Legislating History: Considering the Armenian Genocide Resolution


(House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Tom Lantos)
When I lived in Los Angeles, I was riding my bike westward on Wilshire Boulevard just past the Los Angeles Country Club when I saw in the distance a car speed up the curb, over the sidewalk, and into a tree. As it turned out, Kemal Arikan, the Consul General of Turkey in Los Angeles had just been assassinated by an Armenian activist.
History matters for many. I supported the Comfort Women Resolution in the Congress because historical memory battles in Asia are becoming geostrategically consequential — and in my view, the irresponsibility of some leaders in Asia is enabled by the military buffer that we provide. If American forces were not present in Japan and Korea, then the leaders in Japan, Korea, and China might in fact be less prone to stoke historical fires of strident nationalism with decades old grievances. Today with no real chance of military confrontation, they can get away with irresponsible comments.
But I don’t agree with Scott Paul that the Armenian Genocide Resolution passed yesterday in the House Foreign Relations Committee meets the same standard — and given where we are in the Middle East today, the passage of that Resolution undermines “real time” American interests. Chairman Tom Lantos was wrong to allow Congress to legislate history in this case, at this time.

I completely agree with Chris Nelson of the must read but nearly impossible to get Nelson Report:

The Nelson Report — 11 October 2007
TURKEY. . .with the House in recess today, ironically for a funeral, a Floor vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution could come as quickly as tomorrow (Friday).
Please forgive our blatant editorializing here, but dammit, it does not take a highly developed moral center to decry mass murder, or, for that matter, starvation in Darfur, brutality in Burma, et al.
And while we’re at it, how about historical events in the US, like, say, the officially declared and systematically applied genocide against the American Indian tribes…and the truly blood curdling justifications offered routinely by Andy Jackson, or Grant, Sherman and Sheridan. . .American heroes all.
Since of course we don’t torture, no apologies are needed for Abu Gharib, renditions, et al.
What it does take is the ability to distinguish between the national interest, and gratuitous, feel-good posturing. . .and if you are a legislator, the guts, if you don’t like bad things, to say what you propose to do about them.
Appropriately tough questions for the perhaps mis-named Foreign Affairs Committee were aptly and very coherently put by its chairman yesterday, who then ignored every one of his points to lead the “yes” vote.
So the question remains on the table today: What strategic interests of the United States have been served by this vote? What US strategic interests will be improved by pushing this Resolution to the Floor? If the Resolution is passed by the House, will US interests be advanced in the Middle East?
Will US troops be safer? And for that matter, will the situation for Armenians still in Turkey be improved?
Oh, sorry, forgot. . .they don’t vote in San Francisco.
Such considerations, incidentally, are why analogies to the Comfort Women Resolution are both false and misleading. It is an indisputable fact that “history”, especially the Government of Japan’s handling of it, had become, and remains an impediment to rational relations between Japan and it’s neighbors in North and East Asia.
The US had and has a legitimate interest…indeed, a compelling need…to help resolve those anxieties. . .in Asia. . .as per the very carefully scripted Bush/Abe colloquy during the then-Prime Minister’s visit earlier this year.
Writing about Lantos’ mistake yesterday, “pairing” the Resolutions on Comfort Women with Armenian Genocide, a leader on Comfort Women, Asia Policy Point’s Mindy Kotler, warns:”Comfort Women was written to provide a road-map to a solution of an historic injustice which had become a strategic concern for our country, (and although no one noticed, it complimented past Government of Japn efforts to resolve the issues).
The Armenian resolution has no end-game other than to condemn Turkey. It does not ask for support to those trying to do the right thing, in Turkey, much less explaining how the resolution relates to Mideast peace and reconciliation. . .”

