere and considered the best. They’re often multi-million dollar hi-tech facilities where girls are equal to boys and English is taught starting in first grade.
Gulen didn’t only influence education. Starting in the late 60s, as a young imam, he urged crowds of middle class Turks to learn from the West and embrace its values – including an unexpected one: making money. In this Internet sermon, he even told followers: “If you don’t seek ways to be wealthy…that is a sin in the eyes of God.” So his disciples in Turkey became successful businessmen and built a multi-billion dollar Gulen empire that beyond the schools, includes TV stations, a major bank, Turkey’s largest trade association, and biggest newspaper.
So why, then, does this Turkish cleric live in Pennsylvania? Why was he outlawed from Turkey? And how did he build up his multi-billion dollar global education network? These are good questions, and ones that the US State Department struggles to answer.
Tellingly, it takes the crack journalists over at America’s flagship TV news program 7 minutes of waffling before they can even offer this journalistic shrug of an answer to the questions about Gulen:
When Gulen came to the U.S. in 1999, it was for medical treatment. But then this video surfaced in which he seems to order his flock to surreptitiously take over key government positions in Turkey in a stealth Islamic coup. Accused of treason by the government at the time, Gulen decided to stay in the Poconos — even after he was cleared in 2008 in Absentia.
Lesley Stahl: Why is he still in America?
Andrew Finkel: Well, I think if he were to come back, then there would be such a brouhaha and it would– I think– he would be afraid of being seen as being too powerful.
Too powerful because it seems his followers have taken over key positions in the Turkish government and the police.
Andrew Finkel: You know, if he says “jump,” people jump. There’s no doubt about that.
And oh so predictably, directly after admitting that the Gulenist movement has infiltrated the highest levels of political power in Turkey and that he is being sheltered from reprisal by the American government, the voice of mainstream journalism then creates a strawman argument about his goals that they can then safely pigeonhole under the CIA’s weaponized psyops term of choice, “conspiracy theory.”
Seeming to have such power, this “Wizard of Oz” recluse invites conspiracy theories that he’s running Turkey from the Poconos and is bent on global Muslim domination.
If this mainstream non-narrative fails to satisfy, it is because key details about the man and his movement are missing from it. How did a Turkish cleric of humble origins who makes no public appearances and is seen by almost no one amass a global network of schools, TV and print media, a trade association and a bank, all operated from a compound in Pennsylvania despite having been wanted by the Turkish government for decades, and all without having a registered mail address, corporate registration or even a central bank account?
For the answer, we need to look at the imam’s unlikely list of high-ranking accomplices. Like Bill Clinton, who gushed about Gulen at a “Friendship Dinner” hosted by the Turkish Cultural Center: “By being here tonight you are contributing to a lasting peace and security at home and abroad. You’re contributing to the promotion of the ideals of tolerance and interfaith dialogue inspired by Fethullah Gulen and his transnational social movement.[…]”
The mouthpiece of the American establishment, The New York Times, is also in Gulen’s corner. They just gave him 900 words in the front section of the paper to declare his innocence in the recent coup, denounce President Erdogan as a dictator, and promote his “Hizmet” movement to credulous Times readers.
And then there’s Graham Fuller, a former Vice Chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council who is best remembered for penning a memo that, according to the New York Times, later became the basis for the Iran-Contra scandal. Immediately following the coup, he wrote an extended defense of Gulen and his movement in the Huffington Post, stating: “I believe it is unlikely that Gulen was the mastermind behind the dramatic failed coup attempt against Erdogan last week.[…]Gulen has always embraced the importance and dignity of the state, in the best Ottoman tradition. He has supported the state against earlier Islamist movements that raised Islam over the state. He even felt compelled to support the military takeover of the state in 1980 in order to preserve the state in the face of raging guerrilla warfare raging [sic] in the streets. Basically, however, he supports democracy over military rule as the surest guarantee for the freedom of Hizmet to exist and conduct its social mission.”
So why is this former CIA official defending Gulen? As Fuller himself goes on to explain: “In the interest of full disclosure — it is on public record that I wrote a letter as a private citizen in connection with Gulen’s U.S. green card application in 2006, stating that I did not believe that Gulen constituted a security threat to the U.S.[…]Since then, enemies of Gulen and many conspiratorial-minded Turks decided to connect the dots: the fact that I was a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency official (I had retired from the agency 18 years before) and that I had spoken out in defense of Gulen constituted clear ‘proof’ that Gulen is a CIA agent.”
Clear proof? Certainly not. But relevant to an investigation of Gulen and his many high-ranking and powerful connections? Certainly.
Also relevant: the testimony of Osman Nuri Gündeş. He was the former head of Turkey’s intelligence agency, MIT, and served as the chief intelligence adviser to Prime Minister Tansu Çiller in the 90s. In his biography, published in 2011, he claims that in the mid-1990s the Gulen network was sending CIA agents to Central Asia under cover as “English teachers” for their madrasas in the region. According to Gündeş, Gulen sheltered 130 CIA agents this way at its schools in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan alone.
Another relevant dot on the trail involves Necip Hablemitoglu of Ankara University, who made headlines in January 2001 for writing a report that was submitted in an Ankara courtroom where a hearing on Gulen was taking place. The report, entitled “Operation Agents – Infiltration Spies and Fethullah-ists,” claimed that Gulen “voluntarily worked as an agent for the CIA and lived under the protection of the FBI in the state of Pennsylvania, on a private estate designed for him.” Dr. Hablemitoglu was assassinated in 2002 in a case that remains unsolved.
But if Gulen is a deep state operative, or at least an ally, of the US intelligence apparatus, what purpose would he serve? Why would the CIA and their alphabet soup cronies be interested in an Islamic cleric plotting to overthrow the government of Turkey?
Certainly the use of the Gulen network’s schools to place CIA and other deep state agents undercover in geopolitically strategic and diplomatically sensitive Central Asian countries would be one use for such a relationship.
Another motive comes from Latif Erdogan. He’s no relation to President Erdogan. Latif is the man who helped build up Gulen’s Hizmet movement over the decades and until a few years ago was considered the presumptive heir to the Gulen network. Latif Erdogan split with Gulen, however, after the imam took up residence in Pennsylvania and began establishing links with American neocons, the CIA, and the Mossad. This was soon reflected in Gulen’s stance on Russia and Iran, as well as being broadly supportive of Israel.
As Latif Erdogan told the Middle East Eye in 2014: “[The Gulen movement] is a parallel state [within Turkey]. At the beginning, our goal was to educate people in religion and morality, but the movement went political when it got bigger. Gulen changed and turned to politics and wanted to be a leader who can rule Turkey. We started on our road together with a spiritual message, but now it’s only secular.[…]. Gulen himself is unequivocally a pro-European Union and Atlantic person, a free marketeer and a pragmatist on Israel. Erdogan is at his core a populist reactionary, a state capitalist and a crony capitalist.”
The picture that emerges is an old one, and an all-too-familiar one to those acquainted with western intelligence operations over the decades. Gulen, it seems, is a pliant tool, a Trojan horse to be used as a beachhead in Turkey for the establishment of a more western-friendly regime. His desire for power is to be humored to the extent that it can deliver the goods: a cooperative Turkish state that won’t buck against the Atlanticist powers or Israeli interests.
The Turkish people, as usual, are the ones left squeezed in the middle. As Erdogan begins to clamp down on every part of the country in his quest to rid the Gulenists once and for all, the country is thrown into turmoil. And left waiting in the wings to take his place, exactly as in Iran in 1979, is the CIA’s chosen golden boy.
[CLINTON: “I want to thank you for your contributions to America for your contributions to stronger Turkish-American relationships and better understanding and especially for your friendship to Hillary and to me.”]
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