Thursday, October 18, 2007

A stranger wanders back from the wilderness...

or: how the Armenian genocide is still relevant.

In the Detroit News today, an opinion piece by syndicated Thomas Sowell attacks the Democrats for supporting what he is calling the "Anti-Turkey" bill but is officially known as the Armenian Genocide Recognition Resolution (H. Res. 106) because hey, what's a little genocide between friends?

Thomas starts near the top of the piece by warning us:

Make no mistake, that massacre of hundreds of thousands -- perhaps a million or more -- Armenians was one of the worst atrocities in all of history.

okay. so. Problem solved. The Armenians were systematically raped and murdered by the Ottoman Empire which is now modern day Turkey, based on their religious beliefs on scale that at the time was completely unheard of. Thanks for helping me avoid that mistake Mr. Sowell.

But wait. He goes on.
Historians need to make us aware of such things. But why are politicians trying to pass congressional resolutions about these events, long after those involved are dead and the Ottoman Empire no longer exists? The short answer is irresponsible politics.
No. No, i'm pretty sure the answer is because, like you said, it was an atrocity on a massive scale. The death of 1.5 MILLION people should never be associated with the last sentence i quoted. You can't dismiss what you just called "one of the worst atrocities in all of history that easily". You don't get to gloss over it so simply.

Ah, but Mr. Sowell has yet to bring his A-game.

They want a resolution to condemn what happened as "genocide" -- a word that provokes instant anger among today's Turks, since genocide means a deliberate government policy aimed at exterminating a whole people, as distinguished from horrors growing out of a widespread breakdown of law and order in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.

These are issues of historical facts and semantics best left to scholars rather than politicians. (emphasis mine)

There it is. There's the cookie i'm looking for. Because, you see, the systematic extermination of a people, by a government, based purely on religious differences should not be recognized by our government as "genocide" merely because it was, well, genocide, but Turkey's a bit touchy about the word. Not about the act mind you. Just the nasty word. Because it's semantics. Yeah, it HAPPENED, just don't call it that.

So, what are the consequences if we actually call a genocide a genocide? Mr. Sowell is glad we asked.

Large numbers of American troops and vast amounts of military equipment go to Iraq through Turkey.

Turkey has also thus far refrained from retaliating against guerrilla attacks from the Kurdish regions of Iraq onto Turkish soil. But the Turks could retaliate big time if they chose.

Turkey has already recalled its ambassador from Washington to show its displeasure.

In this touchy situation, why stir up a hornet's nest over something neither we nor anybody else can do anything about today?

Yes, why indeed? They have land! Right next to Iraq!!! And we don't have a time machine to go back and stop it!!! So let's all just pretend nothing ever happened!

Whether Turkey attacks the Kurd's in northern Iraq have nothing to do with this bill. That makes as much sense as if we invade Canada because France signed the Kyoto treaty. That's a false argument. It's something that shouldn't get any traction in the national press. I can't find any representative of the Turkish government saying that they'll promise not to invade Iraq if we promise not to pass the resolution. If someone wants to do the google search on that one, mine came up with nothing.

Here's the thing. And again, i go back to Mr. Sowell's first quote: it was one of the worst atrocities in all of history. How do you now go forward with any kind of moral authority when it comes to Darfur, Rwanda, and the world over, if we can't even acknowledge this.

And finally, why it's being done now and why it wasn't done back in 1915, and with this i yield to NPR:

The U.N. convention on genocide didn't become law until 1951, after 20 U.N. members had signed it. The United States was the last of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to sign it – in 1988 – and it didn't begin to be enforced until the 1990s, with prosecutions for genocide in Kosovo and Rwanda.

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