By: Selahattin Yüzbaşı

Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society

1995 US Supreme Court ruling

Anonymity enable individuals to exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age and, as such, deserve strong protection.

UN Human Rights Council Report on Freedom of Expression

Anonymous pieces show that the author is DISHONORABLE/(A) COWARD

Metin Gürcan

The purges, which have mutated to academic witch hunts, are squandering the Turkish army’s already-limited intellectual capital. If these hunts continue, the TSK might not be able to recover.

This is not credible. It’s not credible!

Metin Gürcan, February 2017

(In response to Christina Amanpour’s question “Is it creditable that these purges have severely weakened the Turkish army?”)

minber
The Minber Newspaper, which was published by Ataturk under pseudonyms as well as anonymously.

My latest blog article about Turkish Army’s Uniform seems to have drawn some attention. The response spectrum is not dissimilar to that of the Turkish society: Black and white. Those who have an opposing view to the establishment loved it, the others just hated it. Unfortunately , unhelpful as it may be, that was to be expected. [1] Regardless, I am happy. One can only hope that, his articles stimulate fruitful discussion, negative or positive which may eventually turn out to be constructive. Having said that, I was expecting more objective and intellectually competent criticism from academics and (self-proclaimed-so-called) security experts. In that, I decided to respond to one particular individual, whom I just couldn’t take any more garbage from: Metin Gürcan.

Honestly speaking, until last couple days, I had never seen him on TV. Read some of his pieces and followed his twitter feed. I found his column above average, if rather shallow and lacking evidence. Considered him better than most of the other non-educated pundits. In other words, he was OK for me and I understood the reasoning behind his very poorly critical ( sort of critical, in his own words) stance against Turkish Armed Forces and the Regime. At the end of the day, in Erdogan’s Turkey, he has every right to be controlled in his comments, fear of his and his loved ones’ well being. However, his blatant war against free speech (through criticising anonymous pieces on the internet, especially on the blogosphere and the twitter), ad hominem attacks on others and on me (without pointing out to a single factual error in my analysis) forced me to investigate him. I just scratched the surface a little and what I found out was a very interesting individual, to say the least. To be honest, there were quite a few moments where I wished I had some background in human psychology because my education was simply not enough to understand this person.
That is it. This piece is about me trying to understand and unveil Metin Gurcan, for who he really is. In my regular fashion, I will stick to the facts (and deductions where I have to) and reveal his fallacious arguments, factual errors, alternative facts and other deficiencies. Even though I have no intention of producing ad hominem insults like him, there will be times where I will not be able to withhold my cynicism. And as always, I am open to any corrections.

Free Speech is a Fundemantal Right and We Will Fight For It

Final word before I get on with him: Free speech in Turkey is under immense pressure in Turkey. Press is not free, people do not have access to the facts, except for internet (mainly blogs) and social media. In this catastrophic situation regarding freedom of expression in Turkey, a most honorable path to follow for any responsible individual should be to support independent voices, help them be heard. Instead, Gurcan chose to jump on Regime’s bandwagon in suppressing dissent: While Erdogan leads the world chart on social media closure, acolites like Gurcan lead the charge on the intellectual domain and discredit quality discussion about the realities of the Country. We cannot and will not let that happen.

Ok, here we go. First, let’s look at his twitter feed and try to understand what kind of an individual we are faced with. We will eventually inspect some of his written works as well.

A Fallacy Prone Tweeter: Intentional Bias and Ad-Hominem Insults

As I touched earlier briefly, it all started with me seeing one of his tweets where he called my piece (that is me) about the uniforms in the Turkish Army “ill-intentioned” (Kötü niyetli) and “(ill) purposed” (MAKSATLI) [2] Tweets with similar insults are abundant in his feed. [3]

For starters let me teach him something he does not know: This argument is fallacious. [4]  This is “intentional fallacy”, or in Turkish “niyet okuma”.[5] (apparently he has no idea about the concept. Kudos Bilkent!) The concept was first formulated by Wimslet and Beardsley in 1946 (!) in their groundbreaking article. They said “the design or intention of the author is neither available nor desirable as a standard for judging the success of a work of literary art.” This has since been the norm, in that one cannot know the intent of an author unless it is clearly mentioned. [6] It is also irrelevant. There are certain criteria for assessing an academic work and author’s intent is never one of them.

