11 October 2007

You Say Potato, I Say Genocide

What constitutes genocide? Would you consider the mass deportation and murder of 1.5 million people of a specific ethnic group by the government genocide? How could you not?

The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a measure that will be sent to the full House on Friday condemning the action that occurred decades ago. It’s not a binding measure, it’s a symbolic one that finally allows the US to formally acknowledge the atrocities that took place as ‘genocide.’

So what’s the problem? Well, for one, Turkey is pissed.

"Yesterday some in Congress wanted to play hardball," said Egemen Bagis, foreign policy adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "I can assure you Turkey knows how to play hardball."

He said the response to the U.S. might not be the same, but warned if the full House passes it, "We will do something and I can promise you it won't be pleasant."

The administration is pissed, too. You see, Turkey is where we send supplies into Iraq from. If Turkey doesn’t want us there, it makes it harder to supply the troops (bad for the troops) and to wage war in Iraq (bad for the Iraqis, the residents of the Middle East, and pretty much everyone else, too). France formally declared the events genocide last year, and haven’t flown any planes in Turkish airspace since.

Some thoughts:

We do business with Germany on a regular basis. They are an ally of the US, and a country that is friendly to our citizens. We fought them in two major wars, and they murdered nearly 12 million people (I’m including the Poles, the Gypsies, the homosexuals, etc in that count in addition to the Jews). But here we are, friends and allies. Why?

Because Germany said that they fucked up in a major way. Not all wounds can be healed, but Germany has tried very hard to acknowledge the atrocities of the past and make amends. They’ll never be fully forgiven for that (not for a long, long time at least), but it is a starting place.

Turkey refuses to do that. They claim that the deaths were only around 150,000 people, and that Turks died as well, so that’s okay.

I’m proud of the House for forcing through a measure so unpopular with the administration, because it is the right thing to do. We’re not asking Turkey for anything. We are just deciding to acknowledge something horrible that happened.

By the way, what is Armenia’s take on this? No one seems to be asking them.

Edit: They are thrilled that people are finally noticing after all this time


Laaw-yuhr said...

I agree with you, but to play devil's advocate for a moment, I do find the timing of this to be totally bizarre. One difference about our relationship with Germany is that Holocaust repercussions were far more immediate, and rightfully so. So why is it that we wait until 2007 to issue condemnations for WWI? In the midst of our own unconscionable human rights violation? And god knows I hate Bush with ever fiber of my being - but at this particular moment I'm not sure I want Turkey pissed at us.

I guess every victory comes at a cost, and maybe the cost is not great in this instance. But personally, I think it's too damn little much, much too late.

On the upside, I'm going to call my Armenian friend to celebrate.

Johnny Yen said...

My best friend (the one who saw the kamikaze bicyclist) is, get this, half German and half Turkish. He and I were talking about this recently. It is downright bizarre that Turkey won't admit to this. They would lose nothing by admitting what happened.

Of course, Japan still refuses to admit its atrocities in World War II. The United States only recognized that the internment of the Japanese-Americans during World War II was wrong in the 1980's (Congress issued an official apology and gave the surviving internees money). It seems "sorry" really is the hardest word.

The Ambiguous Blob said...

I noticed before. And I cannot believe the government of Turkey can lie so terribly and think that they can get away with it. Disgusting.

Bert Bananas said...

Out here in SoCal we have the largest concentration of Armenians outside of Yerevan. The Conservative view point is that the two House Representatives whose districts include many of these Armenians, and who happen to be the two men behind all of this "let's call a spade a shovel" activity, are only doing this to suck up to a very large voting block.

Many people believe the Turks are in denial. Most Americans, if asked to discuss how European immigrants treated Native Americans, would understand this natural tendency.

Thus the answer is simply this: without admitting that there was a genocide, allow Armenian tribes to open casinos in the modern Ottoman Empire.

pistols at dawn said...

As someone whose brother is a resident of Istanbul, this is an issue near and dear to me.

The political wags hold with Mr. Bert's analysis - Pelosi's beholden to lots of Armenians.

However, I concur with Laaw-yuhr that the timing of this is f-ing retarded. When you look at global geopolitics, you have to balance good and bad with useful.

The Saudis are fairly abhorrent in most human rights arenas and were the actual home of most of the 9/11 terrorists, yet we put up with them because we need a sort-of ally there.

Despite all our missteps in the Middle East, Turkey is the one country we should have been sucking up to. They're the sorta secular Muslim democracy we wanted Iraq to be, have a huge young population that's fairly open to Western influence, and they're kind of the key to a lot of things right now (expanding the EU, providing a stabilizing influence in the region).

This message is the right one, but at the wrong time.

Bert Bananas said...

Is there a 12 step program for recovering genocidests?

And how come we don't make the children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc. of serial killers follow some schedule for admitting/embracing the fact that they are descended from serial killers?

Laaw-yuhr said...

I think, bert, that your analogy between genocide and serial killers is unsound. No one - government, society, etc. - pretends that a serial killer is anything other than a serial killer. No one tries to cover up how many people he killed or that he in fact even killed them. Usually we study these killers to try to understand why and how things went wrong in hopes of preventing such atrocities in the future.

Government sponsored genocide is a far different creature. Said government may try to conceal the extent of the genocide or to deny its existence altogether.

When a government is held accountable -or holds itself accountable- for its actions, it's about more than acknowledging a wrong. To make a more sound comparison, holding a government accountable is more like *studying* the serial killer; it's about saying that not only was what happened wrong, but that we the people don't want it to happen again.

As a friend of mine is fond of saying "Real men stand up." Governments worthy of respect do the same.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

"after all this time" -- now there's the sad part.