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Armenian genocide
October 16, 2007 7:55 PM   Subscribe

Genocide: An inconvenient truth "The Armenian genocide bill has been attacked by both the right and the left -- and it may make matters worse. But it's necessary." [Cookie.]
posted by homunculus (56 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read and enjoyed Michael J Arlen's book Passage to Ararat last year.
posted by shoepal at 8:17 PM on October 16, 2007


Necessary for what, losing a valuable ally in the middle east? This is the stupidest bill introduced all year, and there have been a lot. It may be the morally right thing, but it is not the time and it is logically and politically stupid. Anybody who disagrees, see Jonson's more inside from earlier today.
posted by caddis at 8:19 PM on October 16, 2007


"The Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and commands all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful crime in a century of bloody crimes against humanity. If elected President, I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people." - George W. Bush, in 2000
posted by null terminated at 8:23 PM on October 16, 2007 [5 favorites]


It's not at all clear to me that the sole alternative to a resolution passed by the US Congress is telling Armenians to "shut up and stop." Track two diplomacy would be infinitely preferable, if your goal is getting Turkey to change its view of the genocide, rather than simply trying to piss Turks off and get them to rally 'round the flag.

This is poorly timed, and really could be seriously bad news for the world if it's part of a chain of events that leads Turkey to chill its relations with the west. The US deserves all manner of bad things for its behavior of late, but it's not like Turkey has a whole bunch of way more moral countries to ally with over there. Even if the results aren't that catastrophic, it's hard to see how they'll be good news for Iraq and for Kurds.
One of the stranger reversals wrought by Bush's neoconservative foreign policy has been the rejection by much of the left of a morality-based foreign policy.
That is false and stupid. Opposing this administration's vague, lazy, quasi-utopianism is not the same thing as abandoning morality. It is not moral to act with zero regard for your actions' likely consequences.

Plus, I thought the taunt for the left these days was, "oh, you say you're so concerned about stopping the ongoing genocide in Darfur. But you didn't seem to like it too much when we created a catastrophe by invading and occupying Iraq, did you? You hypocrites."
If the resolution was part of a new U.S. approach to the Middle East, one in which we acknowledged and acted to redress the historical injustices suffered by all the region's peoples, not just by our allies, the Armenian genocide bill could stand as an example not of American grandstanding but of American courage.
Um, yeah, good point. And if my jerking off tonight led to a new program of sleeping with a different supermodel every night, tonight could be viewed as an historic first step. But I don't think that's all that likely.

There aren't very many supermodels where I live.
posted by ibmcginty at 8:23 PM on October 16, 2007


Nice. In 2107 we'll be debating whether or not we should piss off the Sudan for calling the Darfour genocide what it is.

Once again we have nations full of people who consider themselves to be moral, acting amorally.
posted by mullingitover at 8:34 PM on October 16, 2007


i say the u s congress ought to be looking at the blood on their hands first - as correct as this resolution is, as badly as the turks need to acknowledge their past, it's plain hypocritical for them to be passing this while the war goes on in iraq
posted by pyramid termite at 8:36 PM on October 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


"Those Armenians sure look oily. I say we help 'em out." - George W. Bush, in 2007
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:43 PM on October 16, 2007


Necessary for what, losing a valuable ally in the middle east?

If they're willling to renege on their obligations as a member of NATO over a non-binding but historically accurate resolution passed in our congress, then they were a pretty unreliable ally to begin with.
posted by homunculus at 8:48 PM on October 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


Turkey's got some other issues, too.
posted by shoepal at 9:00 PM on October 16, 2007


Since the opening of the 110th Congress, the Democrats have certainly been able to come up with all sorts of mind-bogglingly inconsequential* legislation to distract the public from the reason why they were elected in the first place: to end the war in Iraq.

*This is not to say that what happened to the Armenians in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire was inconsequential. But a resolution from the United States Congress ninety years after the fact, which will do little more than cause further troubles for our already tenuous position in Iraq, certainly is. I honestly don't know what Congress is thinking: is this, as suggested above, a sideshow to distract the American people from more pressing issues, like a Democratic equivalent of the Terri Schiavo debacle? Is it, as the Freeper crowd seems to think, a sort of back-door attack on the Iraq occupation?

If they're willling to renege on their obligations as a member of NATO. . .

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the reason why the US government is most concerned about alienating Turkey--the use of its airbases, airspace and ground transport to supply American forces in Iraq--is not something that Turkey is obliged to do as a NATO signatory.
posted by Makoto at 9:01 PM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's funny to see anti-bullshit legislation coming from a bunch of bullshitters, but I still like it for going against this particular stupidity. There's got to be an ulterior motive, of course, though I understand it's likely as simple as repayment for a bunch of Armenians making donations to certain Democrats.

Next up, recognize Taiwan.

Nations shouldn't be acting like little children holding their hands over their ears and saying "NANANANANANANA I can't hear you," and when they do, they should be called on it. Let them throw their temper tantrums - maybe once they've cried themselves out they'll grow up a bit.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:04 PM on October 16, 2007


Has Turkey ever passed a bill that declared the US committed genocide against certain Native American tribes? Has it ever passed a bill denouncing American treatment of blacks during slavery or for the pre-civil rights era? I would think now would be a lovely time for them to pass such resolutions.
posted by flarbuse at 9:04 PM on October 16, 2007


The US has already passed bills recognizing its past sins against the American Indians and slavery/civil rights thing. Turkey has never acknowledged anything about the Armenian Genocide.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:14 PM on October 16, 2007


If they did pass resolutions condemning slavery and killing the American Indians, it would instantly deflate their argument, because we'd just say, "Yeah, yeah, we did those things. We screwed up. You're right. We shouldn't have done that. We're sorry, again."

And then what would they do? They'd look like idiots for not being willing to do the same thing, so they will never pass those bills.

I'm afraid I agree with the conservatives here; this was a remarkably stupid bill to pass. What happened in 1915 doesn't matter anymore; what matters is what's happening now. We could have just waited them out... if we pass the resolution now or five years from now, what difference does it make to the people who have been dead almost a hundred years?

We can't possibly get a good result from this, so why on earth pass the bill? It's just ludicrously stupid.
posted by Malor at 9:22 PM on October 16, 2007


Well on the one hand, Turkey has had a good deal of difficulty coming to terms with this particular episode from its past; and on the other hand, they killed all those people.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:24 PM on October 16, 2007


Shouldn't we also be condemning the Greek genocide against the Trojans and the Italian genocide against Carthiginians. This is where is all started.
posted by humanfont at 9:28 PM on October 16, 2007


Greek genocide against the Trojans

what now, are you supporting kidnappers and rapists? Helen didn't go on her own, you know. :)
posted by carmina at 9:55 PM on October 16, 2007


Wouldn't genocide have started with the Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons?

What's that you say? What actually happened there is in some dispute? I'll have you know that you are trumpeting nothing more than Neanderthal propaganda!
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 9:57 PM on October 16, 2007


Looks like that bill is dead.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:58 PM on October 16, 2007


DWCNI, it's Cro Magnon propaganda. History is written by the victors. especially when the losers never invented writing...
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:59 PM on October 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons
It was Cain and Abel, you, you ...evolutionists!

Looks like that bill is dead.
What already? They could have given it a week. Bah.
It is safe to say, the Turks killed it!
posted by carmina at 10:13 PM on October 16, 2007


Fuckin' Cro Magnons. I hate those fuckers.
I like filet mignons, though.

