Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Debate over word obscures Turkey's need to face truth

San Jose Mercury News, USA
By Richard Cohen
Washington Post columnist.
Richard Cohen below comes with the strange notion that if a genocide does not mirror the Holocaust then it is not genocide. also he is wrong by saying Raphael Lemkin did not have the Armenian genocide in mind, see Open Letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But nonetheless he admits that Turkey must revisit its past without any judicial interference. I quote his conclusion "But, it may yet occur to someone in the government that Turkey's tantrums have turned an obscure - non-binding! - congressional resolution into yet another round of tutorials on the Armenian tragedy of 1915. Call it genocide or call it something else, but there is only one thing to call Turkey's insistence that it and its power will determine the truth: unacceptable.". In essence this means reality hurts to quote a French adage.
It goes without saying that the House resolution condemning Turkey for the "genocide" of Armenians in 1915 will serve no earthly purpose and that it will, to say the least, complicate if not severely strain U.S.-Turkey relations. It goes without saying, also, that the Turks are extremely sensitive on the topic and since they are helpful in the war in Iraq and a friend to Israel, that their feelings ought to be taken into account. All of this is true, but I would feel a lot better about killing this resolution if the argument wasn't so much about how we need Turkey and not at all about the truthfulness of the matter.

Of even that, I have some doubt. The congressional resolution repeatedly employs the word "genocide," a term used by many scholars. But Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish emigre who coined the term in 1943, clearly had what the Nazis were doing to the Jews in mind. If that is the standard - and it need not be - then what happened in the collapsing Ottoman Empire in 1915 was something short of genocide. It was plenty bad - maybe as many as 1.5 million Armenians perished, many of them outright murdered - but not all Armenians everywhere in what was then Turkey were as calamitously affected. The substantial Armenian communities in Constantinople, Smyrna and Aleppo were largely spared. No German city could make that statement about its Jews.


Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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