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On the Armenian Genocide Resolution, TNR Gets It Right

These are days of woe for the New Republic, so let me be the first — or last — to congratulate the magazine for publishing the best moral argument for the Congressional passage of the Armenian Genocide resolution that I've yet read. Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble with Islam Today, nails it:

America remains the only country in the world with a universal constituency. Domestic politics in the United States often have a profound effect in every corner of the earth, from determining immigration flows and investment patterns to handing leaders and their heirs the excuses they crave to blur the lines between God and government.


The question for Americans ought to be: Since when is it wrong to speak out against genocide, however many years have elapsed? People of good conscience continued raising their voices against slavery in the United States well after abolition. Are they reckless or sinister for offending many Americans? In any event, is causing offense a reason to stop remembering?

Here is the question for Turks: Why should your history be immune to America's judgment when, according to surveys of global attitudes about the United States, you as a nation are among the most anti-American (read: judgmental) in all of the Muslim world?

Of course, these are precisely the considerations being sidelined by both the left and the right in favor of more urgent matters of foreign policy: the war in Iraq, winning hearts and minds in the Muslim world, etc. But ask yourself: If the U.S. failed to rebuke an ally for its shameful record of denial and distortion about a 20th century atrocity, don't you think the same critics of the Armenian Genocide resolution would eventually use that failure as a cudgel against cynical American self-interest when it became convenient to do so? Of course they would.

The more one thinks about Fallows' Law (perhaps I should downgrade it to an Axiom, since he's only written one blog post about it), the more one sees how hollow it is. The U.S. makes decisions of international scope all the time that alienate other countries with which it otherwise maintains amicable relations. What can Turkey do out of umbrage for having had a parliamentary finger wagged in its face? Start sponsoring terrorism? That'd put a damper in its campaign against the PKK, wouldn it? Invade Iraq? That'd pit it militarily against a NATO ally and further diminish its chances for inclusion in the European Big Boys' Club.

In short, even the dread Nancy Pelosi comes out looking good on H.Res.106., if she sticks to her guns against Bush and company.

I said yesterday, w/r/t Iran, that one could tell a lot about a country by how it wages wars. Well, one can also tell a lot about a country by how it reacts to tough love. Guess who Turkey blames for the resolution? Come on, now… Try harder.

In an interview with the liberal Islamic Zaman newspaper on the eve of the resolution's approval October 10 by the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said he had told American Jewish leaders that a genocide bill would strengthen the public perception in Turkey that "Armenian and Jewish lobbies unite forces against Turks." Babacan added, "We have told them that we cannot explain it to the public in Turkey if a road accident happens. We have told them that we cannot keep the Jewish people out of this."

The Turkish public seems to have absorbed that message.

An on-line survey by Zaman's English-language edition asking why Turks believed the bill succeeded showed that 22 percent of respondents chose "Jews' having legitimized the genocide claims" – second only to "Turkey's negligence."

Wait, what happened to the secular, philo-Semitic republic that's bosom buddies with Israel? I thought that state invitation Ankara extended to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal was a one-off. And I was all ready to see past Turkey's righteous defense of Syria when the Israeli Air Force took out the incipient nuclear weapons facility Bashar al-Assad mail-ordered from North Korea…

If you'd like to know why American Jewish-Armenian solidarity is running high at the moment, you may turn to this latest news item showcasing how our Armenian comrades deal with fanatical despots who try to woo them by offering heavily leveraged support. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was given an honorary doctorate this week by Yerevan State University, one of the more prominent schools in Armenia. (Since the Southern Caucasian country suffers under a dual blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan, it receives Iranian largess. There are quite a few ethnic Armenians living in Persia, too.)

The Armenian Weekly, the official newspaper of the Armenian National Committee, was swift to denounce the university in no uncertain terms, demonstrating once against that a U.S. ethnic lobby doesn't always see eye-to-eye with the country on whose behalf it agitates:

But why did Yerevan State University bestow an honorary doctorate and a gold medal upon a politician, who has shown disregard to basic historical research and memory by denying the Holocaust of the Jews during WWII? It is worth noting that one of the manifestations of Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial is calling for further “impartial” studies on WWII. We have heard that very same argument regarding the Armenian genocide from Turkey and its allies.



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