Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ankara plays diplomatic 'hardball' with US

From Guardian Unlimited
Turkey today recalled its ambassador to Washington and warned that it would 'play hardball' to persuade Congress to abandon a bill recognising the historic persecution of Armenians.

The diplomatic rebuke to Washington came amid furious lobbying by Bush administration officials to try to pull back the bill.

The measure, which was endorsed by the house foreign affairs committee, yesterday in defiance of warnings from White House and Turkish officials, would recognise the 1915 massacres and forced deportations of Armenians as a genocide.
So what do you do? Turkey is a fairly good ally. It's also a moderate Muslim state. We want to encourage moderate Muslim states. But apparently there was a genocide, and Turkey is not willing to acknowledge it. Presumably one could distinguish between the Turkish government that was responsible for the genocide (assuming that a Turkish government, e.g., the Ottoman Empire, was responsible) and the current Turkish government. But Turkey is too sensitive to make that sort of distinction.

At bottom is the term we use for the event. Why does it matter to the Turks? Why does it matter to the Armenians? It's only a word used to describe an event in the past. Is there a dispute about what actually happened? Could this be settled by an honest-broker historical investigation that would produce a report on the event as history? Are there any present-day consequences for whether or not the term genocide is used?

This illustrates how important it is to distinguish between truth and consequences. The South African Truth and Reconciliation process was apparently very successful in that regard. Simply bringing out the truth reduces much of the pain suffered by the victims and the survivors. It can be done without also requiring that those responsible pay severe penalties. South Africa managed to do it internally. Can Armenia and Turkey do it internationally — especially since it is unlikely that any damages will ever be paid in any case.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Are there any present-day consequences for whether or not the term genocide is used?"

The term genocide was invented based on this specific case!

If you can't apply it to the Armenian Genocide then the Holocaust was not a genocide and nothing else was or will be.

Raphael Lemkin (a relative of mine) coined the term. He became interested in genocide when studying the trial of an Armenian man who killed one of the Turkish leaders who was an architect of the Armenian genocide in revenge. Lemkin was looking for a way to establish legal responsibility for genocide even before the Holocaust occurred and the UN adopted his framework and definition.