Wednesday, October 10, 2007

House Foreign Affairs Committee: Yes , It Was a Genocide

The Democrat-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee has spurned the advances of the White House and voted to call the actions of the Ottoman Turks against the Armenian minority in 1915 a genocide.

For the Democrats, presumably, it was more than enough that President Bush was against the measure — then they knew they must be for it.

Sometimes people do the right things for the wrong reasons. According to the AP:

A U.S. congressional panel defied President Bush on Wednesday and approved a measure that he said would damage U.S. goals in the Middle East.

The measure that would recognize the World War I-era killings of Armenians as a genocide had been strongly opposed by Turkey, a key NATO ally that has supported U.S. efforts in Iraq.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s 27-21 vote now sends the measure to the House floor — unless the Democratic leadership reverses course and heeds Bush’s warnings.

At issue is the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, says the toll has been inflated and insists that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.

Up until now, President Bush has been rather Wilsonian in his conduct of foreign policy, but he is downright Kissingerian on this issue. The requirements of statecraft tell him that he must ignore the mass slaughter of all those Armenians — for the greater public good, of course.

Bush and other senior officials had made a last-minute push to persuade lawmakers on the Foreign Affairs Committee to reject the measure.

“Its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror,” Bush said hours before the vote.

So holocaust-denial is OK sometimes, eh? What is this, Situation Ethics?

If King Abdullah wants us to withdraw our recognition of the Shoah in return for his support of the “War on Terror”, will we do that, too?

The Foreign Affairs Committee’s Chairman, Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., warned of the potential fallout if the proposal passed. Lantos, a Hungarian-born survivor of the Holocaust, supported a similar resolution two years ago.

“We have to weigh the desire to express our solidarity with the Armenian people … against the risk that it could cause young men and women in the uniform of the United States armed services to pay an even heavier price than they are currently paying,” Lantos said.

Replace “Armenian” with “Jewish” in that declaration. How does it sound then?

I don’t know the ins and outs of Armenian-Jewish relations, but this is interesting:
- - - - - - - - -
The issue flared in Massachusetts a few months ago. A local Anti-Defamation League leader was fired after saying he agreed the killings were genocide. Days later, the ADL reversed its stance, saying the killings were “tantamount to genocide.” The man was rehired.

Critics had questioned how a group dedicated to remembering Holocaust victims could be credible without recognizing the Armenian killings as genocide.

It’s extortion time again with the Turks:

In the fight over the congressional resolution, Turkey raised the possibility of impeding logistical and other U.S. military traffic now using Turkish airspace.

Is a protection racket really appropriate behavior from an “ally”?

Condi is pulling out all the stops:

Earlier, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates conveyed their concerns.

Passing the measure “at this time would be very problematic for everything we are trying to do in the Middle East,” Rice told reporters at the White House.

And Grandma Pelosi is making nice with the Armenians:

Yet with the House’s first order of business Wednesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi made clear that Turkey’s position was a hard sell. She introduced the Supreme Patriarch of all Armenians, Karekin II, to deliver the morning prayer — a daily ritual intended to be apolitical.

Turkey is threatening us:

“Access to airfields and to the roads and so on in Turkey would very much be put at risk if this resolution passes and Turkey reacts as strongly as we believe they will,” Gates said. He also said that 95 percent of new vehicles designed to better protect against mine attacks are being flown through Turkey to get to Iraq.

I say call their bluff. Let them cut off their nose to spite their face.

Pelosi and the second-ranking Democrat in the House, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, met Wednesday with Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy but emerged from the meeting unswayed. Hoyer told reporters he expects a floor vote on the measure before the House adjourns for the year.

Hoyer said he hoped that Turkey would realize it is not a condemnation of its current government but rather of “another government, at another time.”

We live in interesting times.


The Anti-Jihadist said...

Me thinks the Turks doth protest too much.

Hal K said...

The Washington Post had an editorial about this:

Worse than irrelevant

They said:

"But Turkish writers and intellectuals are pushing for a change in attitude, and formal and informal talks between Turks and Armenians are making slow progress. A resolution by Congress would probably torpedo rather than help such efforts."

The Post seems to be taking the side of bullies here. They are saying in effect, "Don't speak up or you might make things worse." It reminds me of the reasons given for banning the demonstration in Brussels.

Vol-in-Law said...

