Sunday, October 14, 2007

Denial Isn’t Just a River in Turkey

If we must have meaningless congressional resolutions, can we stick to condemning or Rush Limbaugh? This sudden need to condemn Turkey for a century-old atrocity isn’t going to accomplish anything positive. In fact, it’s going to greatly erode (and already has without even being passed yet) the relationship with a stable ally in a strategic part of the world (the Middle East).

To be sure, Turkey needs to come to grips with it’s past. The slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians in WWI ranks right up there with the worst genocides in history. For that nation to be so resistant to acknowledging it, is truly bizarre.

But here’s the thing: it’s their issue to deal with. Here in the U.S., I think we’ve done a fairly good job of recognizing our own indiscretions –slavery, treatment of native Americans, imperialism, detaining Japanese Americans in WWII, etc.- few of which are on the scale of what the Turks did to the Armenians. The key is that we recognized, and in some cases, made attempts at atonement to some degree. And we did it on our own. We would have resented, say, a piece of legislation in the German parliament in 1998 denouncing slavery in the U.S.

If the Turkish genocide campaign continued today, that would be another story, of course. All pressure to end the genocide would be appropriate. Right now, no one responsible for what happened is even alive.

Strangely, the Turks dealt harshly with the government that was responsible not long after it happened, but today they seem to want to sweep the whole incident under the rug. I’m not sure why that is, but the U.S. Congress rubbing there faces in it now isn’t going to help them own up to it and it isn’t going to help anything diplomatically or politically in the Middle East.

Anyway, Juan Cole says it all much better and more authoritatively than I can, so at this point I defer to him.


Rich Miller said...

Turkey has a total trade blockade on Armenia right now, because of Armenia's seizing of territory after a war with Azerbaizan, a Turkish ally populated with Turkish-like peoples. The tension still exists.

Still, I agree that the timing is a bit weird.

Marie said...

I just spent the last two hours reading Juan Cole's article (he can be a pot-stirrer, but I like him too) and comments, Turkey's problems trying to get in the EU, and Turkey's deathly earthquakes (I got sidetracked, plus I know someone right here in town who lost both his parents in the 1939 one), info on the Armenian Caucus and Dennis Hastert's role in blockign this kind of legislation in the past (whoa), and I have just one conclusion: We have gotten ourselves into one big fucking worldly mess with this president.

rickmonday said...


Funny how you come back to Bush. It was Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, who pushed for this condemnation, not Bush. Believe me, I dont mind sticking it to Bush when he deserves it but in this case it was the woman leader of the Congress.

JeromeProphet said...

There's no way Turkey should even be considered for E.U. membership until it officially apologizes for the Armenian genocide.

It did this right after World War I, and even executed several of the top leaders who planned the genocide.

Why the current regime can't bring itself to deal with this today?

Look at the most recent national election in Turkey for a clue. The "first lady" in Turkey is the first in the history of modern Turkey to wear a fundamentalist head scarf - something otherwise banned in secular Turkey.

Turkey's self determined conversion from an Islamic state to a secular democracy was never fully realized - neither as a true democracy, nor as a secular state.

Liberals complain that the Turkish generals should allow greater democracy, but if this were to be allowed Turkey would be another Iran. We can thank the Bush administration for further destabilizing Turkey, but the problem is historic in nature.

I'd say admitting the genocide cost Turkey's leaders internally, but will help them in the end.

Is it bad timing?

How many generations would you like to wait? Will there ever be a best time?

Japan is still denying its attrocities, and suffers the consequences even today.

Germany has admitted what it did, and has been forgiven.