Wednesday, October 10, 2007

WhenGenocide is Merely Killing

“Who talks nowadays about the Armenians?
Adolf Hitler, August 22, 1939

The House Foreign Affairs Committee reportedly approved (27-21) tonight (October 10) a non-binding resolution designating as “genocide” events in 1915-1918 directed against ethnic Armenian enclaves and villages in the remnant of the old Ottoman Empire. Estimates of the number of men (shot, bayoneted, throat slit), women, and children (succumbing to the effects of what some call a death march into the desert: malnutrition, starvation, dehydration, infectious diseases) who died coalesce around 1.5 million, sacrificed to a “caliphate” stretching from the Mediterranean Sea into Central Asia that was the goal of the “Young Turks” who seized power in 1913. The administration -- Bush, Rice, and Gates -- all decried the resolution, contending that its passage now would harm U.S.-Turkish relations and have a very negative effect on the Iraq War.

Why? Well, remember that the Turkish parliament refused to allow U.S. ground forces (4th Infantry Division) to land and cross Turkish territory to form a major front against Saddam Hussein’s military. The damage that would be caused now is the possibility that Turkey would refuse over flight permission for U.S. cargo planes carrying important supplies. Safe storage for stocks of fuel also would be at risk -- 70% of what is used in Iraq is kept in Turkey.

In my years working the military attaché corps in Washington and then in our embassy in London, what happened in 1915-1918 was always a sensitive topic and simply was never brought up in the presence of Turkish officers -- although the Greek attaches were willing to go on at great length.

Like the Holocaust, this is history. There was a hue and cry when Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called this year for more study on the Holocaust, “moderating” what many said was his outright denial two years ago that 6 million Jews, Romas, Poles, and other “undesirables” died at the hands of the Nazis. Given that reaction, why is the administration so dead set against a statement affirming the Armenian event and also affirming that genocide must not take place again?

It of course makes no difference to those who died whether they were part of a genocide, or were simply killed. But then, the judgment is suppose to be for the rest of us and our descendents Once more, principle -- even if symbolic -- takes second place behind political and diplomatic expediency..

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