Since he insists on knowing the others’ intents and purposes, maybe he would be willing to share that unique quality with the academic world to enrich their intellectual scope.
What makes the issue more miserable is the fact that, he even warned people for similar fallacies and urged them to assess the content of an article not where it is published. I guess, he is not much for practicing what he preaches. Again, very sad.

Does he even know the meaning of pseudonym?

Clearly, he has no respect for freedom of speech and our self proclaimed judge of character has a beef with people not revealing their identities.Here is another one of his tweets: “I see mushrooming ‘anonymous’ pieces about TR’s security sector on the Intl. media. Please disregard any piece without author’s ID….” The Turkish version of the tweet was even more insulting. He said authors with honor, disclose their ID’s (seriously, that is what he says, not names but ID’s-of course with CAPITALs.) By logic, those who don’t come out, become dishonorable.

Obviously, this is beyond ignorant, even for a high school student. Using pseudonyms is one of the most widely used practices not only among authors but also politicians for a very long time. Blaming people to use pen names in the blogosphere and twitter, I never heard of. Hearing such comments from a PhD holder is mind numbing. The committee in Bilkent University must be regretting their decision.

Instead of giving a lecture, I suggest we look at a couple other famous dishonorable authors who hide their ID’s: Samuel Clemens, Charles Dodgson. You didn’t recognize them? Let’s check their pseudonyms: Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland)

And here are more people without honors who didn’t disclose their “ID”s in their writings: Agatha Christie (Mary Westmacott), Benjamin Franklin (Mrs. Silence Dogood – Did Mr. President even hide his gender? Doubly dishonorable!), Isaac Asimov (Paul French), J.K. Rowling (Robert Galbraith-another gender traitor!), Stephen King (Richard Bachman)….

Even U.S. President Obama did not use his real identity in emails to his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton for God’s sake!

Maybe he would want to see our dishonorables: Süheyl Feridun (Ömer Seyfeddin); Emin Bayraktaroğlu (Nihad Sâmi Banarlı), Halide Edip Adıvar (Halide Salih), Haldun Taner (Haldun Hasırcıoğlu), Kemal Tahir (Bedri Eser) Yahya Kemal Beyatlı (Ahmet Agah)

Atatürk also wrote anonymously and under pseudonyms

Not unsurprisingly, he probably doesn’t know that, Turkey’s founding father, the Great Atatürk himself wrote under several pseudonyms, for the sake of his cause’s and his own safety. He, along with Ali Fethi Okyar published the famous Minber newspaper, and penned articles with the pseudonym Hatib. He even conducted an interview with himself! And here is the shock for our pop-security analyst: Gazi committed the ultimate dishonesty and even published incognito! It is also claimed that he wrote five articles under the pseudonym Asım Us, in 1937, when he was the president of the republic!

I do not intend to beat the dead horse further. But, not only his ignorance but also his self proclaimed righteousness (in setting the standards for becoming dishonorable and naming people as such) is pathetic. Lastly, considering the massive abuse of human rights in Turkey, lack of freedom and the massive animosity towards any opposing view, especially if you are an officer, how a decent human being can expect people to write with their real names is beyond my comprehension. I can only feel sorry for him. (Anyone who wants to read more about dissidents writing under oppression and the case for pseudonyms can start with the famous Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel.)

Honorable (!) Gürcan

Since we all want to become as honorable as this supposedly unmistakable moral hero, let’s check his -surely impeccable- credentials and use his CV as our baseline.

gurcan-t2
His tweet, in response to a critic of his, reads: “8 years of my life was spent on the mountains. I am returning from where you are trying to reach. Off you go…”

How much did he really serve “in the mountains”?

