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October 10, 2007

Comments

Not sure I have much to add other than the Armenians hold a march every year in SF commemorating this. Saw it one day and had no idea what it was about until I looked it up.

But yeah, this seems utterly stupid.

This may not be much help, but to clarify the position of one supporter (me):

The Armenian genocide is the event that inspired Raphael Lemkin to coin the word genocide, and to push the UN to adopt the convention against genocide.

Yet the United States, spreader of freedom, took until the 1980s to ratify the convention (because of the reaction to Reagan's wreath-laying at Bitburg, where SS members are buried). And the U.S. has never recognized the atrocities committed by the Turks against the Armenians as a genocide.

It's past time. There's never a time that won't piss off Turkey.

This isn't a great moment, granted, what with the PKK launching attacks against Turkey (and offshoot guerrilla groups launching attacks against Iran) from territory in which our occupying troops seem to feel free to abduct Iranians sitting peacefully in offices but unwilling to patrol the border.

But, as you might be able to tell from the above, I'd rather see U.S. troops at the Turkish-Iraq border and the Armenian genocide called by its rightful name than a shameful, eyes-averted reluctance to act.

"But it did happen decades ago – it’s not like there’s an urgent pressing need for this"

That's always the way people feel when it's their people asked to wait just a while longer.

Whatever the minority, it's always uninteresting to hear a majority "white" person explaining why you really need to just wait a while longer for the "right" moment to be acknowledged.

It's somehow never this decade. But if you just have patience....

I also gather you don't have any Armenian friends.

"But yeah, this seems utterly stupid."

Yeah, it's just genocide. Give it some more time. It's only been 90 years. We shouldn't rush Turkey.

Also, let's lay off all the arguments about holocaust denial. We could use the support of those people, after all. In another 90 years or so, when it's a better time, we can take up the discussion again. Why gratuitously piss neo-Nazis off? What do we have against them? Supporting a genocide? But it's okay to do that, and in fact, it's a colossally stupid thing to piss off people who do that, I read. What's the point?

Adding to what Nell said, nations that officially recognize the genocide adds to pressure on the the Turkish gov't to reform its longstanding official policy of denial. Considering Turkish citizens can still be arrested (or killed) for even mentioning the atrocities of 1915, I'd say the concern is more immediate than you think.

(JFTR, Canada passed a similar resolution in 2006.)

"That's always the way people feel when it's their people asked to wait just a while longer."

s/b "That's often the way people feel when it's not their people asked to wait just a while longer."

I support this. Turkey will get over it.

yeah gary - my whiteness is clearly the problem here. I mean, if my glaring whiteness weren't forcing my eyes to see a potential meltdown in northern iraq, i would realize just how racially insensitive i'm being.

you do understand that there's a war in iraq right now, right? i suppose i'm blinded by long record of support for neo-nazis and holocaust deniers. b/c those are clearly relevant points to my question

@Ugh: It's getting on to a century ago, so your lack of awareness is understandable. But if you want to read up a bit on the Armenian genocide, I recommend Samantha Power's A Question from Hell. The wiki is not bad, either.

Partly because of the Ottoman/Muslim vs. Christian dynamic, the killings, starvation and forced marches to which the Armenians were subjected was widely publicized in the U.S., through churches. While researching the first election in which women voted in my little home town, I noticed several articles and ads for Armenian relief.

But there was not enough of a response early enough to prevent the death of a million Armenians.

"So powerful that Congress will act even if it jeopardizes stability in northern Iraq."

Because as we all know, both Congress and the President have never before acted in a way that would destabilize Iraq...

(Please excuse the shoddy grammar/typos above - posting from work under the radar, so to speak.)

"Also, I know the Armenians have their own lobby, but are they really this powerful?"

Of course, it's not "the Armenians" driving this in the U.S. as much as the entire community of people with connections to the genocide issue. Which includes much of the Jewish community.

That whole "genocide" thing just tends to arouse hackles for some reason. Especially given that this issue has been one everyone has been working on for decades.

I know you don't mean it that way at all, of course, but it's impossible not to hear echos, when asked "what's the urgent pressing need, what's the rush, why now?" about the vast oppression of a people, of John F. Kennedy's early responses as President for a long time to the civil rights movement: this is a very bad time, if you'll just have patience and wait a few more years, give me a chance....

This is the same thing that every oppressed and slaughtered people has heard, decade after decade, often century after century: soon. Wait. I promise. We'll get to it. Just not now.

It's never the right time until people make it the right time.

That's what you have to understand.

Is the power of the Armenian lobby on an Armenia-related issue any more surprising than the power of the Cuban lobby over policy toward Cuba? It's not like there's much counterweight on the other side of the argument. The vast majority of the public isn't even aware of the issue.

Nell - thanks.

"yeah gary - my whiteness is clearly the problem here."

I have no clue what your skin tone is; I didn't mean to imply otherwise. In this case, actually, I was hearing how my Armenian friends feel regarded, and I see that I wasn't remotely clear, or even quite coherent, in that; apologies. I should have more coffee.

@publius: Gary was not attributing holocaust denial or neo-Nazi appeasement to you; he was trying to get you to see how this issue is viewed by Armenians and Armenian-Americans.

You asked what you were missing. That's certainly one big aspect you're missing.

the precise question is not so much the substance, but the timing. i don't buy the whole "we can't wait any longer." of course we can -- this isn't segegration in the South or genocide in Darfur. it's in the past -- it's something we should recognize, maybe even pass a resolution. but not right now. we are going to be relying heavily on Turkey not to make iraq even worse than it is. (This is a huge huge thing there - will cause an uproar)

so the precise is question is - why RIGHT now

"you do understand that there's a war in iraq right now, right?"

