There’s a difference between the following four unproven claims:
1a. ‘Gülenists were involved in the coup’ and 1b. ‘Gülenists were behind the coup’
2a. ‘The Gülen movement was involved in the coup’ and 2b. ‘The Gülen movement was behind the coup’
Statements 1a. and 1b. refers to claims that ‘Gülenist individuals’ were ‘involved’ or ‘behind the’ alleged coup, respectively. Statements 2a. and 2b. refers to claims that ‘the Gülen movement’ was ‘involved’ or ‘behind the’ coup, respectively. Being ‘involved’ and being ‘behind’ something are very different both in terms of what they mean and the moral and legal culpability associated with each. The former refers to ‘participation’ while the latter refers to ‘orchestration’. ‘Gülenist individuals’ and ‘the Gülen movement’ are not the same either. The former refers to people as individuals, while the latter refers to an organisational entity.
Richard Moore, the British Ambassador to Turkey, wilfully and actively conflates the above statements not just within themselves (eg. between 1a. and 1b.) but across categories too (eg. between 1a. and 2b.) to both defend Turkey’s indefensible narrative while leaving room to defend himself when challenged. This blog will not discuss the substance of Mr Moore’s claims. I’ve done that before (see here, here and here) and can do so again later. For now, I want to focus on Mr Moore’s style.
For example; on July 23, 2017 Mr Moore gave an interview to Hakan Celik from CNN Turk where he said: “we know very well that the Gülen movement was behind this coup”. In that single statement, Mr Moore made two claims: (i) that the movement, as an organisational entity (not merely as individuals) (ii) were behind (not merely involved) in Turkey’s failed coup of 2016. The statement is clear as intended and is offered to win support from the Turkish government. However, when later challenged on this, Mr Moore obfuscates: “Come off it! Very hard to find non-Gülenist commentator of any political persuasion in Turkey who doesn’t think Gülenists involved in coup.” This is a logical fallacy. What Mr Moore has done here is conflate statement 2b. ‘The Gülen movement was behind the coup’ with statement 1a. ‘Gülenists were involved in the coup’. Statements 2b. and 1a. are not the same; one claims that Gülenists participated in the coup while the other claims that the Gülen movement orchestrated the coup. Therefore, one cannot purport to prove one by claiming that nobody doubts the other.
If Mr Moore wants to use a correctly formulated (alleged) counter-factual to support his statement on CNN Turk then he needs to re-word his above defence to the following, “come off it! Very hard to find non-Gulenist commentator of any political persuasion in Turkey who doesn’t think the Gulen movement orchestrated the coup” (amended section italicised). The lack of doubt in this statement would of course strengthen the premise of his original claim. But that is not what Mr Moore does. If he did, he could easily be rebutted with a list of “non-Gülenist commentators in Turkey” who do doubt that “the Gülen movement orchestrated the coup”. That list would also include non-Turkish public officials and bodies, including Mr Moore’s own Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency (BND), the European Union intelligence centre (Intcen) and the House Intelligence Committee of the US Congress to name a few (click here for a summary of what they’ve said). One could also ask whether the scarcity of anyone willing to put their heads above the parapet to publicly express doubt over the Turkish government’s claims has anything to do with the “atmosphere of fear” in Turkey as reported by Amnesty International, whose Turkey chair and director along with other supporters are now in jail themselves for being “members of a terrorist organisation”.
In his recent interview to Cumhuriyet, Mr Moore continues to conflate and obfuscate (my translations and emphasis to help compare alleged culprit and role). At one point he says “we are very sure that the Gülen movement took part in this coup” (2a). A little later he says “[n]o one really doubts that the Gülenists did this coup” (1b). Then he says, “did these people [Gülenists] take part in this coup? Yes they took part” (1a). Then he goes back to blaming the movement “do we recognise what this movement did on July 15? Yes we do” (2a. or 2b. depending on what Mr Moore means by “what they did?”). A little later, Mr Moore comes back to this topic and says “Mine is an opinion, based on what is coming out in the trials. All of the people I have spoken to in Turkey of different backgrounds and not just government officials believe that the Gülen movement was behind this coup” (2b).
