Since 1952, NATO-supported “stay behind” ultras (nationalist-fascists), jointly with special services, have organized regular terrorist attacks against civilians with a view to keep tension high and to discredit leftists in the eyes of the Turks.
The Gladio network was created in the late 1940s so as to carry out subversive and underground activities in case of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. The core of the force constituted Fascists and anti-Communists, including former collaborators.
Gladio was so secret that the first time anybody dared to openly speak of it was the late 1990s, when Italian Prime Minister Julio Andreotti was forced to after almost six years of Italian judge Felice Casson’s inquiry into the bombings organized in Peteano in 1972. Initially, the crimes were ascribed to the left wing Red Brigades, but Casson found out that the bombers used S-4 bombs. He finally detected Vincenzo Vinciguerra, a neo-Fascist from Ordine Nuovo, who admitted his contacts with Italian secret services.
It was revealed that Italian neo-Nazis were one branch of a network secretly acting in most of NATO member states. Gladio is the name of an ancient Roman short sword, a two-edged weapon used for both cutting and stabbing – quite a symbolic name for a network fighting on two fronts: against the Soviet Union and against domestic leftists.
One of the fundamental works about Gladio is Daniele Ganser’s NATO’S SECRET ARMIES: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. According to Ganser, Gladio was especially brutal in Greece, Italy and Turkey. In this article we will be talking about Turkey, as the last terrorist attacks in that country might well be related to Gladio.
One of the factors determining the life of post-war Turkey was its role in the US-led “cold war.” In the late 1940s, Turkey was turned into NATO’s anti-Soviet outpost. In March 1947, the US Congress approved $400 million assistance for Turkey and Greece. In July 1947, the Americans made a deal with the Turks to supply them with arms and to train their troops. In 1948, Turkey joined the Marshall Plan. The same year it was admitted into the IMF. According to official statistics, under the Truman Doctrine the Turks received $175 million for their army, while under the Marshal Plan they got 656 million TRY (with 58% given to the army). During that period Turkey spent a total of 1.1bn on its army (2). Between 1959-1989 the United States provided the country with $2.9bn (3).
The Turkish branch of Gladio was established in the early 1950s by Colonel Alparslan Turkes; the Basbug (leader) of Turkish ultras (ülkücü). Turkes was born in Cyprus in 1917. In 1938 he joined the Turkish army. During WWII he was openly anti-Communist and pro-Nazi. After the war he represented Turkey in the United States and at NATO (4).
The Turkish Gladio was headquartered in the CIA’s Ankara Office. It was run by the Special Warfare Department and consisted of five branches: ‘Training Group, including interrogation and psychological warfare techniques; Special Unit, specialized since 1984 in anti-Kurd operations, Special Section, special operations in Cyprus; Coordination Group, also called the Third Bureau; and Administrative Section.’ (5).
Just like in other NATO member states, in Turkey Gladio was based on ultras. In 1965 Turkes organized a Republican Peasants’ Nation Party, which was later reorganized into the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Its military wing was Bozkurtlar (Grey Wolves). Its emblem was a red flag with three crescents and a wolf. The wolf has been the totem of the Turks since the Middle Ages. According to a Turkish legend, starving Turkic tribes were led by a pack of wolves to fertile Anatolia. For his pro-Nazi attitudes Turkes was called the “Turkish Mussolini.” His ideology was bellicose pan-Turkism, his goal was Great Turan, his doctrine was “nine rays”: idealism, moralism, scientific, sociability, promotion of agriculture, liberalism, individualism, development orientation, populism and the promotion of industry and technology. (6).
According to Turkes, both capitalism and Communism were strange to Turkey. His doctrine was based on spiritual values. His alternative to Communism was Turkic nationalism. It is neither capitalist nor Communist but a doctrine based on Islam and Turkic nationalism. (7).
Since the 1940s, Turkey has experienced a demographic boom: from 17 million in 1940 to 46 million in 1980, with urbanization growing from 26% in 1960 to 46% in 1970 (8). The social basis for the “grey wolves” was young people rushing from villages to towns in the 1960s. Turkes organized a network of summer camps, where he trained neo-Fascist fighters (9). According to Ganser, it was a national fascist movement, which the CIA exploited and supported while running its secret army in Turkey (10).
In his book Ganser says that the Turkish Gladio comprised not only Turkes’s party but also the National Intelligence Organization and the Counter-Guerrilla secret army (11). Ganser quotes Deputy Director of the National Intelligence Organization Sabahattin Savasman as saying after his arrest in 1977 that his special service cooperated with the CIA since the 1950s. Its office was built by the CIA, with most of its agents trained abroad (12).
