Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sugarcoated history is for sale, but I'm not buying it

Fresno Bee
Bill McEwen
Armenian Americans will always seek justice. As the author says:

"If this resolution fails, the Armenian community will try again next year. And the next. Until -- international relations of the moment be damned -- the right thing, finally, is done."

The Armenians have become the conscience of the world. The whole world is now witness to Turkey's policy of denial of the Armenian genocide.

America is the land of the free but you have to first ask the permission of Turkey.
President Bush and some members of Congress say this isn't the time to rile Turkey by addressing horrors of the past.

The things you learn.

I didn't know there was a wrong time to denounce the massacre of Armenians carried out by the Ottoman Empire beginning in 1915.

Or that situational ethics should trump America's moral obligation to officially recognize the truth: The Turks waged genocide.

Well, we can make at least one thing official.

History's on sale, and the politicians are wheeling and dealing with an ally in the Iraq war.

"One thing Congress should not be doing is sorting out the historical record of the Ottoman Empire," says Bush, who is pressing the House of Representatives to forget about a nonbinding resolution recognizing the genocide.

Bush is wrong, and so is Rep. Jane Harman, a liberal Democrat from Los Angeles who co-sponsored the resolution but wants to tuck it away until a more convenient day.

The Turks can call it what they want, but historians have provided ample evidence of the atrocities. Women and children died because of forced starvation. Cultural leaders were murdered. Thousands of Armenians were asphyxiated in caves that foreshadowed Nazi gas chambers.

The final death count: 1.5 million Armenians. A goodly number of their descendants live here in the San Joaquin Valley.

One of them is Rob Saroyan of Fresno, who is disappointed about the resolution's diminishing prospects for passage. "When we so easily compromise the truth," he says, "it erodes my faith in the tenets we're founded on."

Saroyan knows better than most that compromise is part of politics. Early in his professional career, he was an aide to then-California Gov. George Deukmejian and held other political jobs in Sacramento.

"I understand how the process works and how deals are cut," Saroyan says. "It's just too bad [Armenian-Americans] don't have the political leverage. Every year, there's an excuse why we can't do the resolution."

Rep. George Radanovich of Mariposa repeatedly has sought genocide recognition. This year, with Democrats in charge of Congress, lawmakers Jim Costa of Fresno and Dennis Cardoza of Merced are leading efforts.

If this resolution fails, the Armenian community will try again next year. And the next. Until -- international relations of the moment be damned -- the right thing, finally, is done.

"This only strengthens my resolve to carry on, because it resurrects the suffering of our grandparents and great-grandparents," Saroyan says, his voice cracking during a telephone interview.

"I remember seeing my grandfather, a strong man, crying. He was robbed of his mother and father as a child. It burned him, and I felt like he lived with hate and questions of why it happened."

Longtime Republican activist Mike Der Manouel Jr. of Fresno wants Bush and Congress to call Turkey's bluff and adopt the resolution. His paternal grandfather's first wife and their children were killed in the genocide.

"How is the official denial in Turkey any different than the Iranian [president] denying the Jewish Holocaust? It isn't," Der Manouel says.

The resolution isn't only about what happened to Armenians a long time ago. It's about what America stands for. Have we reached the point that right and wrong and the sanctity of life matter less than strategic imperatives?

With history for sale, the ugly answer stares us in the face.

The columnist can be reached at or (559) 441-6632. Check out his blog at

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.



Post a Comment

<< Home