Yes, but it's always something. If it wasn't this, maybe you wouldn't have qualms about the timing, but rest assured Turkey would.

JFK had Berlin and Vietnam and Cuba. If the civil rights movement had shut up and waited, Nixon still would have had Vietnam, and certainly the time still wouldn't have been right. Maybe we would have had a brief window under Carter, but then the time wasn't right again under Reagan. Etc.

The time is never, ever, ever, right for offending powerful friends, or one's self, with evidence of crimes.

nell - fine, but congress isn't exactly a hotbed of addressing racial discrimination, etc.

something is driving this other than big-hearted concern for armenians, imho

"But if you want to read up a bit on the Armenian genocide, I recommend Samantha Power's A Question from Hell. The wiki is not bad, either."

The Burning Tigris by Peter Balakian is also a valuable resource.

"yeah gary - my whiteness is clearly the problem here."

Less your whiteness, and more, with all due respect, your apparent ignorance.

I know, that sounds snide; it really wasn't intended to be. But you seem to be posting about a subject that you don't have much familiarity with (my apologies if I am mistaken). Just do some research and then consider whether this is or isn't the 'right time' and why some of us believe resolutions that recognize the genocide are important, even if it gives Turkey the vapors.

gary - apologize for the sharp response. it's early here too by my standards

matt - same question. even assuming i'm grossly ignorant (which i probably am), i'm too cynical to think that concern for the plight of armenians is driving this on capitol hill.

something else is going on

"It's not like there's much counterweight on the other side of the argument."

Other than the lobbying efforts of the Turkish gov't, no, there isn't much counterweight.

Publius, as to the timing: This resolution has been brought forward every session of Congress for a long, long while.

I don't think this is the first time it's gotten a majority in the House, either. It's an old and familiar dynamic: human rights legislation inconveniences realpolitik.

As I said, failing to pass the resolution isn't the only action we could take to relieve Turkey's legitimate concerns about the attacks on their border with Iraq/Kurdistan, nor would it be the most effective one.

This issue is inconveniencing some other people, too. Abe Foxman fired the head of the New England ADL chapter a month or so ago for passing a resolution in favor of this legislation. He was trying to make the ADL follow Israel's official position (which is due to their alliance with Turkey).

But protests forced him to relent. I admit to a fondness for any issue in which Abe Foxman's right-wing-ness is exposed and given a comeuppance.

The Armenian lobby is quite high profile and vocal. Hell, they've made Denny Hastert's life a living hell ever since he killed the last attempt at passing a resolution.

You want a cynical reason why 'right now'? Abyssmal Congressional approval ratings coupled with the potential of more bad press.

Serj Tankian of System Of A Down (along with the other members of SOAD, all of whom are Armenian) has afforded this issue with more mainstream exposure than you'd normally expect for events that occurred nearly 100 years ago.

IMO, "Something else" = hard g*ddamn work of many dedicated activists + the pragmatism of pols worried about saving face.

YMMV.

"Abyssmal" s/b "abysmal".

"something is driving this other than big-hearted concern for armenians, imho"

As I said: the anti-genocide community. Samantha Power has certainly been a very important figure; I've mentioned that much of the Jewish community is behind it.

It seems, no offense, fairly clear that you're not terribly familiar with the anti-genocide community, or you'd be familiar with all these arguments, and who has been doing what, and so on. It's not a mystery, though.

And, otherwise, yeah, the Turkish government doesn't swing a ton of weight with Congress, and there isn't a large Turkish-American vote, so it's pretty much a typical no-brainer for Congress to feel moved to vote for a popular thing with a strong-willed minority, when the only opposition is from Turkey.

What's driving it is quite upfront and obvious: the Armenian genocide was the primal genocide of the 20th century. It's what led Hitler to his famous alleged explanation of how the Jews could all be killed, because ""Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?". It's a root of the Holocaust. Not everyone is familiar with this, but most Jews are. And everyone who has ever actively campaigned in some way against genocide knows it (whether it's accurate or not). And thus all these efforts for so many years to get Turkey to recognize it, and in the U.S. case, to finally get Congress to recognize it.

It's never been the Right Time up until now. Do you have any suggestions as to what might be a good year to put the resolution off until?

What I meant was that Armenian-Americans outnumber Turkish-Americans by 3 to 1 (though I was expecting it to be more), and there are a lot more non-Armenian-American people who take the anti-genocide side than there are non-Turkish-American people who take the denialist side. But matttbastard is correct that I shouldn't have underestimated the pressure coming from elsewhere.

"It's a root of the Holocaust. Not everyone is familiar with this, but most Jews are."

Balakian's book goes in depth on this. Foxman's denialist efforts are largely anomalous.

There's a simple solution here. Have Turkey condemn the US for acts of genocide against certain Native American groups, or for our complicity with genocide in East Timor, or our support for mass murder in (supply your own example). Clinton, as I recall, apologized to the people of Guatemala for our role in the slaughter there. But it wasn't like he then set up a truth commission to investigate further. High time we did so.

I'm in favor of forcing Turkey to face up to what they did and so I'm fine with this legislation. It does bother me a little to have the American congress in its lordly wisdom passing judgment on others. Motes and beams, ya know. But all that said, sticking it to genocide deniers is a good thing, if funny, coming from congresscritters.

Easy solution to all of this:

Congress passes the resolution; Bush produces a signing statement that declares the genocide never happened.

All is good with the world.

so the precise is question is - why RIGHT now

No. The precise question is, "If not now, when?"

