The movement to have the United States officially recognize the Armenian Genocide of 1915 received a blow late this week. Congressional sponsors of a recognition bill called off a vote due to intense political pressure from Turkey. Much hope had filled the hearts of the Armenian community when the bill had passed through the House Foreign Affairs Committee two weeks ago. Legislatively, this is as close as the cause in the United States has ever come. Hopes were dashed when bill co-sponsors, including Democrat Adam Schiff, spinelessly capitulated to Turkish pressure and said that Congressional efforts on behalf of official recognition would return when “timing is more favorable.” The genocide took place 92 years ago; enough fucking delays already!
Quick History of the Armenian Genocide
On April 24, 1915, the Ottoman Turkish government began a systematic campaign of arrests, deportation, and annihilation against the Armenian people. By 1923, mass killings had claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in what became the first genocide of the 20th century. To this day, the Turkish government continues to deny that the genocide ever took place, and despite numerous nations recognizing the Armenian Genocide, the United States, after 92 years, has yet to officially recognize it. The ramifications of western silence has had profound historical consequences. When contemplating his “final solution,” against the Jewish population Adolf Hitler said, “Our strength lies in our intensive attacks and our barbarity…After all, who today remembers the genocide of the Armenians?” The quote attributed to Adolf Hitler underscores the “encouragement of silence.” Incredulously, or perhaps not so surprisingly, the Zionist state of Israel joins the United States in failing to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide!
How Turkey Has the US by the Giblets
Israel’s reasons for not recognizing the Armenian Genocide, despite proclaiming their statehood on their own historical experience of the seismic atrocity, have to do with the fact that Turkey remains a strategic Muslim ally in the region where few friends exist. The reasons for the United States’ refusal of official recognition over the course of the twentieth century and into this century are similar. At this moment in time, the geo-strategic significance of Turkey to the US is immense as a war and occupation rages on just south of its border. Turkey played political hardball with this fact as it withdrew its ambassador following the Foreign Affairs passage while threatening that a vote taken on the resolution could hamper relations between the two countries and thus complicate the US war effort in Iraq. To further complicate matters, Kurdish rebels ambushed and killed twelve Turkish soldiers earlier this week. Angered, Turkish officials claimed that they would cross into Iraq if need be to attack Kurdish rebels. The fact that most of US supplies are flown into Iraq through Turkey, coupled with the potential destabilizing conflict on the Iraq-Turkey border had Bush quick to speak out against the Armenian Genocide Recognition bill.
This current political reality reveals an important lesson. According to Just Foreign Policy, Iraqi deaths due to the current US invasion and occupation have surpassed genocidal proportions as they near 1.1 million! The Bush administration seeks not to recognize the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians as a genocide due to the geo-political consequences/implications that may negatively effect the current genocidal operations in Iraq! How’s that for realpolitik!
The Future of the Recognition Cause
Four Democratic sponsors of the Armenian Genocide Recognition Bill promise to table it once more either this year or in 2008. However, the current geo-political climate that lead to the vote delay is not likely to change by the end of this year, in 2008 nor in the years to come. So long as the US occupation of Iraq continues (and it doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon) Turkey will still have its political chess pieces in place to effectively pressure the U.S. political establishment. Armenian activists and their supporters will never be deterred from their efforts which for so many are grounded in the traumatic historical experience of their elders. Over the years, I have spoken with such activists, including an interview conducted with Serj Tankian of System of a Down as well as Screamers filmmaker Carla Garapedian about the recognition cause. Their efforts will never be compromised by Turkish political influence. Whereas the genocide denying Turkish Ambassador to the US, Nabi Sensoy, brazenly said that “It is high time to use our energies to encourage reconciliation between Turks and Armenians,” Armenian activists know that there can never be reconciliation without an acknowledgment of the truth.