10/26 North Shore: The right time for the wrong decision

The right time for the wrong decision

By Shimon Soferr
GateHouse News Service
Fri Oct 26, 2007, 12:22 PM EDT

Some things in our political culture are destined to never go away. Issues like healthcare, education, social security, abortion, casinos, or the business of other countries are always going to be with us, to alleviate national boredom and at the same time to provide occupational therapy for our otherwise unemployable politicians.

One of these issues is the eternal question of what happened to the Armenians and who did it to them, with emphasis on whether the word “genocide” is politically applicable to the Armenian holocaust as it is to other holocausts. The latest aspect of this question has recently re-emerged in the dispute over how the Anti Defamation League (ADL) ought to relate to the “Armenian Question.” From there the question has found its way to the top level of making decisions for the world. The president himself found it “necessary” to discourage his “fellow Americans” from recognizing as genocide what was done to fellow Armenians.

The beautiful thing about politics, domestic and foreign, national and international, is that truth, though always venerated, is always secondary to “interests,” and always humbly yields to political “reality.” In truth, Armenians were slaughtered en mass by Turks, in 1915. In reality, Armenians were slaughtered en mass by the Turks already in the 1860s and earlier. In other words the Turkish hateful animosity toward the Armenians did not start during or as a result of World War I.

Theodore Herzl, the visionary founder of Zionism, was a talented and influential journalist in Europe. In his diaries he tells of promises made to him in the turn of last century. Turkish business and secret agents approached him, he tells, and offered to intervene with the Sultan, Abdul Hamid, II, in favor of the early Zionists. They were trying to purchase lands for their new country in Palestine. The Sultan, the agents told him, would look at the request sympathetically if he, Herzl, would persuade major newspapers in Europe not to tell their readers about Turkish massacres of Armenians in the 1860s. That is perhaps the Turkey-Armenian-Herzl-Zionism-Jews-ADL-America connection. Quite interestingly, America and Israel both welcomed Armenian refugees and provided them with sanctuaries where no one else would. Just as interestingly, Israel and America are experiencing the same sort of moral hardship in the face of self-imposed diplomatic difficulties to deal truthfully with the truth.

Herzl was not the only one who knew. The Germans, Turkey’s traditional allies, knew. The man who coined the word “genocide” in the 1930, knew. Franz Werfel, who wrote “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh” to tell the world, was a German who knew. Armenians who managed to escape the Turkish atrocities told the French, the British, and the Italians, including the Pope. Henry Morgenthau, American Ambassador to Turkey (appointed 1913), who was also chairman of the Greek Refugee Settlement Commission, knew too.

In the political reality of today, however, Turkey still denies its initiation of and contribution to the exercise of genocide they practiced on the Armenians who lived in their midst. We, who know the truth but have “interests,” help them by denying it with them at worst, or by calling it something else at best.

The debate whether to condemn the practice of female circumcision in the Middle East and Africa is very similar to the debate whether to condemn Turkey for the genocide they visited on the Armenians, because world politics is similar to domestic politics. In both, truth, though always extolled, is the eternal subordinate of “interests.” The politicians who worry about condemning Turkey today for the 1915 genocide are the same politicians who were afraid to condemn, in 1980, the practice of female “circumcision,” a condemnation that might have caused our friends and allies in the Middle East and Africa to reflect unfavorably on us.

If we are fighting in Iraq and in Afghanistan for freedom, liberty, democracy and justice, why are we so afraid to show the Turks that these values are, at least to us, practically above and beyond political interests and are thus “uncompromisable?” Where does Turkey, no longer the gigantic empire it used to be, take the initiative and find the courage to threaten Israel and the USA with “serious consequences” that might follow our noncompliance with their wishes? How does it come about that Turkey, our ally, talks “diplomatically” to us but treats us with the tyrannous autonomy of the Ottomans? Are we Turkey’s ottoman? How did it come about that in all the years of diplomacy and alliance and mutual interests we still haven’t convinced the Turks that they need us at least as much as we need them, if not more?

Indeed, as our righteous politicians are “forced by reality” to change their votes because of issues of “timing,” the Turks, in front of our eyes, are again picking on another nation of undesirables, this time the Kurds, believed by the Turks to be inferior to them. In other words, the Turks are retaliating by going after another minority group, moving from what was Armenia to what was Kurdistan.

There are those who cite Hitler as having modeled his genocide of the Gypsies and the Jews and the Gays after the example of the world’s reaction to what the Turks did to the Armenians. The world, he said allegedly, did not, or did not care to, remember what the Turks did to the Armenians. We are now 92 years after the Ottomans and Hitler were decisively defeated. And yet, in 2007, we’re still trying to appease countries and leaders who are still thirsty for the blood of others.

We in America elect our officials not only because they know all there is to know about right and wrong, but also because they know precisely the right time for wrong to be right or for right to be wrong. Apparently they have decided not to decide on this issue “at this time.” The Turkish Parliament, at precisely this time, on the other hand, applauds the Turkish legislation to gang on the Kurds who dwell not in Turkey but across Turkish borders in Northern Iraq. The Iraqis now seem to promise the Turks that, in lieu of Turkish invasion of Iraq, the Iraqis will take care for them of the “Kurdish Problem.” Who knows, perhaps there are “right” decisions that can still be made for a wrong war or for a war that has gone wrong.

The ADL is about Anti Defamation, not about Anti Denial and, therefore, its organizational dilemma concerning the genocide of Armenians is understandable. They do not want to defame Turkey, the “indisputable ally” of Israel and America. At the same time they know the truth, but wish not to make too much of it, so their chosen phrase is “tantamount to genocide.”

America, on the other hand, should be able to do a little better, with a little more courage. If we could find that little more courage, we could actually be as decent as we claim we are.

Source: http://www.townonline.com/northshoresunday/opinions/x1909899560