By Raffi Savazian (Sydney, Australia) and D. Abrahamian BA, MD (Ontario, Canada) October 21, 2007
On October 10, 2007, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed a non-binding resolution HR106 that recognized the WWI massacres of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turks as “Genocide”. It is also worth noting that even those members who voted against the resolution did not question the veracity of the Genocide. It is not clear whether the resolution will be slated for a vote in the full House, despite previous assurances by the speaker.
This resolution has fueled anger and disapproval from both the Turkish Government and the US Administration. The latter argues that Turkey is a close ally, and because of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the timing of such a resolution compromises American interests in the region. It furthermore, in an obtuse way, states that this resolution will not serve the process of reconciliation between the Armenian and Turkish people.
Protagonists of the administration’s view, as expected, fuelled by the overt financial and diplomatic backing of the Turkish government, have gone to great lengths trying to convince the public that this resolution will threaten the national interests, hamper war efforts in Iraq and put American lives in danger. In their fury they have unearthed every possible argument, used all measures by playing the card of fear and uncertainty.
For several decades the Armenians in America and the Diaspora at large have been campaigning against this Genocide denial. In view of the obstructionist and overt denialist stance of successive regimes in Turkey, they have justly resorted to measures leading to recognizing the Genocide by various legislatures and governments around the world. It was a matter of time, albeit belatedly, that this matter would hit the floor of the house again, as it had been on two previous occasions. After all, the US archives are full of documentation of the massacres, and the American diplomats were amongst the first people who reported about extermination of a race.
Due to the unprecedented diplomatic pressure that has been exerted on Americans from Ankara, some former sponsors of the resolution from both the Republican and Democratic parties have apparently had second thoughts. A core of initial sponsors is trying hard to convince hesitant colleagues that it’s high time America stands firm on moral grounds. Many voices from Europe and Israel have encouraged steadfastness on this matter. Samantha Power, the renowned author and founding executive director of Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy wrote, “While it is essential to ensure that Turkey continues to ‘treat the Americans all right,’ a stable, fruitful, 21st century relationship cannot be built on a lie.” Ha’aretz went even further, “Recognizing past wrongs and calling them by name (i.e. Genocide) is difficult, and may even seem insurmountable, but the Turks must find the courage to try to do so.”
Many web users have reminded President G. W. Bush of his words from February 2000 where he stated: “The Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and commands all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful crime in a century of bloody crimes against humanity.”
Year after year, the Armenian issue is raised in the USA but fails to make its mark due to geopolitical instability. The question must be asked: how long will this injustice of non recognition prevail? The administration has noted that the army will be in Iraq for years to come. So does this mean recognition will always be delayed or perpetually denied because of Turkish diplomatic and strategic threats against the United States? What if Iran becomes embroiled in the battleground? Or is the United States discreetly using the Armenian Genocide issue as a political tool to keep Turkey in line to help American interests in the Middle East? Whatever the case may be, Armenians, who have been grieving for decades the slaughter of their fellow Armenians and the destruction of their ancestral homeland, have been vilified in every way possible because they have been merely asking for simple justice, which has caused diplomatic frictions.
But the Administration is also guilty of using a double standard because a month ago it labeled the Iranian President “a Holocaust denier”. Yet, its feverish effort to obstruct resolution HR106 from reaching the floor of the House is exactly the same. Is it not another form of denial but on a grander scale? Just recently the Dalai Lama received the highest honour from the USA despite strong diplomatic objections from China. Are we led to believe that Ankara has more diplomatic muscle than Beijing? In this context it is hard to believe that only expediency is at play. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that America itself has not made its own official and compensatory peace with its own past notably in regards to the massacres of the native Indians and the system of black slavery.
It has been suggested in some circles that perhaps resolution HR106 is being manipulated by the anti-war movement with the sole purpose of bringing the troops home. This case has the merit, it is said, that with these perceived additional threats against American troops, the call to bring them back earlier will be intensified and gain momentum. But this far fetched postulate is hard to document one way or the other.
And so now the American people face a moral dilemma. Some believe this resolution endangers the troops stationed abroad which is an immediate concern that overrides a Human Rights issue that happened over nine decades ago. This has been the mentality for a long time. Whereas in the past America has had to deal with cold war concerns, the existence of Israel, Operation Desert Storm, and nine-eleven, tomorrow may bring who knows what. Is the administration subtly carving an independent Kurdistan willing to carry American interests? One thing is certain: fear mongering will always be a factor in shaping diplomacy amongst nations.
But after all said and done, it is hoped that the members of the House of Representatives will have the courage to stand up and take a moral stand as opposed to always collapsing to expediency. The veracity of the Genocide is not questioned; it is the pure and simple guise of morality exercised through political will which is at stake!