Bush's general approach seems to be Wilsonian re Muslims, Kissingerian re Christians. 1.5 million dead Armenian Christians don't count for much. This fits with the White House's Balkans policy, dating back to the Clinton administration, which has been one of backing Muslim expansion at the expense of the Christian populations.

Dymphna said...

Bush seems to suffer from selective amnesia. The Turks reneged on its agreement to allow the Coalition to use its bases for the northern part of the push into Iraq back in 2003.

That did a lot of damage, and they're just as likely to do it again whenever they feel like it.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Bush is setting himself and our country up for the second pratfall.

If Bush wants to play Wilson, then he shouldn't have sent troops to Iraq OR Afghanistan. Wilson would not approve.

This last of coherence in our foreign policy betrays his own Bush Doctrine.

RS said...

As an American-Armenian, I am appaled by the effectiveness of the Turkish blackmail and extortion on the White House. Unfortunately this has been the case with several administrations, transcending political affiliation. Turkey is now threatening to play "hardball". I suggest we do the same - the first round being the revokation of the terrorist designation for PKK.

Let's see how far they will like to go.

Aeneas said...

Turkey's presence in NATO is a legacy of the Cold War and should be reviewed. Military alliances are based on threats to the common good. Turkey once protected Europe's southern flank against Soviet aggression. The world has since changed and from NATOs perspective Turkey has outlived its usefulness as an ally.

An alliance is based on common purpose and common interest. The fact that the people of Turkey have elected an Islamist government suggests that the interests of the West and of Turkey are now in a state of divergence. A divergence of interests is not the best basis of a military alliance.

Turkey's continued illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus is further evidence that Turkey is out of step with Western norms of behaviour. How can other NATO members rely for their protection on a country that continues to act in such a way?

The world has changed, pragmatism would suggest that Turkey should no longer be part of NATO.

AutismNewsBeat said...

Why does the present Turkey gov't cling to the ridiculous position that the genocide did not occur? It was another time, another Turkey. Can anybody comment on this?

atheling2 said...


Being Muslim means never having to say you're sorry.

Anonymous said...

If Bush wants to play Wilson, then he shouldn't have sent troops to Iraq OR Afghanistan. Wilson would not approve.

Wilson wouldn't approve? Howcome, spreading "democracy" into ridiculous places and and fighting completely abstract enemies like "Islamofascists" is the essence of Wilsonianism, updated to the 21st Century.

The US should have stayed out of the war in 1917. The world would now be a much better place.

Dr.D said...

The slaughter of the Armenians is well known, and no one, to my knowledge, has made any effort to deny it. On the other side of the coin, there is nothing faintly current about this issue. This was the action of a government that no longer exists, the Ottoman Turkish Empire. That government sided with Germany and Austria in the First World War and was on the losing side; it was completely liquidated as a result. Present day Turkey, and the present government, are not directly related to that government. There is no reason at all to make this an issue today.

The reason this is being brought up seems clear: This is a way to make things more difficult for our fighting men and women in Iraq. The Left in Congress are looking for ways to impede the war effort, and this is an underhanded way to sabotage the US Armed Forces. It is an absolute disgrace to do this at a time when we have soldiers in the field dying day by day, but when you are on the Left, those things evidently don't matter very much.

Speaker Pelosi's absurd comment to the effect that there is never a bad time to condemn genocide simply shows how little she understands statecraft. This woman is very foolish, and it is dangerous to have such a simple mind in such a powerful position.

Unknown said...

No one has made any effort to deny it? How about Turkey? How about the U.S., U.K. and Israel, not outright denying, but not saying Turkey's denial is wrong either. How about the BBC placing Genocide in quotes (on their homepage just yesterday) when talking about the Armenian Genocide, is this not denial? Refusal to call it what it is, is equivalent to denial.

Turkey will do nothing and is not in a position to sabotage anything, that is only what Turkey wants everyone to believe.

The resolution does NOT condemn present day Turkey, it specifically says Ottoman Turkey. The only reason it is an issue is because Turkey has made it one with their denial.

There will NEVER be a convenient time to pass such a resolution. Leaving it up to Bush, we should wait until there is peace in the middle east. Speaking the truth should never have to wait for a "convenient time."

Profitsbeard said...

Bush, himself, said: "The Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign" during his first presidential bid, back in 2000.

