The attempted coup in Turkey has failed and the government there has blamed the uprising on a cleric who lives in a rural retreat in Pennsylvania. They have demanded that the US hand the cleric over to them.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim warned that further “criminal activity will be forcefully dealt with”, and announced that the United States has been given evidence of the involvement of exiled opposition leader Fethullah Gulen in the failed coup.
In an address on Tuesday before members of his party in parliament, Yildirim denounced the “despicable” and “cowardly” coup plotters, whom he said were being “directed by a cleric” from abroad, referring to Gulen.
Glenn Greenwald asks the awkward question as to whether, if the US fails to hand Gulen over, Turkey would be justified in sending a drone to the US to kill someone they consider to be a terrorist, since the US uses similar rationales to justify its drone killing program in other countries.
In light of the presence on U.S. soil of someone the Turkish government regards as a “terrorist” and a direct threat to its national security, would Turkey be justified in dispatching a weaponized drone over Pennsylvania to find and kill Gulen if the U.S. continues to refuse to turn him over, or sending covert operatives to kidnap him? That was the question posed yesterday by Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor of Guantánamo’s military commissions who resigned in protest over the use of torture-obtained evidence:
That question, of course, is raised by the fact that the U.S. has spent many years now doing exactly this: employing various means — including but not limited to drones — to abduct and kill people in multiple countries whom it has unilaterally decided (with no legal process) are “terrorists” or who otherwise are alleged to pose a threat to its national security. Since it cannot possibly be the case that the U.S. possesses legal rights that no other country can claim — right? — the question naturally arises whether Turkey would be entitled to abduct or kill someone it regards as a terrorist when the U.S. is harboring him and refuses to turn him over.
The only viable objection to Turkey’s assertion of this authority would be to claim that the U.S. limits its operations to places where lawlessness prevails, something that is not true of Pennsylvania. But this is an inaccurate description of the U.S.’s asserted entitlement. In fact, after 9/11, the U.S. threatened Afghanistan with bombing and invasion unless the Taliban government immediately turned over Osama bin Laden, and the Taliban’s answer was strikingly similar to what the U.S. just told Turkey about Gulen:
Greenwald’s questions are, of course, rhetorical. The US justification for its own actions is basically “Because we can” and its rejection of similar actions by other governments is “Because we say so”.
As Greenwald concludes:
That’s American Exceptionalism in its purest embodiment: The U.S. is not subject to the same rules and laws as other nations, but instead is entitled to assert power and punishment that is unique to itself, grounded in its superior status. Indeed, so ingrained is this pathology that the mere suggestion that the U.S. should be subject to the same laws and rules as everyone else inevitably provokes indignant accusations that the person is guilty of the greatest sin: comparing the United States of America to the lesser, inferior governments and countries of the world.