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October 10, 2007

Comments

"*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."

I think Sebastian's attempt at a joke there was relatively innocuous, myself, Bruce.

Sebastian: "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."

If I seriously believed that there were an absolute commitment to passing the resolution next year, or in two years, I'd be a lot more copacetic about letting it fail again this year. But I see no particular reason to count on that. Is there one?

"But I see no particular reason to count on that. Is there one?"

Is there any reason to think it'd be less likely to come up and pass in a few years when the Realpolitik argument won't have as much force?

"Is there any reason to think it'd be less likely to come up and pass in a few years when the Realpolitik argument won't have as much force?"

Sure. That folks have been trying to pass this practically as long as I can remember, and not been able to, and one can never count on the future. Is Turkey going to be objecting less next year? Is Iraq going to be all peaceful? When will those events be occurring? We should be counting on those events occurring in the near future? When, exactly?

Incidentally:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. House committee approved on Wednesday a resolution calling the 1915 massacres of Armenians genocide, brushing aside White House warnings that it would do "great harm" to ties with NATO ally Turkey, a key supporter in the Iraq war.

The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee approved the resolution 27-21. It now goes to the House floor, where Democratic leaders say there will be a vote by mid-November.

Let me also be clear that my opinions about this issue are extremely clouded by emotion.

Imagine we were in an alternate history in which Nazi Germany hadn't declared war on us, had survived the war, etc., and we were now be asked to keep quiet about a resolution condemning their genocide of the Jews, but we were being asked to keep quiet about it for now, to wait a few more years, for the sake of Germany's not interfering with our vital interests of whatever.

That's the parallel I'm stuck on considering, and contemplating, and imagining how I'd be comfortable agreeing to keep silent, for the sake of expediency.

Silly of me, perhaps, but that I am a lot. The "we should be silent about genocide for a while longer, until the time is right," is just an argument I'm extremely resistant to, even if it has some rational elements.

It's not something I'm all that rational about, perhaps. I just have trouble being a person who can do that.

[joke]
In all of this, I shocked that no-one has comment on "Pelosi is one" -- Armenian I presume. If she were a proper Armenian, her name would be Pelosian!
[/joke]

No one has mentioned the exquisite irony that most of the atrocities committed against the Armenians during their forced death marches were carried out by their escorts of irregular Turkish cavalry, who happened to be Kurds.

The Turkish reasoning behind the genocide of the Armenians, was that they rose up and sided with the Russians during the 1914-15 campaigns in the Caucasus. In the fighting, the Turks lost tens of thousands of soldiers, and were comprehensively defeated by smaller Russian forces.

Thanks for the props!

It was not that Armenians were killed by Turks because they were Armenian that is the issue. It is that the Armenians were Christians, and killed by Arab Muslims that makes it an issue relevant today. Anything to justify the continuation of the 21st century Crusades. Christians in WW I, Jews in WW II, so now it's the Muslims turn, so say the Christian Zionists.

Bottom line -- if Turkey insists on being the kind of country that has hissy-fits when we repeat the evident fact that their ancestors committed genocide a hundred years ago ...

... then the problem isn't the resolution's sponsors, or America; the problem is Turkey.

A Turkey that won't come clean at this late date is a Turkey with serious problems that do not bode well for its future. We are not responsible for those problems just because we say "Lincoln was assassinated by Booth, Einstein discovered the theory of general relativity, and the Ottoman Empire did to death hundreds of thousands of Armenians."

"It is that the Armenians were Christians, and killed by Arab Muslims that makes it an issue relevant today."

Not really, no. That would be simple, but it just isn't true. This was an issue in the Sixties, and Seventies, and onwards, and not to mention ever since it happened, during the fall of the Ottoman Empire, having nothing much to do with Muslim/Christian issues, and everything to do with Armenian/Turkish issues.

Trying to squish this issue into the Procrustean bed of the last few years is to pretty much get the whole thing wrong.

Is it just me, or did the captcha suddenly, a few minutes ago, get about fifty times blurrier and hard to read?

"Matt, I disagree with your assessment that the secularists are the primary nationalist force in Turkey.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."

Really.

I would contend that 'your impression' is incorrect. Are you unfamiliar with the MHP or the CHP? If that is the case, allow me to enlighten you with some examples.

openDemocracy:

For its part, the ultra-nationalist MHP pursued a single-theme campaign: warning the voters that AKP policies would ultimately result in the division of Turkey. While this strategy helped MHP to pass the 10% threshold to qualify for seats in parliament, the party's fierce and xenophobic rhetoric did not resonate well among centrist voters.
Nicolas Birch of The Observer provides a more in-depth example how Turkish secular nationalism is traditionally hostile to minority communities and has of late extended that hostility towards the west, specifically Europe:
Standing in front of a crowd in the north-eastern Turkish city of Erzurum, Devlet Bahceli waved a length of greased rope. 'If you can't find any,' he yelled, addressing the Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, 'you can hang him with this.'

The man he wanted hanged was Abdullah Ocalan, captured in 1999 after the Kurdish separatist war he started had killed an estimated 35,000 people. Turkey sentenced him to death, but under pressure from the EU commuted the sentence to life imprisonment.

[...]

Head of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) that is likely to win at least 80 seats in parliament today, his supporters are descendents of the semi-fascistic 'Grey Wolves' of the bloody civil conflict of the 1970s. MHP has mellowed with age. The same cannot be said of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, set up by the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, and torch-bearer of his secularist legacy. In the 1990s, at the height of the Kurdish war, CHP wrote one of the most liberal reports on Turkey's gangrenous Kurdish issue. Now, it has slid into overt nationalism, and leads the growing band of Turks opposed to EU membership.

'We're a social democratic party,' said CHP spokesman Onur Oymen. He insists that nationalism in Turkey has none of its European connotations of racism. 'It simply means defence of national interests,' he said.

It is a curious way of describing the comments of another CHP deputy, Bayram Meral, during recent debates on a law to enable non-Muslim Turks to reclaim properties confiscated by the state. 'What's this law about? It's about giving "Agop" his property back,' Meral railed, using a common Armenian name. 'Congratulations to the government! You ignore the villagers, the workers and the farmers to worry yourself with Agop's business.'

CHP opposed the law, as it has opposed countless efforts by Turkey's government to reform a system where the rights of individuals limp in a distant second behind laws protecting the state.

Much of the blame for the secularists' slide into authoritarianism lies with Europe, whose growing Islamophobia and bungling over Cyprus has convinced many Turks that their three-year-old accession bid is going nowhere.

'I fought all my life for Turkey's EU bid,' says Onur Oymen, a former ambassador to Germany. 'Now some European friends are saying we can only ever expect secondary status. We cannot accept that.'

In fact, as Birch later points out, it was the Islamist AKP that has enacted the very reforms that have made Turkey eligible for EU membership--reforms that have contributed to secular nationalist agitation:
'We are today's mad Turks,' schoolteacher Hasan Devecioglu said, referring to a popular novel about the liberation struggle published in 2005. Turgut Ozakman's Those Mad Turks tells of how, while the Sultan and his government collaborated with Great Power plans to carve up Turkey, Ataturk's Turkish nationalists fought from the depths of Anatolia. For today's secularists, it is the pro-Western, pro-market government that is collaborating in foreigners' efforts to divide the country.

It all leaves Turks without a viable civilian alternative to AKP. Without the reforms AKP has pushed through, Turkey would not have its place on the ladder to Europe.

Please also see Turkish columnist Ahmet Altan on the volatile paradox that is modern Turkey (written prior to this past summer's election, back when talk of a [secular] coup was all the rage); this lengthy New Left Review essay by Cihan Tugal detailing what he labels Turkey's 'Islamized Americanization' is also quite informative.

As I said before, the cultural and political dynamics in Turkey don't fall under the simplistic binary rubric of 'Islamists = teh bad guys, secularists teh good guys' that, for whatever reason, you appear to accept as being conventional wisdom. Not saying that the neoliberal moderate Islamist AKP are on the side of the angels. Most of its reforms and outreach efforts to the EU have been pragmatic efforts to stave off military intervention.

But, by and large, the recent Turkish antipathy with regards to the West is primarily coming from secular nationalists who feel threatened by AKP reforms (eg, even cursory admittance that there may have been something that occurred in 1915; the softening of relations with Kurds in Turkey; neoliberal economic reforms) that are believed, rightly or wrongly, to pose a threat to Turkish unity.

More from the The Boston Globe:

The Islamists have trafficked in anti-American rhetoric, yet AKP's secular counterparts have been no better and often worse than the Islamists when it comes to the United States. For example, the leaders of the [secular] Republican People's Party and Nationalist Movement Party have whipped up anti-American and nationalist sentiment to the extent that large swathes of the Turkish public now identify the United States with the terrorist Kurdistan Worker's Party, or the PKK, which has been attacking Turkey from bases in northern Iraq. At the funerals for Turkish soldiers killed by the PKK, it has become common for Turks to chant "Down, down PKK; Down, down USA."