But now he "knows better"?

Machiavelli just chuckled.

Or was that Stalin?



Unknown said...

Sometimes it is necessary to be pragmatic. What precisely is the United States to do if Turkey decides to cease permitting our troops or equipment to travel through their territory? This is not a minor matter. We are currently apparently winning in Iraq but but a negative Turkish response could damage U.S. efforts.

Those who tend to back the US position (for example the military) tend to be nationalists and are the very people who would be highly offended by this type of legislation.

This is not to say this legislation is in any way incorrect, however is principle so important that it is worth losing a major war over? Should the U.S. legislature condemned Stalin in the middle of World War II?

The argument there is "never" convenient time to pass resolutions attacking allies may be true, but certainly there are some times that are more convenient then others. Certainly it wouldn't be strategically smart for say, the Continental Congress to, in the middle of the American War for Independence, denounce the French monarchy as inherently tyrannical, because, after all, it was.

Aeneas said...

We should not be making common cause with Turkey just like we should not be making common cause with Saudia Arabia. The Turkish people have voted an islamist regime into power. That means thaat they are opposed to the USA, the UK and to Western Civilisation.

I reassert my position that Turkey should not be a member of NATO because the Turkish people are in obvious opposition to the West. Any support that Turkey has for our position in Iraq is lukewarm at best. Tukey is no longer a realiable NATO ally.

Asking Turkey to be a relaible ally in the war on terror is just like asking Mussolini to be an ally against Nazi Germany.

Unknown said...

"Asking Turkey to be a reliable ally in the war on terror is just like asking Mussolini to be an ally against Nazi Germany?

Ah! But would it not have been a GOOD THING to have have Benito Mussolini (a tyrant more then Turkish leadership certainly, but not anything close to a Hitler or a Lenin) in opposition to Hitler rather then in support of him. Indeed, looking back at history we find Mussolini opposing Hitler initially as he moved to annex Austria? If this would have been possible (and indeed looking in retrospect, one can see ways it might have been) would you have advised politicians of the past to refuse that option merely because Mussolini was a (comparatively benign to Hitler) tyrant?

It's worth noting that allied Poland's government was dictatorial and anti-Semitic. Does this mean that France and Britain were unjustified in moving to her aid?

The United States during the Second World War treated a majority of it's black citizens effectively as second class citizens. Perhaps the countries of Latin America (or Liberia) should have refused to join the US war effort in protest despite the crippling sanctions such action would have doubtlessly brought as well as the moral justification for joining the effort>

The simple fact is we do not live in a perfect world. By by condemning Turkey today (even as a correct vote), we may have consequences tomorrow and the United States and it's allies will have to live with them.

We should not be making common cause with Turkey just like we should not be making common cause with Saudia Arabia. The Turkish people have voted an islamist regime into power. That means thaat they are opposed to the USA, the UK and to Western Civilisation.

Turkey is not at war with the United States. Turkey elected a government that we don't like. Spain did that too. Admittedly, there is a Islamic religious component to the new government (although it was mostly the nationalists, in an effort to attract votes, to block US passage through Iraq). I do think it's far to say that Turkey not only a quasi-official religion but also enforces that religion using legally questionable maneuvers. At the same time, it is nothing like Saudi Arabia despotic regime.

Turkey has always been somewhat problematic in regards to NATO. It's seizure of Cyprus being a major example. However, a major problem with kicking Turkey out of NATO is where to they go after that? It's like arguing with simply ending funding to the military dictatorship of Egypt. It's hard to argue that ending military funding to Egypt will make Egypt behave more pro-Western (although tightening it is different), and I think the same can be said about kicking them out of NATO. I agree with comments that they should not be admitted to the EU, at this time, though.


A final note though, voting against the amendment does not mean one is saying genocide did not occur in Armenia. It merely means one is voting against an amendment saying such and such. If an amendment was brought up condemning the acknowledged facts of, say, The Holy Inquisition, and someone who voted against it for some reason would not necessarily be endorsing the Inquisition or questioning the facts of it.

Conservative Swede said...

"Asking Turkey to be a reliable ally in the war on terror is just like asking Mussolini to be an ally against Nazi Germany?

So they asked Stalin instead...

Aeneas said...

