It was a close vote, 23-22, but the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted yesterday, if I may quote the NYT, “to condemn as genocide the mass killings of Armenians early in the last century, defying a last-minute plea from the Obama administration to forgo a vote that seemed sure to offend Turkey and jeopardize delicate efforts at Turkish-Armenian reconciliation.”
It’s a vote I applaud enthusiastically. And not for the first time. Here’s what I wrote back in October 2007:
What happened to Armenians in the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1917 was genocide — an estimated 1.5 million killed, a brutal and systematic process of deportation and slaughter aimed at wiping out the Armenian population — but you wouldn’t know it if you got your history from the Turks, who committed the genocide (now known as the Armenian Genocide, or Holocaust), or from their present-day apologists in the Bush Administration, from Bush and Rice and Gates, the Holocaust deniers who sit at the top of the U.S. government. The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution last week, calling what happened to the Armenians what it was, genocide, but the deniers wanted none of it.
I wouldn’t describe Obama and those in his administration as deniers (I’m sure they know and acknowledge privately what really happened), but they’re certainly doing much the same thing the previous administration did, namely, refusing to acknowledge publicly that what happened in Armenia was genocide, and all because of those ever-so-delicate, ever-so-important American-Turkish relations, which apparently couldn’t survive an admission of truth.
For its part, Turkey has been waging a decades-long campaign to deny the genocide, a shameful refusal not just to take responsibility for one of the most horrendous massacres in history but even to admit that it really happened. And its reaction when challenged, this time as always, suggests a level of collective national immaturity that is truly appalling. In response to the House vote — which, again, was just yesterday — the Turkish ambassador to Washington was recalled and the Turking prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, issued the following statement: “We condemn this bill that denounces the Turkish nation of a crime that it has not committed.”
Well, it did, whether it wants to admit it or not.
And while I understand the desire to maintain close and friendly relations with Turkey, a valuable ally, there is simply no excuse for the U.S. government, whether it’s Bush or Obama in the White House, to play along with, and to lend credence to, such a lie. It might as well deny that slavery ever happened.
Besides, the Turks are bluffing. Do they really want to cut off ties with America? Hardly. They need America, just like they need the West generally, and it’s about time their denials were puncutured and they were held to account for one of the darkest events of the last century.
Thankfully, 23 members of the U.S. House of Representatives agree. Not thankfully, there are far too many, including at the highest levels of the government, who are in cahoots with the Turks.
(Cross-posted from The Reaction.)