This post-election briefing paper by PINR further explains what I meant re: pragmatic reasons behind the AKP's support of economic and democratic reforms, and how said policies helped make the party more palatable to liberal sectors of Turkish society, despite AKP's Islamist pedigree:

In the affirmation of the A.K.P. in the latest election, an important role has been played by those factors closely linked to the political and economic situation in the country. For example, the economic growth rate of the country, close to 5.5 percent in 2006, and the overall economic record of the A.K.P. government in the past five years are elements that have had a fundamental role in its victory.

Moreover, the performance of the A.K.P. as a reformist party during its first mandate in the way of European Union membership, even though such an attitude has been weakened in the past two years, has caused liberal sectors of the society to look with interest to the A.K.P.

The run toward the European Union is an important goal for Turkey; however, Erdogan and his party have used the European Union also as an instrument for changing the domestic political and institutional panorama and the internal balance of power. The power of the military establishment has been weakened by the reforms implemented with the aim of fulfilling the so-called "Copenhagen Criteria."

Ditto Anderson @ 22:11 EDT.

Gary: Is it just me, or did the captcha suddenly, a few minutes ago, get about fifty times blurrier and hard to read?

Not just you. Gah. My eyes.

Apologies for the formatting error @ 22:24 EDT. JFTR, my comments were responding to Erasmussimo @ 20:31. Dunno how the first quoted sentence got copypasted twice (feel free to place the blame on gremlins--or Underwear Gnomes.)

GF: Push the analogy a little farther. Imagine Germany were controlled today by a mad dictator who was prosecuting people for mentioning the Holocaust. And that madman has threatened that he might invade Alsace Lorraine, if the US Congress passed a nominal resolution acknowledging the reality of the Holocaust. Do we have our Chamberlain moment and pass on the bill, forever to be snickered at by history buffs of the future? Or do we vote and trigger an invasion? On the one hand, it is really hard to stomach being bullied into vileness on something so sensitive. On the, war is war, and compromising to avoid invasion is not so ignoble a thing.

I assume that most people here are willing to have their Chamberlain moment. But nobody wants to have another Chamberlain moment!

I've thought about this in the past, and what I've realized is: if you take the line that someone's elected officials are there to perform the duties of the office -- then at some point -- when forcibly entangled with unreasonable agents (foreign nations) -- you really have to compromise on the notion that politicians have obligations to tell the truth, to be decent with respect to particular values, in the way we would ordinarily reckon decency with respect to those values.

I wonder whether there is any wisdom in national parliaments passing historical judgments about other countries other than provoking resentment and tensions between people. What will they do next, pass judgment on modern art or big bang? Can't they just stick to their main responsibility of enacting legislation to deal with the concrete problems of *today* and *tomorrow*? The question before us is whether the world public is doing anything useful to stop the bloodshed in Iraq, Darfur, Myanmar, or other places of the world *now*. Are they doing anything useful *now* to stop the environmental destruction of the globe that will have serious consequences for tomorrow's generations?

Someone mentioned the possibility of South Americans passing legislation to recognize what US did to native americans as genocide. How about the not only one but two A-bombs dropped not on the same day but days apart and not by accident or by air force pilots gone crazy but on the orders of the US president on hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians with the explicity intent to destroy them (and not as unintended 'casualties')?? Has anyone ever looked up the definition of genocide as given by the UN Convention? Here it is for your reference:

"genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

Wouldn't US action in WWII against Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki fulfill four out of five of the criteria described therein? Has the US ever come to terms with its own actions? Not having done that, what kind of moral authority does the US legislature have in passing judgment on events that happened almost a century ago??

Matt, thanks for all the quotes, but they don't support your point. Yes, there are plenty of nationalists in the secular parties. But there are also plenty of nationalists in the Islamist parties. I agree with you 100% that what's going on in Turkey right now is very complex. There are multiple parties at work: the military, which is absolutely secularist and is slowly losing power; the old-time nationalists who revere Ataturk's legacy; the modernizers who want Turkey to become a modern Western society; the knee-jerk Islamists who see Turkey's future in a return to old values; the urban middle class, which is not sure what to do; the rural folk who are suspicious of the modernizers; and a variety of other groupings. What is changing is the absolute grip that the military had on the Turkish government, and with that change we're seeing a lot of repressed forces bubbling up to the surface.

Turkey has been undergoing major cultural shifts. Turkish cultural affiliations were so much simpler 20 years ago, when there were clear and obvious enemies and friends. There was no question among the Turkish leadership that Turkey's future lay with the West. But these days that's nowhere near as clear. Which brings me to my central point: we are in no position to be kicking the Turks in the teeth. They are uncertain as to their relationship with the West, and we need them more than they need us. This Congressional motion does not exert any diplomatic pressure on Turkey; it just insults them. It will only serve to make them less cooperative at a time when we really need their help to stabilize the Middle East.

Wouldn't US action in WWII against Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki fulfill four out of five of the criteria described therein?

No.

Schilling: Maybe the fourth criteria is a little questionable? Given that in the aftermath of the bombs, many stillbirths were registered and many more births with severe defects happened, I'd say all but one of the criteria are fulfilled. It's not that there is controversy about what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was genocidal, there is simply no political will or courage on any side to recognize it as such. Why? Because every major power has such skeletons in the closet. They will not go down that route of condemning each other. Turkey seems to be a convenient 'other' to project all such latent moral misgivings. It is Moslem, it is not a major player, it is feared and despised by most European countries. So, no problem as far as the West is concerned.

"a national, ethnical, racial or religious group"

The residents of city X don't typically make up such a group. E.g., the Japanese killed more Chinese (upwards of twenty million) than we killed Japanese, but I wouldn't call that a genocide.

Has it occurred to anyone else that Pelosi needs to act in some way that suggests that she is capable of principled action? There are not a lot of Armenians in her district (the Armeniapedia says "a few thousand" in the San Francisco area) but there is an organized Armenian community. And there are thousands of constituents who presently consider our Congresswoman to have the moral courage of a banana slug. So why not push this?

FWIW, I'm not a believer in waiting for a better time to do the right thing. If you can do it, do it. But I wanted to chime in on the Pelosi angle.

"acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group,"

It clearly says "in part". Japan was and is one of world's most homogeneous societies. I am sure everybody down from the President knew fully well, that the target of the bombs were all "part" of one national, ethnic, racial, and practically one religious (Shinto/Buddhist) group. The residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki along with thousands of other cities in Japan qualify for the specification in the UN article.

Errassemous: I've provided specific examples (which I DO believe support my point; YMMV).

You, in turn, have offered nothing glib dismissals and wordy assertions, without citing anything to bolster your dissent.

I think we're through.

Arg. "Erasmussimo".

Bed.

'It clearly says "in part". Japan was and is one of world's most homogeneous societies.'

Ok, then logically killing a single Japanese would amount to genocide. We might agree that e.g. the fire-bombing of Tokyo was a war crime but I (and I think the vast majority of English speakers) would still not consider "genocide" to be an accurate description.

"We might agree that e.g. the fire-bombing of Tokyo was a war crime"

Ask about that to the US government whether they even agree to that description. Or don't bother, I tell you their answer. They don't. Nobody has ever been accused and tried for dropping bombs and killing hundreds of thousands of civilians in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo, or Dresden. It is a world where justice and history is made and written by the victors. Anyways, why look at historical examples? How about today? Iraq? Almost everybody around the world knows that US bombed the hell out of, invaded, fractured, and turned into complete chaos a nation of 20 million people under false pretenses and without provocation. Hundreds of thousands killed, millions injured, even more displaced. Yet, no talk of war crimes there. Worse, the US electorate (and not just the politicians) said in 2004 "more of the same, please". So, US has no authority whatsoever when it comes to rectifying injustices.

"Given that in the aftermath of the bombs, many stillbirths were registered and many more births with severe defects happened, I'd say all but one of the criteria are fulfilled. "

I don't think the function of radiation in that sense was understood at the time, and I don't think of genocide as a crime that can be committed without intent.

"So, US has no authority whatsoever when it comes to rectifying injustices."

Being imperfect oneself is no reason not to try to improve the world.

"Being imperfect oneself is no reason not to try to improve the world."

Exactly. One should start with 'home improvement' before patronizing others to do so. USA has no moral authority to tell any other country to atone for her sins before they do it themselves for their own sins. This goes back to the similar (ever shifting) rationale of invading Iraq: bringing democracy and blah blah. As if democracy is in full bloom in US or any of its other allies around the world such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, etc. Likewise, US cannot start condemning nations for historical injustices when it refuses to do for its own unjust deeds (some of which are still in progress). That has nothing to do with being perfect or imperfect. If they don't and won't own the responsibility of killing hundreds of thousands of civilians in A-bomb attacks with the clear intention of obliterating those people, and yet go around asking others to accept responsibility for their misdeeds, it is hypocrisy, pure and simple.

