A step forward, two steps back

Burbank Leader, California
Sept 24 2005

A step forward, two steps back

The fight to prevent future genocides lost one of its greatest
crusaders this week, but inched forward as a bill acknowledging the
genocide of 1.5 million Armenians passed the House International
Relations Committee.

Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor who relentlessly tracked
down Nazi war criminals after World War II, once said that “When
history looks back, I want people to know the Nazis weren’t able to
kill millions of people and get away with it.”

Wiesenthal died Tuesday, but his message should resonate in Glendale
and Burbank and beyond to Washington D.C., where last week a
resolution to recognize the Armenian Genocide, moved on to the House
of representatives.

Embedded in Wiesenthal’s message was a need to establish justice and
moral values for humanity.

That is why it is so hard to come to grips with why the United States
government has yet to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, brought on
at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, although the answer is easy to
come by: Politics.

Even with the mark-up last week, passing this resolution will be an
uphill battle, just like past efforts to push such a resolution

The next step in that fight is convincing House leadership to commit
to moving the resolution forward, Rep. Adam Schiff said.

The resolution’s backers will have to convince House Majority Leader
Tom DeLay (R-Texas) to allow the resolution on the House floor for a
vote. That will be difficult given what we know about the politics of
officially recognizing the genocide.

It was DeLay who once released a statement with Reps. Dennis Hastert
(R-Ill) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), saying that such an acknowledgment
would upset the U.S. relationship with Turkey, which has been a
reliable ally of the United States for decades.

Germany, too, has been an ally. Yet, the Holocaust, is recognized,
much because of Wiesenthal’s dogged efforts to bring its perpetrators
to justice, as a specific historical moment with devastating

Why is it that this nation’s leaders — who tout freedom of religion,
speech and the need to transform despotic nations states into
democracies — cannot collectively agree that the Armenian Genocide
is just that: a genocide?

What good are Wiesenthal’s efforts against prejudice against all
people if because of politics, the killing of 1.5 million people
cannot be officially recognized by the United States?

Rep. Brad Sherman, who sits on the committee, said the denial of a
genocide is a genocide’s last act.

Wiesenthal must have known that. Why doesn’t our government?

Maybe this time, the push of local representatives, the e-mails, the
faxes and the letters to legislators will make a difference.

Let’s hope so. Unfortunately, no timetable has been set for even the
possibility of a floor vote, leaving the possibility of yet another
push for recognition falling through the cracks.

Recognition of the Armenian Genocide should not be a game of
politics, up for a battle every so often. These killings were real.
And it is a horrific moment in history that needs to stay in living
memory, just as Wiesenthal kept the horrors of the Holocaust in the
collective memory.

“If we pardon this genocide, it will be repeated, and not only on
Jews,” Wiesenthal said of the Holocaust. “If we don’t learn this
lesson, then millions died for nothing.”