We can't bring back the Armenian dead. We CAN do something to prevent more death in that sad region. The only consideration we should apply to this issue is simple: will it lead to fewer deaths or more death? I think that the answer is fairly clear: it will ultimately lead to more deaths. Turkey is teetering between a secular, Western outlook and a nationalist, Islamic outlook. They are already planning to attack the Kurds in northern Iraq. This action by Congress will give them a gentle push away from a secular Western outlook and towards a nationalistic outlook.

The past is beyond our reach; the future is what we should be working on.

There is never a right time to piss off a friend, but there are especially bad times. For example, most poeple would consider it imprudent to lecture a friend about his moral failings back when he was in college, just at the same time that you're asking him for a loan.

While we have 100,000+ troops in Iraq is a bad time to piss Turkey off. Just when we're de facto creating Kurdistan, which is going to scare the he!! out of Turkey all by itself, is also a bad time. Right now, Turkey needs to know that we are really their friends, that we're not going to look the other way if the Iraqi Kurds support Kurdish terrorists in Turkey, or actively support a pan-Kurdish nationalist movement. Taking this moment of all times to deny their national myth may lead to war between the Turks and the Kurds, which could kill thousands of people and leave America caught between two allies.

And on the other side, what? I don't think it's unreasonable to say that this resolution can wait another 10 years. There are basically no living survivors of the genocide now anyway, nor of the perpetrators. This is about national pride, on both sides. The Armenians are right and the Turks are wrong, but nobody's well-being is at stake. Pure moral satisfaction can wait a little longer.

Turkey is teetering between a secular, Western outlook and a nationalist, Islamic outlook. They are already planning to attack the Kurds in northern Iraq. This action by Congress will give them a gentle push away from a secular Western outlook and towards a nationalistic outlook.

Turkish nationalists are secular, and always have been. The Islamists are the ones most in favour of greater integration (eg, via EU membership).

The ones agitating for a more aggressive Kurdish policy (and the ones least in favour of answering the Armenian question) is the military, which is and (since Ataturk) always has been, controlled by secular nationalists.

In fact, Kurds within Turkey largely supported the (moderate Islamist) gov't, precisely because it has deliberately made inroads with the Kurdish minority.

Again, posting from work. Please excuse all typos :-P

"I think that the answer is fairly clear: it will ultimately lead to more deaths."

I'm so glad you can give us that result for the next one hundred, two hundred years.

"There are basically no living survivors of the genocide now anyway, nor of the perpetrators."

Would you actually be willing to volunteer to tell ten people, who happen to be Armenian, or Armenian-American, that you're sorry their parents and aunts and uncles, along with their whole village and family and heritage, were slaughtered, and that you know they're senior citizens now, but if they just are willing to wait another decade, they might still be alive to see justice done... maybe?

Would you be willing if one was your spouse's parent? To explain to them that this is such an old issue, we really don't care about it anymore?

All I can say is that if people were, in other circumstances, taking this stance about the Shoah, I would strenuously be arguing in opposition.

It's a moral question.

And no one knows the long term consequences of letting these things slide for the sake of expediency. In the end, that's an argument precisely justifying the means (keeping quiet about genocide) because of the ends (ostensibly preserving or preventing some theoretical act by Turkey).

Going down this road, presumably if it required killing a fresh Armenian, for the sake of tens or hundreds of thousands of lives, it would be worth it.

But, then, so would killing ten.

Or a hundred.

Or keeping quiet about just a little ongoing genocide.

And, say, aren't we then suddenly what we criticize China for doing and being as regards Darfur?

I don't favor granting those guilty of genocide a cover-up for the sake of a theory that says maybe the genocide-deniers will be more favorably inclined to us, so long as we keep giving in to the blackmail, and agree to deny the genocide with them.

And I'm doubtful that this sort of behavior saves lives in the long run of history.

But even if it does, it's evil.

I'm so glad you can give us that result for the next one hundred, two hundred years.

Your sarcasm is based on the false assumption that such predictions apply to the far future, when in fact any reasonable reader would interpret such predictions to apply to the near future.

"...if they just are willing to wait another decade, they might still be alive to see justice done..."

I think this is what confuses me about the vehemence with which some people support this resolution. In what sense is "OK, the US Congress officially declares that the events leading up to your grandfather's death a century ago and an ocean away technically meet the definition of genocide" synonymous with "justice has been done"? Does this resolution make restitution to the victims? Punish the perpetrators? Deter future genocides? Those are all honest questions. Particularly since historians more or less unanimously agree that it was, indeed, a genocide, I don't see what additional benefit comes from having the US officially declare it so.

It may be useful to compare this topic with the controversy within a parallel community about the Employment Non Discrimination Act and the exclusion of transgendered people from categories given protection. In boht cases, what drives the timing is primarily internal - these are things people have been working on for years and decades and generations. And as Gary and others have been saying, I say too: there's never a right time for demanding justice if the right time is that there be nothing that would be upset or adversely affected by heeding the demand. It's always going to be something.

By the way, although I think someone said it flippantly up above, I entirely agree that pressuring the US government to acknowledge genocidal intent with regard to some of the Indian nations would be a very good idea. I can think that and also applaud the current pressure on Turkey, in fact.

Gary, I'd like to offer a criticism of the moralistic policy you advocate. I think it is misleading to think of questions like this as matters of morality versus pragmatism. Such arguments misunderstand the nature of morality. If we follow a policy that we believe to be moral yet leads to, in fine, a net increase in the amount of human suffering, then that policy was most certainly not moral. We are responsible for the consequences of our actions. The only measure of the morality of a policy is the amount of human happiness or suffering it creates.

Now, if you wish to argue that condemnation of the Armenian genocide will, all things considered, result in greater human happiness, then we have something to debate. So far you have not advanced that claim.

publius, the answer to "why now?" is "because it wasn't done already." If your forebears were eradicated the way it happened to the Armenians, you'd be back year after year too. The history of this resolution -- and the determination of its supporters -- antedates the fact that a war is on next door.

Turkey will do what it does after weighing its best interests; if this resolution affects those calculations, so will an errant cough or a cross look.

driven by high Armenian populations in a couple of congressional districts (yes, Pelosi is one -- but is that enough?)

It's inaccurate that there are a great number of Armenians in Pelosi's district. There are many Armenians in *LA*, not so much in SF. Not to say there aren't any, but it's not some kind of major population.

"Your sarcasm is based on the false assumption that such predictions apply to the far future, when in fact any reasonable reader would interpret such predictions to apply to the near future."

Yes, that's the point. A prediction, however right or wrong, that only takes into account the extremely short term, says that 99.99999...% of the results aren't even being taken into account.

Advocating social or political or any sort of policy based only on the effects it will have on, say, the next year, or any short term period, while ignoring the results thereafter, would be -- as it always is -- idiotic.

Let's also not forget that, while the genocide itself happened almost a century ago, anyone in Turkey who even insinuates that the genocide occurred can face imprisonment for "insulting" the Turkish Republic.

Orhan Pamuk, who recently won the Nobel Prize in literature, faced three years in prison and his trial was only cancelled because he is so well known outside of Turkey that the government was worried about its EU bid. Many other authors are still in jail on the same or similar charges.

I wasn't being flippant, Bruce, I was being sarcastic. There is something a little absurd or sickening about the American Congress lecturing others about morality, but one good reason I can think of for supporting it is that it annoys an even more loathsome group--Armenian holocaust deniers.

See, that sounds flippant too, but I mean it.

And the reason it's sickening in its own way (though again, I support it) is that I haven't noticed many examples of the US government being overly forthcoming about its own complicity (or actual participation in) acts of mass murder in the recent or distant past.

A prediction, however right or wrong, that only takes into account the extremely short term, says that 99.99999...% of the results aren't even being taken into account.

Gary, your argument leads to the absurd conclusion that we must not make any policy because we can never know its effects in the far future. In the real world, we have to make policy decisions in the absence of certainty. We make our best guess as to the likely effects of a policy and use that best guess to guide our decisions.

If you want to advance the argument that the Congressional resolution will ultimately yield benefit, then please do so. I maintain that the net results of this resolution will be more human suffering.

Sorry for the misreading, Donald, and thank you for kindly setting me straight. (I mean that, too - I realize folks often write such things sarcastically, but I'm not doing that here.)

All sides agree that lots of Armenians were killed. The dispute is about wether it was premedidated and ordered by the Turkish government (= genocide), or just happened because the Armenians were at the wrong place with the wrong sympathies.

Use of the term 'genocide' is a political action imho.

Listened to Dan Burton (R-NUT) hold forth on the topic just now; sadly, it's as if he was reading directly from your post, publius, as well as the reprehensible WaPo editorial, of course.

Yes, there's a war on. If this resolution were to complicate waging that stupid war, well, halleluia, actually.

I am of several minds about this. On the one hand, I really don't think this is about whether or not we will "see justice done." The US House passing a resolution is not "doing justice". It is just the US House taking a position on something it has no real power to affect, and certainly no power to make more just.

I mean: delay on this is absolutely not like delay in passing civil rights legislation, or something. That was legislation that actually did rectify real injustices, right now. This is a resolution that is purely symbolic, and will bring no actual justice to anyone anywhere.

Moreover, there are both real costs to this (northern Iraq, Turkey's own efforts to come to terms with these problems, which I do not think would be helped by the US plonking itself down on one side), and other issues on which a stand in favor of justice could provide real benefits. (See Bruce Baugh's invocation of ENDA, which I think differs from this in part because including transgendered people in ENDA would actually have some effects.) And while there are always some reasons to delay calling something by its right name, that should not prevent us from recognizing that there are some times when there are particularly huge reasons not to do so.

On the other hand, of course it was genocide, and of course it should be called by its right name.

I would feel a bit more urgent about it if the House resolution promised any actual benefits. And if this wasn't a particularly bad time, I'd say: it's a no-brainer, of course we should pass it. I expect to be saying just that in a few years, provided we get out of Iraq and northern Iraq settles into whatever destiny it will end up with.

No. The precise question is, "If not now, when?"

And "If I am only for myself, what am I?

"The dispute is about wether it was premedidated and ordered by the Turkish government"

dutchmarbel, there's a "dispute" about that the way there's a "dispute" about the Holocaust. There is no serious question whatsoever that the Turkish govt of the day engaged in premeditated slaughter of Armenians -- up to and including besieging towns, forced death marches (not "relocations" -- death marches to Nowhere, DesertLand), and wholesale executions. Here's what I've put together about the genocide, with links to more.

Kill every Armenian woman, child, and man, without concern for anything. -- Talaat Pasha.

It's worth noting that the West has a lot of leverage over Turkey right now because they're looking to join the EU. That leverage might not be there in 10 years or 20 or however long it takes you to get your courage up enough to tell the truth even if it pisses off the Turks.

I'm quite confident that lives were lost, on balance, as a consequence of the release of the Abu Ghraib photos. So what? Do you, like Donald Rumsfeld, argue that we should have kept them secret so as not to rile up the Arabs?

"Gary, your argument leads to the absurd conclusion that we must not make any policy because we can never know its effects in the far future."