Looks like that bill is dead

Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for the fjords.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:39 PM on October 16, 2007


This resolution seems completely out of left field, but in my interpretation it's actually a very calculated and intelligent move for the Democrats. While appearing to simply take the moral high ground, they're intentionally jeopardizing the USA's military alliance with Turkey; if they win, they help Turkey acknowledge their past and join the EU - and if they lose, Turkey gets mad and the USA loses access to the Incirlik Air Base. Ironically it is Turkey's secular minority party (the CHP) which is tied up in the Armenian Holocaust-denial, due to its history being directly tied to the perpetrators. The current majority party, the AKP, is the one that has actively pursued membership in the EU. (It is also accused of having ties to Islam, god forbid.)

This is a direct response to the administration's recent sabre-rattling with regards to Iran, and an attempt to prevent aggressive bombing actions. If access to that base is lost, any action against Iran will be immensely complicated. What is actually being discussed on American news and by officials is very far from the actual concerns and motives at this point.

Ultimately, I agree with the assessment that "there is virtually nothing the U.S. could do to irritate the Turks more." But from the left's perspective, irritating the Turks may be a very good move.
posted by mek at 10:49 PM on October 16, 2007 [4 favorites]


We should also be careful about mentioning the holocaust. It might upset the Germans, and then they might cut us off from Ramstein (the base not the band).
posted by homunculus at 10:55 PM on October 16, 2007


Next we need a bill recognizing the successful genocide of American Indians by European Americans in the 19th Century.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:08 PM on October 16, 2007


Mek, as a first level tactic it's a good idea. But the secondary fallout would be disastrous.

It's a good first level tactic if you want to make the US lose the war. But do you really think that's a good idea? Do you think the Democrats want to give the Republicans ammunition for campaign rhetoric to the effect that the Democrats did everything they could to make the US lose the war?

Rep Murtha doesn't, and that's why he just came out against this. He's far from being a supporter of the administration on the war issue, but he's also not an ass and sees the danger this represents, both to his country and to his party.

Fact is, this was a real bone-headed move. I'm glad that the adults in the Democratic Party are beginning to say so.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:25 PM on October 16, 2007


Too bad there weren't any adults in the Republican party, or we might not have gotten into this Mesopotamian quagmire in the first place.
posted by homunculus at 11:58 PM on October 16, 2007


When discussing overall strategies, I'm inclined to agree with you, Steven. It's a demonstration of how fractured and unorganized (still!) the Democrats are, that this play occurred after all the spinelessness we've seen over the past few months. If you assume the Democrats behave as an organized whole, the motion is stupid, because there's easier ways of achieving their goals, which have been utterly neglected in favour of obedience to the Bush administration. But there is no top-down organization or planning in the party! This is a simply a Machiavellian move by some individuals desperate to sabotage a potential war with Iran, which is being piggybacked through the House by true idealists, and being torn apart by Republicans.

It's hard to attack the motion when it's already been passed by 40 states, though. Downright anti-democratic.
posted by mek at 12:03 AM on October 17, 2007


Bush-Dalai Lama talks anger China
posted by homunculus at 12:30 AM on October 17, 2007


Steven C. Den Beste writes "It's a good first level tactic if you want to make the US lose the war. "

This is begging the question. Tell me, where is the enemy army that we're going to destroy so we can call victory and go home?

Oh, right: the US disbanded the Iraqi military. Now we're just fighting the Iraqi civilian population. So when we kill all the civilians we can go home. That's great.

I can't imagine why anyone would want to stop our war, I mean what the hell? Why do they hate America?
posted by mullingitover at 12:40 AM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's a good first level tactic if you want to make the US lose the war. But do you really think that's a good idea?

Good god, yes. Winning the Iraq war would be one of the worst things that could possibly happen to America.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:49 AM on October 17, 2007


Looks like that bill is dead.

As my previous message in the thread suggested, I don't support this bill. But I just have to shake my head at Pelosi's inability to keep House Democrats in line on seemingly, well, any move she's made, from the beginning of her Speakership (e.g. her failed attempt to gain backing for Murtha as Majorty Leader) to this.

A lot of popular discontent with Congress is the result of their not following through on their promises--typing that, I wonder if I was naive in believing that this time they learned their lesson and really were going to do what they promised--and a lot of that stems from ineffective leadership by Pelosi and Harry Reid in the Senate.

