Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Talking Turkey...

When is genocide really genocide? How do you weigh pragmatism with doing the right thing? How long is long enough?

The US House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee approved a non-binding resolution last week that brands as genocide the 1915 mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks. It's expected to be endorsed in November by the entire House of Representatives, and is being heavily pushed by Speaker of The House Nancy Pelosi.

The Turks, predictably have gone absolutely ballistic. They recalled their US ambassador, Nabi Sensoy and have been making noises about denying US troops access to important facilities needed to help fight the war in Iraq and Afghanistan if the bill passes.

The Turks regard this as a deadly insult to their country and their national honor. The resolution also plays into historic Turkish fears of foreign meddling in their internal affairs, and strengthens the Islamists in Turkey who can point to Western treachery as an example of why Turkey should move further away from the West and closer to the Islamic world.

As regular members of Joshua's Army know, I've written before about what happened to the Armenians in 1915. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that it was a systematic genocide, organized by Enver Pasha, Jemal Pasha and Mehmed Talat Pasha at the highest levels of the Ottoman government. Between 900,000 and 1.5 million people perished or were sold into slavery.

Aside from all the historic evidence ( read Ephriam Karsh's `Empires in the Sand' for a fairly concise and accurate account), the Armenian Genocide has been recognized in US courts with the settlement of claims by the survivors against New York Life. And, full disclosure: I grew up in an area with a large Armenian population, and I got to hear personal accounts of this from some of the elderly survivors.

To this day, the Turkish government has denied that it happened, partly out of national pride, and partly, perhaps, out of fears of a wave of compensation and property claims by Armenians if Ankara ever gives any ground on the issue. Mentioning the Armenian Genocide is still a criminal offense in Turkey.

The Turkish position is that the Armenians sided with their enemies, that there was no `organized' genocide, and that it was a political struggle over territory in which many Turks were also killed. And for Turkey, that's where it's going to stay, for the present.

Ordinarily, one would think that the US Congress joining the legislatures of France, Russia, Greece and Canada in issuing a simple resolution like this was an exercise in altruism and humanity.

Unfortunately, that's not the case. Sometimes, good can be twisted to serve an evil purpose.

The Democrats in Congress are anxious to foist a defeat on the US by forcing a firm date for withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, but they've been stymied so far, because they're unable to come up with a veto proof majority. So they're using the Armenian issue as a wedge to accomplish that indirectly.

Incirlik Air Base near Adana, Turkey is the main transshipment point for about 70% of all air cargo (including 33% of the fuel) going to supply US forces in Iraq. That also includes almost all of the new “MRAP” -- mine-resistant, ambush-protected -- vehicles designed to save the lives of American troops by countering the effect of IED attacks on the roads.

Turkey's Islamist Erdogan government is threatening to revoke US use of this vital base if the Armenian Genocide resolution passes in Congress.

Yet, with issues like Darfur, Tibet and Burma to write reams of non-binding resolutions on, this comes out of the woodwork now from the Democrats.

The timing is beyond suspicious. Not are the House Democrats playing around with cutting off our principal supply line into Iraq, they are strengthening the Islamist elements in Turkey and literally handing them an issue to increase their influence.

They are - and not for the first time - frankly endangering the lives of our troops under fire to play politics. Speaker Pelosi is apparently so obsessed with forcing an American retreat from Iraq that she's willing to alienate Turkey and risk cutting off vital supplies to US troops during wartime.

It's hard for me to imagine that a US Speaker of the House could be so irresponsible.

It's also difficult for me to come down on this side of the issue. What happened to the Armenians was the direct ancestor of the Holocaust. Hitler himself, when questioned by his aides about his plans for the Jews of Europe famously said: "Who remembers the Armenians nowadays?" My fuzzy emotional side is all for the idea of the Armenian Genocide being acknowledged and I relate to it on a very personal level.

Yet it's also true that resolution or no resolution, the Turks are simply not going to acknowledge that what happened 92 years ago was a genocide. The proposed resolution does no real good at this date, and possibly quite a bit of harm, especially if it pushes Turkey into the Islamist camp.

We're a nation at war, and victory and the lives of our troops have to come first.


Anonymous said...

Excellent commentary on a difficult issue. I guess the difference between passing a resolution and a similar one against Germany condemning the Holocaust (not that it's necessary, since we fought a war against them already) is that Germany already admitted what it did and the Turks will never do this.

Freedom Fighter said...

Thanks for the kind words, Jon.

You're entirely correct - all the resolutions in the world will change nothing, and quite possibly do no small amount of harm.

Anonymous said...

This is a very difficult issue. Thanks for the very good post on this. I must say I have had much the same thoughts as you on this but have been unable to express them as eleoquently as you have.

The bottom line is every civilization and nation has dark spots in their history. It is entirely likely that some American actions or the actions of other Western countries in the past could be construed as genocide. Also, there is simply no fair way to hold Turks living today responsible for what Turks living 92 years ago did. In additon to this, piecing together events from 92 years ago together can be very difficult. The fact that American courts decided against the Turks and for the Armenians does not impress me in the least. The Aemrican courts have often been a ceasepool of corruption where unaccountable judges rule according to their own agendas and not based on justice. Bottom line: war is terrible, atrocities will be committed on all sides: the side who does a better job at killing their enemies will be the victor. Come to think of it the Turks lost WWI did they not? Perhaps had they have won we would not be talking about a Turkish genocide right now.