"I don't think of genocide as a crime that can be committed without intent."

Me neither. However, I am sure that the US leadership knew fully well the likely consequences of dropping not only one but two A-bombs on hundreds of thousands of civilians. Prior research and tests had supplied ample evidence to researchers and policymakers of the true power and destructiveness of those weapons. They were not dropped to simply take out military installations. They were dropped to wipe out entire cities and their people.

Without getting into vexed questions about World War II atrocities, which are invariably inconclusive, what about the current US position? In 2004 the US population voted for a torturer to lead them (and yes, I know there are millions of Americans who are deeply unhappy about this, but the majority of the population were either indifferent to it or actually positive about this). To a non-American*, the moral authority of the US as a whole (not just the current government) is currently low to minimal.

Given this, though I can see the proposal for condemnation of the genocide would be welcomed by Armenians and others concerned about genocide (and is in itself positive), in the current political situation it looks mainly like moral grandstanding by those members of Congress who supported it. Why aren't they agitating effectively about their own country's abuses instead?

This moral grandstanding is unappealing at best; if it feeds into the deadly belief in the moral authority of the US to attack other people's countries, it's positively harmful.


*My country's sins include the expulsion of the Jews in 1290, deep involvement in the Atlantic slave trade and the British Empire. I'm not claiming any overall moral superiority here.

One aspect of the argument that has perhaps not been properly discussed is the fact that America is so much bigger and stronger than Turkey, and that being lectured (even in a righteous cause) by someone more powerful than you always elicits a defensive reaction. Americans have trouble understanding the reactions of the Turks, because there is no equivalent power that could talk down to the US from a position of power. Perhaps the irrational prickliness of the Turks could be better understood by imagining the following example: If the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution saying that 'the US is a nation created by means of the genocide of the Native American population'. This is factually true (although an incomplete view of history), but would lead to a very negative reaction in the US, perhaps even amongst those who in cooler moments would accept the historical facts

I appreciate that this doesn't make much difference to the rights and wrongs of the case in question, but it might help understand why Turks are reacting as they do.

@Ara: Just to be clear, the Turkish government was and is threatening to mount cross-border operations into northern Iraq/Kurdestan before the resolution became a hot issue, specifically to deal with PKK raids that recently killed a good number of Turkish military and some civilians.

For months and months, they've been complaining to and negotiating with the Kurdestan regional government, the Iraqi government, and the U.S., who are all conveniently in a position to try to push off the responsibility to each other. From the Turkish point of view (and mine in this case), there has not been an adequate response from any of the three governments.

The Turks have also been deeply annoyed to find that some of the weapons being used against them are the same ones that the honorable Gen. Petraeus had "kicked off the planes" without bothering to record the serial numbers, and regarding which one of his senior subordinates is under criminal investigation.

Power relations being what they are, we read no press releases or UN denunciations by Turkish military and politicians that the U.S. government is organizing and sponsoring the PKK, but let's say that there's a much more convincing chain of evidence for that claim (which I am not making) than there is for the claims that have been thrown around by the U.S. brass about Iran for the last ten months.

So it is emphatically not the case that Turkey is threatening to invade Iraq/Kurdestan over this Armenian genocide resolution; that would be madness. It is true that the progress of the resolution in Congress comes at a moment when the Turkish government and people are even less ready than usual to take in its message, and are more than usually angry and frustrated with the U.S.

But since Bush's wars (the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the eyes-averted PEJAK and other guerrilla activity against Iran, and the planned U.S. war against Iran) are what's making naming the Armenian genocide an even more difficult issue than usual, I say let Congress have at it and Bush can veto if, as is highly unlikely, it passes the Senate. Heck, that might even strengthen his hand in reaching some overdue agreements with the Turks and Kurds.

Sebastian: I don't think of genocide as a crime that can be committed without intent.

Possible to argue that the politicians who made the decision to use a nuclear weapon on Hiroshima had no real notion of what would happen, only that it was a really, really big bomb. (Difficult, but possible.)

Impossible to argue that there was no intent for Nagasaki.

Anon: Given that in the aftermath of the bombs, many stillbirths were registered and many more births with severe defects happened, I'd say all but one of the criteria are fulfilled.

Ah, but "pro-lifers" never concede that it's a bad thing to kill or damage fetuses when you do so by killing or harming a pregnant woman, especially not in wartime. It's only bad to "kill unborn babies" when a pregnant woman has an abortion without harm to herself: so long as the pregnant woman dies or is seriously harmed too, it's just fine to kill a fetus.

Anon's comment about the reaction to being lectured by the big, unaccountable power is cogent.

It brought to mind an idea that I had a few years ago as an international peace-building measure: a worldwide day of atonement, in which governments officially note, reflect on, and take responsibility for crimes against humanity they have committed or enabled. At the grassroots level, the focus would be on forward-looking, person-to-person reconciliation activities.

If the featured crime changed from year to year, we could go on for quite a long time in this country. The challenge would be for the more pacific governments to keep up the practice nonetheless so that the imperial biggies don't feel isolated.

"Possible to argue that the politicians who made the decision to use a nuclear weapon on Hiroshima had no real notion of what would happen, only that it was a really, really big bomb. (Difficult, but possible.)

Impossible to argue that there was no intent for Nagasaki."

Considering that I made was responding ONLY TO THE STILLBIRTHS FROM RADIATION point, the Hiroshima/Nagasaki distinction you are trying to draw doesn't make sense. If you want to argue that it was genocide feel free, just work with what is actually there.

Considering that I made was responding ONLY TO THE STILLBIRTHS FROM RADIATION point, the Hiroshima/Nagasaki distinction you are trying to draw doesn't make sense

Fair enough. Both were genocide, then.

I think it is a dumbing down of the word to essentially turn any bombing of civilians into genocide (if you include those, you surely have to include Tokyo and Dresden as genocide). My understanding of the term is closer to an attempt to destroy or displace an entire nation, race or people (used in the sense of a unified ethnic group that isn't a nation or race). The interest in extending fairly understandable terms into things well beyond them (it happens with 'rape' on the left and 'theft' on the right) strikes me as counterproductive but your mileage may vary.

Genocide was a term invented to describe something beyond normal warlike behaviour and beyond even run of the mill war crimes. Erasing those distinctions might give you a year or two of shock value, but it seems to me that it is much more likely to destroy the value of labeling something 'genocide' than it is to extend the outrage of genocide to other behaviour.

"pro-lifers" never concede that it's a bad thing to kill or damage a fetus by killing I'd harming a pregnant woman

This is simply wrong, and quite likely dishonestly so, since dollars to donuts you know that "pro-lifers" support expansive fetal homicide and abuse laws, as they consider them back doors or precursors to more restrictive abortion laws.

"Possible to argue that the politicians who made the decision to use a nuclear weapon on Hiroshima had no real notion of what would happen, only that it was a really, really big bomb. (Difficult, but possible.)"

There were no plural "politicians" who made that decision. It was one man, Harry Truman.

And he had a reasonable idea of what it would do, which is, as has been pointed out in this thread, less than happened to Tokyo, or in the general firebombing of Japanese cities, which was overall almost certainly the greatest slaughter in the history of this planet.

Logic suggests Hilzoy has turned off the unreadable captcha! Huzzah! Let a triumph be thrown!

"The challenge would be for the more pacific governments to keep up the practice...."

I'd like to see a list of nominees, just out of curiosity. Presumably a specific time period should be denominated.

"Fair enough. Both were genocide, then."

That's novel. Is there some reason the genocide community hasn't tended to take up this notion, do you think? Perhaps that there was, in fact, no effort to exterminate the Japanese? (Although there was little lack of suggestion of that, to be sure.) (And there would be an equal case that Japan tried to commit genocide on the Chinese people, if so -- but, again, it's "just" that they killed them in the tens of millions.)

"Massive killing" doesn't equal "genocide." If it did, we'd be claiming the Germans were trying to commit genocide on Ukrainians, for instance, and on Poles.

But they didn't try to kill a notional "race" of either. They simply slaughtered them in the millions for lebensraum.

It turns out that these are two different terrible things.

It's uninteresting to play the game of pretending otherwise.

Genocide is an important concept. It's not helpful to blur it, or play games with it.

Phil: since dollars to donuts you know that "pro-lifers" support expansive fetal homicide and abuse laws,

They do not, however, in general support expansive domestic violence laws, maternity leave, employment protection, or indeed any legislation that focuses on helping and protecting the pregnant woman, which will inevitably help and protect the fetus she carries.

So again: pro-lifers are indifferent to the welfare of the fetus except as a means of abusing/controling the pregnant woman.