In 1975, Turkish General Talat Turhan published a Turkish version of U.S. Army Field Manual FM 30-31, which said: “The US army intelligence must have the means of launching special operations which will convince Host Country Governments and public opinion of the reality of the insurgent danger. To reach this aim US army intelligence should seek to penetrate the insurgency by means of agents on special assignment, with the task of forming special action groups among the most radical elements of the insurgency.”
“In case it has not been possible to successfully infiltrate such agents into the leadership of the rebels it can be useful to instrumentalize extreme leftist organizations for one’s own ends in order to achieve the above described targets” (13). In the 1960s Deputy Director of the CIA Ray Cline confirmed this authenticity of this manual.
The Turkish contra-guerrillas have many schools in Turkey, in which they receive their training – in Ankara, Bolu, Kayseri, Buca near Izmir, Canakkale and since 1974 in Cyprus (14). They had a hand in the massacre in Kizildere, where they killed Turkish revolutionary Mahir Cayan and nine of his comrades.
Gladio’s strategy in Turkey was to go from instability to stability: once leftists gain popularity and are close to power, special services organize a big terrorist attack. People are worried and demand drastic measures. And military men are there to stop civil war and to put things in order. This may seem too simple but let’s not forget that in the second half of the 20th century Turkey faced four coups: 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997. And in all four coups ultras had a big role. In 1980 they had as many as 200,000 active supporters (15).
One of Gladio’s biggest contributions to democracy in Turkey was the 1980 coup, preceded by the “bloody Sunday” of May 1 1977, when snipers started shooting at almost 500,000 people demonstrating in Taksim Square. It is not clear who organized the shooting but there is substantial evidence that ultras had a hand in the case.
The coup of Sept 12, 1980 was a response to a serious economic crisis (caused by a jump in oil prices) and continuing political instability (16). The political life in Turkey in the 1970s was a constant struggle for power between Bulet Ecevit’s Democratic Left Party and Suleyman Demirel’s Justice Party. None of them managed to form a one-party government, so, both were forced to ally with other parties. In 1974-1980, they formed a total of seven coalition cabinets (17).
The organizer of the coup General Kenan Evren (later sentenced to life imprisonment-not initiated due to old age) was among the leaders of the counter-guerilla secret army. In June 1978, he visited the United States, where Zbigniew Brzezinski openly sanctioned the coup by telling the Turkish general that the Americans needed a stable Turkey, while things were developing otherwise (18).
In 1980, NATO European Commander Bernard Rogers advised the Turkish generals to enlarge their powers (19). So, they in the United States and Europe were not only aware of Evren’s plans to organize a coup but most actively encouraged him to do that.
After the coup the generals started repressions against leftists. As a result, they arrested as many as 43,140 people. 57% of them were aged 16-25 (20).
Turkish human rights activists say that as many as 650,000 were arrested after the coup. 230,000 people were prosecuted. 517 people were sentenced to life in jail. 50 of them were killed.
Turkes was not a puppet and was very active in seeking power for his party. For Evren the Grey Wolves were a weapon against leftists but once leftists were beaten, he brought 578 grey wolves to court and accused them of killing 594 people, including trade union activist Kemal Turkler (21). Human rights experts in Turkey make Grey Wolves responsible for more than 4,000 murders, primarily of Kurds, Turkish leftists, and progressive journalists and union leaders (22).
But a few years later the regime appealed to grey wolves again. Now they needed them for fighting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Gladio used very different methods against Kurds. They even had a special unit for anti-Kurdish propaganda (23). In 1980s, they organized JITEM (Gendarmerie Intelligence Organization), a force that is responsible for the killing and loss of thousands of Kurds in the southeast of Turkey. One of the key figures in JITEM was Cem Ersever, who described JITEM’s activities in his book in the early 1990s. According to him, dressed as PKK members, JITEM officers attacked Kurdish villages and raped and killed the villagers. Shortly after publishing his book Ersever was found dead (24). In 2015, JITEM was among the key forces involved in Erdogan’s new anti-Kurdish campaign (25). JITEM officers killed three Kurdish women in Silopi in Jan 2016. That killing was symbolical: it was committed three years after the Paris massacre, when a Turkish special service agent killed three Kurdish female activists (26).
In his Manifesto for a Democratic Civilization, Ocalan says that over 10,000 undetected crimes have been committed by JITEM and Turkish Hezbollah, including the murder of Kurdish musician-guerrilla Ozan Sefkan and his group (1985), the murder of leading PKK commander Mahsum Korkmaz (1986) and the crisis caused at PKK’s congress in 1986 (27).
