Steve Bannon Has Become America’s Fethullah Gulen and Trump Has Become America’s Erdogan

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Steve Bannon Has Become America’s Fethullah Gulen and Trump Has Become America’s Erdogan

By Adam Garrie

For the first decade of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s career as Turkish Prime Minister, Fethullah Gulen and his so-called Gulen Movement, were key allies of Erdogan’s centre-right/populist/neo-Islamist AK Party.

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Gulen’s powerful network of neo-Islamist supporters played an implicit (however, contemporarily ignored and denied) role in helping Erdogan and his AK Party surge to power in 2003, which in turn led to a period of unbroken AK Party rule which continues to this day under Erdogan’s powerful Presidential position.

Gulen’s association with Erdogan and the AK Party continued through a period dominated by the Ergenekon investigation. Ergenekon was allegedly a group of ultra-secular conspirators within the Turkish deep state and army—both of which are home to historically hard-line Kemalists. The Gulen movement was deeply involved in circulation the rumours that members of Turkey’s judicial system, intellectual elite, civil service and Army were plotting to topple the AK government led by Erdogan.

In the end, most of the individuals investigated as part of Ergenekon turned out be innocent of all charges and furthermore, the “evidence” against them turned out to be largely forged—many say by Gulenists who wanted to fan the flames of an anti-Islamist conspiracy.
The failure of Ergenekon to produce anything tangible, subsequently led to the Gulen Movement joining with opposition parties (notably the secular CHP) in alleging that high levels of corruption were rampant in the AK Party.

This led to the formal split between Erodgan and Gulen in 2013. The former allies are now sworn enemies.

Gulen’s group is now cited by Turkey as the Fethullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO) and is proscribed by every sector of the Turkish state. Gulen himself is currently in exile in the US–which has led to numerous allegations from Ankara that Washington is openly colluding with the now hated movement.

Today, alleged Gulenists continue to be purged from public life and jailed for their stated crime of “terrorism”. Others are prosecuted under the infamous law of “insulting Turkishness”.  In many cases, the Turkish government will accuse anyone it doesn’t like of being a member of the FETO, even when they are not.
If any of this sounds oddly familiar for those who follow US politics more closely than the politics of Turkey, this is because there is indeed a striking parallel.

Long before Donald Trump formally entered the political arena, Steve Bannon was the leader of what is generally described as a right wing or far-right movement centred around groups like The Tea Party and Bannon’s media outlet Breitbart.

Bannon’s narrative that the US has fallen from grace and from greatness were themes picked up by the Trump campaign and immortalised in the slogan “Make America Great Again”.

When Bannon formally joined the Trump campaign team, the de-facto alliance was solidified. This became even more apparent when Bannon was appointed as a special advisor to President Trump.

Bannon’s period in the White House was dominated by allegations from political opponents who claim his team had colluded with Russia. There is a striking parallel here to the period in which Erdogan’s party and Gulen’s movement cooperated in alleging that the Turkish Army and deep state were colluding with conspirators ready to overthrow the Islamist government and replace it with a traditional Kemalist government.

In both cases, no evidence was found to substantiate the conspiratorial claims. Likewise, the revelation that Ergenekon was a non-issue coincided with Gulen’s public falling out with Erdogan and the AK Party.

In the US, as the Russiagate scandal is revealed to be a non-issue, Bannon’s August 2017 exit from the White House has been revealed to be far more acrimonious than first believed, with Trump publically stating that Bannon “cried” and begged for his job back at the time. Trump now calls his former ally “Sloppy Steve” and claims that he has little public support.

This stems from the fact that Bannon is quoted in a “tell-all” book by Michael Wolff, saying that Trump and his team are incompetent, corrupt and essentially worthless. According to the book, Bannon has even raised the issue of “treasonous” dealings on the part of Trump’s family. Bannon has come down hard on both Trump’s son Don Jr. as well as his powerful son-in-law Jared Kushner. This indeed parallels frequent allegations of corruption and even treason, relating to Turkish President Erdogan’s son Ahmet Burak.

While Bannon is under attack by Trump and his allies, he continues to lead a political movement that he has alluded to as a kind of ‘shadow government’, in the same way that Gulen’s movement has a similar covert function in Turkey.

As the ongoing “Russia probe” is becoming more of an internal corruption scandal rather than anything related to Russia—it is widely thought that Bannon might take his newly refined anti-Trump rhetoric straight to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. If Bannon’s quotes from Wolff’s book are any indication, Bannon will not paint a positive picture of Trump to Mueller, just as Gulen joined the ideologically antithetical CHP (the main Kemalist opposition) in alleging corruption in Erdogan’s government beginning in 2013.

With Trump already complaining that he should have legal options to quash the publication of Wolff’s book and with many in the Democratic opposition alleging that Bannon’s movement and the ideology proffered by Breitbart are dangerous movements peddling “hate speech” (the US equivalent of “insulting Turkishness”)—all bets are now off when it comes to Trump’s former sympathies to the free speech of opposition journalists.

While Gulen and Erdogan once stood shoulder to shoulder as campaigners for a more religious Turkish Republic—now Gulen’s followers are treated as terrorists.
Could it be that Bannon’s followers might now be targeted by Trump and his administration with the same vigour that Democrats have wanted to employ for years? The possibility is now very real, especially since Trump has in the past stated that he prefers a liberal interpretation of libel laws rather than a liberal interpretation of free speech laws. This in turn plays into the hands of Trump’s Democratic opposition who have been working with their corporate allies to censor opposition opinions online under the guise that they are “fake news”.

The US now has its own Fethullah Gulen, complete with a shadow government, in the form of Steve Bannon and his media outlet. The US also has its own Erdogan in the form of Donald Trump–a politician who seeks to radically change the social dynamic of the US, is frequently accused of nepotism and corruption and whose foreign policy statements often change drastically from month to month. 
Someone pass the Raki.