By Mansour El-Kikhia
I am intrigued by this week's vote in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives. The committee voted 27-21 to classify the death of Armenians under Turkish occupation at the beginning of the previous century as genocide.
President Bush warned that Turkey would not be pleased by the vote and might be so offended that it would suspend all American traffic to northern Iraq. However, Bush's major fear is a Turkish invasion of Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq in search of Kurdistan Workers Party terrorists who have been conducting operations in Turkey and withdrawing to Kurdish Iraq.
I first learned of the Armenian version of events and the claims of genocide many years ago when I lived in Lebanon with its sizable Armenian minority. I was even more surprised to find so many Armenians learning and speaking Turkish as though they were keeping the memory alive.
While I sympathize with the Armenians, I also feel sorry for the Turks, who were severed from their history and culture in the early 1920s by the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. In the minds of many Turks, pre-Ataturk Turkey did not exist and they certainly don't want to be held accountable for it.
The Turks will not take responsibility for events not in their memory banks and, as expected, many young Turks will respond with hostility to the United States, Armenia and Armenians in and outside Turkey.
I am not surprised at the perseverance of Armenians to rectify what they perceive as an injustice committed by the Turks, but I am a little surprised at the congressional pandering. What do the Armenians and Congress hope to achieve by this action, short of alienating a U.S. ally at a time when America needs every one it can get?
Additionally, if Congress wants to play this role, it also needs to pass a slew of resolutions classifying other historical atrocities as genocide. The first can be in support of the other 3.9 million people who died in the ovens of Nazi Germany but whom we rarely hear about; these included Gypsies, Poles, Czechs, Germans and other people of occupied lands.
Italy needs to be held accountable for the death of 1.8 million Libyans in concentration camps from 1926-1933. France has to be held accountable for the murder of more than 1 million Algerians from 1954-1962. How about a resolution slamming Stalin-era Russia for what it did to the Chechnyans and other occupied peoples? Or maybe a resolution faulting the Japanese for what they did to China or Korea?
I hate to say this, but few areas of the world did not suffer at human hands, and the time has come to stop holding the children responsible for the sins of parents. Only then will humanity be able to start fresh.
Does anyone think that Turkish future policies toward Armenians will not be influenced by this vote? Germans resent being reminded every day how awful their parents, their grandparents and their culture have been, and might still be, for the atrocities committed by Nazi thugs. What is preventing closer relations between Asian countries except ancient hostilities and claims of genocide?
I suppose age modifies one's view of the world and provides a point of reference. However, I do know that the massacres and genocides we experienced during the past decade or two have their roots in history because one group or another blames the children for the sins of the parents or grandparents. In these we can include Bosnia, Rwanda, Liberia, Ivory Coast and a host of others.
A wise Japanese once said, why worry about your beard if your head is going to be cut off? The time has come to solve the current genocides, such as the one in Darfur and potential ones in Palestine, Western China, Tibet and the former Soviet Republics of Kazakhstan and Chechnya, rather than dwell on the past, which certainly has not proven to be a lesson for the future.
Source: “San Antonio Express-News”, 11 October 2007