Ultras became active again in the early 1990s, with the killing of Kurdish intellectuals, journalists, activists and businessmen; a series of attacks also targeted Kurdish leader Ocalan. The most well known attack occurred in 1996 and was planned by infamous ultra Mahmut Yildirim, also known as Yesil (Green). Ocalan was to be killed by a bomb planted in a house he was to visit. However the plan was foiled at the last moment and Ocalan survived.
On Nov 3, 1996, ultra fighter and drug dealer Abdullah Catli died in a road accident near the village of Susurluk. Inside the car were also his girlfriend, model Gonca Us, Deputy Chief of Istanbul Police Huseyin Kocadag and pro-government MP and chief of the pro-Turkish state (village guard) Kurdish militia Sedat Bucak.
Everybody except Bucak was killed. The fact that a criminal like Catli was in the same car with high-ranking government officials caused a scandal. Tens of thousands of Turks went out onto the streets to protest against the government’s policy to use neo-fascist and secret counter-guerrilla forces.
The crown of Gladio’s activities was however the arrest of Ocalan in 1999. Initially, the Americans denied their special services’ hand in the operation but later US mass media published evidence of this. It turned out that US intelligence had exerted pressure on the countries where Ocalan sought refuge (Syria, Russia, Italy and Greece) and tapped his phone. And it was from their agents that the Turks learned that Ocalan was in Kenya (28).
And what is the Turkish Gladio doing today?
Over the last two years, before the ceasefire broke down, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had avoided applying serious punitive measures against Kurds, even though he had taken no concrete steps for the resolution of the Kurdish question. Erdogan had started withdrawing troops from the southeast but he made it clear that concessions would be possible only when Kurdish guerillas capitulated. And that was where talks came to a dead end.
Kurdish autonomies in Iraq and Syria were contrary to Erdogan’s plans. And the only way for him to stop this was to break his ceasefire with Kurds. On July 20, 2015, a suicide bomber killed 32 people in Suruc. The target was not a coincidence. At that very moment Suruc was hosting a congress of the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations and their goal was to restore Kobani, a Kurdish town destroyed by Islamists. Following the attack, the Vice Chairman of the Kemalist Republican People’s Party Veli Agbaba said the government and special services had organized the attack (29).
The Kurds’ counterattack was the killing of two jihadist policemen in the neighboring town of Ceylanpinar. And that step served as a pretext for the Turks to launch air strikes against PKK bases in the Qandil Mountains. The killing of two policemen could hardly be a pretext for such an activity. Simply, Erdogan needed the Kurds’ reaction to the terrorist attack in Suruc.
In June 2015, the Justice and Development Party lost its parliamentary majority (258 out of 550 seats). A month later there was a blast in Suruc followed by a war with the PKK. Here one cannot help remembering Friedrich Engels’s quote: “Where on the surface accident holds sway, there actually it is always governed by inner, hidden laws, and it is only a matter of discovering these laws” (30). Once the Turks broke their two-year ceasefire with the Kurds, their capital was overwhelmed by a series of terrorist attacks.
On Oct 10, a suicide bomber blew up a bomb near the central railway station, with 102 people killed and 246 people wounded. During mid-term parliamentary elections in early Nov the Justice and Development Party (AKP) regained its majority – 317 seats (57.64%) and a chance to form a one-party government. This fits well into the strategy of tensions applied by Gladio in many European countries. Almost always high tension pushes disoriented society towards their ruler as a guarantor of stability and order.
Here the reasonable question is – should we expect a new military coup in Turkey? Things are much more complicated. In the 2000s, Turkey witnessed a series of lawsuits against high-ranking military men. One of them was Ergenekon. As a result, Erdogan has ‘beheaded’ the army – the guard of Ataturk’s heritage. The slogan of all military coups in Turkey so far has been “back to Ataturk,” that is, to secular republican Turkey. According to Turkish General Cevik Bir, in Turkey Islam and democracy are married and their child is secularism. Sometimes, that child gets sick and the army acts as a doctor and saves it. “The choice of remedy depends on the gravity of the child’s illness,” Bir says (31).
Erdogan has learned the mistakes of his ideological predecessors from the Democratic Party of Adnan Menderes, who was overthrown and executed by generals in 1961, following the coup in 1960. His preventive step was cuts to the MIT (the National Intelligence Service). In the early 1990s, military men constituted 35% of the MIT’s staff, today, their percentage has been cut to just 5% (32). So, today the Turkish president controls almost all forces cooperating with ultras.