As you can see, Mr Moore jumps between ‘orchestration’ and ‘participation, ‘the Gülen movement’ and ‘Gülenist’ individuals as if these terms and references were interchangeable when he knows they are not. But why? Because there is no evidence to prove that the Gülen movement orchestrated the coup; if anything, as times goes by, we have increasing reason and evidence to doubt the official narrative even without the movement’s counter-arguments and rebuttals. Indeed, the Cumhuriyet reporter kindly reminds Mr Moore that the British Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee had concluded after an eight-month inquiry that there was no “hard evidence” to implicate Gülen or the movement. Mr Moore replies by saying that the Committee “report does not represent the British government. For that you have to look at what the minister and civil servant said to the Committee.” So let’s look at what the minister and civil servant said to the Committee on this matter. When pressed on what evidence, intelligence or information the FCO had to support claims that the movement was behind the coup, Sir Alan Duncan, the Minister for Europe turned to Lindsay Appleby, Director Europe, FCO, to answer. He said:
[w]e know quite a lot about the individuals who seem to have been involved in the coup, because that was quite evident by their actions; we know much less about the organisations to which those individuals belonged. Many of the key individuals, by the nature of an attempted coup, were from the military. It is not consistent with membership of the military to be a member of an alternative organisation, so it isn’t clear how many of the military people were Gülenists, nor is it clear the degree to which the organisation—or the multiple organisations that make up Gülenism—were themselves directing or driving any of the activity. (Q178, my emphasis)
This is why Mr Moore must conflate ‘orchestration’ with ‘participation, ‘the Gülen movement’ with ‘Gülenist individuals’ because while there is no evidence to support the former, there is some, albeit weak, circumstantial and untested evidence to at least enable him to suggest the latter. Indeed, Fethullah Gülen conceded the possibility a day after the coup that some of his followers may have been involved in the coup and that he had no way of knowing. He said that anyone that took part had betrayed his teachings. Mr Gülen also called on Turkey to allow an international commission to investigate all angles of the coup and said from the outset that he’d accept its findings and willingly return to Turkey if such a commission implicated him or the movement in any way whatsoever. So claiming that some ‘Gülenist’ officers may have participated in the coup is hardly a revelation, especially when Gülen himself conceded this possibility a day after the coup. Even if true, this does not prove that the movement participated in the coup, far less that the movement orchestrated it.
The Foreign Affairs Committee understands the distinction, as it says “[w]hile some of the individuals involved in the coup may have been Gülenists, given the large number of Gülenist supporters and organisations in Turkey, it does not necessarily follow that the Gülenists were responsible for the coup of that their leadership directed the coup”. And before Mr Moore can deflect by saying that the Foreign Affairs Committee does not represent the view of the British government, here’s that FCO “civil servant” Mr Moore refers us to who makes the same discintion between alleged Gülenist participation and orchestration,
[o]n the basis of the information that I have and on the basis of what we have looked at in the Foreign Office, it is very clear that there were lots of people identified [by the Turkish government] as Gülenists who were involved in the coup. But we don’t have clear information, or an analytical base, to assert definitively one way or another whether the organisation as a whole directed the coup attempt. That is precisely the sort of evidence that we have been asking for from the Turkish government, when they bring to us individual allegations. (Q180, my emphasis)
The Foreign Affairs Committee’s assessment of this quote is as expected, that while “Mr Appleby said that there was evidence of individual Gülenist being involved, although he once again said that the degree of organisational participation by the Gülenists was unclear. He also identified the Turkish government as a source of information for the FCO” (para 104). Therefore, even the evidence and information, taken at face value, provided by the Turkish government does not suggest the movement’s “organisational participation” according to Mr Appleby of the FCO. If the Turkish government does not have information to provide to the FCO showing that the Gülen movement was “behind the coup” what chance does Mr Moore have? Perhaps this is why Turkey’s extradition request to the US with 80 boxes of alleged evidence is not for Gülen’s alleged involvement in the coup but for other matters. In any event, the Foreign Affairs Committee met Mr Moore when they visited Turkey for their inquiry; if Mr Moore had such information he could have provided it to the Committee then. Moreover, Mr Moore would be obligated to pass on any such information to the FCO and the Committee specifically asked Sir Duncan and Mr Appleby if “our Embassy” had provided any such information or intelligence (Q178).
Clearly, Mr Moore’s stance is informed by the British government’s need to seek alternative trade and diplomatic partners in the wake of the Brexit referendum, as well as by the instincts of a government that is similarly uncritical of authoritarian and even illiberal excesses exhibited elsewhere, such as by Saudi Arabia, China, and by President Trump’s administration. Nonetheless, for every conflation and obfuscation we must meticulously and respectfully demand clarity and honesty. There is no other way.