BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Over the last week, much foolishness has been spewed by otherwise intelligent people, and vice versa. Let’s start with the latter.
Texas Gov., and now former Republican presidential candidate, Rick Perry actually got it right about Turkey when asked about it in the last presidential debate he attended. He called its leaders terrorists, recommended reviewing Turkey’s membership in NATO, and advocated reducing U.S. foreign aid to Turkey to zero. If a man who is cast in the bumbling, bungling, embarrassing mold of George W. Bush can understand Turkey’s essence, why can’t some of the others mentioned below? Here’s a dumb guy being smart.
Of course, right after Perry’s remarks, the ever sniveling, Turkey-loving State Department immediately rallied to crybaby-bully-Turkey’s defense with the usual drivel about how good an ally Turkey is. Here, it’s smart people being dumb.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, in two capitals, we have more examples of smart being dumb. In Paris, the French Senate is due to vote on a bill criminalizing denial of the Armenian Genocide. Yet a committee of the same body voted to reject it, presumably based on some of the free speech arguments one hears when this type of legislation comes up. I’ll take that argument more seriously when the same people succeed in reversing equivalent laws covering Holocaust denial. Besides, there’s a fundamental weakness in this position, the perpetrator is actively involved in denial and the rewriting of history. There is a political component to discussion of the Armenian Genocide which does not exist in other instances. So it no longer stands solely as a question of healthy academic (or other arena) debate, because the very academicians are being bought off.
Unsurprisingly, Timothy Garton Ash weighed in on this issue with an op-ed piece titled “Speech crimes” (LA Times, January 19) arguing against passage of the French legislation. He’s an Oxford professor and has other impressive credentials. Yet, he’s very “generous” about allowing people, in this case Turkey’s leaders, to say things at others’ expense. He had a similarly problematic piece in the LA Times a few years ago.
Fortunately, not everyone is acting perversely. Algeria’s Prime Minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, had the decency to tell Turkey to back off its exploitation of Algerians’ suffering at the hands of France’s colonial authorities half a century ago during its struggle for liberation. In its ongoing hissy-fit over passage of the denial criminalization bill, Turkey has been accusing France of having committed genocide in Algeria. While France acted despicably then, it was far from genocide. The most delicious part of Ouyahia’s chiding Turkey was his reminder that Turkey provided material support to France at the time!
Despite the unexpected lunkheaded behavior exhibited by some, your mind can be at peace. Some strange malady is not overcoming humanity. Not only do we have the Algerian example of normalcy, but the Turkish one, too. Their reaction to Perry and the French legislation is exactly what you’d expect of them after years of experience with their attempted (and sometimes successful, as with the U.S. Congress) bullying whenever the heat gets turned up on their genocidal history.
Let’s keep up the pressure. Once Turkey does right by us, then we can discuss the free speech concerns raised by some in an appropriate context.