Monday, March 8, 2010

The Armenian Two Step

The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 23-22 last Thursday to approve a non-binding resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide of 1913-1916 by Turkey almost a century ago. The Turkish Government quickly responded by recalling the Turkish ambassador to the United States, as it did with a similar proposal in 2007.

The Armenian Genocide is a documented historical fact, as are the slightly less known Greek and Assyrian Genocides. Estimates for the Armenian Genocide range from 300,000-1,500,000 deaths; the Greek Genocide claimed several hundred thousands, as did the Assyrian Genocide. Precise counts are unavailable. Unlike the methodical Germans during the Holocaust, the Turks did not keep detailed records.

Turkey also refuses to open its archives.

Executions, mass murders, deportations, and rapes brutalized the Genocides, the first major genocides of the 20th Century.

The Greek Genocide was followed by the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922, and then the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey. A recorded 1,104,216 Ottoman Greeks in Asia Minor reached safety in Greece. The repatriation of the Greeks foreshadowed the even bloodier partition of India and Pakistan four decades later.

Turkey pioneered ethnic cleansing in the 20th Century.

So horrific was the Armenian Genocide that Armenia was the only Republic to voluntarily join the USSR after World War I. The Armenians knew Mother Russia would be a bear, but safety outweighed the risks.

Domestic politics are clashing today with international politics. The domestic will yield to Realpolitik, that practiced by Henry Kissinger.

Representative Howard Berman chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee. California has a large Armenian community; 80,000 live in adjoining Glendale. Turks are quiet in American politics; few speak for them. The Armenian-American residents will no more forgive or forget the Turks than the even larger and more active Greeks.

Generations of hatred seethe.

Turkey is too critical an ally to offend. It was a steadfast member of NATO during the Cold War, remains an unofficial relationship with Israel, and provides a land of stability in the volatile Mideast. It forms a counter balance to Iran. Perhaps most of all, it remains a secular Muslin nation, eventhough Islamists currently run the government, and given a chance, might turn it into another Islamic Republic.

In his capacity as a Senator eying the White House, Barack Obama in January 2008 promised “as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

In her capacity as a Senator eyeing the White House, Hillary Rodham Clinton also supported the resolution.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton now vigorously oppose the Resolution. The ostensible argument is that it would interfere with a rapprochement currently underway between Armenia and Turkey.

It’s geo-political.

The Congressional leadership has signaled the Resolution will not make it to the floor of the House.

Sadly, Turkey has been unwilling to acknowledge its role in the genocides, eventhough the crimes were committed by a government which was only in power a century ago for a few years.

Japan has also been unwilling to fully admit its fault in World War II, its war crimes, naked aggression, the Rape of Nanking, its use of Korean comfort women, and similar acts.

Conversely, Germany has accepted fault for the Holocaust, and other atrocities committed by the Nazi regime, and has been able to move on.

Turkey though has early added Kurds to its list of enemies, eventhough the Kurds committed some of the atrocities with the Turks. President Wilson had promised the Kurds an independent Kurdistan at the war, but did not deliver. Secretary Kissinger abandoned the Kurds 3 ½ decades ago. They’re still looking, although they may have the beginnings in northern Iraq.

Turkey needs to face its genocidal nightmares and enter the 21st Century.

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