Sebastian: I think it is a dumbing down of the word to essentially turn any bombing of civilians into genocide

I think it is fairly typical of "war crimes are committed only by the losers" to essentially pretend that bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was no different from "any bombing of civilians".

Mass bombing of civilians in World War II was not classed as a war crime because the winners did it as much as the losers: it has never been classed as a war crime since, though it has killed people by the million.

And mass bombings are not necessarily the same as genocide, which is what you seemed to claim above.

@Gary: Re possible nominees for 'more pacific' states: Notice my carefully weaselly language: more peaceful than the massive-scale atrocity-committers. In many cases, this would simply be due to small numbers.

The beauty of a day of atonement is that every government/people can find something for which to reflect and repent. So the states that seem to me likely to run out of themes after the first few years might, to those more familiar with them, be rich in material.

(Side note: As this device is obviously inspired by the somber holy day of the Jewish faith, but is an all-peoples', secular proposal, it would be held at a completely different season.)

And, yes, we might want to set an outer time bound. Any suggestions? I was thinking 500 C.E.-ish... ;>

If genocide involves an intent to exterminate a race/ethnicity/religious group/etc. then why do we count Cambodia? (We do count Cambodia, right?)

And yet I do put the killing fields & Rwanda in one category & massive civilian deaths in war in another. Is it that in one case you're talking about trying to conquer a country or force it's surrender, & in another you're killing for the sake of killing, & will continue even if they surrender? But in that case, the fact that there were Kurds rebelling doesn't make Anfal less of a genocide, right?

Or is it just sheer % of the population killed? The term is a bit fuzzy, though I think it's still useful.

I think we count Cambodia because it was an attempt (mostly successful) to destroy an entire class of people--the middle class/non-agricultural workers class. They were really portrayed as different people--non-Cambodian in some essential way. So as seen from the inside, it was like trying to destroy a nation of people who were 'wrongly' living in Cambodia.

"The term is a bit fuzzy, though I think it's still useful."

I do too. I understand what most people are saying when they use the term. But I think it won't be useful if you just use it to mean "times when lots of civilians died" as Jesurgislac seems to suggest.

When certain types of feminists want to call seduction-style attempts at convincing, leading to sex, leading to next morning regrets, 'rape' I think they are trying to draw attention to a problem, but they do more harm to the utility of the term 'rape' than they get out of using it.

When certain types of libertarians want to call taxes 'theft', they are trying to draw attention to the coercion inherent to government collection, but they do more harm to the term 'theft' than they get out of using it.

In both cases they attempt to use terms that come with lots of emotional/moral weight in order to make their arguments for them. The problem with relying on that too much is that when you see a classic rape, classic theft or classic genocide, you have diluted the impact of the term with weaker associations.

speaking of Cambodia, I'm going in January, anyone ever been?

Going for a holiday?

The sort of denialism displayed by Turkey is a sure sign of a sick society - you could see it in parts of German society for a long time and in Austria pretty much as a whole for an even longer time. Yet, none of these countries dared to threaten those who put their fingers in the wound, e.g. Thomas Bernhard or Heinrich Boell, with prison, that would have been unthinkable even in the very authoritarian climate of the postwar era. If Turkey wants to be taken seriously or even get EU membership, it has to come to grips with such issues. I am slightly appalled by all the pussyfooting around here.

*P.S. As for the pragmatic argument: Turkey refused to support the US invasion of Iraq, which caused major strategical problems; that didn't keep Bush from invading anyway - so, tough.

rilke - yes. Most of our time is accounted for as we're taking a cruise up the Mekong river from Vietnam, then spending a couple of days in Angkor Wat before flying back to vietnam. I was wondering if a couple was enough or if there was anything else nearby worth taking a look at.

Should be interesting.

Far be it from me to question the healthy anathematizing of a society distant in miles and time but I don't understand why or how Turkey is seen as synonymous with the Ottoman Empire. At least, in discussing the American predation of native populations in the nineteenth century, the government is the same one that is the subject of criticism. Why is this instance of human creativity worthy of greater abundance in opinion than, say, the acts of the Belgians toward the Congolese?

Turkey recalls US ambassador - just a symbolic gesture as I understand it.

Ugh, that was a Dead Kennedys reference, since von presumably isn't reading this thread to make it.

damn you pop culture!

rilke: ahem.

(ugh: don't forget to pack your wife.)

found the lyrics, I hate it when things go over my head (not as much as I hate puns though).

Thomas, I looked at your post and the second paragraph starts with Historians estimate one and a half million people died.. In actual fact estimates go from 200,000 to 1,800,000 people killed. You cannot write an objective account if you pick a side and display the facts that coïncide with it.

This actually was a hot item during our national elections last year. We (=the Netherlands) also have a resolution that it is genocide and several Turkish politicians were removed from eligable places by their parties when they refused to publically state it was a genocide.

The only reason for the amendment I agree with is what Mattbastard brought up: people who claim it was a genocide are locked up in prison and that is wrong. Article 301 is State censorship and I don't like censorship. But that goes both ways; Swiss convicts people for denying that there was a Turkish genocide againts Armanians, which imho is wrong too.

I read your link, did you read mine?

Armenian writers have praised the contribution of the military tribunals for their elucidation of historical truth, but such broad conclusions are problematic given both the procedures of the trials and questions over the reliability of their findings. The tribunals lacked the basic requirements of due process. Few authors familiar with Ottoman jurisprudence have a positive assessment, all the more so with regard to military courts. The Ottoman penal code did not acknowledge the right of cross-examination, and the role of the judge was far more important than in the Anglo-American tradition. The judge weighed the probative value of all evidence submitted during the preparatory phase and during the trial, and he questioned the accused. At the 1919-20 trials, the presiding officer acted more like a prosecutor than an impartial judge. Ottoman rules of procedure also barred defense counsel access to pretrial investigatory files and from accompanying their clients to pretrial interrogations. On May 6, 1919, at the third session of the main trial, defense counsel challenged the court's repeated references to the indictment as proven fact, but the court rejected the objection. Throughout the trials, the court heard no witnesses, and the verdict rested entirely on documents and testimony never subject to cross-examination. Heck expressed disapproval that the defendants in the Yozgat court were tried on the basis of "anonymous court material."
There are many doubts as to the authenticity of the documents reproduced in Naim Bey's memoirs. Several Armenian scholars suggest that a German court authenticated five of the Talât Pasha telegrams during the 1921 trial of Soghomon Tehlirian, who assassinated Talât Pasha in Berlin on March 15, 1921.However the stenographic record of the trial, published in 1921, shows that defense counsel von Gordon withdrew his motion to introduce the five telegrams into evidence before their authenticity could be verified.

An description of the historians work:

This book tackles the question not of the scale of Armenian suffering but of 'the premeditation thesis.' Although there are wide discrepancies with regard to the total number of victims, at least both camps acknowledge that hundreds and thousands of Armenians lost their lives during the deportation. Thus, Lewy focuses on the dispute over the cause of Armenian massacres by inspecting the way in which Armenians and Turks have offered contradictory or competing accounts. By attempting 'a historical reconstruction of the events in question - to show what can be known as established fact, what must be considered unknown as of today, and what will probably have to remain unknowable' (p. x). He concludes that an Ottoman intent to organize the annihilation of Armenians cannot be determined with the evidence that so far has become available to scholars. Thus, he rejects the term 'genocide' to describe the mass killing of Armenians, while admitting the indirect responsibility of the Ottoman local government officials for the loss of life of a large number of Armenians.

Everybody agrees that there were many, many Armenians killed and most agree that the pre-Attatürk Turkish government bears responsibility. There should be more honest (as in un-politicized) research, both here and in Turkey. But calling it genocide now only serves a political goal, it has no practical value. The Turks invited the US to do research - that would have been more usefull.

How do you kill several hundred thousand people of the same ethnic group by accident?

The Turkish government's position on this is ridiculously disingenuous. To the outside world, they argue it should be a matter for historians. But, internally, you risk prosecution for mentioning it.

It seems to beg the question to me to place the documentary evidence of intent before the plainer question of responsibility. The Armenian eyewitness accounts speak of deportations, rounding up people village by village. Why did these deportations take place? Who organized them? If you forcibly relocate a large community of people out of their communities and they die on route during your forced relocation, why isn't that sufficient for establishing a genocide? People and governments are, after all, responsible for the consequences of their actions, and if the consequence of a forced relocation is mass death -- and if that suffering was foreseeable and not the consequence of an improbable sequence of events -- then why do we need further documentary debate to establish that a genocide took place? Why on Earth does the smoking gun need to be a memo from Talat? People who argue against the genocide position seem to accept only such a memo as evidence that the event took place. I've never understood that.

"genocide was a term invented to describe something beyond normal warlike behaviour and beyond even run of the mill war crimes. Erasing those distinctions might give you a year or two of shock value, but it seems to me that it is much more likely to destroy the value of labeling something 'genocide' than it is to extend the outrage of genocide to other behaviour."