Congress needs to provide adult supervision over a White House that while powerful still behaves in unacceptable, adolescent ways when it comes to America’s national security needs.
But Tom Lantos and the Foreign Relations Committee has just made the White House look good on a Middle East related policy matter — and that was something I thought was inconceivable.
— Steve Clemons


27 comments on “Legislating History: Considering the Armenian Genocide Resolution

  1. Diana says:

    Is Turkey really a good ally? They turned down our request to use their border in 2003 that cost American lives. Everyone agrees on that. And after all, we pay them for military supply lines now.
    The United States of America is a country of people who are bound by a certain set of ideals. When we shelve those ideals . . . compromise them . . . ignore them . . . in deference to ideals that are the antithesis of what it means to be American, then we have nothing. Our credibility has been eroding and this is just another example of why.
    The United States should have live up to our own standards. Turkey is not a democracy that fulfills those standards . . . they do not have freedom of religion . . . they do not have freedom of speech . . . and everyone knows it.
    How can we denounce the jihad that is going on today when we condone the one that happened in 1915 to the Armenians.
    Get real . . .


  2. Carroll says:

    When it doubt….go with the truth.
    Dave Huntsman
    Posted by David Huntsman at October 12, 2007 05:24 PM
    I second that.


  3. kotzabasis says:

    Only someone with the chutzpah of intellectual arrogance and a parvenu in realpolitik and foreign affairs could be behind such a remarkably doltish resolution that put an arrow through the heart of a much needed ally, such as Turkey, at a time when the US is engaged in war in the Middle East.
    The Democrats with this resolution, from Lantos to Pelosi and Reid, have shown themselves to be immaculate political tyros in the affairs of foreign policy and war. They have committed by the passing of this resolution their OWN GENOCIDE. The “genocide” of the alliance of Turkey, which is so vital to America’s foreign policy interests in the Middle East, and to the protection of US troops in Iraq whose major part of its supplies for fighting the war come through Turkey.


  4. David Huntsman says:

    The Armenian genocide issue could have come at a worse time than this. I
    just can’t think of when that would be.
    Tying the righting of wrongs to whether there is any geopolitical ‘profit’
    in it is a bit much for me. If that were truly the case, we would still be
    denying the Holocaust simply because Iran, Saudi Arabia, et al are the ones
    with the oil. I don’t think you’re suggesting that. Or, are you?
    Where was the profit in the US Government finally recognizing the
    Japanese-American internment camps and related crimes?
    I agree we can’t go back centuries and deal with each and every issue. But,
    like with the sex slave/comfort women issue, I do feel that those where the
    acknowledgement still isn’t happening; and, where some survivors are still
    alive to hear it, are the ones that deserve to be heard. Whether it is
    currently ‘geopolitically correct” or not. Telling the remaining survivors
    in wheel chairs how really inconvenient this is for us now while they’ve
    been working for closure for 90 years is not impressive; especially since we
    seem to have time for the Holocaust, the comfort women, etc. etc.
    When it doubt….go with the truth.
    Dave Huntsman


  5. Michael says:

    Hi Steve,
    Enjoying your blog as usual. I said a similar thing yesterday to a Turkish colleague at the UN -who shot back “Congress up till now has been unable to halt the war in Iraq. This resolution is about stopping the war about interrupting the support of an ally, it has nothing to do with history”


  6. easy e says:

    Posted by: pauline at October 12, 2007 02:00 PM
    This is a must see project. No denying that it’s controversial. It’s a full length movie about historical perceptions of religion, the US and the world. Three Parts: Religion-9/11-Federal Reserve. Quality editing and narration.
    STATEMENT: “Welcome to the Official Site for ‘Zeitgeist, the Movie.’
    Since the emergence of the work in late June, 2007, many other websites,
    organizations and posts have fallaciously claimed connections to the work.
    Please note that ‘Zeitgeist’, along with this site, has no direct affiliation with
    anything else online.
    Zeitgeist was created as a nonprofit filmiac expression to inspire people
    to start looking at the world from a more critical perspective and to understand that very often
    things are not what the population at large think they are. The information in Zeitgeist
    was established over a year long period of research and the current Source page on
    this site lists the basic sources used / referenced and the Interactive Transcript includes
    exact source references and further information.
    Now, it’s important to point out that there is a tendency to simply disbelieve things that are
    counter to our understanding, without the necessary research performed.
    For example, some information contained in Part 1 and Part 3, specifically, is not obtained
    by simple keyword searches on the Internet. You have to dig deeper. For instance,
    very often people who look up “Horus” or “The Federal Reserve” on the Internet
    draw their conclusions from very general or biased sources. Online encyclopedias or text book
    Encyclopedias often do not contain the information contained in Zeitgeist. However, if one takes
    the time to read the sources provided, they will find that what is being presented is
    based on documented evidence. Any corrections, clarifications & further points regarding the film
    are found on the Clarifications page. Non-Profit DVDs / Free Video Downloads are
    available through the Downloads page.
    That being said, It is my hope that people will not take what is said
    in the film as the truth, but find out for themselves, for truth is not told, it is realized.
    Thank You”
    * * * *
    A must see for all. Should post and reinforce on future TWN blogs.


