Messing with History

Messing with History

Volume 74, No. 27, July 12, 2008

By Garen Yegparian

As those who have tried to change history can attest, it doesn’t work.
Check with Holocaust deniers, ex-Soviet leaders (and their counterparts
in Animal Farm), and even Turkey.

Serge Sarkisian’s statement during his visit to Russia should have been
informed by this knowledge, but was not. Alas. Not only did he come off
as being ready to negotiate away the genocide, but it seemed like he
was brownnosing to the genocidal state. How demeaning! I was going to
critique just this gaffe, but he’s made it worse, as you’ll see below.

As a contrast, take the LATimes’ reporting on the example of Israel’s
Wiesenthal Center (for two consecutive days as of this writing). It has
put up a $450,000 bounty for Aribert Heim, Dr. Death (not to be
confused with the good guy of the same moniker, Jack Kevorkian, of
assisted suicide fame). The guy, if alive (his family says he died in
1993), would be 94. Nazi hunters have landed in Chile to look for him
in Patagonia. It’s 63 years after World War II and the Holocaust ended,
and these guys are intently pursuing the guilty. That’s dignity.

Interestingly, one of our SpitRain Award winners, Abe Foxman of ADL
infamy, after a visit to Turkey, remarked that he thought the fallout
(with Turkey) from the c
ontroversy over his `tantamount to genocide’
and related comments is `behind us.’ He also reported advising the
Turkish leaders he met with to focus on current issues with Armenia
(including opening borders) as a way of creating relationships that
will ease the way to dealing with more sensitive issues. I read this as
`divide and conquer’ and nothing else. Is the timing just coincidence,
I wonder?

But, back to Sarkisian, who had an op-ed piece in the July 9 Wall
Street Journal (WSJ). Here, he seemingly corrects his gaffe, but really
digs the hole deeper by avoiding calling Turkey’s border closure by its
proper name, a blockade. He focuses instead on the allegedly beneficial
economics of open borders. Think of what NAFTA has done to Mexico’s
peasantry and lower middleclass workers in the U.S. before you buy that
pile of hooey.

Then Sarkisian seems to laud the circuitous (via Georgia) trade that is
ongoing between Armenia and Turkey. He seems to miss the point that the
increased cost of this routing enables Armenia’s fledgling economy to
produce some goods. Were trade direct, agriculture and small
manufacturing products wouldn’t stand a chance against Turkey’s
industrial/agricultural juggernaut. By implementing its pan-Turkic
policy of assisting Azerbaijan, Turkey has actually helped Armenia with
the blockade. We should be making it politically more difficult, not =0
easier, for them to relent and open the border. I have to wonder if,
given the pervasive corruption in Armenia, some fatcats have come to an
agreement with their Turkish counterparts that, if successful, would
lead to the further fleecing of Armenia’s people.

Then Sarkisian makes a ridiculous analogy of our situation with the
ping-pong diplomacy of the early 1970’s. How can that
pre-Nixon/Mao-meeting goodwill-building phenomenon be compared to the
Armenia/Turkey situation? Had either China or the U.S. committed
genocide against the other and persisted in denying it? How absurd! He
almost seems to beg for normalized relations with Turkey, once again
demeaning his office, our landlocked country, and our whole
world-dispersed nation.

Of course there’s the invitation for Turkish President Abdullah Gul to
join Armenia’s president in watching the Armenia-Turkey soccer match.
On its own, that’s not such a bad idea. It could have been on our turf,
on our terms. If nothing else, it would have provided an opportunity to
organize a massive protest. But in the present context, it’s enough to
make even the most stolid person squirm with unease.

What’s going on? Serge Sarkisian is the guy who stood up to and fought
Turks to our east. Why is Sarkisian being so accommodating of the (even
more directly genocidal) Turks to our west?

By the way, you can, and should send comments to the WSJ
. I did, and it
was posted, though I know of at least one person whose submission was
not accepted. This is what mine read, and it has already been
criticized as being too weak, though a foremost concern of mine was
appearing in WSJ space about the genocide while tying Turkey legally to
the Ottoman Empire:

`President Sarkisian seems to be back-peddling from his earlier
comments (during a visit to Russia two weeks ago) regarding the matter
of a `commission.’

`Turkey has sought the establishment of such an entity as a means of
forever delaying admission of its culpability for the Armenian Genocide
committed 1915-23 by its legal predecessor state, the Ottoman Empire.

`Sarkisian’s more nuanced and broadened approach to this matter is a
welcome correction, though still suspect to most Armenians worldwide.’

Is something cooking? It’s very fishy. Sarkisian’s comment in Moscow
followed by Gul saying they’re evaluating the invitation,
contemporaneous with Abe Foxman’s comments and capped with the WSJ
piece. If he’s running a deft ruse, Sarkisian should at least come
clean with our leadership. Similarly if he’s just trying to divert
external pressure. Regardless, we should keep up the public heat on
him. This simply enables his game, strengthening his bargaining
position. Conversely, if it’s simply a matter of poor judgment on his
part, our
outcry will drive him back to more appropriate policies. The
very possibility that something has been cooked up to ease pressure on
Turkey is proof of the value of the heat we maintain on Turkey through
our genocide recognition and other Turkey-oriented actions in the
Diaspora. Given Matthew Bryza’s recent visit to the area, Foxman’s
Turkey trip, the lame-duck period of Bush’s presidency with its
traditional focus on foreign policy, and the op-ed’s publication in the
WSJ (a bastion of the U.S. establishment’s right wing), makes me
suspect intense U.S. activity.

Write the WSJ, Armenia’s consulates and embassies, expressing your
dismay and opposition to the dangerous path Sarkisian has started