As a pathetic attempt to prove his sacrifice to his country (and the right to measure anybody’s love for his country he gained through that), he mentioned in a recent tweet that he “served 8 years of his life in the mountains”. [7]

I may be wrong, but the math doesn’t seem to add up. let’s take a look at his CV:

This 8 year must have been between 1999 and 2008, the date after which he had his masters degree and worked at the TGS HQ until he retired. That means, out of the 9 years he served in combat positions, 8 must have been in the mountains.

Now, let’s calculate the non-mountain times in the most conservative way possible.[8]

  • The Special Forces training: 5+ months
  • Military instructor for Afghani officers and NCOs in early 2005: 3 months
  • Turkish liaison officer to the U.S. 173th Airborne Brigade, followed by the U.S. military unit with the Olympia Task Force Kirkuk, Iraq: 3-6 months [9]
  • Training Kazak and Kyrgyz officers Kazakhstan with the U.S. Navy SEALS: 3 months? (These temporary foreign deployments are at least 3 months unless there is an extraordinary situation)
  • Multiple times as Turkish Liaison Commander in Northern Iraq: Again, I am making an educated conservative guess here. Normally these are 6 month deployments, and back to Ankara in between. Shall we assume two deployments for 6 months, and say, twice in Ankara for two months each?

My math seems to come to 30 months of non-mountain time (not mentioning other R&R and training periods he sure had in non-combat areas. Since he was part of the Combat Search and Rescue Regiment (MAK), the cushy part of the Special Forces who had more training in the west and less deployment in the east, it is more likely that he had more time in the non-combat zones.)

His deployment to the Oran Mountain in the Southeastern City (!) of Ankara

Now, let’s add some more information that seems to be missing from his CV. The details about his platoon command. Where was he a platoon leader? He insists that, between 1999 and 2008 he was busy with conducting counter terror operations. Well, after he left (or was fired from) the Special Forces, he was assigned as commander for the physical security platoon at the Government Housing Complex in Oran/Ankara. For sure, that is sort of a mountain in Ankara but to call it a deployment would be a little stretch.

Something doesn’t add up, don’t you think? 30 months non-mountain jobs plus 2 or 3 years in Ankara brings me to a maximum of 3 years, instead of 8. I am not saying he is lying, may be he has an alternative explanation, or to use the more popular term, alternative facts. Mr. Gurcan, please enlighten us about your 8 years in the mountains, as well as this line in your CV: Served in Southeastern Turkey and participated in numerous counter-terrorism operations  between 1999 and 2008 as platoon, company, and special forces team commander.”

Was He a Commando Company Commander?

According to his CV, Gurcan was a Commando Company Commander between 2006 and 2008. This is another important addition to his credentials as a terrorism expert. Let’s see if this information is correct.

gurcan-company
The part of his CV where he claims he commanded a Commando Company.

First I checked the internet and unavoidably stumbled upon his infamous video shootage where he was shooting to a target standing between his men. (Honestly, I almost loved it almost as a perfect show of leadership. If only, he was nearly as good as he thought. He shot 5 bullets to a massive target and missed one, jeopordising lives of his men. Yet another pathetic case of unsubstantiated sense of Grandeur!) The interesting thing to me was, there was nobody with the blue beret, the insignia of commando companies. If this was a commando company, where are the berets? Then I investigated further and found the press release by the Turkish General Staff in response to this video that caused great outrage. In that release the name of the unit is mentioned not as a Commando Brigade but of a Motorized Brigade. Sure enough, I double checked and confirmed that his company in Seslice FOB was not a Commando Company but an Internal Security (iç güvenlik) company.

Again, Mr. Gurcan, please provide us with the truth and tell us which commando company you led. Otherwise some may find this information incorrect and even go as far as to claim that it is (rather, you are) dishonorable.

His scholarly work

All right, by now we have a pretty good picture about our hero, the fantasy warrior life he never had and enough of his CV already. But give me one more second with his resume. Let’s check his scholarly work.