Actually, this is what I find disturbing about the term "genocide". "Beyond" run of the mill war crimes implies that these are less serious. Yeah, some mass killings in wartime don't fit the definition of genocide. What follows from this morally? From the way people make these careful distinctions, it sounds as if it's worse to murder large numbers of people in cold blood if you do it for racial reasons, rather than, for instance, because you want their land. And then you get laws passed against genocide, but not large scale mass killing and you end up with idiotic situations where, for instance people argue whether the Sudanese government is guilty of genocide, or only mass killing.

A common practice in wartime is to slaughter civilians as a way of inducing the enemy to surrender, or better yet, not to fight at all. The Mongols would do this. If a city resisted they'd wipe it out (or so I've read--Mongol apologists are free to correct me on this.) If it hadn't resisted they wouldn't have wiped it out. Is this any less evil than genocide? It's what Saddam did with his opponents, it's what the Guatemalan army did in the 80's, and it's probably the kind of situation that is most commonly called "genocide", but maybe it's really only mass killing. I suppose one could argue that the distinction matters, but I don't see it.
On the individual level, it's the difference between a bank robber who only kills people who cause him difficulty, compared to someone who does it because he hates the victim.

The moral question with Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Tokyo and other mass killings of civilians is not the question of whether it fits the legal definition of genocide. That would matter in the practical legal sense if Harry Truman or any American President ever faced any real chance of being tried for crimes against humanity. But morally, the question is whether you can justify the deliberate killing of large numbers of innocent people in order to end a war (or impress the Russians or both). We (on average) are more likely to excuse Truman because we think WWII was a just war, whereas presumably we don't think the Mongols had a good reason for waging their wars. It's not a way of thinking that we want others to use.

Everyone keeps saying that Turkey is a key ally in the "war on terrorism." But what has Turkey done for us lately that's in any way contingent upon the US House respecting the sensitivities of Turkish genocide-deniers?

Sure, Turkey is the conduit for 70% of the military cargo that goes into Iraq. If the US were closer to Turkey, Turkey might change its mind about allowing the US to use Turkish territory to stage an attack on Iran. That's not going to happen in the near future.

So far, I haven't heard anyone argue that Turkey is more likely to attack Northern Iraq out of spite for the genocide resolution. In fact, it seems as if frustration over the lack of US support might be stoking resentment towards the resolution, and not the other way around.

It's hardly news to Turkey that the West, including the US, takes a very dim view of the Armenian genocide.

The official impetus for the genocide resolution was to alter the US President's yearly address to commemorate the Armenian slaughter. The current president has called the mass murder of the Armenians "genocidal." As did president Reagan.

It seems far-fetched that a resolution by the US House would be sufficient to provoke the level of outrage that Turkey is projecting.

If a city resisted they'd wipe it out (or so I've read--Mongol apologists are free to correct me on this.) If it hadn't resisted they wouldn't have wiped it out. Is this any less evil than genocide?

Well, I think it is, because the animating principle is that there is nothing the person could do to live. Genocide implies that the decision is made with total disregard to anything that the victim could do. In that sense, it is more complete and total than what Genghis Khan (though I tend to me more of a Madeline Khan apologist)

I agree that there is a disconnect in the notion of genocide being an ultimate evil, which seems to make efforts that are aimed at totally breaking a small minorities will as an example to others tolerable. But this is the point that I think Adorno gets at in the fact that the Holocaust is an inversion of logic, and the fact that it is inverted permits no escape.

This shouldn't be taken as some three bank shot defense of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or Dresden and Tokyo, but when the impulse is a 'logical' framework, it doesn't permit reconsideration, which is what pushes genocide over the edge. Unfortunately, this encourages creating an absence of agency that permits us to deny genocide, which then raises the issue of whether the absence of agency is true or simply a stance.

I'm having some trouble understanding why we're supposed to worry about this scenario:
"Our symbolic gesture of acknowledging the genocide pisses off Turkey... at a time when they feel like invading Kurdistan. So, just to spite a military superpower... they invade Kurdistan."

--and not worry at all about this scenario:
"Our symbolic gesture of refusing to acknowledge the genocide (or even to complain about their brutal treatment of others who do) shows Turkey that we'll continue to support them in actions that the rest of the world condemns... at a time when they feel like invading Kurdistan. So, confident that they are best friends forever with a military superpower... they invade Kurdistan."

One does not need moral authority to state what is right, just to persuade people of one's opinion. The US should not remain silent for lack of confidence due to fear of justified and valid criticism. That will come anyway, even if the population never hears it.

If you think the US Senate should acknowledge Hiroshima (when has it not?) then campaign for it. It's a weak comparison as the people of that City were massacred as a show of force to exert control(1) whilst the Armenians, the Jews and E. Timorese were massacred for the acquisition of their assets.

And like it or not, the popular view is that shows of force to exert control are acceptable, whilst theft of assets by force are not. I doubt you can persuade Congress of something that is neither popular nor supported by moneyed interests, but best of luck.

The US Senate should say what its people think is right. In accordance with this they should condemn the invasion of Iraq. That will not happen outright. There will not be condemnations of the project as a whole for a long time. Anon, why do you think this is? Several answers would be good.

(1) And, perhaps more protestably, as a test of the effect of the weapon on civilians-- why not just demonstrate the weapon to enemy leaders in a remote location otherwise? Why hush up the effects of radiation?

LJ--I understand your view, but don't agree on the difference in evil, or don't think the difference is very significant. It comes back to the bank robber vs. hate crime murder (or bank robber vs. serial killer). To me, killing someone because they get in the way is just as evil as doing it because they are a member of some group. The bank robber is logical and gives you a way out (don't move and keep your head down), but he is still willing to kill you for no just reason.

There are mitigating circumstances for Hiroshima, unlike the bank robbery (which is more like the Mongol conquests) but then one gets into the question of whether terrorism is okay in a just cause.

This could also go off on a tangent about hate crimes legislation,about which I have no firm opinion. If passing a hate crimes law will cut down on the frequency of that brand of crime, then I'm for it, but I don't think one murder is worse than another.

DJ
I see your point, and there may be an overton window phenomenon here to brand something else as the most evil so that it allows the 'lesser' evil to pass unnoticed, but the distinction between a cold-blooded logical murder and a crime of passion seems pretty set in our minds (and seems reflected in our laws), and to me, the distinction is similar. In one, the logic of genocide demands that you eliminate branch and root, whereas the logic of oppression is that you 'merely' make examples in order to cow the others.

The bank robber example is interesting, because wouldn't you classify a person who stalked someone with the aim of killing them as being 'worse' than the bank robber? To me, I see genocide as being akin to stalking killer, which may be why it generates so much more approbation.

But I am sympathetic to what you say, so I'm not dismissing it out of hand. It may be that our reaction to genocide is a trained cultural one rather than one arising from logical considerations, but if it is and it helps to decrease the frequency of genocide occurring or acting to mitigate it in some way, like your feeling on hate crime legislation, I'm all for it.

Donald: but I don't think one murder is worse than another.

A murder (or an assault) that is done not only to attack the individual member of a hated group, but to put every member of the hated group in a state of fear, is a double crime. When a gay man is hit in the face with a broken bottle for being overheard talking about his upcoming civil partnership, the assailant is both trying to smash in an individual man's face, and trying to make sure that no other gay couples dare talk openly about their plans to wed in a straight pub because they will be afraid of being viciously attacked. Why should the second offense go unpunished?

Why did these deportations take place? Who organized them? If you forcibly relocate a large community of people out of their communities and they die on route during your forced relocation, why isn't that sufficient for establishing a genocide? People and governments are, after all, responsible for the consequences of their actions, and if the consequence of a forced relocation is mass death -- and if that suffering was foreseeable and not the consequence of an improbable sequence of events -- then why do we need further documentary debate to establish that a genocide took place?

Everybody agrees that many Armenians were killed - mass slaughter or even ethnic cleansing are not disputed. Genocide means that there was INTENT to kill, premediated, instead of death through negligence of as a not unwanted side effect.

Armenia was part of the Ottoman empire for a few centuries, but wanted independence. So there allready was tension (and mass killings) as from the end of the 19th century. People don't even know for sure how many Armenians lived in Armenia in 1915 because the figures differ greatly and quite a number say that the official Ottoman figures (1000000-1500000) were too low because the central government wanted to downplay their importance and the Armenians assisted because not registring meant that they wouldn't have to pay taxes.

In WW1 the Russians and the Turks fought on different sides. The Armenians were part of Turkey but sympathized with the Russians (their other neighbours). The Russians had a hugh army of Armenian volonteers fighting against the Turks and it was believed that Armenia assisted the Russians. So the Turkish government decided to remove the threat by relocating the Armenians.