Yeah, the Republicans have threatened to filibuster everything, and Bush finally remembered where he left his veto pen, but effective leadership either finds bipartisan compromises or it rakes the opposition over the coals for their failure to step up, making them look like the bad guys. The Democrats seem content to retreat to a corner and whimper when a piece of their legislation fails, even when it has broad popular support (such as a timely withdrawal from Iraq).

This bill, however, did not have that, and could possibly caused all sorts of harm leading to the further loss of American lives. If it dies a speedy death, so much the better, but it projects nothing other than weakness if the Democrats kill it after having boosted it so heavily.

They really have to stop shooting themselves in the foot sooner or later. The GOP spent the better part of Bush's administration driving the reputation of their party into the ground, but the Democrats can't win on 'less bad than the Republicans' forever. I only hope they can do better on overturning Bush's SCHIP veto.
posted by Makoto at 1:17 AM on October 17, 2007


The implications under international law for a universally recognized genocide extend to reparations including land exchange. This non-binding bill has grave implications for the Turks.

I would argue that the US is not such a great ally of Turkey--they have a strategic interest in supporting the kurds and destabilizing the governments of the area (syria, iran and yes, turkey) at their whim. They want the turks at their beck and call...
posted by mert at 1:19 AM on October 17, 2007


There will always be a reason not to piss off this group or that group. At the end of the day politics is about doing what's right and coping with the consequences. If you don't support a condemnation of the Armenian genocide then you can just shut up about the holocaust for the rest of your life.

"Wer redet heute noch von der Vernichtung der Armenier?" - "Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?"

- Adolf Hitler
posted by greytape at 1:32 AM on October 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


It's a good first level tactic if you want to make the US lose the war.

Wait, what? You mean the US hasn't lost the war (assuming by 'the war' you mean the one in Iraq)?

Hmmph. Interesting perspective.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:42 AM on October 17, 2007


We should also be careful about mentioning the holocaust. It might upset the Germans, and then they might cut us off from Ramstein (the base not the band).

Yes, but annoying the Turks should please the Germans.

Winning the Iraq war would be one of the worst things that could possibly happen to America.

I'm not even sure I can imagine what Iraq would look like in that case. That's approaching an alternate-universe scenario.
posted by oaf at 6:56 AM on October 17, 2007


Here's a question that I'm honestly not sure about: why do we need the legislature to pass resolutions recognizing historical facts?

"Resolved: Poland did not invade Germany."
"Resolved: In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue."
"Resolved: Early Hominids lived near Lake Turkana."

Resolved: Facts are not democratic. The Ottoman Empire committed genocide, and that's horrible, and we need to do more to remember it, and to think about the impact it's had on the region and the Armenian diaspora. But, seriously... it's not a matter of debate, so why debate it?
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:17 AM on October 17, 2007


It is not moral to act with zero regard for your actions' likely consequences.

Can we get this tattooed on the forehead of everyone who had anything to do with this administration? Or possibly anyone who voted in favour of the Iraq invasion, Democrats very much included?

Wait, what? You mean the US hasn't lost the war (assuming by 'the war' you mean the one in Iraq)?

If you want to be technical you WON that war, what you are doing now is managing an occupation very badly.
posted by Artw at 7:40 AM on October 17, 2007


But, seriously... it's not a matter of debate, so why debate it?

because people (the turks) ARE debating it, which is rather lame of them, but ...
posted by pyramid termite at 7:47 AM on October 17, 2007


Should the US Government acknowledge the Holocaust? I mean, that could strain relations with possibly-soon-to-be-nuclear Iran.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 7:48 AM on October 17, 2007


They kick up a stink about it internally every so often as well, most recently with the Orhan Pamuk thing.
posted by Artw at 8:09 AM on October 17, 2007


I can't believe some are saying this doesn't matter. Obviously it matters to the Armenians. Does it only matter if it was your ethnic group that was attacked? I hate to break it to you but we're all the same species. Acts of genocide are crimes against all humanity.

