Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 2:37 PM

Acknowledging and Commemorating the Armenian Genocide

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

‘100 YEARS OF DENIAL’

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Today is Armenian Remembrance Day. It commemorates the killing of approximately 1.5 million people in Turkey, by Young Turks, from 1915-23.

Despite Turkey’s impassioned insistence that there was no genocide, instead labeling the Armenians as casualties of warfare and traitors who tried to bring down the Ottoman Empire, Armenians are making sure the legacy of those killed lives on. With only a small number of genocide survivors still alive, their kin are passing on the history in hopes that such a massacre will never happen again.

(Huffington Post, April 21 2015)

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 11.24.38 AMIn fact, here’s to Steven Spielberg’s USC Shoah Foundation for not only ‘making audio-visual interviews with survivors and witnesses,” but also commemorating this 100th anniversary with “30 Days of Testimony to the Armenian Genocide” … beginning today.

But imagine the international outrage (and backlash) if Germany had premised much of its diplomatic relations on lobbying countries to deny the Jewish Holocaust. Yet that’s precisely what Turkey has done with respect to the Armenian Genocide. (Which makes China premising much of its diplomatic relations on lobbying countries to deny the Dalai Lama seem rather innocuous, no?)

U.S. President Obama shakes hands with Turkey's PM Erdogan after a bilateral meeting in SeoulEqually outrageous, though, is that ever since Turkey joined NATO in 1952, every Turkish leader has used its geo-strategic importance to prevail upon every U.S. president to collude in efforts to deny this genocide. But the greater is Obama’s shame. After all, as a presidential candidate, he made quite a show of promising to recognize the Armenian Genocide, just as he promised to recognize the Cuban government.

This is why Obama’s collusion in this denial warrants as much condemnation as his initiative to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba deserves commendation.

That said, I must confess that I’ve evolved on this issue. Here, in part, is what I wrote eight years ago – in “U.S. Congress Set to Condemn Turkey for Disputed Armenian Genocide,” October 15, 2007.

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For decades, the U.S. has lauded Turkey as a NATO ally (even more reliable than France), and as a decidedly pro-Western Muslim country that shares its democratic values…

But now Turkey’s political leaders and, more troubling, its military generals are warning of irreparable harm and dire consequences — if Congress passes a resolution condemning Turkey for the alleged genocide of 1.5 million Armenians during WWI. These could include disrupting critical operations at Incirlik and disregarding America’s standing request to refrain from attacking Kurdish ‘terrorists’ across the border in Northern Iraq…

[E]ven if the genocide at issue is an historical fact (and I’ve read enough to believe that it is), the U.S. has no compelling interest in passing this political resolution…

[D]espite longstanding resistance, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan insists that his government now welcomes a thorough examination of this festering historical wound. Moreover, that if the facts conclude that a genocide was committed, he is prepared to accept full responsibility on behalf of all Turks…

So why is Congress going ahead with this resolution, which is scheduled for a floor vote ‘sometime before November 15’, despite the clear and present damage it poses? (Not to mention the absurdity of its members making a proclamation about events that occurred during World War I, when the vast majority of the people they represent barely know what occurred during World War II.)

Nancy-Pelosi_3_1Alas, the reason is as venal and simplistic as the prime minister insinuated. After all, despite being ‘strongly urged’ against it by a bipartisan group of former Secretaries of State, including Madeleine K. Albright, James A. Baker III, Warren Christopher, Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Alexander M. Haig Jr., Henry A. Kissinger, Colin L. Powell, and George P. Shultz, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful and influential member of Congress, is determined to whip up support amongst clueless Democrats to pass this resolution.

And she’s doing so merely to honor an old campaign pledge to the ‘persuasive’ Armenian lobby that represents a critical mass of Armenian-American voters in her home state of California.
Accordingly, as far as Pelosi is concerned, U.S. military interest in, and political goodwill towards, Turkey be damned. Because the undying will of California’s Armenians to settle this historic score, at least in the U.S. Congress, must be done…?

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pg-24-kim-k-2-reutersIncidentally, the Kardashians, arguably the most famous people in the Armenian diaspora, made a state visit to their homeland earlier this month. Pelosi’s political pandering/opportunism is such that I’m surprised she didn’t tag along to bask in their reflected glow. But I digress….

I now believe that – just as Germany duly acknowledged the Jewish Holocaust and suffered the political and legal consequences (including monetary reparations and property reclamations) – Turkey should duly acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and suffer the political and legal consequences too … whatever they entail.

Accordingly, I urge Obama to seize his last opportunity as president — on the occasion of the 101st commemoration in 2016 — to end this tail-wagging-the-dog-charade, and call this spade a spade. Not least because, with U.S. soldiers now playing a more advisory role in Afghanistan, Turkey no longer holds any significant leverage over their operations there. Never mind that the United States could have called Turkey’s bluff years ago — given that Turkey has always needed U.S.-led NATO more than vice versa.

Meanwhile, the United Nations passed a resolution in 1948 declaring the atrocities at issue genocide. Alas, France and Russia are among far too few countries that have followed suit. No doubt most are waiting for the United States, which, despite Pelosi’s best efforts, has yet to do so.

I urge you to visit Shoah’s Armenian archive here.

Related commentaries:
U.S. Congress Armenian genocide

* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Friday, at 3:49 pm

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