The Armenian Genocide resolution has now turned into a major tug of war between truth on one side and the combined might of the Bush administration, some American-Jewish organizations, Israeli leaders, the Turkish government and its high-powered lobbyists on the other side. The U.S. Congress has become the battleground for the hearts and minds of Americans.
While it is disturbing to read the daily barrage of denial by descendants of those who committed mass murder against the Armenian nation, it is much more upsetting to witness the leaders of the United States, the bastion of democracy and human rights, acting as spokesmen for liars and deniers.
It is absolutely appalling that the Bush administration is caving in to the pressures and blackmail of a quasi-fascist state, rather than rejecting Turkey’s threats and urging its leaders to face up to the truth and admit the facts of history. It is astounding to see how U.S. officials are groveling in front of Turkish denialists, instead of mustering the courage to tell them to get lost. After all, Turkey needs the United States much more than America needs Turkey. Should the Turks take any punitive action against American interests, they would end up losing much more than the United States.
While Turkey has poured millions of dollars into high-powered lobbying and public relations firms to inundate the mass media with denialist propaganda, it has lost its main argument that there was no genocide. Even the staunchest congressional opponents of the genocide resolution have acknowledged that Turks did commit genocide against the Armenia’s.
Moreover, a handful of American-Jewish organizations that still oppose the resolution have stated that they do so out of fear for the lives of the Jews in Turkey — not exactly a ringing endorsement of human rights in that so-called democracy! Sooner or later, Turkey’s Islamist leaders are bound to take actions that contradict American and/or Israeli interests, thereby weakening the opposition to the genocide resolution.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has bravely stood her ground despite the recent onslaught of media criticisms against her and the betrayal of some of her own Democratic colleagues. She is neither intimidated by massive Bush administration pressures nor by Turkish threats. Incidentally, the Incirlik airbase in Turkey, which the Turks have threatened to close should Congress adopt the Armenian Genocide resolution, is actually not so vital for the U.S. war effort in Iraq, according to a top American commander. U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General Michael Moseley stated in a Feb. 21, 2007 briefing: "I wouldn’t say that we have to [use] Incirlik to conduct operations in Iraq."
A core group of Democrats and Republicans, who probably constitute more than half of the House members, are still backing the Speaker’s stand on this morally just issue, despite the heavy-handed tactics of powerful and well-financed opponents of the resolution. In addition, there are many Republican House members who support the resolution, but have not publicly endorsed it in order to avoid being pressured by the administration.
Armenian-Americans need to rally to the support of this core group while providing political cover to the Speaker’s valiant efforts by blanketing the media with letters to the editor, op-ed columns, interviews with journalists, and full-page ads in newspapers and magazines. Such a massive campaign is necessary in order to counter all the lies that were spread through the media in recent days by well-connected public relations firms hired by Turkey at a cost of more than $300,000 per month. The negative articles and TV talk shows have created the false impression that the American public is against the genocide resolution, causing some congressional sponsors to go back on their word and remove their names.
While the Turks, due to their obsessive opposition to any and all references to the Armenian Genocide, have unwittingly globalized this issue, it is important that the Armenian community’s efforts continue unabated until this resolution is approved by the full House.
In next year’s primaries and general elections, the Armenian-American community should remember some of these turncoats and target them for defeat. Other ethnic groups have successfully practiced this method of making an example of politicians working against their interests.
This controversy carries an important lesson for U.S. policymakers. One needs to remember that appeasing Turkey would encourage other countries to also blackmail the United States, holding American policies hostage to foreign interests. Two recent examples of other countries lifting a page from the Turkish book of threats would suffice: Japan’s demand that Congress not pass a resolution to condemn the abuse of Korean "comfort women" by Japanese soldiers during WWII and Chinese threats to dissuade the White House from honoring the Dalai Lama.
By buckling under Turkish pressure, the U.S. government has left the door open not only for major powers like Japan and China, but also to lesser states to force the United States to take positions contrary to its values and interests.