Thursday, October 11, 2007

Something to bear in mind

It’s a major achievement for George Bush to lower my opinion of him, but he’s managed it. This time it’s holocaust denial, in the face of a congressional committee vote:

The nonbinding House resolution says the deportation of nearly 2 million Armenians from the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923, resulting in the deaths of 1.5 million of them, amounted to "genocide."

Bush and his officials had lobbied hard against this, and they deplore the result:

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack issued a statement expressing "regret" for the committee's action, warning the resolution "may do grave harm to U.S.-Turkish relations and to U.S. interests in Europe and the Middle East."

Yes, it may well be expedient to pander to the political pathologies of a strategically useful country. But some lines just shouldn’t be crossed.

The 1948 Genocide Convention obliges its signatories (including, since 1988, the US) “to prevent and to punish” genocide. The record on this has been somewhat mixed, shall we say. But if such action is too often beyond our will, then we can – we must – at least bear witness to such atrocities, call them by their proper name, and make sure they aren’t forgotten.

As Hitler put it: “Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?”

Not the leader of the free world, alas.

I’m sure relations with Iran could be usefully improved by acquiescing in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s own brand of sly denial – any takers?

Update: Simon Tisdall (via Norm) has a novel take: “As most Turks see it, this… is an insulting, gratuitous interference in their sovereign affairs.” If so, then merely talking about early 20th-century history now constitutes “extraterritorial meddling”. I’m not convinced.

It may also be worth noting that the genocide pre-dates not just the current Turkish government and the births of almost all living Turks; it pre-dates the very formation of the Republic of Turkey from the Ottoman rubble.

1 comment:

The Contentious Centrist said...

Historical truth should not be established by vote. Like global warming, whether it is occurring or not, what causes it if it does, these are specific issues which should be extra-political. By which I mean, they should not be a matter left for politicians to decide.

In view of Jimmy Carter's recent pronouncement that a genocide is not taking place in Darfur, perhaps Congress should defer to him on determining whether an Armenian genocide actually occurred. Judging by his cautious tiptoeing around the facts as the current genocide is unfolding in front of our eyes, he might even prove useful to the Bush administration.