The dispute is about wether there was an official government policy to kill all Armenians or not. The governor of the region was convicted and killed after the war, but was he an individual with a grudge and opportunity or was he following orders? Telegrams of Turkish officials are circulating, but there is doubt about their authenthicity. If you want to use a comparison it is more about wether the death amongst the relocated native Americans was official policy (= genocide) or not.

After WW1 the Turks got Attaturk and Armenia became Russian (in stages, finalized in 1920 by occupation). It gained independency in 1991. Currently it is in heated dispute with Azerbijan. Armenia has currently militarily occupied 16% of Azerbaijan; over 800,000 mostly ethnic Azerbaijanis were driven from the occupied lands and Armenia; about 230,000 ethnic Armenians were driven from their homes in Azerbaijan into Armenia.

Interesting, Jes. That's a good point, but let me be devil's advocate (I first add that I think hate crime legislation is important, so I'm still not convinced about these, but want to see what you and others do with them) and give two reservations. The first is that essentially double jeopardy would occur, cause the person is being charged twice for one physical assault. The second is that there is an element of trying someone for what goes on in their head. We do do that in determining if it was passion versus cold blooded killing, but as we go deeper into that, we risk trying someone for thoughts that go on in their head. I believe that there was a case where someone was charged and convicted of child pornography charges because they had drawn images of children in sexual scenes and these scenes were on their hard drive. If I remember the case correctly, the prosecution made no attempt to show that the person has transmitted the scenes or distributed them in anyway. What the guy was convicted on was something that came out of his own head, and this as akin to thought police.

Having said that, I still think hate crimes are important in drawing a bright line. Dave Neiwart in the comments over at Balloon Juice makes the interesting point that he supports hate crimes legislation not because he's liberal, but because he has a conservative law and order sensibility.

Here's Rep. Harman explaining why, as a co-sponsor of the Armenian genocide resolution, she asked Lantos to withdraw it and voted against it in committee.

dutchmarbel, do you think that the Turks committed genocide against the Armenians? (Put aside the Congressional resolution.)

LJ -- "To me, I see genocide as being akin to stalking killer, which may be why it generates so much more approbation."

Perhaps you mean "opprobrium" here?

liberal japonicus: The first is that essentially double jeopardy would occur, cause the person is being charged twice for one physical assault.

Well, the way in which hate crime legislation works in the UK (I don't know enough about hate crime legislation in the US to say if it's invariably the same) is that hate crime is taken into account in the sentencing, not in the conviction. When someone has been convicted of what has been determined to be a hate crime, the judge may then impose a more severe sentence. There are all sorts of aggravating and mitigating factors that a judge can take into account in imposing a sentence: this isn't "double jeopardy", it's the normal way a judiciary behaves in assessing crimes and determining sentences.

but as we go deeper into that, we risk trying someone for thoughts that go on in their head.

This wouldn't apply to hate crimes in the UK, where a person can only be sentenced for a hate crime if they have been convicted of a crime. In the UK it is not criminal to think bad thoughts, but if you translate those thoughts into behavior such as harassment, assault, or murder, you can be convicted of that: and thoughts alone cannot provide evidence that the person did it as a hate crime (sans court telepaths).

The example of the person who drew children in sexual situations is borderline. Was he drawing from life? If so, then his drawings were evidence that he had participated in criminal activity. A better example (which has also happened) would be if a commercial developer gets a series of photos of naked children playing together. They report the photos to the police; the police investigate: and find (a) that the series of photos was taken by the children's mother, and are of her children playing in the family garden: or (b) that the series of photos was taken by a male neighbor, whose house overlooks the garden, and who has a string of child molestation non-convictions in his past. If the police bring charges of child pornography against the neighbor when they wouldn't against the mother, which I think would be the case, they're clearly doing so because of what they guess the thoughts in the neighbor's mind to be.... and do you think they're right to do so?

(In fact, though I've heard of parents/family members being queried by the police about photos of naked children, I've never heard of this by itself resulting in conviction. But I bet it would be enough to let the police get a search warrant for the neighbor's computer and his house, to see if they could find any other evidence.)

"If you want to use a comparison it is more about wether the death amongst the relocated native Americans was official policy (= genocide) or not."

I'd be much more eager to vote for a resolution condemning settlers on the American continent for engaging in genocide than I would be eager to vote for a resolution about Turkey. Are you trying to up my enthusiasm for doing justice, and the right thing?

Because the fact that the Native Americans were met with a lot of genocidal enthusiasm is hardly wrong. It was a horrible crime.

Was that your point? (What else could it be?)

I'd be much more eager to vote for a resolution condemning settlers on the American continent for engaging in genocide than I would be eager to vote for a resolution about Turkey.

I think the better analogy would be that if some random country voted a resolution condemning the genocide of the Native Americans, I might be sort of annoyed (in a nationalistic way) that they decided to pick that scab, but I certainly wouldn't take to the streets to deny that it ever happened.

In my morning paper today, I saw a picture of members of some "left-wing political party" demonstrating in Turkey against the U.S. resolution. I thought to myself, what sort of left-wingers are these? Don't they know they're supposed to blame Turkey first?

"Well, the way in which hate crime legislation works in the UK (I don't know enough about hate crime legislation in the US to say if it's invariably the same) is that hate crime is taken into account in the sentencing, not in the conviction."

Same here. For what it's worth, this is another issue I stand with you on (sorry).

"The first is that essentially double jeopardy would occur, cause the person is being charged twice for one physical assault."

This seems to be clear nonsense, lj. Charging someone twice would require two crimes. Multiple charges for the same offense, on the other hand, is normal. What are you talking about?

We may be working off different knowledge sets. I was a municipal court clerk; I also spent years working for law firms in various capacities, including as a legal secretary and paralegal. I'm reasonably familiar with the American justice system.

When you say that "double jeopardy would occur," which just isn't true, what are you talking about? You seem to be offering a hypothetical about that which is factual, and offering a falsehood, and I don't understand why you suggest this is a reasonable thing to think about, given the whole, you know, not true thing.

"The second is that there is an element of trying someone for what goes on in their head. We do do that in determining if it was passion versus cold blooded killing, but as we go deeper into that, we risk trying someone for thoughts that go on in their head."

Sure, that's the norm. Mens rea. So what?

The law generally differentiates between levels of criminal culpability based on the mens rea, or state of mind. This is particularly true within the law of homicide, where murder requires either the intent to kill, or a state of mind called malice, or malice aforethought, which may involve an unintentional killing but with a willful disregard for life.
For some reason, people start going on about states of mind, using other phrases, whenever judging whether "hate," i.e., prejudice against popular targets, is relevant, but have no problem with it being everywhere else in our justice system. We always judge people for what's in their head. If you grab a necklace because you want it, it's theft; if you accidentally snagged it in your cuff button, it isn't. When are we planning on not judging people based on what's in their head? Why is it that this comes up only when it's a question of what people think about minorities?

Why am I even asking?

I'm not sure if I'll have time to comment much today. Maybe, maybe not.

Anyway, Jes, I'm not opposed to hate crime legislation or genocide legislation, but am more concerned about what LJ calls the Overton window effect--making other sorts of war crimes seem less important. I haven't thought or read enough about hate crimes issues to have a firm opinion. Maybe I should stick to the other example-- killing witnesses during a robbery (which is logical) vs. what a serial killer does. I don't want to say that the armed robber's actions are less evil because he had a logical reason for doing it.

Mass slaughter as a logically thought out procedure to achieve victory doesn't seem any better to me than a lunatic desire to wipe out some particular group. You might, of course, be able to reason more effectively with a logical killer than one driven by fanaticism, but that doesn't make his actions less evil (IMO).

Steve,

If say, the Belgium government passed a resolution condemning genocide of Native Americans, are you absolutely certain that in the US there wouldn't be a) fervent denunciations of all previous Belgian human rights abuses, b) rabid right-wingers calling for the bombing of Belgium, c) diplomatic arm-twisting to get the resolution withdrawn and even possibly d) some anti-Belgian demonstrations? I think the country that invented the 'freedom fries' is also rather sensitive to any external criticism.

Meanwhile, what are the chances of Chinese-Americans now getting a condemnation of the 'Rape of Nanking' passed? I think that's an equally serious crime that the country perpetrating is still trying to deny happened decades later.

If say, the Belgium government passed a resolution condemning genocide of Native Americans, are you absolutely certain that in the US there wouldn't be...

Oh, no, I suspect all those things you mentioned would occur. We're a sensitive people. Hell, I get my dander up a little when a foreigner criticizes President Bush, and I think he's the worst.

But I think the response certainly wouldn't be to deny the genocide! The more measured response would be something like "hey, we feel we've dealt with this ourselves, why are you picking on us?"

the response certainly wouldn't be to deny the genocide!