  7. pauline says:

    Thank you, sdemetri.
    Between the neo-con warmongers, the corporate war machine, the international bankers and related multi-national corporations, getting at the real truth and justice is a challenge for patriotic Americans.
    At this point, the guilty perpetrators seem to know that more than half of American citizens believe certain individuals in our fed government were knowledgable/involved in 9/11, but the perpetrators sit back and smile and smugly think they can get away with their satanic plans anyway.
    Congress is definitely part of the problem and unless a constitutionally-believing third party can somehow rise out of the filth and ashes, we will all see our freedoms and basic rights flushed down a DC toilet.
    Steve Clemons seems to believe that a “righting of the ship” can be done, but, imo, finding that perfect presidential candidate won’t stop what’s already started behind the scenes.
    Just wait until the fed reserve fiat currency starts to permanently become the secondary choice to the euro even by Saudi Arabia. If you think the housing market is in a shambles now, the amero dollar will emerge as our savior and the total “one country” linking of the US with Mexico and Canada will be welcomed — just what the international bankers and others want!


  8. sdemetri says:

    Spot on, Pauline.
    The heinous crime necessary to remove these bastards is right in front of us.


  9. rollingmyeyes says:

    Robert Fisk in his book, “The Great War for Civilisation,” describes, with increadible words, the horrors that happened to kill that many people. For instance, he talks about the economy gained by tieing groups together, killing one, then pushing them into a rushing river, causing all to drown. I think present day Turkey is the result of the will of a few men.


  10. pauline says:

    Good ol’ George Washington sure has more to say on genocide.
    Monday, October 08, 2007
    Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
    For generations, the wolves were able to fool the flock by dressing up in sheep’s clothing and promising to protect them from the predators.
    On 9/11/2001, the wolves got a little cocky, so they got careless. They hadn’t washed their costumes, and because they were drunk with power and arrogance at how stupid the sheep were, they only zipped them up part way. So the costumes only covered parts of the wolves … their wolf faces and the splattered blood of past victims stood out clearly, and it was obvious to any sheep with eyes to see that those strange creatures telling them “we’ll protect you from the wolves” were not really sheep.
    Did the sheep realize that these strange animals were predators — who had only exploitation of the sheep in mind? Or did they just go along with the wolves’ game, even though this time it was obvious that things did not add up?
    For thousands of years, tyrants have been clothing themselves as protectors of the vulnerable. News traveled slowly and not very far. People got their news by word of mouth, government- sponsored plays or stories. People knew very little about what happened beyond their own town.
    Today, with the Web, cellphones and other forms of instant communication, people can find out what’s really been happening in their country and other parts of the world. They can get beyond the “official” histories written by the conquerers and their scribes, and find out the hidden history of false flag terrorism and manipulation of truth.
    Those who carried out 9/11 left numerous clues that it was a false flag attack: from the obvious stand down of the military; to the physics-defying demolition of Building 7 and the Twin Towers; to Cheney’s control of all of the war games and his angry declaration that “of course the orders still stand!” as Flight 77 approached and then plowed into the Pentagon.
    With the Net, people’s ability to see that 9/11 was a false flag is easier than it has ever been in history. Will people see that Cheney and the other high-level officials pushing the “official” 9/11 myth are wolves in sheep’s clothing? Will they see that the blood on their clothes is the blood of innocent Americans who they killed? Will they see that they were dressed up as patriots and heroes trying to defend the skies and the American people on 9/11, when they were actually the ones doing the killing?
    more at —


  11. temoc94 says:

    One final thought: for those who argue that recognition of genocide must always trump national interests, how do you feel about the fact that the U.S. recruited Werner von Braun and other German rocket scientists into the U.S. program during the Cold War? Would it really have benefited human rights to have let the Soviets build an insurmountable lead in the space race? (Had von Braun been a guard at Auschwitz, of course, the logic in favor of prosecuting, rather than rehabilitating him, would be stronger. But he wasn’t, of course, and by the same token Enver Pasha is long dead.)