Those of you comparing genocide to fighting between ethnic groups don't understand the definition of the word. Why have the word if it just means the same as war?

To those who say we shouldn't do this because of our own (American) wrong doings, I say that shouldn't stop us from doing the right thing. If the democrats had any moral consistency they would draft legislation to create a statement of what we as a country consider to be unacceptable behavior and what we intend to do about it, which would include taking action in Darfur and Burma and condemning the war in Iraq and doing everything they can to stop it, and provide a blueprint for future responses to similar situations.

The problem isn't that we are drafting a somewhat useless bit of condemnation. The problem is that now that we've done so Turkey is refusing to take responsibility for their actions. No country should be respected who acts in such a manner.

Yes, we (Americans) are hypocrites and guilty of many crimes. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't continue to try and do what is right.
posted by sineater at 8:16 AM on October 17, 2007


Resolved: 2 + 2 = 4
Resolved: The sky is (sometimes) blue.
Resolved: Pigs don't fly.
Resolved: Snow is (sometimes) white.
Resolved: Pluto is not a planet.

I'm sorry... I just don't see the point. I don't need Congress to tell me these things, and even if they did I wouldn't trust them, knowing the kind of vetting that such resolutions go through.

I mean seriously, if they resolved that the value of pi was 3.14159265358989323846, wouldn't you want to go check to make sure? These are politicians, not historians, not mathematicians, not experts on anything but the desires of the electorate and the necessities of elections.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:24 AM on October 17, 2007


To those who say we shouldn't do this because of our own (American) wrong doings, I say that shouldn't stop us from doing the right thing.

passing a resolution is not really doing something - the "right thing" should have been done in 1915, it's too late now

If the democrats had any moral consistency they would draft legislation to create a statement of what we as a country consider to be unacceptable behavior and what we intend to do about it, which would include taking action in Darfur and Burma and condemning the war in Iraq and doing everything they can to stop it, and provide a blueprint for future responses to similar situations.

why should the world believe us if we did that?
why should the world trust us to do the right thing in darfur and burma after the mess we've made of iraq?

the democrats could stop passing appropriation bills for the war - or for the government as a whole - they could force a crisis over this war if they really wanted to
posted by pyramid termite at 8:26 AM on October 17, 2007


passing a resolution is not really doing something - the "right thing" should have been done in 1915, it's too late now


sorry for not being clear. by the "right thing" I mean pointing out the problem with Turkey's denial.

why should the world believe us if we did that?
why should the world trust us to do the right thing in darfur and burma after the mess we've made of iraq?


again, that doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. I actually think we should do something on a global scale. We should get countries together who oppose genocide and military dictatorships and the like and act together to stop them. We should start to act consistently with the high moral ground that we take.
posted by sineater at 8:39 AM on October 17, 2007


The cognitive dissonance at LGF and Freep must be fierce.

Recognition of genocide? That's good.

But it's an insult to an ally in the Middle East? That's bad.

But the genocide was Muslims killing Christians? That's good! Heathen towelheads!

But it might make "winning" Iraq harder? That's bad!

Arrrgh... brain... hurt...

Bottom line: Ankra has not been called to account for the Armenian genocide for 50 years by the United States because they've always been a handy spot to (a) fight Communism (b) intervene in the Middle East. It's been the worst combination of realpolitik and moral cowardice. It's sad to see that even a token, non-binding statement like this get squashed by those same impulses once again.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 9:27 AM on October 17, 2007


The US is well-known for its moralistic (not moral) approach to foreign policy. This is not a compliment.

George Kennan, Around the Cragged Hill:
... thus extravagantly do we, like a schoolmaster clothed in the mantle of perfect virtue, sit in judgments over all other governments, looking sharply down the nose of each of them to see whether its handling of its domestic affairs meets with our approval.
The US government is responsible for the well-being of its own citizens. The US government is not responsible for the well-being of everyone, everywhere.

