No End of a Lesson

On Saturday 24th April, Armenians in Yerevan marked the solemn commemoration of the 95th anniversary of the genocide that began under the Ottoman Turks in 1915, in which about 1.5 million Armenians were killed.

What’s unusual about the above paragraph? This was reported in most serious news outlets, but not all using exactly the same expression – because the present, and almost every recent, Turkish government proscribes the word genocide, and will punish its own citizens and strongly censure foreigners for even mentioning  the offending word. Yet, the Turkish authorities do not deny that more that a million Armenians died, but give different reasons other than government repression for what happened, and vehemently deny any  suggestion of possible “genocide”.  Isn’t that just another instance of state-sponsored  revisionism?

It seems ironical that in most European and many other countries, the so-called “Holocaust deniers” are condemned, yet in another country a generally acknowledged crime against humanity is officially denied and any attempt to re-establish the historical truth is stifled and denounced.

This presents another problem for President Obama, who issued a statement on that day commemorating the victims but omitting any mention of genocide. Of course, this is politics and diplomacy driven by pragmatism, and it’s  more
important to prioritize the more pressing reconciliation effort between Turkey and Armenia over some emotional issue of historicity. Also, in order to avoid alienating an important ally, the Obama administration tried unsuccessfully to stop an earlier vote on a House Foreign Affairs Committee which voted narrowly to condemn the killings as an act of genocide. Yet, only two years ago Obama said that  “the Armenian genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact.” He also criticized the Bush administration for  recalling an ambassador who had dared to pronounce the word!

Is ‘compromise’ a convenient  euphemism for ‘broken promise’? Ask Obama, whose ideas and idealism  have repeatedly been compromised for the sake of fairness or pragmatism or whatever.  Sadly, he ended up alienating both sides which is not surprising. His clumsy attempts at compromise have been mentioned in earlier blog posts here, the most recent being on his kowtowing to the Chinese in an  attempt to placate them for his  White House meeting with the Dalai Lama. But the Chinese are still not pleased. Same  with health care reform; whatever happened to the public option?

Not surprisingly, the  present Obama compromise nonetheless provoked a sharp reaction from the Turkish foreign ministry who excoriated him for one-sided meddling with the Turkish-Armenian history for political motives.

Let us admit it fairly, as a business people should,
We have had no end of a lesson;  it will do us no end of good.
– Rudyard Kipling.

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