It may lead you to that absurd conclusion, but I have no idea why anyone else should join you in it.

The point was that we shouldn't make policy on the basis of only the extremely short-term effects. How you get to the other is your own inane journey.

"I maintain that the net results of this resolution will be more human suffering."

And you're back to either making predictions about the extremely short term, and ignoring the rest of the future, or to making predictions you can't possibly make. Either way, best ignored.

The possibility that, say, taking a firm stand now, might save tens of millions of lives in the future, clearly never occurs to you. I don't know what to say to that. Except to repeat that making policy purely because of the effects you believe it will have in the extremely short term, with no consideration given to possible longer term effects, is utterly, insanely, idiotic.

But go ahead, recommend it again.

Gary, if you're going to take an absolutist deontological position, there's no use arguing, but I reserve doubts that you actually practice that kind of moral absolutism in your life or politics. Appealing to family feeling does not make your argument any stronger, however. Any policy decision that benefits one group at another's expense hurts someone's spouse or mother.

Since you ask, yes, I'd be willing to tell Armenians that I think their need for this particular form of moral affirmance is outweighed by the particular life-and-death circumstances. I think some of them might even agree -- just as some Jews fought for the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, and some Jews pushed other Jews to normalize Israeli relations with Germany, because some people can see past their own ox being gored. I'm not sure what that has to do with whether I'm right, but since you asked, yes, I could do that.

As for your rather offensive inference that I would favor murdering people for peace (there is no such thing as "a little genocide" so I'm just going to use the actual word we use for killing people unjustly, if you don't mind), well, no, that doesn't follow, because murder changes the balance of harms.

If you're interested, I'm more or less a rules utilitarian, and I don't think murdering for peace is a good rule. I think that when you start killing people for peace, it is a good sign that your theory of what will make peace is probably flawed.

Eras, you've already demonstrated in the impeachment thread and elsewhere on this blog that you have a particular view of how societies should achieve reconciliation after grave injustices have been perpetrated:
by those who've suffered shrugging and moving on.

No 'nichevo' for me, thanks.

My view is that this imposes a further burden on those who've suffered, and encourages further, perhaps even more extreme injustices by the perpetrators. Before an aggrieved group can legitimately be asked to get past the injustice, the perpetrators (and/or the descendants) must acknowledge the wrong and harm they've done.

This applies with equal or greater force to the great wrongs that our government has done, simply because we're citizens in a democracy (however weakened). But it's a universal principle of reconciliation.

Is there some additional benefit other than recognition that's conferred by congress passing this resolution?

That's a good point about the current window of opportunity to lean on the Turks, although I'm not sure how much opportunity it affords the US, which has little to do with the EU.

I don't think the comparison to Abu Ghraib is any more valid than comparisons to the Civil Rights movement. Exposing Abu Ghraib was desirable, first and foremost, in the expectation that such exposure would prevent further torture of Iraqis by the US government. I don't think anyone expects that calling the Armenian genocide a genocide is going to prevent Ismail Enver or Talaat Pasha from killing more Armenians.

Are there specific actions that we think Turkey might take in retaliation (esp. in Northern Iraq) or a general concern that this will piss them off?

The conditions making this such a bad time in the hilzoy-publius-WaPo p.o.v. have to do with the U.S. occupation of Iraq at the same time that PKK forces in northern Iraq are attacking Turkey with impunity.

The way to improve those conditions, since hilzoy at least acknowledges that it was a genocide, seems to me to be not to defeat or quash this resolution, but to either
1) get the troops the hell out of Iraq and make it an Iraq-Turkey or Kurdistan-Turkey issue and not a US-Turkey issue or
2) put U.S. troops along the northern border instead of having them bomb Baghdad neighborhoods from the air.

OK, Gary, so how do you propose that we evaluate the effects of the Congressional resolution? What factors should we consider? Can you offer your reasoning as to the magnitude of these effects?

The point was that we shouldn't make policy on the basis of only the extremely short-term effects.

OK, so how short is "extremely short-term"? One day? One year? Ten years? Are you suggesting that we look centuries into the future. What ARE you suggesting?

We can be fairly confident that this resolution will diminish our ability to restrain Turkey in its relations with the Iraqi Kurds. There is continuing bloodshed between Turks and Kurds in Turkey. That bloodshed will eventually spill over into Iraq. This resolution will therefore contribute (to a small degree) to the human suffering that results.

I am not discounting long term effects. I do not believe that this resolution will have any effect in preventing future genocide. It inflicts no punishment upon Turkey, and so has zero deterrent value. Imagine a future despot contemplating genocide. "Should we kill all the Burutikanuki people?" he asks his adviser. "I don't know", the adviser responds, "The US Congress might pass a resolution in a hundred years condemning you." At which point they both burst out laughing.

So what we have here is a high probability of short-term human suffering and no plausible probability of diminishing human suffering in the future.

Katherine, the Turkish government has just asked the legislature for authorization to mount cross-border operation against the PKK, since neither the Kurdish regional government nor the U.S. are doing anything effective to stop the PKK.

Another action they have threatened to take is to seal the border to trade (which Iran did for about a week to protest the U.S. abduction of an Iranian businessman in northern Iraq recently; Iran relented after the Kurds and other members of the Iraqi government emphasized how strongly they'd protested the U.S. action.)

That does make this week a particularly touchy time for this resolution to hit the floor of the House. But the border issues are fully capable of resolution by this administration. It's that they're not willing to stop all the guerrilla activity in the north, because that would end the PEJAK raids into Iran as well.

" It inflicts no punishment upon Turkey, and so has zero deterrent value"

Not to threadjack but this seems directly contrary to view on the need to penalize U.S. gov't officials for abuses of power, committing felonies, etc.