The world has changed since the end of the Cold War. The main threat to western civilisation comes from Islamism. The presence of a state with an Islamist government within the NATO alliance is very dangerous and undermines the alliance on a moral level. We saw how Turkey refused to allow NATO troops invade Iraq via its territory at the beginning of the recent war. What will it refuse to do next? What would happen if it refused to co-operate in the midst of a major conflict or at a critical time? Current trends in Turkey mean that it represents a potential Islamist Trojan horse that could lead to great problems in any conflict involving Islamist forces.

Turkey’s presence in NATO, in addition to weakening the alliance, also strengthens its case for joining the European Union. Even though Turkey has committed many human rights abuses against the Kurds, not to mention its illegal occupation of northern Cyprus it can point to its membership of NATO and say ‘we are good enough for NATO, why are we not good enough for the EU?’ In any case, I think that due to US support of Turkish entry into the EU that country’s membership will indeed become a reality. US policy makers must be made aware that when Turkey joins the EU, NATO itself will split and the United States will lose all influence on the European continent as the consolidation of Eurabia proceeds apace. US policy makers are putting short-term interests ahead of longer-term grand strategy; Western Civilisation is therefore being put in great peril.

At the moment we seem to have great problems on both sides of the Atlantic arising from the presence of small cliques in positions of power and influence. On the one hand we have idiot socialist appeasers in Europe and on the other idiot capitalist money grabbers in the United States who sacrifice the interests of western civilisation so long as they can continue to line their own pockets. If the Democrats win next year’s election then the United States will be merely exchanging the capitalist money grabbers for its own breed of socialist appeasers. Policy will continue to lack coherence and long term planning and Western Civilisation will sink further into the abyss.

As far as NATO is concerned we should be consolidating the alliance to make it more effective. That means bringing countries with similar interests and a similar outlook together. Reliable allies like Australia, New Zealand and Israel should be brought in and unreliable members such as Turkey should be shown the door! Having Turkey as a NATO member makes as much sense as allowing Afghanistan to incorporate Shari’a law into its constitution. What we need is an alliance that can meet the problems of the 21st century and not one that is still, in effect, fighting the last war. We need consistent values and aims and this cannot be achieved by a wishy-washy organisation that is more like a gentleman’s club than a serious effort to protect our interests and our values.

Finally, I would like to respond to a couple of comments from jimservo:

(1) “The simple fact is we do not live in a perfect world. By by condemning Turkey today (even as a correct vote), we may have consequences tomorrow and the United States and it's allies will have to live with them.”

There are consequences for the US and its allies if we do not condemn Turkey. There are consequences if Turkey is in NATO and if it is out of NATO. But what is important is to look at the costs and benefits in the medium to long term of each possible course of action.

You cannot expect an Islamist Government to fight a war against Islamism. If such a war is going to be the defining struggle of the 21st Century then Turkey’s presence in NATO is very foolhardy from a Western perspective. As far as I can see the trend in Turkey is a move away from secularism and I do not think the election of an Islamist government was a one off event. We should not be continuously pandering to the needs of countries like Turkey, they have much more to lose than we do.

(2) “We are currently apparently winning in Iraq but but a negative Turkish response could damage U.S. efforts.”

By allowing Shari’a law to be part of the Iraqi constitution we have already lost the war in Iraq. By doing so our misguided governments have actually given the Islamists a clear and credible victory. Such open support by our Governments is very damaging to the interests of Western Civilisation. The only part of Iraq where we can claim any sort of victory is Kurdistan – and I am sure that our Turkish “allies” are really thrilled about that! Elsewhere in the country Islamism is on the rise and I would imagine that this is something that the current Turkish government is quite pleased about.

Unknown said...

By allowing Shari’a law to be part of the Iraqi constitution we have already lost the war in Iraq. By doing so our misguided governments have actually given the Islamists a clear and credible victory.

With respect, and I do mean that fully, I think this sort of attitude fails to consider the fact that the sort of war the United States and it's allies are in is not one that can be one in a short period of time. It is better to make some compromises if they will increase the likely chances of success of the mission then proceed with an absolutist attempt that is more likely to fail.

I ask, should the United States have refused to aid the Soviet Union during the Second World War in the view they weren't really true allies in any real sense other then a mutual opposition to Hitler?

Are strategic compromises unacceptable? Can we not make moderate our desires for Westernizations in the acknowledgment that such rapid secularization is likely to cause rapid backlash against American efforts and make them much more likely to fail?

