Turkish media loyal to the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have decided to pin the aborted coup attempt on a retired U.S. Army general and former NATO commander, Gen. J.F. Campbell, who says he has not traveled outside the United States in months and was having a beer with Geraldo on the day of the coup.
Erdogan-friendly tabloid Yeni Safak ran a front-page story on Monday with a picture of Campbell declaring, “This Man Led the Coup.”
The online version of the story declares, “The organizer and financial distributor of the coup turns out to be an ISAF ex-U.S. commander,” as revealed by an “investigation.”
ISAF refers to the NATO International Security Assistance Force, which Campbell commanded from 2014 through his retirement earlier this year, as recalled by Fox News.
“General John F. Campbell was one of the top figures who organized and managed the soldiers behind the failed coup attempt in Turkey, sources close to ongoing legal process of pro-coup detainees said,” Yeni Safak declared.
According to the Chicago Tribune, that “ongoing legal process” for “pro-coup detainees” often involves being imprisoned in animal pens, beatings, starvation, and being tied up for days on end.
Yeni Safak claims Campbell used his CIA connections and a Nigerian bank to distribute $2 billion to the military personnel who participated in the coup, and that Campbell “paid at least two secret visits to Turkey since May, until the day of the coup attempt.”
The pro-Erdogan paper then salutes “the comprehensive effort of the Turkish Nation, including its citizens, politicians, media and police forces” for thwarting the insurgency, which might have been bankrolled by General Campbell, the CIA, and possibly Geraldo Rivera, but was led by the followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Geraldo Rivera comes into the picture as Campbell’s alibi. The retired general told Fox News, “I haven’t traveled outside the U.S. since I came back from Afghanistan in March. In fact, on the day of the coup I think I was in New York City with Geraldo having a beer.”
“I absolutely vouch for General Campbell. The only thing we were overthrowing were a series of Stella Artois,” said Rivera. Of course, he would say that if he was mixed up in the coup plot, wouldn’t he?
Campbell told The Wall Street Journal the Turkish paper’s allegations against him were “absolutely ridiculous” and do not even “warrant a response.”
The WSJ notes that after President Obama categorically denied American involvement in the coup, Erdogan’s spokesman dismissed such accusations as the words of one overheated Turkish minister, at a moment when “emotions ran high.”
And yet, here we have pro-Erdogan media floating a very authoritative-sounding conspiracy theory to keep those emotions running high, with a smattering of indifferent “I haven’t seen the story” denials from Turkish officials, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Fox News notes that for Americans in Turkey, this paranoia from pro-Erdogan media is no laughing matter. When an Islamist leader in the process of running a massive crackdown against political opponents signals there is plenty of room for Americans to get caught in the purge, it is wise to take the threat seriously.
Former Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, a Fox News analyst, said Erdogan is “cynical and often plays the nationalist card,” for which there is “no easier target than the Americans.” Even more ominously, former Turkish counter-terrorism chief Ahmet Yayla said the mood in Turkey reminded him of Iran on the eve of the 1979 Khomeini revolution.