You bet your boots we would deny it. We would deny it just the way Turkey is: sure, lots of people died, but that was never really official federal policy, at least not long term, or, the population left after European diseases had killed off 80% was not viable anyway, or, there are lots of them left so that proves we weren't trying to kill them all, and when we killed off entire tribes they weren't really distinct ethnic/national groups from the ones we didn't kill off, etc. Haven't you heard all of these? I sure have.

Most people don't study history. Actually, I'll go further than that, most Americans hate and resent history on principle. We want to believe that the past does not bind us. Starting over is our great national myth. We get really upset when called to account for the sins of the past, because we don't know about them, prefer not to think about them, and take any mention of them as an attack on our self-image. Think of all the Southerners who refuse to hear the obvious fact that the Confederate flag is the symbol of racist oppression.

Of course we would deny it. We deny everything.

Of course we would deny it. We deny everything.

No, we don't.

Gary,
My points were formulated specifically concerning Jes' comments on the general notion of hate crimes rather than any specific instantiation of them in a particular country and Jes answered them and asked some interesting follow up questions. Rather than get you involved, I take up the points over at TiO.

oh, and I forgot, farmgirl, you're right, opprobrium is the word I wanted. Everyone else was worried about the captcha, I'm just trying to keep my 1st language...

dutchmarbel, do you think that the Turks committed genocide against the Armenians? (Put aside the Congressional resolution.)

My first link expressed how I felt I thought. I don't know for sure and am more or less with Guenter Lewy:

The key issue in this controversy is not the extent of Armenian suffering; both sides agree that several hundred thousand Christians perished during the deportation of the Armenians from Anatolia to the Syrian desert and elsewhere in 1915-16.[2] With little notice, the Ottoman government forced men, women, and children from their homes. Many died of starvation or disease during a harrowing trek over mountains and through deserts. Others were murdered.

Historians do not dispute these events although they may squabble over numbers and circumstances. Rather the key question in the debate concerns premeditation. Did the Young Turk regime organize the massacres that took place in 1916?

Most of those who maintain that Armenian deaths were premeditated and so constitute genocide base their argument on three pillars: the actions of Turkish military courts of 1919-20, which convicted officials of the Young Turk government of organizing massacres of Armenians, the role of the so-called "Special Organization" accused of carrying out the massacres, and the Memoirs of Naim Bey[3] which contain alleged telegrams of Interior Minister Talât Pasha conveying the orders for the destruction of the Armenians. Yet when these events and the sources describing them are subjected to careful examination, they provide at most a shaky foundation from which to claim, let alone conclude, that the deaths of Armenians were premeditated.

PM Erdogan invited the Armanians in 2005 to form a combined research group.

Gary:I'd be much more eager to vote for a resolution condemning settlers on the American continent for engaging in genocide than I would be eager to vote for a resolution about Turkey. Are you trying to up my enthusiasm for doing justice, and the right thing?

I not your eagerness to condemn settlers, but I was referring to the US government. You do realize a lot of forced relocations and death happened after the American revolution? You do realize that taking children and educating them 'for their own good' in another religion, language and culture is genocidal?

DJ: I'm with you on this one. I'm beginning to loose track of the conceptual distinctions here. There is ethnic cleansing, but then there is something called genocide that goes beyond ethnic cleansing and mass killing?? This, I assume, is not the Turkish position: I don't think the Turkish government is fessing up to ethnic cleansing.

By the way, I'm not sure that killing by negligence (when the negligent entity is the state and therefore in a special relationship to its subjects) is much of an improvement. And, as someone asked earlier, how do you kill several hundred thousand people negligently?

To repeat what urks me: so much of the debate focuses around whether or not the Ottomans appropriately documented their crimes. Somehow this has been conceptually finnagled to the point where the eyewitness testimony of thousands of people who said "We were rounded up and people were shot" stands as evidence for nothing whatsoever towards the question of whether there was ethnic cleansing.

Another thing: the debate here is pitched as an insult to Turkishness. Not to the Turkish state, but to Turkishness itself: the cultural identity. If the argument is that there was ethnic cleansing on a vast scale but not organized ethnic cleansing, that might let the Ottoman government off the hook, but how does that let Turkishness off the hook?

I just feel a bait and switch is being tried here where people summon up arguments that don't really lead to the conclusions they are trying to reach at.

not=note

dutchmarbel: You have to realize that the idea of cooperating with a Turkish group of denialist scholars sounds to Armenians to accepting an invitation from Ahmadinejad to join in on a Holocaust conference. So I don't feel that that is grounds for criticism, given where the Armenian community is subjectively.

I've never been able to see why I can't concede all of Lewy's points and yet still think that there was a genocide. The no premeditation therefore no genocide argument doesn't have any sway on me. This is because the alternative to premeditation is not just that Armenians were "in the wrong place with the wrong sympathies".

to accepting=like accepting

Daniel Fried, testimony march 2007:

Against this complex background, Mr. Chairman, Turkey now faces the possibility of a congressional resolution defining as genocide the mass killings and forced exile of as many as 1.5 million Armenians in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. The Administration has never denied, nor does it dispute or minimize, the historical facts of these mass murders and this ethnic cleansing. Each year, the President has issued a solemn statement on April 24th, Armenian Remembrance Day.

Our goal is to stimulate a candid exploration within Turkish society of these horrific events in an effort to help Turkey reconcile with its painful past and with Armenia. This is not easy. It was not easy for the United States to address its own historic dark spots either. We will have to be persistent and we will have to be thoughtful. But after a long silence, Turkey is making progress addressing these issues. Dramatically this year, more than 100,000 Turkish citizens of all backgrounds demonstrated at the funeral of an Armenian-Turkish journalist murdered by a Turkish ultra-nationalist and they demonstrated in support of tolerance and a candid exploration of Turkey's past.

Political leaders across the political spectrum, including the President, the Prime Minister and the Chief of the General Staff condemned this killing. We are also seeing growing calls, including from Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Gul, for changes to Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code which criminalizes insulting Turkishness. We welcome Turkish leaders' and opinion makers' calls to amend or repeal Article 301.

Against this backdrop, we believe that House Resolution 106 would undercut voices emerging in Turkey who call for a truthful exploration of these events in pursuit of Turkey's reconciliation with its own past and with Armenia. Members of the Armenian-Turkish community tell us that such resolutions would stifle the dialogue they seek and would even raise popular emotions so dramatically as to threaten the progress they have made in Turkey. Our goal is an opening of the Turkish mind and the Turkish heart through honest, if painful, self examination. We fear that passage of any such resolutions would close minds and harden hearts.

I think getting rid of article 301 in Turkey should be most important at the moment.

Ara: Maybe I'm naive, but I think that I would like Ahmadinejad to join a holocaust conference. Seeing the films shot by the allied forces that liberated the concentration camps. Judging the vast amount of documented abuse. But to stay on track; if they open all Ottoman archives that would be a welcome opportunity, wouldn't it? Not matter wether you have an ideologically liking for your fellow scholar or not. And saying "denialist scholar" seems to imply that the Armanian scholers would be objective, which in turn would make YOU te naive party ;)

You seem to feel that genocide is another word for mass killings. Your statements about eyewitness reports about whole villages being round up collaborate with that viewpoint. However: nobody disagrees with the fact that whole villages were round up and that many people were intentionally slaugtered. As LJ said: the terminoligy is what matters, since genocide implies moral opprobrium (yes I had to look that up).

You say: "By the way, I'm not sure that killing by negligence (when the negligent entity is the state and therefore in a special relationship to its subjects) is much of an improvement. And, as someone asked earlier, how do you kill several hundred thousand people negligently?".

Do you remember the discussions about the Lancet study? Do you realize that the number of excess dead has increased to a million at the moment? We are more documented now than we were 90 or 100 years ago, but we still have fierce discussions.

http://news.independent.co.uk/fisk/article2901136.ece

http://news.independent.co.uk/fisk/article3052373.ece

@John: I read your links, but they are more an illustration of the one-sided view people often take to be honest. It cites from sources that are not beyond doubt, and has quotations like:

The stance of the current Turkish government [in denying the genocide] is proving they are proud of what their ancestors did. They are saying they are pleased with what the Ottomans did.

Which I think is kind of leading and not very factual, don't you?

On 24 April 1915, Turkish troops rounded up and killed hundreds of Armenian intellectuals. Weeks later, three million Armenians were marched from their homes – the majority towards Syria and modern-day Iraq – via an estimated 25 concentration camps.

wikipedia starts with: "Ottoman Armenian population size within the Ottoman Empire between 1914 and 1915 is a controversial topic. Most estimates range from 1.5 to 2.5 million" and ends with: "Most Western scholars believe the totality of the Armenian population within the Empire prior to 1915 to be between 1.8 and 2.1 million.". That makes it hard to march three million...