What approach would we propose as an alternative since such a strategy clearly would alienate many of the forces that are presently at least quasi-allies in Iraq at the moment. Is it worth cutting off ties with the Ayatollah al-Sistani, for example? It seems likely that we would be unable to maintain our Iraqi presence in such a case unless perhaps harsh measures (such as carpet bombing) were initiated (such measures are rather unlikely). Of course, those measures would increase anti-American attitudes across the Middle East.

Aline said...

Turkey needs the US more than the US needs Turkey. Turkey has proven time and time again that they will pursue their own interests regardless of US policy. In 2004, when the US wanted to go into Iraq, Turkey did not allow the use of their airspace. The US also asked them (pleaded with them) not to enter Iraq to fight the Kurds, and they did anyway.

What's more, is that Turkey made the same threats to France last year, when the French Parliament passed a similar resolution. Yes, they severed ties with France, but (not surprisingly), re-established these ties a few months later and since then, commerce between the two countries has tripled.

What's more surpsing to me, is that we are letting Turkey's government decide what OUR representatives should say. It's illegal in Turkey to refer to what happened to the Armenians in 1915 as genocide. They have a law called Article 301, under which anyone can go to jail for "insulting Turkishness." They are exporting this policy to the US, and we have no problem accepting this. We should be proud to be living in a country where we can speak our mind. In Turkey we would all be imprisoned just for writing on this page, if we mentioned the Armenian Genocide. Why are we allowing Turkey to dictate what we can and can't stand for?

The US has lost a lot of moral credibility in the past few years, and by caving to threats from Turkey and killing this resolution, we are simply conforming to these stereotypes and furthering them. We are sending the message to the rest of the world, that genocide denial comes as a perk of a friendship with the US.

And finally, what kind of ally threatens the safety of our men and women in uniform? With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Here is a rather informative article on the issue:

Alex said...

Thank you! Yes, the bulk of commentary on this is just morally obscene. It's mind-blowing, the stuff you see out there: oh, it happened so long ago; oh, we don't want to upset the present Turkish government; or oh, the killings were just part of the war.

Here's a sampling I found by way of the USA Today, which headlined its roundup of US opinion on the bill thusly: "Is old Armenia issue worth riling Turkey?" Imagine "Is old Holocaust issue worth riling Germany"?! In fact, I've taken the liberty of making substitutions [in brackets] with as much historical accuracy as possible, given that these parallels are never exact.

"Other than placating (its) [Jewish] constituents, it's hard to tell what interest the House Foreign Affairs Committee thought it was serving when it approved, 27-21, a non-binding wholly symbolic resolution condemning as genocide the deaths of [approximately six million European Jews] when [Nazi Germany exterminated] them... between [1940 and 1945]" (editorial, Cincinnati Post)

"There is no shortage of pressing issues deserving of congressional attention. ... But (this) week, some members were fixated on the distant past, examining terrible events that occurred some [60] years ago during the disintegration of the [Third Reich]. ... A political stunt like this will not bring back the dead or punish the guilty. All it does is antagonize the people and government of [Germany], who have been of crucial help to our efforts..." (editorial, Chicago Tribune)

The worst offender has to be Richard Cohen in the Washington Post. Just unbelievable; he should be ashamed (not substitutions necessary here, but I added some emphases): "I would feel a lot better about condemning this resolution if the argument wasn't so much about how we need Turkey and not at all about the truthfulness of the matter. ... It was done by a government that no longer exists... Its troops were starving, and ... indigenous peoples were declaring their independence and rising in rebellion. Among them were Armenians. ... By World War I, they were aiding Turkey's enemy, Russia. Within Turkey, Armenians were feared as a fifth column... If you use the word genocide, it suggests the Holocaust -- and that is not what happened in the Ottoman Empire."

I find it highly offensive, as a Jew, that the mass murder of my people is uniquely a holocaust but the mass murder of Armenians is not a holocaust, or that the mass murder of the American Indians was not a holocaust. And etc. The destruction of the European Jews was the only holocaust in world history is what Mr. Cohen is saying. As for the one million Armenians who were quite literally exterminated (not massed into camps and gassed and burned, but driven out, which is the literal meaning of exterminate), they don't count, apparently. Shameful!