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This year, the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington and Sweden's parliament joined the growing number of political bodies that have decided to call the slaughter by its right name. I quote from a response by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of Turkey and leader of its Islamist party: "In my country there are 170,000 Armenians. Seventy thousand of them are citizens. We tolerate 100,000 more. So, what am I going to do tomorrow? If necessary, I will tell the 100,000: OK, time to go back to your country. Why? They are not my citizens. I am not obliged to keep them in my country."
This extraordinary threat was not made at some stupid rally in a fly-blown town. It was uttered in England, on March 17, on the Turkish-language service of the BBC. Just to be clear about the view of Turkey's chief statesman: If democratic assemblies dare to mention the ethnic cleansing of Armenians in the 20th century, I will personally complete that cleansing in the 21st!
Turkish "guest workers" are found in great numbers through the EU, membership in which is a Turkish objective. How would the world respond if a European prime minister called for the mass deportation of Turks? Yet, Erdogan's xenophobic demagoguery attracted no condemnation from Washington or Brussels.
The outburst strengthens the already strong case for considering Erdogan to be somewhat unhinged. In Davos in January 2009, he stormed out of a panel discussion with the head of the Arab League and Israeli President Shimon Peres, having gone purple and grabbed the arm of the moderator who tried to calm him. He yelled that Israelis in Gaza knew too well "how to kill"-- which seems to betray at best an envy on his part. Turkish nationalists have also told me he was out of control because he disliked the fact that moderator David Ignatius, of the Washington Post, is of Armenian descent. Later, at a NATO summit in Turkey, Erdogan went into another tantrum at the idea that former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen would be the next head of the alliance. Cartoons published on Danish soil frayed Erdogan's evidently fragile composure.
In Turkey, the denial has abysmal cultural and political consequences. Novelist Orhan Pamuk was dragged before a court in 2005 for acknowledging Turkey's role in Armenia's destruction. Had he not been a Nobel Prize winner, it might have gone very hard for him. Turkish-Armenian editor Hrant Dink, prosecuted under a state law forbidding discussion of the past, was shot down in the street by an assassin who was later photographed with beaming, compliant policemen.
The original crime defeats all efforts to cover it up. The denial necessitates secondary crimes. In 1955, a government-sponsored pogrom in Istanbul burned out most of the city's remaining Armenians, along with thousands of Jews, Greeks and other infidels. The state-codified concept of mandatory Turkishness has been used to negate the rights and obliterate the language of the country's enormous Kurdish population and to create an armed colony of settlers and occupiers in Cyprus.
It is not just a disaster for Turkey that its prime minister suffers from morbid personality disorders. The dead of Armenia will never cease to cry out. Nor, on their behalf, should we cease to do so. Let Turkey's unstable leader foam when other parliaments and congresses discuss Armenia and seek the truth about it. The grotesque fact remains that the Turkish parliament is forbidden by its own law to do so. While this remains the case, we shall do it for them, and without any apology, until they produce the one that is forthcoming from them.