Books

Looking at his CV, he seems to have authored 2 books. “What went wrong in Afghanistan” and “The Gallipoli Campaign: The Turkish Perspective” But when you check, he was actually the co-editor not the author of the second book (not a small task by no means) and had only one article in this collective work which included several articles from some General Staff officers (who were purged and jailed following the coup attempt ın July 2016) He just didn’t deem it necessary to mention this tiny detail in parenthesis, as is the custom. He probably should have checked his co-editor, Dr. Robert Johnson of Oxford’s CV,an honest and real academic, who listed The Gallipoli Campaign under “Edited Volumes” (as it should be) not under his own publications. You can compare two CV’s relevant portions below.

gurcan-books
Dr.Gurcan’s CV
johnson-bio
Prof. Johnson’s CV

Articles in International Academic Journals?

He listed Small Wars Journal (an online magazine of which I am a fan) among International Academic Journals, which is also incorrect. As awesome and informative as it may be, SWJ is not an international academic journal, it is not peer reviewed and even they don’t claim to be   one. 

His columns

I know you are bored and shocked already, but bear with me. I checked some of his latest pieces in Al-Monitor and here is my judgment:

He was trained to be a special operations soldier (even though was able to serve only briefly), to conduct special missions and to lead small (12 men!) units. Throughout his career he didn’t have any mechanized infantry experience nor did he have a proper education like Army War College to really grasp the dynamics and complexity of modern battlefield. Clearly, having not studied it properly and not having worked in planning operations (he was a media analyst in the General Staff HQs), he has only superficial knowledge about even the basic concepts like armored units, use of Air Force, Air-Land cooperation and coordination, joint operations etc. His graduate education is political science and unfortunately, it has little to do with the conduct of modern warfare. Any real professional trained in the operational art can see the lack of depth in his articles. Let’s take just one paragraph from one of his recent articles in Al-Monitor, with my embedded comments in parentheses.

“Military experts (who are they, there is no reference) argue whether al-Bab should be a special forces operation, a commando offensive or a tank/armored infantry assault (so he thinks these three types of operations should/can be conducted separately? What is a special forces operation to a city of 30 K. Or, what is a Commando Offensive? Nonsensical assertion). Should the al-Bab siege be commanded by a special forces officer or the senior commander of the armored forces (which armored forces? What does this even mean?) , given the imperative use (so, it is imperative to use armored units, in urban area?) of armored mechanized units? (are there un-armored mechanized units?)”

The ease with which he gives false information without the need to show any reference is also very disturbing. For example, take this sentence from his piece about Reina Massacre;

“He (the attacker) took a taxi to Zeytinburnu, where mostly Uighur Turks and other Central Asians live, and disappeared.”

Ok, maybe he is counting on his English speaking readers’ lack of knowledge about Istanbul. But Zeytinburnu is a municipality with close to 300 thousand inhabitants and most of which are definitely not Uyghur Turks.

He is also pretty good at failing in his prophecies. He predicted that IS would not be so simple-minded as to execute turkish NCOs and they would try for an exchange deal with Ankara, or some concessions in the field. We all know what really happened, unfortunately.

One can give many more examples but that would be a waste of my precious time.

Intellectual Courage and Integrity

Finally, without a few observations on his character, this profile will be incomplete. Here, I  especially want to talk about his recent appearance on CNN International, reactions of his (apparently former) colleagues mostly on Twitter and his discussions with them. Again, admittedly, I did not watch the show live but, during my research for this piece, first I saw the discussion on the social media and then I put myself through the torture of listening to Gurcan while he was trying to insult the audience’s intellect.

Everybody Knows Me!

Metin Gurcan on CNN International

It was difficult to find the video  since (very understandably) CNN chose not to put this pointless 5-agonizing minutes on their web site (later somebody sent me the video that he shot with his cell phone). The web site still doesn’t have his video, but instead there is a rough transcript.

The first question was whether the purges weakened Turkish Military. His answer was, blathering about what an exceptional man he was (he literally said “everybody knows me”), having studied in the US and bunch of other BS. He couldn’t give an honest answer. Not only couldn’t he say yes, which is crystal clear (as was shown here and here) but also he shamelessly gave bunch of wrong figures.
Poor Amanpour, who had to endure the non-response to the first question, had to ask the second one: Can these officers expect a fair trial if they are back home? His answer was not a “no”, a “maybe” or even a “yes”. Instead another useless monologue about his virtues and his honor and God knows what.

Honestly, this was one of the most agonizing 5 minutes of my life. Not only his remarkably bad English [10] ,  his manners (adressing Amanpour with her first name while she called him “Mr.”) but also his lack of courage and clarity was shameful. However, it wasn’t me but rather his former brothers in arms who were most hurt.

Twitter messages revealed frustrated fellow officers, who were expecting some honesty from their comrade. They couldn’t simply understand why he  wouldn’t say “They cannot expect a fair trial in Turkey”. Apparently they wanted him to talk about all the illegalities they were subjected to. Instead, he kept on calling his friends dishonorable and questioning their values. However this is no surprise. At the end of the day, this is a man, who accepts testimonies taken under torture as scientific documents and does not hesitate to publish them

levent turkkan.jpg
Image of Lt.Col.Levent Turkkan, after his questioning in detention. Gurcan saw no problem to use his testimony which was obviously signed under torture. He did not even have second thoughts.

Final Word

I am glad I ventured into this torturous process of reading through this self-centric, self-righteous, fact-bending person. He may have good intentions, he may be a good person or bad person. I don’t know and I don’t care. What matters is the evidence I provided, which shows me a troubled pathetic man who has illusions about himself and who is either too afraid to say what he really thinks or too ignorant to see reality. In any case, not likable to neither his friends in the military nor to government supporters. At least now I know, why he is out of a teaching job. I only hope that Al-Monitor puts his pieces under microscobe and not take everyhing he says for granted. As for another CNN appearance, I don’t think that will ever happen.

References

[1] The editors of the blog reached out to me for a response to one of the criticisms and I tried to answer it, you can see it here.

[2] By the way, he LOVES capital letters. Does he think CAPITALS turn mediocre comments to higher quality products?.

[3] He also loves to retweet his own already-5-times-retweeted tweets..

[4]  For those who understands, I love the Turkish word much better. Fallacy is translated as “safsata” which is almost the same thing as BS

[5] Again I love the Turkish version “Niyet Okuma” much better. By the way, that it is one of the most favorite tools used by shallow intelligentsia and trolls in Turkey. Said to see Gürcan in that club.

[6] For the record, my intent is -since mouthpieces like Gurcan fails to do their job and criticise properly- to show, how the new chain of command of the Turkish Army is turning the once mighty Army we know into a disarrayed, undisciplined militia, hoping that someone will come to his senses and say “STOP” to this nonsense.

[7] “Serving in the mountains” is a particular jargon in the Turkish Army which means, combat deployments in the southeastern part of Turkey where you mostly conduct operations in the mountainous areas.

[8]  Admittedly, I need help from Gurcan here. Because some of the dates I had to guess/deduce. Will be more than happy to correct any mistakes I may have made and apologize. He just should give me the correct dates, I’ll change my mistakes happily.

[9] Normally these shifts were 6 months back then but he was rumored to have been fired from the Special Forces during this job (any misconduct? Dishonorable relations with the Americans right after the “Çuval” incident, Sir?) That is why we do not know the exact days. Oh, by the way, these were liaison missions (based in safe houses), not combat ones. Furthermore, I would be surprised if he was the commander in all of those missions, as he said in his CV.

[10] “You know”s in every sentence, pronunciation errors (he said -and I am doing my best to approximate- “europheas” shield, he said military carrier [not career], he couldn’t even pronounce Turkey correctly [he kept saying Tur-kaye for God’s sake])

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