Sledgehammer: Under the Microscope

13th January 2012

A few days ago the former head of Turkey's army Ilker Basbug was arrested as part of the ongoing Operation Sledgehammer/Ergenekon investigation.  He is so far the highest ranking official to be jailed in connection with the alleged coup plot involving Turkey's Deep State.

The Ergenekon investigation is a lengthy, complex story going back at least five years to the publication of a diary by the journal Notka in March 2007.  The diary was apparently written by Ozden Ornek, a retired general, and detailed plans from 2004 to stage a series of operations that would facilitate a military coup d'etat in Turkey.  Ornek claims the diary is a forgery.  If you can read Turkish, or can use a translator, you should download the published extracts from the diary here and draw your own conclusions.  The publication of the diary stirred up older allegations and gave new impetus to the existing investigation.    

In the summer of 2007 a series of police raids found caches of weapons not at all dissimilar to those used by the Gladio operatives during the Cold War.  Grenades found in one cache bore the same serial numbers as those used in numerous attacks and incidents in Turkey in recent years.  As more and more people were arrested and the investigation progressed, a very grim picture emerged.  It appeared that a faction within the Turkish military had, in conjunction with a covert organisation called Ergenekon, planned to stage various incidents including terrorist attacks so as to precipitate a coup d'etat. 

So far hundreds of people have been arrested, mostly current or former military officials but also academics and journalists, which has led to counter-accusations of censorship and of the investigation being politically motivated.  A solid rebuttal to these accusations is provided here.  Close to 300 of those arrested have been charged with belonging to the Ergenekon terrorist organisation.  A series of major indictments, which can be accessed via, have been filed, a special prosecutor appointed, and several different trials are due to be held.  A fuller breakdown is provided in a recent article from Today's Zaman. 

The 'Sledgehammer' part of the investigation refers to one of several coup plots allegedly planned by a group loyal to Ergenekon within the Turkish military.  The plans included false flag terrorist attacks, designed foment a sense of chaos and instability and provide sufficient tension to justify a takeover.  You can read one document titled Operation Cage Action Plan here, though like the other documents in this article I obtained it via

According to the defendants, these documents do not refer to real plans, but to scenarios considered as part of a military training seminar.  Some of the papers in this case are certainly forgeries and so the authenticity of all of them are in question, though the Operation Cage Action Plan contains a list of required equipment for carrying out the operations described.  This is very strange if it is just some paperwork from a training seminar. 

So what is Ergenekon?  For the answer to that we should look to documents that turned up in a raid on a Turkish spy, Tuncay Guney, in 2001.  The evidence found is extraordinary, and worrying.  One paper, titled 'Ergenekon: An Analysis - Restructuring, Management and Development Project' explains that the organisation is fundamentally a parallel intelligence agency 'which operates within the Turkish Armed Forces'.  Though much of the objectives, scope and method of the organisation described in the document are just intelligence gathering, two comments in particular show it to be more than that. 

The document explains that:

The terror aiming at Turkeys trading partners will cause instability, thus delivering a great blow on Turkeys foreign trade in an attempt substantially to disrupt the countrys trade volume. Therefore, the terror groups must absolutely be kept under control and by setting up front terror groups if necessary, the terror community must be guided and a position must definitely be secured as part of the game set up by the powerful intelligence services.

It goes on to advocate assassination of political targets who do not conform to Ergenekon's ideology and strategy, though it adds the caveat that:

To eliminate any potential need for assassinations, political portraits must be analyzed very meticulously and campaigns must be organized for those politicians meeting common ideals to ensure that they secure effective and powerful positions in Parliament so that Parliament could be rendered functional in line with the national interests to allow it to have respect and prestige locally and internationally.

You can download the analysis document here.  Partly based on the 'restructuring' outlined in the document, Today's Zaman produced this organisational chart of Ergenekon:

Ergenekon structure
Click for larger version

A further paper found in the same raid outlined the 'Lobby' part of the organisation, primarily concerned with propaganda and political influence through infiltration of the media.  It says:

Countries such as the UK, Germany, France, United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) have managed how to make the best use of civic elements in line with their own ideologies and they have obtained cultural, political and economic interests as a result of various activities in every field in all the countries in the world for the name of their imperialist pursuits.

