JUDGMENT TIME: SHOULD AMERICA RECOGNIZE AN ARMENIAN GENOCIDE?
By Barbara Lerner, a frequent NRO contributor
Sept 7 2007
Calls for America to recognize the Armenian tragedy of 1915 as
genocide, and to condemn the Turks for it, grow louder, more insistent,
and more varied by the week.
The Armenian lobby, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), and
a handful of other longtime congressional supporters are no longer
the only people calling for this recognition. They are joined not
just by the usual old secular human-rights crusaders of the Left like
Noam Chomsky and Robert Fisk, but also by new voices from the Right –
including some I respect. Should we do it? Is it really beyond dispute
that the Ottoman Turks were guilty of genocide in World War I?
Most Europeans have already decided that Turkey is guilty as charged.
In France, arguing that the Turks might be guilty of anything less
inhuman than a deliberate, calculated, genocide is considered a hate
crime; Princeton historian Bernard Lewis was convicted of it and
fined a nominal sum. Here in America and in Britain, other historians
and scholars who argue that the facts don’t justify the genocide
label – men like Guenter Lewy, Edward J. Erickson, Andrew Mango,
Justin McCarthy, Stanford Shaw, Norman Stone, and Michael Gunter –
are regularly compared to Holocaust deniers like David Irving and
Ernst Zundel, and dismissed as "genocide deniers."
On many blogs and websites, Armenians often accuse these scholars of
being part of a Jewish and/or Zionist conspiracy, because Israel has
always steadfastly rejected the genocide charge, as Turkey’s own Jewish
citizens do. In America, all of the existing long-established Jewish
organizations also reject it (that is, until last month when one major
American Jewish organization capitulated under mounting pressure).
Not all Turks reject the genocide charge. A few transnationally
acclaimed Turks, like Nobel prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk,
pride themselves on accepting the judgment that Turkey was guilty
of genocide in World War I, butthe vast majority of Turks reject
that label. They don’t deny the fact that hellish things were done
to Armenians in their country in the hellish World War I years, when
much of Anatolia became a bloody battleground and mass graveyard for
everyone caught up in it, civilians no less than soldiers. No honest
Turk or legitimate scholar denies that. The fight is about whether
genocide is an accurate or fair characterization of the Turkish
response to the situation that confronted them in 1915.
Turks say it’s neither fair nor accurate, and feel they are the
victims of a well-orchestrated, one-sided, Western smear campaign.
They see the accusation of genocide as an attempt to resurrect
old stereotypes about "the terrible Turk," to demonize their early
20th-century Ottoman forbears, and to pin a badge of inferiority on
Turks today. Turkey’s newly reelected AKP government has long been
committed to meeting Europe’s standards for Turkey’s admission to the
European Union. It has already accepted many other allegedly superior
European standards and judgments, some gladly, others reluctantly. So
far, it has refused to bow on this one.
In the United States, the Bush adminstration has also refused to bow
to the European judgment, but support for Senate and House Resolutions
recognizing the Armenian genocide is building. The growing numbers
of Americans who campaign for genocide recognition claim that if we
are to retain any moral credibility in the world, it is past time
for us to join the international moral consensus against Turkey;
shameful of us to hold back for prudential reasons. They argue with
great passion, that a fundamental moral principle is at stake here
because the Turks in World War I were, in all essential respects,
comparable to Germans in World War II; and that Armenians then
were comparable to the Jews of the Holocaust, a quarter of a century
later. The inescapable conclusion, they insist, is that common decency
requires us to condemn the Turks as we condemned the Nazis.
Americans who take a public stand against the increasingly popular
genocide recognition movement, arguing that it would be a serious
mistake for us to endorse it, generally prefer to sidestep the moral
question altogether. Their focus is on the geo-strategic significance
of such a move, and its implications for our national security. In
fact, there is a strong moral case to be made against the genocide
resolution, because there are major differences – between Nazis and
Turks, and between Armenians and Jews – that any fair-minded judge
would feel honor-bound to take into account before passing moral
judgment on the Turks.