"OK, Gary, so how do you propose that we evaluate the effects of the Congressional resolution?"

Admit that we don't know, and therefore lean strongly towards the default of doing what's right.

I'd also keep in mind that at present, most Turks already despise the U.S. and think the U.S. is hostile to them, so any negative effects of anything are going to be marginal. See here, for instance.

Nell, I think you overstate my position. I do not believe that victims of injustice should always shrug their shoulders and get over it. I am instead a pragmatist: I try to evaluate the overall effect of a policy on human happiness. The truth and justice commissions in South Africa were a brilliant way of resolving a nasty dispute and they were enormously successful in that regard. They were part of an overall deal whereby the white South Africans relinquished power and were in return promised that they would not be prosecuted for past crimes.

What we're talking about here is something completely different. The genocide took place 90 years ago. There's nothing we can do to stop that suffering, because it stopped a long time ago. This resolution is political posturing, nothing more. There are real people suffering real injustice right now, people whom we could help, and this resolution positively interferes with our efforts to reduce that suffering. As such, I consider it immoral.

Nell; "Eras, you've already demonstrated in the impeachment thread and elsewhere on this blog that you have a particular view of how societies should achieve reconciliation after grave injustices have been perpetrated:
by those who've suffered shrugging and moving on."

From what I've read here this is an insulting misrepresentation. Please link to evidence or retract.

Gary, your policy proposal is this:

Admit that we don't know, and therefore lean strongly towards the default of doing what's right.

But you assume your conclusion. I argued earlier that this resolution is immoral. You simply assert that it is moral. If you don't know the effects of a policy, then you don't know its moral worthiness.

most Turks already despise the U.S. and think the U.S. is hostile to them

So the solution is to make matters worse? Rub some salt in the wound? That is not the path to peace.

As to the effects of this resolution: As has been pointed out more than once by other commenters, Turkey is seeking to join the EU. Its denial of the atrocities committed by the Turkish government against the Armenians is an obstacle to that. (And in their case it isn't the WaPo, Israeli govt, etc. position that the atrocities happened but should not be officially labeled genocide; they deny the crimes period.)

Having governments around the world name the Armenian genocide creates pressure for them at least to stop persecution of those who acknowledge the crimes committed against the Armenians (by decriminalizing mention of it).

I'm open to tactical arguments about timing, but not putting it off into the ever-receding future. No one who understands the history should be open to arguments of the 'what's the big deal?' form.

"If you don't know the effects of a policy, then you don't know its moral worthiness."

We never know the effects of a policy.

Or do you have precognition?

Nell writes:

Turkey is seeking to join the EU. Its denial of the atrocities committed by the Turkish government against the Armenians is an obstacle to that.

Turkish sentiment for joining the EU is fading. Just two years ago, 68% of Turks favored joining the EU; I don't have current numbers but there has been a decline, especially after the recent election. Moreover, the adamant opposition of the French and the imposition of new obstacles has disenchanted the Turks. If the West keeps kicking them in the teeth, they might just decide that they'd be better off cozying up t the rest of the Islamic world -- which would be a foreign policy disaster for the US.

Gary writes:

We never know the effects of a policy.

Well then, perhaps we should just flip a coin before we vote on anything.

My characterization is based on Eras' comments here:

[hilzoy]: why isn't everyone else as angry as I am?

For me, it's sorta like a Russian expression "Nichivo", translated loosely as "it doesn't matter". But to really appreciate the meaning of this expression, you need the following image:

The Tatars have swept through the village, killing and burning. They raped and murdered Ivan's wife and daughter, stole his cattle, burned his house, and rode off. Ivan creeps out of his hiding place in the woods, stands over the burning remains of his house, shrugs his shoulders sadly and turns away, saying "Nichivo".

That's pretty much the way I feel about the Bush Administration.

Nichivo.

And in the impeachment thread (I can't take the time to link each comment, search on 'Erasmus'):

So the real question is whether we should approach past crimes with a strictly non-political approach (let the Justice Department prosecute as it sees fit) or an explicitly forgiving approach as a policy. In general, I much favor the strict, by-the-book approach. However, I felt that Mr. Ford's pre-pardon of Mr. Nixon was good for the country, because we were so divided and so partisan, we needed to put the past behind us.

I'm not so sure about the present situation. Again, I have no doubt that crimes were committed. If Ms. Clinton is elected, then I would hope to see some prosecutions. However, Mr. Obama seems to be advancing the notion that we should put past partisanship behind us and concentrate on the future. If he turns out to be a genuine "uniter, not divider", then I would support a policy of leaving the skeletons in the closet.

None of this argues against investigation, although I think such investigations should be carried out quietly -- if we make a big deal out of investigating the Bush Administration and don't send anybody to jail, it's going to backfire on us.

...my real motive is...: I don't want to make matters worse by permitting my anger at their crimes to lead me to actions that ultimately would backfire.

and here.

My point is that sometimes it's better to be magnanimous in victory, even when you're right. I consider the top priority for the next Administration to be legislation to prevent the abuses of the Bush Administration from ever being repeated. I'd like to see legislation making clear that signing statements mean nothing, tightening up FISA, clearly banning all forms of torture, restricting Presidential power to wage war, and so forth.

We could get such legislation if we emphasized "healing the wounds of the past". If we took the hard line and prosecuted Bush Administration officials, we'd win some and lose some, but we'd never get the clarity that we'd get from explicit legislation.

The years 2001 - 2008 will forever be a stain on the American Republic. Do we want to ensure that this stain will never be repeated or punish those who made the stain? We may well have to choose between one or the other.