My problem with this discussion is that it's like you think nothing bad happend if you are not sure it is a genocide. But nobody denies that horrible things happened and many many people died. The whole difference is the *intent*. Unless you change the meaning of the word genocide to something like "every horrible thing were masses of people of one specific (religious/ethnic/geographic) group were killed", which is what a lot of folk seem to think of - at least they seem to think that not knowing wether it was a genocide amounts to denying that that happened.

If we look at current discutable situations you see how hard it is to just look at one side of the story and assume they are right. Take Iraq: a million dead through intent or through negligence? Most folk I know assume that it was shear incompetence by this administration, but suppose you had to defend that to people who are convinced that it was intentional? Wouldn't you have the same discussion with one side showing lot's of eyewitness reports of all the bad things happening and the other side saying that it would be ridiculous to assume intent and that quite a lot was due to internal Iraqi conflicts, bad circumstances and the fact that a war was going on?

Suppose the Netherlands would have a resolution to recognize the Fallujah Massacre? Asking for apologies of the US government, reparations, prosecution of the folk responsible? Wouldn't that be seen as a highly political move? Suppose France would do it? The UK? Turkey? Iran?

In Iraq, there's debate over the scale of the death toll and some debate over the percentages --the Lancet study and the recent ORB poll both suggest far more deaths from air strikes than one would think from the news, and Lancet says 30 percent of the violent deaths were attributed to coalition forces. OTOH, Iraq Body Count, relying on mainstream press accounts, finds a much lower number of deaths caused by the coalition, and the bulk of those in the first two months of the war. In that version of events it's mostly Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence that accounts for the death toll, though some of the factions are or were allied with the US.

If it turns out that the US really has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis with its own forces (and the majority of these would probably be civilian), then I'd say that wasn't accidental. It wouldn't fit the genocide definition--it would be the sort of killing that occurs in counterinsurgency campaigns when the occupying power doesn't care about the effects of its firepower. That'd be a major war crime. Personally, I'm indifferent as to whether someone wants to call it "genocide", because I'm tired of people tacitly assuming that massive crimes against humanity are less serious if they don't fit the precise definition of "genocide". My impression is that people bend and flex the definition from case to case anyway. People in the US used to say the Russians were engaged in genocide in Afghanistan. Saddam, famously, committed genocide against the Kurds. The Guatemalan government is said to have committed genocide against the Mayans. Certainly Turkey is more than guilty by those standards.

There's no doubt that Turkey intended an ethnic cleansing at the very least--mass killing is a natural part of that process. But if the people in Turkey are all upset over being accused of genocide when all their country did 90 years ago was "only" ethnic cleansing and mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, I have to say I don't give a damn about their hurt feelings. Let them admit to having committed one of the worst crimes of the 20th Century--if they are sincere about this they'd have too much shame to get upset if someone uses the term "genocide" to describe it.


As for condemnations of the US, bring them on. I would applaud if other countries started holding us accountable for our war crimes. I might quibble about the use of the term "genocide", but I wouldn't get upset over it if I thought we were guilty of mass killings. The people of Turkey who object are acting like flag-waving American viewers of Fox News. That's not a compliment.

But if the people in Turkey are all upset over being accused of genocide when all their country did 90 years ago was "only" ethnic cleansing and mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, I have to say I don't give a damn about their hurt feelings. Let them admit to having committed one of the worst crimes of the 20th Century--if they are sincere about this they'd have too much shame to get upset if someone uses the term "genocide" to describe it.

I agree with most of your post. It's probabely just that from a practical point of view I'd rather have Turkey change their policy against minorities. I'd like article 301 to be abolished, the Kurds to be free to speak their own language, them admitting to having done bad things in their past, under different government, and being willing to change them.

The South-African committee of truth and reconsiliation was quite an eye opener for me. It made clear that moving on is sometimes more important than justice punishing people. Labels for political gain make me uncomfortable in any case (I really hate being manipulated), but if they might have an adversory effect, what's the use of labelling?

Slightly late reply to hairshirthedonist (01:42) but: Americans are pretty good at denial, they just don't bother with the aggressive version used by Turks (i.e. actively denying the obvious) because they pay far less attention to outsiders. Good example: a couple of years ago Ezra Klein (normally as smart and sensitive a blogger as you'll find anywhere) described a trip to Amsterdam. He then said something along the lines of 'wonderful place, but very hard to walk the streets without remembering the crimes commited there, and the people who don't walk there anymore'. I have seen similar comments from other US commentators elsewhere, and I never see any of them adding something about the fact that they live in a land that was stolen and cleansed of its original inhabitants only a few generations ago. Equally, I went to the quite modern Museum of the West under the arch in St Louis, and there was a lot on the brave settlers and explorers, and not much on dead natives - You'd think the land was unooccupied...

There is no question this is a genocide and no question we should recognize it.

All the serious non biased scholars agree on this.

The names mentioned in denial (Gunter Lewy) are known for thier positions. Lewy is a rabid unexceptionalist. he says no genocide occurred except the Holocaust. That is an absurd position to take. He for example has written that no genocide against the Gypsies occurred in World War Two (!).

Lewy -- and this is quite chilling -- uses the exact method of denial described by Samantha Power! It is as if Lewy is channeling Goebbels and Irving at the same time.

Then there is the statement that Erdogan invited the examination of the archives. This is 100% false and everyone working in the field of genocide studies knows it.

http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=68233

Scholars and journalists are arrested for the most innocuous statements on the Armenian genocide. It is hardly an inviting place.

On the question of timing, and why this is happening now, this has almost nothing to do with US politics, it is all about what has been coming out of Ankara for the past few years. If a successor state to Nazi German were to start denying the Holocaust we would have resolutions here.

So, can't lie. Not a fan of the dems, but not excited about seeing my friends going off to Iraq.
So my (cynic) thought on this is that it could be an attempt to force the Simian Shrubbery to bring the troops home. Slowly knock out the allies to we can't use them as air bases, etc. There's no way we can really fight if we haven't got a close enough base, right? So if we can't fight, then the war id effectively over.

In my view, Turks get a bad rap, whether you define it as "genocide" or "one-sided mass killing." Because, while the killing was carried out by Turks, it was instigated by Germany, fresh from, but not satisfied by, their genocide of Namibians, and eager for the Berlin-to-Baghdad Railroad. Germans, through an intensive propaganda campaign and other support, instigated the Young Turk "Holy War" and then calmly observed it. Partial rap sheet of German principals: Marshal Colmar von der Goltz, Colonel Bronsart von Schellendorf, Constantin von Neurath (German charge d’affairs at Constantinople, later Hitler’s first Foreign Minister) and lesser ones like Major Stange. The Turkish principals involved were hung by the Turks*, although some escaped to Germany. Three groups were killed: Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians – all Eastern Orthodox Christians.

I happen to be an American of German descent but Assyrian Orthodox Christian by faith. On the Armenian genocide topic I recommend the objective research by Berkeley historian Margaret Anderson, and that of Dr. Gabriele Yonan.

Regarding Berlin-on-Potomac's (Washington's) looming "recognition" of "Turk guilt," it's hardly surprising they seek to anger Turks against the US. They have, by their every action, been diligently angering the entire world against the US. They are supporting the PKK as Herr Bush ardently seeks to supplant Turkey's secular government with a radical theocratic one, as was done in Iran in 1979, and now in Iraq. While the Shah and Saddam were intially installed by the US in the 50's and 60's resepectively, they outlived their usefulness, because both were firmly secular, brutally suppressing the jihad in their respective countries. Which didn't fit with Washington & Bonn's 21st-century gameplan for worldwide jihad, employed so effectively against the Soviets in the 80's, and against Yugoslavia in the 90's, and now employed effectively as the carrot-and-the-stick for the so-called "war on terror."

dutchmarbel: If you're going to talk about "sources that are not beyond doubt," you shouldn't turn around and cite Wikipedia.

Regarding intent, this section from the first article I cited is eminently clear:

On 15 September 1915, for example (and a carbon of this document exists) Talaat Pasha, the Turkish Interior minister, cabled an instruction to his prefect in Aleppo about what he should do with the tens of thousands of Armenians in his city. "You have already been informed that the government... has decided to destroy completely all the indicated persons living in Turkey... Their existence must be terminated, however tragic the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to either age or sex, or to any scruples of conscience."

I'd be all in favor of the Netherlands (or France, or the UK, or Turkey, or Iran) recognizing the Fallujah Massacre, asking for apologies, reparations, and prosecution of the people responsible. In fact, I think a reasonable response on Turkey's part would be to pass a resolution recognizing the genocide of the Native Americans.

I had two comments on this over at BlueMassGroup.com here and here, and I won't copy them here. From the latter comment, copying a piece from Juan Cole, it appears that Pelosi has a lot of wealthy Armenian Americans in her district, who are pushing for this resolution, regardless of the possible repercussions regarding US troops.

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