Monday, October 15, 2007

An inconvenient genocide.

ISTANBUL (Washington Post via Boston Globe) Oct. 15 - The commander of Turkey’s armed forces warned that US-Turkish military relations will be irreparably damaged if the US House of Representatives approves a resolution accusing his country of genocide for the mass killings of Armenians nearly a century ago, according to an interview published yesterday.

“If this resolution passed in the committee passes the House as well, our military ties with the US will never be the same again,” General Yasar Buyukanit told the daily newspaper Milliyet in the interview.

The admonition from the senior officer in Turkey’s politically powerful military echoed warnings from the country’s top civilian political leaders since the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the resolution Wednesday. Turkey argues that the killings and disappearances of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were not genocide but the result of brutal war during the last years of the Ottoman Empire.“The United States is clearly an important ally,” Buyukanit said. “But an allied country does not behave in this way.”Bush administration officials and US military leaders who oppose the resolution say they fear Turkey could limit crucial air and land supply lines into Iraq as punishment if the measure is accepted by the full House of Representatives.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, reaffirmed that the resolution would be called to the floor this week. A similar resolution was pulled from the floor in 2000 by then-speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, after he was asked to do so by President Clinton. Pelosi said she had not heard from President Bush about this bill.

There’s never been a good time” for the measure, Pelosi said on ABC’s This Week, adding that when she entered Congress 20 years ago, “it wasn’t the right time because of the Soviet Union. Then that fell, and then it wasn’t the right time because of the Gulf War I. And then it wasn’t the right time because of overflights of Iraq. And now it’s not the right time because of Gulf War II. And, again, the survivors of the Armenian genocide are not going to be with us.” [Emphasis mine]
The rest is here. True. There will never be a "good time" for this, considering - as the breathless warcheerleaders in the Bootlicking Corporate Media are quick to tell us over and over during the last few days - that so much of “our” so-called “war on terror” is so “dependent” on our alliance with Turkey. We need the bases, we need the fly-over airspace, we need a whole list of things from them. And we need them NOT to invade northern Iraq in their efforts to subjugate the PKK guerrillas who are seeking an autonomous Kurdish state, which the Kurds are loathe to acquiesce to. As I write this, CNN is reporting, as they have been since Friday, that the Turks are “massing troops” at their border with Iraq, apparently waiting for this resolution to pass so they can have their excuse to invade. Or something like that.

I do find the timing of this Congressional resolution interesting, and I wonder whether it’s only being pushed now as a way to hamper The Decider’s war in Iraq. If it is, I wonder why it took this long for Speaker Pelosi to get around to bringing it up, if it was so darn important. I mean, we have had many decades to do this. And I wonder at the energy and emotion that’s being brought to this resolution, when it seems like so much other more important and much more pressing business (like our war in Iraq and, say, impeachment) doesn’t garner half the fuss and bother that this thing has.

But, then again, we do understand that what happened to the Armenians at the hands of the Turks (then the Ottoman Empire) beginning in 1915 was GENOCIDE. It’s really all you can call it. Calling it was it is, by its proper name, is important. America failed to act when this happened, as it failed to act as the Holocaust unfolded in Europe, as it failed to act during the other genocides that have occurred since then, as it is failing to do in the case of Darfur right this very minute. Congress - with a few vocal exceptions - has been almost completely mute on that subject, along with the lip service being paid by the Bush/Cheney regime, but here, we get lots of strong words, and, one would think, the understanding that passing this resolution will - rightly or wrongly - have serious consequences almost a century after the fact.

However, it is up to nations which consider themselves to be democracies to speak out for human rights and against crimes against humanity. America has its own such crimes to answer for: in the killing of millions as a result of the African slave trade, in the extermination of the American Indians, in its active involvement in the genocides in Guatemala and East Timor, in the way it turned its back on Cambodia and Rwanda, in its coming too late to the game in the former Yugoslavia. So our ability to take a stand on the slaughter of the Armenians in undermined by the bloodstains on our own history. A resolution like this one could have served a useful purpose, and maybe could have opened the way toward a conversation which could have forced us not only to take a hard look at our own history, but also to force us, once and for all, to decide just what it is our country - and we - stand for as citizens of the world.

Sadly, Mr. Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq has made that impossible now. Political and military expedience will once again over-ride saying and doing what is right. And the blood will continue to flow as the butchers are left to do their work, and as the rest of the world stands by and pathetically wrings its hands.

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