As Juan Cole points out:
Turkey has been the strongest ally that the United States has had in the Middle East since the end of WW II. The Marshall Plan started with Northern tier states like Turkey and Greece. Turkey joined NATO and was a key player in the American victory in the Cold War. As a secular government, Turkey stood against the rising tide of Muslim radicalism. To the extent that Turkey is moderating its long-term secular militancy, and moving toward fair elections, it may be providing a model for a moderate, democratic Middle East. Its economy is growing rapidly, foreign investment is in the billions. Turkey is in short, almost everything the US could have asked for in the Middle East.
Cole observes that the Congressional bill is only the latest example of US disregard for Turkey in recent years.
posted by russilwvong at 10:43 AM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


But, seriously... it's not a matter of debate, so why debate it?

Because when your Speaker of the House represents the world's most heavily concentrated area of Armenian plastic surgeons with fat wallets and tenuous ties to your party resolutions like this tend to get put on the floor.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:54 AM on October 17, 2007


I support the intent of the bill, on philosophic grounds, but I think there's something to be said for the realist notion of not trying so hard to do the 'right thing' that you cause a lot of wrong in the process.

The Armenian genocide happened. Full stop. But is forcing the Turks to recognize that today, as opposed to five or ten years from now, really going to change anything? I don't think so.

And if we force this issue, and it destabilizes the secular government of Turkey and gives the Islamist parties power, the negative consequences would seem to be far greater than the cost of waiting a few more years on genocide recognition.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:57 AM on October 17, 2007


they've always been a handy spot to (a) fight Communism (b) intervene in the Middle East

(c) put nukes and prompt the Cuban Missile Crisis.

may be providing a model for a moderate, democratic Middle East

Then why did we need to invade Iraq and try to make it into a model?
posted by kirkaracha at 12:04 PM on October 17, 2007


Resolved: Facts are not democratic. The Ottoman Empire committed genocide, and that's horrible, and we need to do more to remember it, and to think about the impact it's had on the region and the Armenian diaspora. But, seriously... it's not a matter of debate, so why debate it?


Because making the bolded claim above in Turkey can get you a 6 month to 3 year prison sentence.
posted by MikeKD at 2:29 PM on October 17, 2007


The United States should stand up for truth and justice and do the right thing only when it's convenient and doesn't complicate relations with its allies.
posted by euphorb at 2:37 PM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Because making the bolded claim above in Turkey can get you a 6 month to 3 year prison sentence.

That's a bit of a non sequitur. Our congressmen are not engaging in some sort of bold civil disobedience. They're not risking jail time, nor are they helping Turkish nationals who -would- risk jailtime if they uttered the claim. So what good does it do for them to pass it as a resolution?
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:50 PM on October 17, 2007


The United States should stand up for truth and justice and do the right thing only when it's convenient and doesn't complicate relations with its allies.

Because when we have one stable non-religious government in the area, it is really important to destabilize them by criticizing a terrible thing that their forefathers did 100 years ago.
posted by caddis at 3:19 PM on October 17, 2007


And if we force this issue, and it destabilizes the secular government of Turkey and gives the Islamist parties power, the negative consequences would seem to be far greater than the cost of waiting a few more years on genocide recognition.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:57 AM on October 17 [+] [!]


Sorry, what? You've been watching too much CNN or something. You're afraid of Islamist parties in Turkey gaining power from genocide denial? Could you explain what parties are you referring to? As far as I am aware, the only mainstream Turkish party which can be referred to as Islamist is the one currently in power... there is a radical Islamist party enjoying a whopping 2% of the vote, though, I suppose they could seize power if Nancy gets her way...?
posted by mek at 6:38 PM on October 17, 2007


mek, I'd suspect that this also frees Turkey for ignoring Bush's objections while fighting the Kurdish rebels. Wouldn't that help force Bush out of Iraq?
posted by jeffburdges at 1:32 AM on October 18, 2007


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