These efforts which are currently maintained through the activities by the civic elements that have been developed further rather than having undergone an evolution are carried out under in the forms of ideological, political, economic, cultural and scientific campaigns all around the world under various clandestine and concealed titles such as non governmental organizations, foundations, human aid organizations, P-2 Masonry Lodge, Bilderber Group and Trilaterale affiliated with it and CFR, etc., which increase in number steadily.

To the frustration of the 'one big conspiracy' theorists, the 'Lobby' paper cites organisations such as Bilderberg and the P2 lodge as examples of how Turkey has been diverted from its national interests.  Ergenekon is a Kemalist organisation, extremely nationalistic and secular.  Repeated references are made to how these clandestine organisations have infiltrated and manipulated Turkish affairs and how this needs to be countered.  Nonetheless, they do say that the Lobby part of Ergenekon should duplicate the methods of such organisations, if not their political philosophies. 

Although there have been references to the Masonic Bilderberg organization, German Nazi organization, covered organization models of the British Intelligence as well as non governmental organizations of some European countries and some Eastern origin intelligence and political organizations in this study submitted to your Excellency for consideration and approval, care has been paid to ensure that there would be analogy between them and the planning for its composition.

You can download the Lobby document here

Hence, if the coup plans are at least to some extent authentic, and the accused are members of or connected to Ergenekon, they are likely not part of some larger strategic agenda being imposed from without.  Ergenekon are strictly opposed to the popular Justice and Development Party (AKP) which has won the last three Turkish elections.  The AKP are mildly Islamist, socially conservative and economically liberal, all of which is perfectly acceptable to those who would use Turkey's geographic utility for their agendas in the wider Middle East.  The AKP are also relatively pro-EU, whereas Ergenekon are staunch nationalists.  The only way in which the rise of Ergenekon in Turkey would suit NATO et al is in its militarism, as the AKP have not been as accomodating as they might have been to the forces that invaded and occupied (and continue to occupy) Iraq.   

Nonetheless, there is a wider story at play here because Turkey is one of the gateways between Europe and the Middle East, between 'secular' 'Enlightenment' 'democracy' and what is patronisingly called 'the Muslim World'.  This struggle between the secular and militarist factions on one side and the Islamist faction on the other side is a product of the geopolitics of the region.  It has also been going on a long time, with the military staging several coups in Turkey in recent decades.  As this stage, it looks like the Islamist faction is winning. 

There is, of course, the danger that in seeking to crush the nationalistic terrorist Ergenekon organisation that innocents will be swept up as part of the conspiracy.  As noted by Hurriyet Daily News:

As for the bigger picture, here is my honest take: The Turkish military, which has repeatedly attacked and threatened Turkish democracy since 1960, had to be tamed. So, these coup cases are neither fake nor unnecessary. But there is a growing risk of overdoing this civilian takeover and harming the officers that are innocent.

For the excesses in this process, some blame the AKP. I disagree, for the AKP is actually often soft against the military (as Erdogans criticism of Basbugs arrest has once again shown). Others blame the allies of the AKP, such as the Glen Movement. But I rather blame the common Turkish political mindset, which sees the whole world through conspiracy theories and has more passion for revenge than justice.

Amidst all the disinformation, accusations and counter-accusations and warring factions there is a lesson to be learnt for the alternative media who have so far largely ignored this story.  The lesson is that state-sponsored (even false flag) terrorism is not necessarily the product of some global conspiracy where the attack is ordered by members of the superclass.  It can also be, and probably more often is, the result of more local or systemic problems and struggles that has no single guiding hand.  It is perhaps the complexity of the case that has put off the alternative media from reporting on this story, but perhaps it is also because it cannot be subsumed under a simplified, all-encompassing agenda.