And the only force he is still afraid of is the Kurdish national liberation movement and its leftist supporters. In order to suppress it, Erdogan needs to cleanse the Kurdish population in the southeast of Turkey and to destroy Kurdish autonomy in the north of Syria (Rojava). Here he relies mostly on the Islamic State (IS) and other Jihadist forces. But Grey Wolves may also be helpful here. In the past year Erdogan reached an agreement with the Grey Wolves party MHP and remnants of the Ergenekon deep-state, which includes elements of the other opposition party CHP. It is with these forces that he has destroyed a dozen Kurdish districts and killed hundreds of civilians. However it is evident their coalition cannot last forever. What will happen when it breaks apart we will see.
When analyzing the activities of secret or special services, one may always get lost in conspiracy theories. The pragmatic ancient Romans would ask just one question when investigating a crime, “Cui prodest?” – “Who stands to gain?” The answer for terrorism-ridden Turkey is obvious – the Justice and Development Party, which has always been anti-leftist and nationalist, religious and pro-right.
1. Abdullah Ocalan. Manifesto for a Democratic Civilization. The Kurdish Issue and the National Resolution. 2016. page 697
2. Ramzan Kadyrov. Turkey as a Strategic Ally of the United States of America in the 1950s volume 3, page 234.
3. Ramzan Kadyrov. Turkey as a Strategic Ally of the United States of America in the 1950s volume 3, page 237.
4. Rafael Muhammetdin. Evolution of Turkism, 1996, page 175
5. Daniele Ganser. NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. Translated by M. Krasikova. 2012, page 269
6. Rafael Muhammetdin. Evolution of Turkism, 1996, page 177
7. Zaman quoting Rafael Muhammetdin’s Evolution of Turkism, 1996, pages 177-178
8. Rafael Muhammetdin. Evolution of Turkism, 1996, pages 194-195
9. Guruli Vachnadze. The Backstage of an Act of Sabotage, 1985, pages 11-12
10. Daniele Ganser. NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. Translated by M. Krasikova. 2012, page 272
11. Daniele Ganser. NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. Translated by M. Krasikova. 2012, pages 273−274
12. Daniele Ganser. NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. Translated by M. Krasikova. 2012, page 275
13. Daniele Ganser. NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. Translated by M. Krasikova. 2012, page 278
14. Serdar Celik Turkey’s Killing Machine: The Contra-Guerrilla Force http://www.hartford-hwp.com/ archives/51/017.html
15. Vitaly Menshikov. Grey Wolves // Vokrug Sveta, #8, 1983. URL:http://www.vokrugsveta.ru/vs/ article/2039
16. Dr. İhsan, Dr. Sedat The rise of ideological-revolutionary terrorism: the Turkish experience, 1960−1980 // The Journal of Turkish Weekly (2014 14 March). URL: http://www.turkishweekly.net/ article/226/
17. Vladimir Danilov. Turkey in the 1980s: from Military Regime to Limited Democracy, 1991. page 18.
18. Vladimir Danilov. Turkey in the 1980s: from Military Regime to Limited Democracy, 1991. page 44.
19. Vladimir Danilov. Turkey in the 1980s: from Military Regime to Limited Democracy, 1991. page 51.
20. Keles R., Unsal A. Kentvеsiyasalsiddet. Ankara. 1982. F. 58−59 // quoting Vladimir Danilov. Turkey in the 1980s: from Military Regime to Limited Democracy, 1991. pages 28−29.
21. Vitaly Menshikov. Grey Wolves // Vokrug Sveta, #8, 1983 URL:http://www.vokrugsveta.ru/vs/ article/2039/
22. Turkish Fascists: The MHP http://www.hartford-hwp.com/ archives/51/019.html
23. Serdar Celik Turkey’s Killing Machine: The Contra-Guerrilla Forcehttp://www.hartford-hwp.com/ archives/51/017.html
24. Daniele Ganser. NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. Translated by M. Krasikova. 2012, page 286
25. https://undercoverinfo. wordpress.com/2016/01/11/ jitem-secret-turkish-death- squad-responsible-for-recent- executions-of-kurds/
26. http://en.rfi.fr/europe/20 150 723-french-inquiry-implicates- turkish-secret-services-paris- kurds-murder
27. Abdullah Ocalan. Manifesto for a Democratic Civilization. The Kurdish Issue and the National Resolution. 2016. page 454
28. B. Grey. Hunting for Ocalan: How Washington Ignores International Law and Democratic Rules URL: http://www.wsws.org/ru/1999/ feb1999/ocal-f24.shtml (access date: 01.12.2013)
29. http://nk.org.ua/geopolitika/ terakt-v-suruche-v-kontekste- politicheskoy-borbyi-v- turtsii-16 863
30. Friedrich Engels. Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, volume 21, page 306
31. https://lenta.ru/articles/ 2015/11/13/turkish_army/
32. http://arsiv.sabah.com.tr/ 2007/07/19/haber, 4D36E8C34C434B5880E8E8BE1D3FF3 28. Html