It was probably an overstatement to characterize Eras' attitude as
'shrug and move on', but these passages show clearly that his view of justice as an ingredient in reconciliation is highly conditional.

There is no evidence to support his self-characterization that "in general" he supports the prosecute-according-to-the-facts approach, since in every case under discussion here -- the Nixon, Bush, and Turkish cases -- he explicitly bases his judgement on an assessment of the short-term outcomes of prosecution or crime-naming, and his assessment in every case is that making the criminals take responsibility for their crimes will hurt the victims.

Gary Farber:

It's what led Hitler to his famous alleged explanation of how the Jews could all be killed, because "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

Interestingly, this is (as far as I'm aware) not quite right. Hitler seems to have said this just before the invasion of Poland, and was referring specifically to wiping out Poles. Here's the wikipedia translation:

I have placed my death-head formation in readiness -- for the present only in the East -- with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks to-day of the annihilation of the Armenians?

Meanwhile, there's also a lighter side of genocide: my favorite part of this quote is that both Armenian genocide deniers and Holocaust deniers get extremely agitated about it, but for different reasons. Holocaust deniers generally accept the Armenian genocide happened (dirty Muslims killing Christians) but don't like the idea that Hitler compared his actions to that. On the other hand, Armenian genocide deniers in Turkey accept that the Holocaust happened, but the Armenian genocide never did, so why would Hitler say that?

What's the status of efforts to stop the routine use of torture in Turkey's judicial system?

Well, ok, I can use google. Hmm, there has been some improvement.

the imposition of new obstacles has disenchanted the Turks

Quite possibly, but the requirement that they stop criminalizing acknowledgement of the crimes against the Armenians is not a new one.

I'm leaving for a series of meetings and don't want my disappearance from the thread construed as an unwillingness to face further challenge of my characterization from rilkefan or anyone else.

Will check back in about six hours.

"It was probably an overstatement to characterize Eras' attitude as 'shrug and move on'"

Thanks for the links - to my eye there's not a hint of "probably" there: he could as fairly accuse you of not giving a damn about the possible bad consequences of policies you like.

"don't want my disappearance from the thread construed as an unwillingness to face further challenge of my characterization from rilkefan or anyone else"

I've said what I think and am shutting up, esp. since Erasmussimo doesn't seem offended.

How thoughtful of you to come up with a counter-slur on Eras' behalf. I'll respond to him if he cares to make one, but not to you.

Lost my crappy dialup and commented before refreshing; I wouldn't have if I'd seen rilkefan's 4:01.

Now I'm late.

Gee, I didn't realize that I was so important that my personality deserves such careful analysis, and that such impressive conclusions can be drawn from a few hundred words of text. Me, I'd rather talk about issues such as the wisdom of the Congressional resolution. Can we get back to that?

Katherine - Are there specific actions that we think Turkey might take in retaliation (esp. in Northern Iraq) or a general concern that this will piss them off?

From the AP:
Gates said that 70 percent of U.S. air cargo headed for Iraq goes through Turkey, as does about one-third of the fuel used by the U.S. military in Iraq.

"Access to airfields and to the roads and so on in Turkey would very much be put at risk if this resolution passes and Turkey reacts as strongly as we believe they will," Gates said. He also said that 95 percent of new vehicles designed to better protect against mine attacks are being flown through Turkey to get to Iraq.

Bush et al have come out against the genocide recognition. No surprise.

As much as it pains me, I agree with Bush on this one, though not by a strong margin. But since that puts me in league with publius, hilzoy, eras and a few other luminaries I guess that's ok. I'm a pragmatist, and this one has too much pain for not enough gain.

Once again, a 'pragmatic' reason for passing the resolution is to put pressure on the Turkish government to rescind its draconian denialist policy, which does have immediate legal (and sometimes lethal)consequences for those who dare to breach said policy. Or is academic/press freedom now suddenly expendable, too?

Also, this:

"Turkish sentiment for joining the EU is fading. Just two years ago, 68% of Turks favored joining the EU; I don't have current numbers but there has been a decline, especially after the recent election"

grossly misrepresents the political dynamics at play in Turkey. There is growing public disenchantment with EU membership. However, the strongest nationalistic voices are those of the secularists, not the (moderate) Islamist gov't, which draws its support from a broad cross-section of the public--not just fundamentalists.

The current moderate Islamist gov't officially supports EU integration, for pragmatic reasons, as do minority groups such as Kurds and Armenians who have faced repression from nationalist factions. The nationalists are the segment most resistant to integration.

Also, the fact that Turkey is a fellow NATO member (as well as a trading partner) gives the US some diplomatic leverage, IMO.

YMMV.

To answer publius's original question, this is happening now because there are something like 90,000 Armenians living within Pelosi's district. This should tell use something about your political structure, ladies and gentleman. President Bush, the Turkish PM, the State Department, the present Secretary of State and eight former Secretaries of State can all line up against something. They can use the nuclear counterargument that it endangers our troops, which is usually enough to mute any further rational deliberation. And yet all that really matters are the demographics of one congressional district.

I am of two minds about this resolution as well.

On the one hand, calling a spade a spade ought to be the prerogative of any legislative body. And being bullied by madman threats (Turkey invades Northern Iraq over this??) is not a good precedent, even between allies.

On the other hand, there's simply no reason whatsoever to take these risks at this point in time. Also, these kinds of problems are only really solved when the community in question (the Turkish community) decides to grow up and acknowledge its own past. Just think of what US of Aers think when South Americans passed resolutions on our treatment of Native Americans.