Passing this resolution will do more harm than good, at this point. Dredging up an issue that happened 92 years ago is absolutely counter productive. The US and its allies need these bases to effectively fight the Global War on Terrorism. If Turkey kicks the US and its allies out, the Turks will likely sign an agreement with Russia. By passing this resolution the governments of the US, Canada, and Greece may in one fail swoop deliver a crippling blow to the US in the Global War on Terrorism and turn Turkey over to Russian control. As for Russia, they will either simply blame "American pressure" and use this as part of their propaganda campaign against the US. Also, they would be quite happy to see the US forced out of Turkey.

By bringing forth this resoloution at this time Nancy Pelosi is not only placing the survival of American troops in danger but she is placing the survival of America itself and the survival of Western civilization itself in severe danger. This is either an act of legendary incompetence on her part and the part of those who are leading this legislation or it is an act of sheer evil. I suspect it is gross incompetence. After all, evil people are generally not in the habit of trying to undermine their own survival. If this resolution passes and the Turks take tha actions they are threatening to take, the backers of this resolution will be placing their own survival in even more danger than it is alreay in.

Some Congressional critters need to show great courage here. They need to be willing to call this resolution precisely what it is. It is an attempt to engineer America's defeat in the Global War on Terrorism. They also need to point out that this is a war for the very survival of our country. If we lose, American survival becomes even more problematic than it already is. It would be helpful if Armenians living today would come out against this resolution. There is simply no way that Turks living today can be held accountable for what Turks living 92 years ago did. Also, there are unlikely to be many Turks or Armenians who are even alive from the time period in question. Trying to hold Turks living today for an action that occurred 92 years ago seems to me to be an act of vengence and not an attempt to seek out justice.

If Israel tried to lobby governments of the world for more condemnation of Gernamy for the holocaust, the world would be outraged. They would likely be making much the same arguments agaisnt this resolution that I have made against a resolution condeming Turkey for something that happened 92 yers ago.

A compromise might be able to be reached with Turkey. This would be as follows: 1.) Turkey CANNOT be expected to pay monetary damages to Armenians who are living today. The only possible exception might be damages can be paid by Turks who participated in the actions of 92 years to Armenians who were living at that time and directly affected by the actions of the Turks. In this case, a trial must be held and some way must be found to ensure that the Turks get a fair trial. 2.) In exchange for this resolution, the US and the West should pay Turkey ALLOT of money.

I don't like the "compromise" I mention above. Enforcing the rules of no monetary claims being leveled agianst Turkey would be extremly difficult. Also, finding a venue where the Turks can get a fair trial would be almost impossible. Perhaps even more importantly I don't like the idea of having to pay Turkey allot of money. If we pay people money so we can do that which is wrong in order to make it more palatable to the people we wronged, we are really no better than the evil people we are currently fighting. Unfortunatley, if Congress insists on passing this resolution, the Bush Administration and what ever allies they have left may be forced into some type of compromise like I mention above in a desparate attempt to give our civilization a chance to survive.

Finaly, if we MUST pass a resolution condeming Turkey, lets focus on something that is relevant today. I'm sure there are many things we can find in the policies of the CURRENT Turkish government to criticize. Perhaps we can focus on their naked aggression being committed against the Kurds. We could also focus on their tolerance of Islamic terrorists and their tolerance of anti-Semitism. At least if we focus on issues favorable to Israel and Kurdistan with regards to Turkey we would be standing with very important allies. Perhaps Kurdistan could replace the military bases in Turkey that would be unavailable to us.

Always On Watch said...

The timing of the resolution is completely suspect, as pointed out in the posting.

Now, I am ever opposed to any whitewash of Islam. But I've decided that, in this case, the resolution actually gives support to more slaughter as Turkey is going to cross that border and go into Iraq to squash the Kurdish uprising.

Anonymous said...

I really think you're suspicions of the Democrats are over the top, FF. Call me naive, but I simply don't believe that they would be so filled with hatred that they would put the lives of our troops and their mission in such danger.

Also, Muslim countries make none to charming references to us all the time. If this is how an "ally" behaves, then we don't need enemies. Time for a little payback.

Anonymous said...

Sorry nazar, but the Democrats do have former on this sort of thing. Viet Nam, anyone?

Having been given his medal by President Bush, I shouldn't be surprised if the Democrats pass a resolution condemning the Dalai Lama.

Freedom Fighter said...

Actually Nazar, yes, they would.

Do you recall Harry Reid's yanking an appropriations bill that would have given a pay raise to our military and funded badly needed equipment simply because it didn't include a guaranteed surrender date for US forces in Iraq?

There are decent and principled Democrats out there..but the problem is that MoveOn, the Angry Left and George Soros are calling the shots now.