First, though, I want to present at least a brief, partial summary of
the geostrategic argument, because genocide zealots who indignantly
refuse to even consider the geostrategic argument are not displaying a
higher morality. Rather, they are being irresponsible. There are times
when we should give moral considerations precedence over prudential
ones, but there is never a time when we should do so blindly, without
estimating the cost and deciding if we are honestly willing to pay
it. The risk here is that endorsing the genocide resolution will
turn what is already a growing rift between America and Turkey,
into a historic parting of the ways between our two nations.
To make even a rough estimate of the cost – to our position in the
world and our national security – of such a radical realignment,
Americans need to know more than many zealots seem to know about Turkey
today: about her geostrategic position, and about what the longtime
alliance between our two countries has meant, to us, to the Turks,
and to the world.
Turkey today is an 84-year-old republic with a population of some 75
million, and a rapidly expanding modern economy; an economy based on
the growing education, skills, and know-how of its people, not the
luck of oil.
Turkey has one of the biggest, best-trained militaries in the world.
It is a long-time NATO ally – the only NATO ally with a population that
is 99-percent Muslim. Geographically, it sits atop a strategic-ally,
vital world crossroads. For half of a century, it has held the line
with us against both Communist and Islamist aggression, sending
its soldiers to fight and die alongside ours, on battlefields from
Korea to Afghanistan. Unlike our other NATO allies, Turkey did all
this with the Soviet Union, as well as a number of Islamist states,
sitting right on her borders.
For many decades, Turkey’s alliance with America was an especially
close one, not just in NATO but in areas far beyond it, to our mutual
benefit, in the Middle East and elsewhere. Today, that alliance is
seriously strained and in danger of breaking apart altogether. Many
Americans know that part of the tension between us stems from the fact
that Turkey opposed our invasion of Iraq in 2003. Many Americans feel
that we have as much reason to be angry about that split as they do.
Many fewer Americans understand that ordinary Turks aren’t simply
nursing a grievance over past disagreements about Iraq. Their anger
and pain is a response to what is going on in their own country today
– to the reality that members from the PKK, a Kurdish terrorist group
that finds sanctuary in Northern Iraq, keep sneaking across the border,
blowing up innocent civilians in Turkish cities and killing Turkish
soldiers on Turkish soil.
Turks are angry that our Kurdish allies in Iraq refuse to restrain
the PKK and sometimes even threaten to unleash further PKK violence
if Turkey balks at Kurdish government demands. They are angry and
hurt that we refuse to seriously pressure the Kurds, even when the
weapons the PKK uses to kill Turks are American weapons. They are
angry and frustrated that our diplomats repeatedly warn the Turkish
military against taking any cross-border military action to put an
end to the aggression themselves.
Popular grief and anger builds as the Turkish death toll rises,
week after week, feeding into a growing Islamist trend in Turkey,
as witnessed by the fact that Turkey is no longer governed by any
of its old secular parties. It is now instead governed by what the
EU and trans-nationals everywhere are pleased to call "a moderate
Islamic party." This party not only embraces the EU, but also has much
closer relations with the Arab world than any previous government of
the Turkish Republic Ataturk foundedin 1923.
All this leaves our traditional, longtime Turkish friends –
pro-American, Ataturk-style, secular Republican nationalists – between
a rock and a hard place. They strongly oppose the growing power of
Islam in Turkey, as well as Turkey’s increasing turn to the East,
but they are as dismayed as other Turks at our unwillingness to do
what needs to be done to stop PKK attacks, or to allow the Turkish
military to stop them.
They are equally dismayed by the growing western attempt to brand
Turkey as a genocidal nation. Still reeling from the AKP’s latest
electoral victory, the enthusiastic embrace of the AKP government
by the EU and much of the American press, and by widespread western
attempts to portray the AKP’s Turkish opponents as anti-democratic
elitists, they feel betrayed abroad and on the defensive at home. All
things considered, this doesn’t look like a propitious moment for
America to take a stand on the Armenian genocide question.
This is a serious argument that deserves to be taken seriously, but
the moral argument is equally serious and deserves to be addressed
in an equally serious way. To do that, we cannot focus only on the
main similarity between Jews in Germany and Armenians in Turkey:
the terrible tragedies both groups endured at the hands of their
countrymen. We must take an honest look at the main differences
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress