Should U.S. Congress Consider Resolution Labeling Ottoman Empire's Massacre of Armenians Genocide?

Posted by Frederick Jones
October 16, 2007
Map of Armenia

The United States Congress is considering a resolution that brands the Ottoman Empire's World War I massacre of Armenians a genocide. The tragedy occurred ninety-years ago. Currently, the United States and Turkey enjoy a close strategic relationship.

Should the U.S. Congress consider the resolution labeling the Ottoman Empire's World War I massacre of Armenians a genocide?

Comments

Comments

Ralph
|
Greece
October 16, 2007

Ralph in Greece writes:
If the evidence is there, I say yes. I also hear that the Turks are stirring up trouble by the possibility of not allowing our Iraq war effort to be supported by them or our bases in Turkey.

My solution is to negotiate with Greece and bring back the American bases to Greece. We used to have many bases in Greece and times were great then! Maybe the current pro-American government in Greece could be persuaded to absorb several new bases in Athens and around the countryside. Of course, let's make the contract long enough to allow for any socialist government that we may have to weather thru.

Then we wouldn't need to worry what the Turks think, say or do?

Kenneth T.
|
Canada
October 16, 2007

Kenneth in Canada writes:
There have been some valid points raised about the Armenian Genocide, but there is no question that all the parties that were involved in it are long dead. Thus,it raises a second point. Why has anyone raised the question of the Armenian Genocide at all, if they have not raised the Abyssinian Genocide of 1935, in which the Italian Legions of "Il Duce," Benito Mussolini were involved? Are they not missing something here?

So, the the issue of the Armenian Genocide is a non-issue, which somehow got going by the prodding of people, who had their own agenda.

Em
|
New Jersey, USA
October 16, 2007

EM in New Jersey writes:
I'm not sure why this is even an issue, except for a purely political and, frankly, offensive reason. The Armenian genocide was just that, and any attempts to label it otherwise is insulting to the memory of any person who has ever campaigned against it.

Genocide may be unpalatable, but it should never be ignored. If we allow the Armenian genocide to slide into the past simply to avoid upsetting an ally, then so should Rwanda, Sudan, Stalin's purges, Bosnia...

Arthur P.
|
Greece
October 17, 2007

Arthur in Greece writes:
Turkey has lost its geopolitical interest for the U.S. in the region. Moreover, if Turkey would invade to Northern Iraq it would make things worse.

The acceptance of Armenian Genocide can be a considered as a "punishment for disobedience" -- a major slap to the dignity of Turkey.

Thomas
|
Pennsylvania, USA
October 17, 2007

Thomas in Pennsylvania writes:
Politics and diplomacy are about achieving goals. What are the goals of the U.S.'s relationships with Turkey and Armenia? How does the resolution help meet those goals? What are the benefits of the resolution and what are the costs? In some ways this is a good example of the idealist v. realist philosophies of politics. If the Ottoman Empire massacred Armenians almost a century ago that is a bad thing and should not be denied any more than the Holocaust should be. But what is the purpose of a resolution labeling the massacre genocide? Why is it necessary at this time? Are the countervailing costs of offending, and possibly alienating, a key strategic ally at this particular time worth it?

What are our goals as a nation, and I acknowledge we have more than one goal and they are occasionally in conflict with each other? Does this resolution ultimately hinder or help us to reach them? Unless the net result is brings us closer to our goals we should not pursue this resolution at this time.

Peter
|
District Of Columbia, USA
October 17, 2007

Peter in Washington, DC writes:

One thing missing from the media coverage and discussion is why the Turks are responding this way. It clouds one's ability to make a balanced assesment because the reaction seems contextually so far out of bounds. To me if the Turks are not ready to admit this then we must begin a dialogue. Perhaps we can have Turkey teach the Native American genocide in exchange for our teaching the Armenian genocide. Either way its important to know if Turkey is in denial that it ever happened, wants to sweep this under the rug, feels that the facts are in dispute, or is there some other issue. We are not really given enough information to make an informed judgement.

Murat
|
Turkey
October 17, 2007

Murat in Turkey writes:

First of all, the nature of this debate in the U.S. House is disgusting, since nobody actually seems to care about whether the "so called" genocide happened or not, and they argue about political interests of the US, meaning that what's really at issue is which side should US prefer to alienate. Moreover, subject of the debate is a gloomy period during WW1, when not only Armenians but also Turks suffered a lot (There are photos of Armenian gangs massacring the Turkish peasants and of mass graves full of bodies of massaccred Turks in the archives and also in books), and when a legal definition for the word "genocide" didn't even exist in any language. This is an issue that can be and should be discussed at a scientific level, and Turkey has made it clear that it was ready to make the necessary contributions on its part for such discussions. The US and all other third parties should have better jobs to do than to keep bringing up the same topic, which is about a woeful time nearly a hundred years ago. Armenians on the other side, should stop running away from the field and come to a point to discuss this matter on a scientific bases with Turkey, not with everybody else Turkey. As for the strategic importance and the word "disobedience" I read in a comment, let's make one thing clear: Turkey isn't used to "obey" any other country's orders due to its historical roots, there may be some others who can do this willfully but Turkey isn't one of them, and Turkey has its choices, regardless of what others think about its strategic importance.

Matt
|
Georgia
October 17, 2007

Matt in Georgia writes:

Heavens, no, our Congress shouldn't be mucking around with this senseless resolution. Passing a resolution does nothing of any value; historians agree that this was a dark page in history, and there were massacres of innocents on either side.

It serves nothing but politics. Mostly California politicians get support from their Armenian-American constituents, and Democrats get to stick their thumb in the eye of the administration's war efforts. And this is while the Dems criticize the president for gutting the relationships with our allies.

The resolution does nothing to strengthen our nation, provide for the security of the United States. It may actually hurt our soldiers, cut off great amounts of oil revenues for the Iraqi government, and cause us to battle an ally in defense of the Iraqi Kurds.

Great. Good job Congress. You guys are unbelievable losers.

Brian
|
Colorado, USA
October 17, 2007

Brian in Colorado writes:

I can't help but wonder if the Armenian debate in congress is solely for the purpose of putting pressure on the President to end the war in Iraq by alienating countries such as Turkey that are providing bases and support since the Democrats can't seem to confront the President head on.

I was wondering if other people think the same and what other people's thoughts on that were.

Khalia
|
New York, USA
October 17, 2007

Khalia in New York writes:

The U.S. Congress amazes me. While I have no desire to minimize this issue, like many others on this blog I question the reasons why there is a sudden need for "U.S." lawmakers to address it now. Also, should they not first begin at home? As I speak (or write) both Thanksgiving and Independence Day are nationally celebrated federal holidays. Yet there are no holidays for the Native Americans, who suffered a genocide of their own in this very country, or the African-Americans who endured over two hundred years of slavery and state-endorsed terror on American soil (And no, MLK Day does not count). Furthermore, U.S. currency still features pictures of people like George Washington who was a cruel and merciless slave owner. If the U.S. Congress is going to use my tax money making declarations about the wrongs committed by government entities, shouldn't they start with the atrocities committed by the U.S. government against U.S. citizens?

Layne
|
Colorado, USA
October 17, 2007

Layne in Colorado writes:

This whole thing is blowback from the United States' refusal to label the Rwandan genocide as such. We stood by while a million Rwandan's were murdered, because Rwanda was of no strategic importance to the U.S. at the time, and had we used the term "genocide" we would have been forced by NATO agreements, which we took part in creating, to intervene in Rwanda.

Now that we are faced again with the choice of whether or not to call a spade a spade, our collective conscience won't allow us to ignore it. Irony: when we could have saved lives in strategically unimportant Rwanda by using the "g" word, we hid behind semantics; but 100 years too late, we are leading the charge in Armenia.

Nancy Pelosi and the other California representatives who initiated this whole dubious quest for the truth are willing to insist on the word "genocide" because it is politically beneficial to them in their home districts, which are heavily populated with Armenian immigrants.

Unfortunately, Pelosi and her pals are not the only ones taking political advantage from mass death: Turkey is using this as an excuse to invade Kurdish Iraq, an action they have been wanting to take for some time now. We have insulted them, they argue, so why should they respect our wish that they not shed any more blood on the slaughterhouse floor?

More irony: Turkey protests our House resolution labeling it a violent country, but then uses that resolution as an excuse to go commit more violence.

Charles
|
Texas, USA
October 17, 2007

Charles in Texas writes:

@ Brian in Colorado -- I agree with you and am cynical enough to believe that the Democrat motive is even more sinister. Remember a recent poll that 1 in 5 Democrats want America to lose the war in Iraq?

Judy
|
Ohio, USA
October 17, 2007

Judy in Ohio writes:

Absolutely not! That is just stirring up a hornet's nest where our government doesn't belong. Our government needs to concentrate on the here and now, not something that happened nearly a hundred years ago.

Mac
|
Virginia, USA
October 17, 2007

Mac in Virginia writes:

No, U.S. Congress should not consider a resolution labeling the Ottoman Empire's World War I massacre of Armenians a genocide. While this was certainly a tragedy, it occurred ninety-years ago. I would hope there are many more pressing items on the U. S. Congress's plate!

Sunde
|
France
October 18, 2007

Sunde in France writes:

Yes. Historians claim that the events of 1915, the massacres performed by Ottoman troops on Armenian populations were the first genocide of the XXth century and the second was The Shoah. Turks go on a negationist attitude against these events. The recognition of this tragedy as a genocide by U.S. congress will be a decisive step in the Turkish process of reviewing history and its official dogma.

Layne
|
Colorado, USA
October 18, 2007

Layne in Colorado writes:

As a Republican, even I have trouble believing that Congress would be so cynical as to damage relations with a key U.S. ally and risk the bloodshed of Turkish and Kurdish fighters all just to undermine our efforts in Iraq.

I also disagree that the issue of the Armenian genocide isn't important to U.S. Policy. Every American ambassador to Armenia has had to lie to the Armenians by refusing - under State Department orders - to use the term 'genocide' when talking about the killing. Only Ambassador John Evans told the truth, and he was fired for it.

It is important that America tell the truth, even when it is politically damaging to do so. How can we claim to be the country of democracy and free speech when our government orders its representatives to lie?

Of course, more often than not, governments act out of self interest rather than principle. Ours is no different. We act out of principle when no lives are at stake, and out of self interest when they are.

Eric
October 18, 2007

Eric writes:

How many of you would be up in arms if our Congress refused to recognize the Holocaust as a genocide? I see a ton of hypocrisy here.

Denny
|
Louisiana, USA
October 18, 2007

Denny in Louisiana writes:

Yes.

Do you realize how many Armenian-Americans are living in America as a result of this tragedy? It is a generational scar upon several countries: Turkey, Armenia and America (who had been a revered world leader until the Bush Presidency).

America had no problem denouncing Jewish genocide after WWII. This is different because of our Iraq War needs with Turkey? C'mon, if we had a little bit of sense we would never have placed ourselves in such a vulnerable position with Turkey in the first place.

Whatever happened to critical thinking in this country?

Kenneth
|
Canada
October 18, 2007

Kenneth in Canada writes:

Everyone seems to overlook one thing. If Turkey invades Iraq to settle the score with the Kurds, it might open up old wounds. But, more than that, peoples memories are quick to remember the past, and this could bring back old hatreds and enmities which have long been forgotten.

Thus, Turkey is going to jog peoples memories and who knows where it will end? With the question of the Armenian Genocide being raised recently, Turkey must be careful in its actions in Iraq.

Kashif
|
United States
October 18, 2007

Kashif in America writes:

Yes this is definitely a complex issue that is being handled in a rash way by some people in Congress who are bent on ruining relations with Turkey while at the same time not taking into account the genocides that took place in America and the rest of the world like other bloggers like Khalia mentioned. Turkey's sensitivities need to be taken into consideration instead of slapping a genocide label on them. I mean some people call the roman empire where alot of civilizations based their laws around to be barbaric as well with it's unfair murders taking place under it's famous colosseum but no one is urging italy to label the roman colosseum a place of muder and a solemn reminder of the cruelness of mankind where slaves were made to fight beasts(human and animals alike) against their will. A genocide may have taken place against the armenians by the ottoman empire but the way this resolution of genocide is being put out makes it seem very biased, i mean if you blame the ottomans for genocide why stop there why not call the founding fathers of "america" responsibel for the death and expulsion of numerous native american tribes. It will simply open up a pandora's box of claims for genocide by almost anyone and everyone. Take me forexample i would probably push for a resolution for genocide against Israel even though i am pretty sure that most of these so called "altruistic" congressmen and women would completely reject it on the grounds that Israel is an important ally in the "war on terrorism". Haha what a joke.

T. G.
|
Minnesota, USA
October 18, 2007

T in Minnesota writes:

You guys are in the state department, may I inquire as to how serious a situation is when one country withdraws its Ambassador from another?

Turkey just did that, and it worries me. Right now there is a general disillusionment Turkey about Americans. They have thought that we are a pompous and Imperialistic nation since the Iraq war began. They have felt that they have given America much support and received little in return. They are frustrated with the West in general because of the problems with entry into the EU, and they are furious that they are not allowed to go and find kill the PKK.

This current congress resolution only makes it worse. If it passes- and I would be surprised if I did not -then the Turks will know that America officially thinks of them as a minor country one can offend whenever it is convenient.

The thing is, that is just plain dangerous. Turkish generals (with large public support) are on the verge of invading Kurdistan, the one pro-America, peaceful, prospering place in Iraq. I doubt it will be such once the Turkish army has driven through it.

Alex M.
|
Massachusetts, USA
October 18, 2007

Alex in Massachusetts writes:

We must not be afraid of the Turks. It is important to acknowledge the genocide of Armenians, we do not deterred.

David
|
Georgia
October 18, 2007

David in Georgia writes:

Certainly what happened was a genocide. However, does official recognition matter at this point. The genocide is over. Perhaps it will mean something to the Armenian people, few of whom are alive to have direct memory of the incident. Yet recognition will have no meaning until the Turkish people acknowledge the atrocities much as Americans have with the treatment of the Native American populations in our history.

What we should be concerned with is the ability to recognize a genocide when it is occuring and call it for what it is and back that up with action. Will Congress pass a Rwanda Genocide resolution in 2084? It seeems that when it comes to genocide the common refrain of "never again" should be replaced with "wait til next year".

heldmyw
|
Michigan, USA
October 18, 2007

H in Michigan writes:

I am pretty certain that the delivery of this resolution to the Ottoman Empire will be problematic...

Perhaps if it were sent by way of Ceylon and Siam, then to Persia?

I only hope that Congress gets around to addressing the repression by Spain of the Netherlands!

You remember! When the Duke of Alva with an army of 20,000 created a tribunal at Brussels to investigate rebellion and heresy, (subsequently called the Council of Blood because 18,000 executed, including the Catholic Egmont, Hoorn, and other prominent figures).

Now that's something important and relevant for them to work on!

(BTW, You really need to change the name of this blog)

Yavuz
|
United States
October 18, 2007

Yavuz in the U.S. writes:

I think that U.S. Congress should stay away fro labeling it a genocide, even if one did occured. The idea of legeslating history is one I think goes against American ideals. I feel that the issue of weather it was a systamatic genocide is something tha tis open to histoical debate and is something the historians should decide. I think it would be proper and I think it could be something the Turks could agree to is experssing sincere regert to the what occured and offer deepest sympathies to what happen. Plus is Congress sets forward the idea that we can legislate history, how long will it take to label the American Military role post Civil War in regards to the treatment of Native Americans as a genocide. A place where I see many similarities to the Armenia/Ottoman

Joseph
|
Macedonia
October 18, 2007

Joseph in Macedonia writes:

I am an American studying the Ottoman Empire in Skopje, Macedonia and I think at this time it is tragic to even consider House Resolution 106. The geopolitical realities of the time and place create a context, which certainly does not justify, but at least begins to explain the motivation behind the horrific events, which, in my opinion cannot be classified as "genocide."

Coincidentally, the domestic political realities of congress today clearly point to the motivation for congressional leadership to resurrect this issue at this time, an action that in my opinion, can be classified as "extremely poor leadership."

Chad
|
Kentucky, USA
October 18, 2007

Chad in Kentucky writes:

Strategically and in some cases on moral grounds, Congress should not pass this resolution. While there is a case on moral ground to pass it, we can not forget that our history can be used against us in terms of genocide. I am sure the Congress and the public would not like if Turkey or any other nation passes a resolution in their congress/parliament condemning us for genocide against the Native Americans during our push westward, slavery of the African-Americans, or the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. Strategically it is a bad call since it would distance us from an ally that is very important to us in that region especially being a moderate democratic muslim nation that could be used a model to other muslim nations striving for democracy. In addition, implications with a rising Russia again and Iran where we would need an ally like Turkey for military, political, and economic muscle against Russian and Iran would be key and lost with the passage of this resolution. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.

John
|
Greece
October 19, 2007

John in Greece writes:

I strongly agree with the spirit of Ralph's ideas, but there are some things that we also have to consider about the "debate."

First, I am not so sure if the current government is enough pro-American. Moreover, I think that no government -- at this time -- can take the political risk of adopting the concept of "bringinga' bases back or create new, due to the political cost they fear to face and the anti-American atmosphere that is spread everywhere in Greece from socialistic and communistic propaganda.

And second, I am certainly sure that, concerning the Iraq issue, -- geographically -- probable bases in Greece (excluding Crete) cannot be so useful as bases near Iraq.

Of course, Turks can not and should not be allowed to schedule the American foreign policy or blackmail the U.S. as they did in the near past concerning the "Northern-Iraqi facilitating" that could offer prior to the Iraqi military operations.

Their stance at that time created major problems for the war against terrorism and the U.S. "image" and surely characterized them as unreliable and opportunists.

John
|
Kansas, USA
October 19, 2007

John in Kansas writes:

The so called Armenian genocide resolution, give me a break, don't members of Congress have better things to do then to create labels for other Empires not in their jurisdiction ... I think members of congress need to stay focused on American issues and let the rest of the world worry about itself and not what the Americans are doing ...has the United states Congress become the world police force? I don't think so. So they should stop pretending they are because they are not. I believe that many of the old goats in Congress need to be replaced by new faces.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
October 19, 2007

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Other than the fact that judgments of this nature may best be left to historians and not politicians, I find it a little odd that the current Turkish government has a problem with folks calling the actions of the Ottoman empire long ago, exactly as they see them.

Not like it reflects on their current government, or anyone alive today, so where's the source of outrage coming from?

Far better to accept the past, deal with it openly today and move on, so as it doesn't fester as an unresolved issue among peoples.

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