This post should be sub-titled: The House: Profiles in Shame.
The House of Representatives is showing its proverbial moxie by running from a big fat Turkish general who threatened dire consequences if Congress faced up to its moral responsibility and acknowledged what all the world except Turkey has known since 1916: that the Turks perpetrated a massive genocide against Armenians. The Turkish military apparently isn’t satisfied with bullying Turkey’s democratically elected Islamic government, so now it tries to do something similar to our own.
What does the big fat general hold over Congress’ head? A very big U.S. airbase in Turkey which is one of the major supply sources for U.S. troops in Iraq. Not to mention Turkey’s favorable relations with Israel which the latter does not want to jeopardize for the sake of a little moral insignificance like the Armenian genocide. Of course, the fact that Israel’s citizens also suffered a similar genocide of their own seems to be safely entombed somewhere at the back of the Israeli government’s mind.
The dithering moral equivocation emanating from our brave solons really needs to be read to be believed. Read ’em and weep:
“Turkey obviously feels they are getting poked in the eye over something that happened a century ago and maybe this isn’t a good time to be doing that,” said Representative Allen Boyd, a Florida Democrat who dropped his sponsorship of the resolution on Monday night.
…“We simply cannot allow the grievances of the past, as real as they may be, to in any way derail our efforts to prevent further atrocities for future history books,” said Representative Wally Herger, Republican of California.
This little bit of obfuscation apparently alludes to the fact that without that U.S. airbase there would be an even greater atrocity occurring in Iraq than is already occurring. Which leaves aside that the fact that had we not botched our invasion and subsequent occupation of that country there might not be any bloodbath–or at least not one of the current scale.
Representative Mike Ross, Democrat of Arkansas, said, “I think it is a good resolution and horrible timing.”
That’s the funny thing about genocide. It happens at the most inconvenient times. If it only couldn’t happened say, a year ago or maybe a year from now–then we could give it the attention it deserves. But now? Certainly not. Too inconvenient.
“This happened a long time ago and I don’t know whether it was a massacre or a genocide, that is beside the point,” said Representative John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who is urging Ms. Pelosi to keep the resolution from the floor. “The point is, we have to deal with today’s world.”
Ah yes. The longer ago the crime happened the less relevant it is. Genocide is, after all, so much less significant than whether Turkey invades Iraq’s Kurdish region hunting for guerrillas.
“I think there was genocide in Turkey in 1915 but I am gravely concerned about the timing,” said Representative Jane Harman, a California Democrat.
More about “timing.” When does Harman think the time will be “right?” After we leave Iraq and no longer need Turkish help there? After Turkey has wiped out all the Kurdish rebels so it no longer has to threaten to invade Iraq?
I have one thing to say to Congress: get a spine. Can’t we say No to a damn Turkish general? What are we–sheep to be led by the nose by a Turkish strongman?
Here’s one reason why Congress has gone all weak in the knees:
Records filed at the Justice Department show Turkish expenditures since August 2006 of about $3.2 million for lobbyists and public relations firms.
The lobbying is being led by former Congressmembers Robert Livingstone (remember he resigned in disgrace after admitting an extra-marital affair) and Dick Gephardt (who supported the genocide resolution while in Congress–but that was before the $1.2 million he’s earning from the Turks for his good offices).
I don’t know what Armenian-Americans want out of this resolution, but I nonetheless find it odd that the Turks don’t say, “Yeah, that happened, but the Ottomans were not us, and we are not the Ottomans and are not responsible for what happened,” and then simply shrug off any further criticism – at least that’s what I would do if I were in the Turks’ position.
BTW, it’s “Livingston”, not “Livingstone” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Livingston) – not that, as a Louisiana resident myself, I’m sorry he’s no longer in Congress.
Zhu Bajie says
The resolution will probably make trouble for Armenians in Turkey. Probably it won’t help relations between the Turkish and Armenian republics. So who benefits?
Can you imagine Congress passing a similar resolution about the genocide of the American Indians? Not in a million years.
Meanwhile the US invasion of Iraq may well mean the end of the Assyrians. The refugees will flee West, and be forced to assimilate, give up Syriac language, etc.
Richard Silverstein says
Thanks for that correction. I don’t know how that mistake crept in.
Hasan Bateson says
I’m all for morality in government… it’d be nice for a change.
I’m also all for taking responsibility for the wrong we’ve done, and if the wrong was done by an ancestor who didn’t take responsibility for it, I think it behooves us to do so on his behalf. I think there’s an inherited culpability… after all, we happily inherit whatever advantage or benefit came as a consequence of what was done, don’t we?
I think that governments should be encouraged, especially by their own people, but also by others, to acknowledge wrongs done, and make amends where possible, which would be the province of any legislature.
I’m not so sure however about passing resolutions disapproving (or approving) of the behaviour of others, whether nations or individuals. Is this something that legislatures do? If so, should they? If inclined to address the evil of genocide wouldn’t the US Congress be better off busying itself with acknowledging and ameliorating the wrongs done in America to the Amerindians and Africans, and by encouraging the administration to do something about genocide in progress (we all know the missed opportunities in this category).
Rather than pass hypocritical condemnation of others misbehaviour, they would provide the moral leadership of a good example which they could encourage others to emulate.
Did an “advantage or benefit” really result from the mass killing of the Armenians in 1915? I don’t see any, but I’m willing to listen to an argument to the contrary if you’ve got one.
Richard Silverstein says
Perhaps Hasan meant that there might be some benefit to the Turks who killed the Armenians in terms of booty plundered, homes taken over, etc. Though I’m not sure that’s what he meant.