So I have to say that if I were sitting on that congressional committee, I would have to vote against it. Which is just unpalatable -- to be put in a situation where circumstances compel you to deny what is obviously true, a denial you know will be rightfully painful to plenty of people.

It's just damned unfortunate that people who oppose the Resolution cannot do so like hilzoy -- namely by saying of course it was a genocide but this is not the time or place -- but rather tend to take up Turkish euphemisms that put them on the side of genocide deniers.

The resolution is almost certain to pass. More than half the House has co-sponsored. So we will see what Turkey's threats amount to, whether they were bluffs. Or whether what they were warning about was the kind of spontaneous political violence that has no agent and therefore could not be bluffed.

Ara: "our treatment of Native Americans"

I was wondering about this the other day but forgot to follow up - anybody have a sense to what extent this is a continuing failure?

As always with this kind of issue, things not immediately visible matter a lot. For me, Gary's stance is so persuasive precisely because "this is a good cause but not the right time and we'll get to it when it is" has ceased to persuade me on pretty much every front. When things get postponed, in my personal and social experience, they get lost. The flip side of this is that things done badly are often hard to fix, of course - but when there's a chance to do the right thing, I'm increasingly inclined to let that possibility balance out a multitude of objections. I just disbelieve in that calm future moment when it will be better to do the right thing.

"but when there's a chance to do the right thing, I'm increasingly inclined to let that possibility balance out a multitude of objections"

Isn't this benefit analysis in hilzoy's terminology? And, well, isn't such analysis out of favor here?

"but when there's a chance to do the right thing, I'm increasingly inclined to let that possibility balance out a multitude of objections"

Who knew you were ok with going to war to remove Saddam...? ;)

At SOME point objections overrule, right? We're just arguing about where that point is.

to be clear, i agree completely (like hilzoy) on the genocide. my point is strictly about timing. (Sorry, i've been away at class all afternoon).

"Just think of what US of Aers think when South Americans passed resolutions on our treatment of Native Americans."

Not notice them? Seems pretty innocuous.

But to be clear, "my stance" isn't absolutist. I've not made any statements here about how I'd vote if I was in Congress this week, or any absolute declarations.

The thing is, I'm not in Congress, and I don't have to make an absolutely responsible final decision.

But what I've been speaking to is my very strong inclinations, and prejudices, and leanings, and if I were in a position to vote, I'd only vote against the resolution if I thought the immediate negative effects were so drastic that I'd think it worth overcoming those.

But since I don't have to actually vote, I'm happy to make a case in favor of the resolution, and in favor of truth, and answer publius's question. I'm a lot more comfortable condemning genocide, and genocide-deniers, than I am engaging in real politik suppression of truth, in return for nebulous benefits involving colloboration with covering over genocide, given how cloudy the results of either outcome are.

The Scylla and Charybdis here is pretty clear. On the one hand, there are those who would be quixotic by neglecting all risks and consequences in favor of doing the right thing in principle. On the other hand, there are those who would be cowardly by endlessly deferring taking action in the face of any risk at all.

Man, I wish there were some Armenians and Turks on this blog to see what they think!

*sigh* I forget sometimes how easy and fun it is to disregard all of someone's past posting history for the sake of gotchas. Never mind.

"*sigh* I forget sometimes how easy and fun it is to disregard all of someone's past posting history for the sake of gotchas."

I don't think anybody above has done this to you. As SH notes, the question is about balancing.

Actually it was less a gotcha and more of an attempt to lighten it. Note to self, attempt failed. Seriously, we aren't arguing over whether or not you can do it 'at any price', we are talking about what price is too high. Right? So for example, do you think that the price outlined by hilzoy and publius is too high? Both of them seem to be positing a pretty short term where the price is too high. So I'd way the length of time of the proposed postponement with the cost. If it was decades, that would be a stronger argument. But "until we aren't immediately reliant on Turkey for an ongoing hot war in Iraq" might be a short enough time to wait for. Or maybe not. I don't know. But that is probably where we might want to have the discussion.

cough-- weigh not 'way' sheesh.

As evidence of the power of the Armenian lobby in California, the California state tax return has a line for"Ottoman Turkish Empire Settlement Payments":

"If you received settlement payments as a person persecuted by the regime that was in control of the Ottoman Turkish Empire from 1915 until 1923 your gross income does not include those excludable settlement payments received on or after January 1, 2005."

which has something to do with delayed life insurance payments.

On the larger question, I'm with hilzoy. The only benefit would be if a Congressional resolution helped to make the Turks confront and address what was done (as the Germans did after WWII and the Japanese did not). But it will have the opposite effect--and also create other problems as noted in this thread.
(Yes, it will make some Armenian-Americans feel btter, but this doesn't seem like a serious advantage).

Actually, I hate to be meta, but was that really a gotcha? I'm pretty sure you weren't pro-Saddam's regime, and I'm pretty sure you would have thought that a zero cost removal would have been worth it, and I'm pretty sure that you don't think the actual cost as currently being paid was worth it. So my point is that "doing the right thing" is always about weighing the cost. That is part of figuring out what the right thing is.

Matt, I disagree with your assessment that the secularists are the primary nationalist force in Turkey. My impression is that the secularists are more eager to cut loose from the Islamic past and join the European future, and are more sensitive to Western interests. The Islamists don't care as much about the West.

I also disagree as to our ability to apply pressure on the Turks. Right now we need them a lot more than they need us. We're just lucky they haven't been demanding a higher price for their support.

Maybe Congress is smarter than I would ever give them credit for. They vote for this bill, Turkey chops us off. Logistics goes south, Bush has no choice but to pull the troops out. Mission accomplished!

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