Thursday, October 11, 2007

We Can No Longer Deny History

"Who Remembers the Armenians?"

Those words were uttered by Adolf Hitler at the dawn of World War II. Hitler was asked by his generals what he thought the world would say if they killed everyone who got in their way during the 1939 invasion of Poland.

There's a thin line between "atrocity" and "massacre" and what we describe as "genocide." Surely we all agree what the Turkish did during World War I against the Ottoman Empire's Armenian population is indeed an atrocity. It was indeed a massacre, but it also was genocide. We can no longer to afford to deny history, for perhaps if we did remember the Armenians in 1939, Hitler's genocide may not have happened.

Our relationship with Turkey is a unique and important one. Having been to Turkey recently, I can account for how Westernized and modern the country really is and how friendly to Americans the Turkish people are. Still, good friends do not deny the mistakes their friends make, especially if it can prevent those mistakes from happening to someone else in the future. Turkey committed genocide 90 years ago, and the Turley that exists today is a completely different one than the Turkey that slaughtered 1.5 million Armenians, but it does not erase history. Germany knows this, Turkey must also understand this.

Already, a slew of our allies, including members of NATO, do recognize the genocide including; Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela. Wales in Britain and New South Wales in Australia also recognize what happened as a genocide, as do 39 US States; Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Even as the genocide was going on, in 1916, the United States Ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau Sr. described the acts against the Armenians as "race extermination."

If the United States truly wants to keep its moral authority in the world. If the United States truly wants to be the beacon of freedom and the advocate for human rights, then we have to call out our friends and allies when they are wrong. We cannot continue to be the world's advocate for freedom and human rights when we only advocate when it's convenient for us, and ignore history when it's not. We would not rescind our beliefs that the Holocaust was genocide if Germany threatens to close Rammstein unless we do. Turkey sought to eliminate the Armenians from Turkish territory, either by deporting them or by killing them, just as Hitler sought to rid Germany of Jews. All the Armenians were guilty of was having the gall to ask for independence, something we know all too dear. No amount o resistance from the Armenians gave the Turkish the right to do what they did.

Also, when did we start to suddenly care about what NATO allies think about us? George W. Bush didn't take Turkey into consideration when he invaded Iraq and because of the Kurdish issue, Turkey had a huge stake in what would happen in Iraq, and our administration barely took them into account. Now, suddenly, we're concerned?

The United States Congress is not out to destroy Turkey, or even make our friend look bad. Rather, they are seeking to remember the Armenians, so another madman like Adolf Hitler doesn't turn around and throw our denial in our face and use it to justify their genocide.

No comments: