Lacking Moral Tenet To Right The Wrong

Alon Ben-Meir

American Chronicle, CA
Oct 18 2007

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs which adopted a resolution
calling the Armenian mass killing by Ottoman Turks genocide, has
basically sat in judgment on an event that occurred 92 years ago. The
question here is whether the mass killing of Armenians during the
World War I era was genocide committed by the Ottoman’s military,
as many contend — or was it the result of world war during which
millions were killed on all sides, including the Armenians, as the
Turkish government insists.

I believe the resolution is misguided not because there is any
doubt about the hundreds of thousands of Armenians that were killed,
but because of the inclination to dismiss this most abhorrent act
by labeling it as genocide, call it a day, and expect to resume
normal relations with Turkey as if nothing happened. Why have so many
congressional leaders been taken aback by Turkey’s swift admonishment
of the United States over the committee’s vote? Is it because they
miss-assessed the Turkish government’s sensitivity or because they have
really never given this important matter the serious consideration it
deserves. Either way, the committee members have failed in discharging
their due diligence and will fail again, even more acutely, if they
support the resolution should it come to the House floor. They must
first examine their own motivation and the dire implications, both
moral and practical, of its passage.

Sadly, this resolution was politicized at the outset, thereby
diminishing much of its moral tenet, although not its repercussions.

It was sponsored by many members of Congress, especially House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Representatives from New Jersey and
Michigan, who have especially large Armenian constituencies. However
large the political benefit these members may gain by pushing this
resolution, it will quickly fade in the face of the moral erosion
the House will suffer by acknowledging the damage they will inflict
on Turkish-U.S. relations. As was once observed by Nehru: "Political
surrender leads almost inevitably to moral surrender also." Such a
serious resolution requires the application of the highest moral review
and conduct, not a politically convenient act which is considered
an insult to Turkish identity. If genocide was in fact committed,
it should be left to an international investigative tribunal, not
politicians who need to be reelected every two years.

Turkey has been a loyal friend of the United States for more than a
half century. It is a modern secular state, and has made great strides
in remaining democratic and progressive. Should the United States
Congress hold the great grandchildren of the Ottomans responsible
for sins of their Fathers which might have been perpetrated 92
years ago? Since Turkey vehemently rejects the term genocide, what
judgment should then be passed, and by whom, that will not tarnish
the present generation of Turks? A generation that had nothing to
do with past events and, in fact, condemns the atrocities committed
during that heinous war, regardless of who the perpetrators were. As
one high Turkish official dismayed by what is happening told me: "The
importance of the issue requires more than a cursory review by some
member of the House?" By way of example he said, "It was not enough
to accuse the Germans of the Third Reich with genocide. The Nuremberg
Trials were set up to prosecute the executers of Hitler’s madness,
but also established beyond a shadow of a doubt Germany’s acts of
genocide." "There was never a review by an international judiciary of
the alleged Turkish genocide and no such determination was ever made."

Regardless of the importance of the U.S.-Turkish strategic partnership,
it would be a mistake to try to persuade members of the House to
reject the resolution, as many have withdrawn their support, solely
on the ground that it would seriously undermine such relations or
the United States efforts in the Middle East. The argument against
the resolution by the full House should be based on moral grounds
and the members must not act as judges and jurors. Before the House
establishes, for the record, an official U.S. version of what actually
happened, a thorough and exhaustive investigation of the events by
an international judiciary must first take place.

Yes, America must speak out against genocide. But at a time when
America suffers from a sagging global image and a loss of much of its
moral authority due to the events in Iraq, the United States Congress
must redouble its efforts to build its case on a strong moral tenet.

Turkey deserves the judgment of an independent and impartial
international tribunal and the Armenians deserve justice and not
political favors.

Professor Alon Ben-Meir teaches courses on international negotiations
and Middle Eastern studies at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU.

He is also the Middle East Project Director at the World Policy

[email protected]

http://www.americanchronicle .com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=40564

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