  12. temoc94 says:

    One poster above asked why Turkey can’t simply acknowledge the genocide and then argue that a previous regime (i.e., the Ottomans under the Young Turk Committee), rather than the Kemalist Republic, was responsible. I agree this would be an optimal solution, but there’s a doctrine of international law called “state responsibility,” which basically holds that new regimes are responsible for wrongful acts committed by their predecessors.
    This whole issue may be Example No. 1 of why this doctrine is a really bad idea, and that international tribunals need the equivalent of a “truth and reconciliation commission” (e.g., admit what the ancient regime did and you’re no longer liable for its wrongs).


  13. temoc94 says:

    Is everyone agreed that the Armenian massacres do, in fact, qualify as “genocide” under the Genocide Convention? Because many scholars of the late Ottoman period (e.g., Bernard Lewis, Heath Lowry, both of Princeton) — that is to say, the folks who actually spent their lives working in archives studying this topic — disagree. I realize that some of these guys are the betes noires of the Armenian-American community, but I’m very uncomfortable with the notion of Congress second-guessing Middle East historians at top American universities. That’s the kind of anti-intellectual thinking that convinced us we could remake Iraq into a Jeffersonian democracy.


  14. SJH says:

    What’s truly objectionable is that Congress is self-felating itself with Genocide resolutions for a genocide that ended almost a 100 years ago while an ongoing genocide is more or less being completely ignored by all levels of the US government. Really, Turkey should pass a resolution condemning the US genocide of the native people who inhabited our country once. Two can play stupid games.


  15. Gavin says:

    Hi Steve,
    I’d like to say that there’s a simple answer to the situation you raise with the Armenian vote. I thought I might just add an Australian aside to further cloud the already murky waters…
    The use of history to justify current philosophical or public positions is all pervading. I think when that is done on a false, or at least misleading/diluted version of history, it becomes problematic. Of course, if you are a ‘national interest’ advocate of international relations then accurate history is really only a nicety for the purists. If you think that international relations has any ‘values’ component then it increases in direct proportion to the level of importance placed on those values.
    Australia currently has a Prime Minister who doesn’t have much time for the ‘black armband’ view of Australian history (ie. any of it that paints the European invasion or ongoing erasure of indigenous Australians as anything other than a net benefit for them and humanity generally). I find this stance particularly sickening and cnsequently have a particular problem with ignoring accurate versions of history for the sake of national interest. I believe sometimes it is necessary to ‘bite the bullet’ and call the stuation as it is. Australia, coincidentally managed this relatively well with Japan post-WWII, when we acknowledged the atrocities perpetrated in South East Asia and the Pacific while still maintaining vital trading relations with them.
    So I argue that ‘managing’ the timing of acceptance of historical accuracies should be something strongly disendorsed. Having said that, I see little use in a legislative body voting on selective pieces of history. It reeks of agenda setting and I have to ask whether there isn’t at least an iota of desire amonst its proponents to further complicate the strategic position of the US in Iraq. Perhaps this is an attempt to place an obstacle of significant size in the White Houses’ path such that the maintenance of your military effort there becomes untenable (or at least significantly more complex/costly)?
    So, I empathise with your position that such a vote in the House of Representatives is counter to your national interest at the moment, but I find no such empathy for any implicit view that the acknowledgement of historical evidence should be ‘managed’ based purely on exigent circumstances. In the Australian context, you may not be aware that Mr Howard, who is currently tracking to lose a landslide election in Nov/Dec, is now rationalising his historical view to be more inclusive of indigenous Aussies, as long as its not in any useful way; another sickening position for quite overt and less than worthy motives (ie, his re-election).
    My inclination is that the White House will manage these developments with the Turkish government in such a way as to continue your co-operation on the war in Iraq and that next year, this will have bcome a storm-in-a-teacup. Because whats the point in discussing international relations, if it does not lead to a pointless prediction!!
    All the best and thanks for your work on the Washington Note.


  16. Headline Junky says:

    Steve & Chris,
    There’s no question the timing’s bad on this one, with plenty of geopolitical downside and no real upside other than some local political interests. I imagine that Lantos is driven by his past as a Holocaust survivor. As the son of a hidden child during WWII, I know that contributed to the discomfort I felt on reading the State Dept’s statement of regret the other day.
    The problem (as you touched on, Chris) is that for blood debts to end, there has to be an enormous amount of work done on both sides. Case in point: I found myself deeply moved by the Germans hosting of the World Cup last year. It was a showcase for the sense of national pride they’ve managed to reinvent, utterly rehabilitated yet inseparable from their national past. I was raised with the ethos of “Never forgive, never forget” engraved in my memory, and yet my reaction last summer (instinctive, unreflective, sincere) made me realize that that’s not incompatible with recognizing the hard and painful work the Germans have accomplished. There has to be some sort of appreciation of that work if we expect them to carry on with it.
    Sadly, I detect no such similar dynamic at work with regard to the Armenian genocide, on either side. Obviously, the onus lies with the Turks, and yet one senses that far from being a historical scar, this remains an open wound. I agree that Congress should stay out of the lexicography business, and find these moral resolutions somewhat sanctimonious and self-serving.
    But if they indeed felt the need to say something, perhaps they might have limited themselves to encouraging Turkey to begin the generations-long dialogue that any sort of resolution will require.
    Judah Grunstein


  17. easy e says:

    Juan Cole:
    “The the US Congress abruptly condemned modern Kemalist Turkey for the Armenian genocide, committed by the Ottoman Empire.
    I have long held that Turkey should acknowledge the genocide, which killed hundreds of thousands and displaced more hundreds of thousands. The Turkish government could then point out that it was committed by a tyrannical and oppressive government– the Ottoman Empire under Enver Pasha’s military Junta– against which the Kemalists also fought a long and determined war to establish a modern republic. I can’t understand Ankara’s unwillingness to distance itself from a predecessor it doesn’t even think well of (the capital is in Ankara and not Istanbul in part for this very reason!)
    But no dispassionate observer could avoid the conclusion that the Congressional vote condemning Turkey came at a most inopportune time for US-Turkish diplomacy, at a time when Turks were already raw from watching the US upset all the apple carts in their neighborhood, unleash existential threats against them, cause the rise of Salafi radicalism next door, coddle terrorists killing them, coddle the separatist KRG, and strengthen the Shiite ayatollahs on their borders.
    The Congressional vote came despite the discomfort of elements of the Israel lobby with recognizing the mass killing of Armenians as a genocide. Andrew E. Matthis explains Abraham Foxman’s intellectually bankrupt vacillations on this issue. Foxman and others of his ideological orientation have been forced grudgingly to back off their genocide denial in the case of the Armenians by a general shift in opinion among the American public, and his change of position may have removed any fears among congressional representatives that the Israel lobby would punish them for their vote. (Turkey and Israel have long had a strong military and diplomatic relationship, which the Israel lobby had earlier attempted to preserve by lobbying congress on Turkey’s behalf with regard to some issues. But the Israel lobby is now split between pro-Kurdish factions and pro-Turkish factions, and the pro-Kurdish ones appear to be winning out. Richard Perle & Michael Rubin of AEI are examples of the pro-Kurdish Neoconservative strain in the Israel lobby. They are losing.)
    In 2000, 56% of Turks reported in polls that they had a favorable view of the United States. In 2005 that statistic had fallen to 12%. I shudder to think what it is now.”


  18. frankie says:

    Is it worth it to anger one of the largest and THE most democratic Muslim country just to pass the Armenian Genocide resolution, which has been passed twice already? Well, is it? http://www.youpolls.com/details.asp?pid=689


  19. tom says:

    we have allowed idiots to lead us. global warming. Raging illegal drug epidemic. an out of control war in iraq. and our leaders are debating what? Today’s turkey leadership did not create the problem 100 years ago. why pick a fight with a friend. and lest anyone forgot, beyond america’s genocide of american indians, what about the enslavment of blacks that went back just a generation earlier than 1917. who the hell are these idiots in washington?


  20. easy e says:

    One of the Backstories:
    Armenian Genocide should be the last atrocity perpetrated by the ADL chief.
    July 9, 2007
    Abdullah Gul needed a favor. It was February 5 of this year, and the Turkish foreign minister was fighting a push in the U.S. House of Representatives to recognize the Turkish murder of one million Armenians during World War I. In past years the House had placated Turkey by dropping similar resolutions. But now, with the American-Turkish alliance weakened by the Iraq war, the resolution had found renewed support. Gul summoned representatives from the Anti-Defamation League and several other Jewish-American organizations to his room at the Willard Hotel in Washington. There he asked them, in essence, to perpetuate Turkey’s denial of genocide.
    Abraham Foxman’s ADL acquiesced, and in so doing, performed the pièce de résistance of Foxman’s highly effective, if unintentional, decades-long campaign to demoralize Jewish America and send young Jews scurrying for the communal exit doors. The ADL chief is a danger to the future of the community, and it is a scandal that he remains at the head of a major Jewish organization. Foxman must go. And the organization he has done so much to shape must either change or go with him.
    Getting by with a little help from his friends: The Turkish foreign minister
    Soon after the meeting with Gul, the ADL joined three other American Jewish organizations—the American Jewish Committee, B’nai Brith International, and the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs—to deliver to Congress a written plea from the Jews of Turkey that the U.S. not recognize the Armenian Genocide. Turkish Jews are more vulnerable now than at any time in recent history as they struggle to reassert their place in a society polarized by the competing visions of Turkey’s Islamists and secular nationalists, so it is hardly surprising that they would parrot their government’s denialist claims. By dutifully passing their letter to Congress, the Jewish American groups cynically exploited a small, frightened Jewish minority.
    Worse was to come. “I don’t think congressional action will help reconcile the issue. The resolution takes a position; it comes to a judgment,” said Foxman in a statement issued to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “The Turks and Armenians need to revisit their past. The Jewish community shouldn’t be the arbiter of that history, nor should the U.S. Congress.” Foxman‘s statement is in every way that matters equivalent to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s claim that he takes no position on the historicity of the Jewish Holocaust, but only hopes to see the matter resolved by dispassionate study. Throughout the Congressional saga surrounding the resolutions, virtually no one other than Turkish lobbyists had explained their opposition by challenging the nearly undisputed consensus among historians that a genocide did indeed take place.
    It is a scandal of unprecedented proportion when one of the most prominent figures in our community, a man who claims to speak on our behalf, publicly challenges the historicity of another community’s genocide. Foxman’s ADL no longer represents the interests of the Jewish community. In fact, it seems the only interests it represents are its own.
    Crushing the heads of antisemites everywhere: Foxman demonstrates the Hand of Power
    What’s surprising is how unabashedly forthright Abraham Foxman has become about what motivates him and his institution. In October of 2005, Foxman addressed a classroom of Jewish students at New York University. Young heads nodded and brows furrowed as Foxman riled them with his customary rhetoric: Isn’t it antisemitic for pro-Palestinian groups to seek divestment only from Israel, ignoring the far greater crimes of regimes like Sudan or North Korea? How do we describe this sort of selective flagellation of the world’s only Jewish state, if not as antisemitism?
    “What if the campus Free Tibet club campaigned for divestment from China? Would that be anti-Chinese bigotry?” asked Asaf Shtull-Trauring, a 20-year-old student and conscientious objector from the Israeli army.
    Of course not, answered Foxman, but it was preposterous to compare the two conflicts, what with the Jews’ experience of two millennia of murderous persecution. Shtull-Trauring responded with two questions: Did Foxman mean that selective treatment is okay so long as it’s not directed at Jews? And where did the Anti-Defamation League get off telling Jewish university students which opinions about Israel were acceptable and which verboten?
    The dialogue spiraled into a confrontation. Shtull-Trauring says Foxman, frustrated and under attack, placed his cards on the table, angrily retorting: “I don’t represent you nor the Jewish community! I represent the donors.”
    Foxman’s outburst was surprising not because of its content, but because of its candor. Foxman needn’t bother himself with the trifling concerns of American Jews who happen not to be multimillionaire philanthropists. If he makes the Jewish community less appealing to young Jews, if his theatrics turn us off and turn us away, that’s all beside the point. Foxman’s job is to keep the millionaire benefactors happy: the rest of us can go jump in the Kinneret.
    Back when the ADL was useful: Leo Frank, with wife Lucille, at his trial
    Without a meaningful mission to pursue, the ADL has resorted to scaremongering to fill its coffers and justify its existence. These efforts have grown increasingly bizarre and damaging. For example, the ADL website surveys the vast changes in Jewish-American life over the past century and offers the grandiose judgment that they “are due, in large measure, to the efforts of the League and its allies.” Yet Foxman also claims that today the Jewish people face as great a threat to their safety and security as they did in the 1930s. In other words, the ADL takes credit for the vast improvements in the circumstances of American Jewry, and then denies that those changes have taken place. It is still 1939. It will always be 1939.
    When the ADL was born, in the early 20th century, institutional discrimination against American Jews was commonplace at every level of society. Populist politicians employed the most vulgar antisemitic language, and “restricted” hotels and country clubs reassured patrons that Jews would be stopped at the front door. In 1915, 31-year-old factory manager Leo Frank was lynched in Marietta, Georgia after he was accused of raping a Christian girl. But today, American Jews are successful and well-integrated. And unlike in Weimar Germany, where we were accepted only so long as we obscured our Jewishness behind the accoutrements of gentile culture, in America we are accepted even as we celebrate what sets us apart.
    Such a reality, however, doesn’t serve the fundraising interests of the ADL. The ADL’s jihad against Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was typical of the organization’s destructive, self-interested efforts. Foxman, as you might remember, fanned fears it would inspire Chmielniki-style pogroms. Yet not a single documented act of violence against Jews resulted from the film, nor even a single verbal assault. A study conducted by Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles indicated some anger among Christians toward Jews—but because of the reaction to the film, rather than its contents. Thanks to the ADL, our strong and self-confident community was made to appear silly and paranoid before the world.
    The Passion fiasco was hardly the ADL’s only effort to alienate and insult American Christians. In November 2005, Foxman delivered a widely publicized speech in which he warned that American Christian organizations were engaged in an insidious campaign to “Christianize” America. It’s a shocking allegation: firstly, because Jewish interfaith groups have developed very strong ties with precisely such organizations in the past decade; and secondly, because conservative Jewish groups have been just as aggressive in their efforts to breach the wall between church and state. While Christian groups can’t get the ornaments of Christianity placed in government buildings, Chabad has succeeded in publicly erecting enormous, gaudy menorahs throughout the country.
    As Mel Gibson movies go, it’s no What Women Want: A scene from The Passion
    In this environment, where the push for more religion in public life unites religious conservatives across all faiths, why would Foxman single out Christians? Again, the answer is simple: Fundraising. Such headline-grabbing proclamations add a historically evocative Christian dimension to the terrifying nightmare-world in which the ADL encourages its benefactors to live.
    The ADL can libel American Christians in general without fear of legal consequence, but when it goes on to identify specific “antisemites” it leaves itself more vulnerable. Time after time, Americans who resented being named-and-shamed as antisemites have sued the ADL for libel. In 2000, Colorado residents Dorothy and William Quigley received a ten million dollar verdict against the ADL, which, according to Federal judge Edward Nottingham, “had labeled a…neighborhood feud as an antisemitic event.” Nottingham concluded that the ADL had not properly investigated the case nor considered the consequences of its accusations. But what the ADL lost in libel fees, it gained in bogus credibility. Baseless accusations of antisemitism contribute to a paranoid fundraising atmosphere that makes Foxman’s ADL seem utterly necessary; maybe the Quigleys weren’t antisemites, but that doesn’t mean your neighbors aren’t Hitlerists in disguise. Still, such bullying by the ADL has an inevitable chilling effect: Jewish community leaders, even those who take exception to the ADL’s techniques, fear speaking out lest the ADL accuse them of some crime against the Jewish people. Like all bullies, the ADL is widely disliked, but less widely spoken out against.
    Ultimately, it is the seductive appeal of the ADL’s dark visions that most threaten us. American Jewry enjoys privileges undreamed of in Jewish history: we are a more accepted, more integral part of our country than any Jewish community ever has been. We have entered unprecedented territory in Jewish history, and the enticements and possibilities of this new era should be setting our souls alight.
    Foxman’s ADL justifies its existence by beckoning us backward, encouraging us to hide from the ever-present Cossacks in a psychological shtetl. It’s a dark vision that serves the ADL’s interests, but not ours. So perhaps we should be grateful to Abraham Foxman for acting as he did after the April meeting with Abdullah Gul, and doing something to so publicly and incontrovertibly demonstrate how destructive he has become to his own organization, and to the Jewish community he claims to serve.
    * * * *
    Latest act seems more planned than act of stupidity. Those wanting perpetual war benefit. Think Military Industrial Complex, or as Naomi Klein calls it, Disaster Capitalism.


  21. Carroll says:

    Well, we can look at it as Steve does…that it interfers with/is bad for our stragetic needs at the moment.
    Or we could look at it as, if we don’t acknowledge what was a genocide or close to it then we are basically being blackmailed by Turkey.
    I come down on the side of acknowledging it for a lot of reasons.
    One is, it might be seen as a show of moral strength for the US. Moral strength in this might signal that regardless of our weakness in the ME right now, the US is still capable of doing the right thing no matter what the concenquences. Moral strength brings respect, and allies, and even the respect of your enemies.
    In any kind of conflict or situation I would both respect and fear more a person or country that had a principle involved in a battle because I would know that they or it would go down fighting to the last man.
    If the US can ever get it’s reputation back or create that kind of reputation for itself we might not ever have to actually go to a war again.


  22. Matthew says:

    Chris: It isn’t my crusade. My point is that it is not good policy to deny the truth because our strategic position is in tatters. Our strategic position is in tatters beacuse we DIDN’T tell the truth in 2003.
    I have absolutely nothing against Turks or Muslims. I also don’t hate Japanese or Germans. But I do hate what those countries did between 1933 and 1945. That is the point.


  23. PissedOffAmerican says:

    These God damned idiots are going to screw around with the Middle East until its a sea of blood. Lantos should be shot for incurable stupidity.
    Why in God’s name are our politicians looking for wedges to drive when they should be looking for a tube of glue?


  24. Chris Nelson says:

    Matthew, Mark and Ron (had a nice biblical cadence going there for a minute)…look, the point isn’t that what happened to the Armenians isn’t beyond heinous. Of course it is. Was. The point is, where do you freakin stop with historical injustices? That was my point in raking up what we did to the Indians. And you Matthew, I should think you’d want to be just a wee bit careful about decrying “Christian” murders at the hands of “Muslims”…as though this is in the here and now. Good god, man, what about the Inquisition? Stalin? WHERE DO YOU STOP if “history” never ends and is always in our face? Blood debts just go on forever? Kill the children before they get big enough to kill you? That’s where I fear you are, w/o realizing it. Chris Nelson


  25. Pacific Coast Ron says:

    I have an Honors degree in History from a branch of the Univ. of Calif, but without a little more background on the exact wording of the resolution, and the names and goals of those lobbying for this (yeah, sure, Armenian-Americans, but just who, what Congress-critters have they especially won over and any who esp. oppose, and what they hope to gain from this), this is a fairly murky affair.
    I get the part about the stupidity and bull-headedness of the proponents of this resolution at this time — unless maybe they’re anti-imperialists INTENDING to block American supply routes, in which case the brilliant sagacity of their lobbying has succeeded in finding a way to get Congress to pass measures to get us out of Iraq. And I maybe we should all be heartily applauding.
    But the part I started out to say was about how this couldn’t be a controversy and a problem without the stupidity and bull-headedness of the Turks, government and people, who need to get all offended if it’s suggested that the killings of World War I were purposeful. They were, of course they were … and this was my area of study, the nationalisms of Europe and the Middle East. This sick, sick nationalism IS the big problem. And it’s not just the Turks, of course, it’s many other nations including America, where our nationalistic mythologies have got us bleeding our Constitution and our treasure into the sands of Iraq.
    If we actually had adult leadership, they would all be able to gather around a table, take a few bong hits, agree that no one’s ancestors were blameless, and that extreme nationalism no longer serves the interests of ANY nation in today’s over-heated world. And that we need to actually focus on today’s problems, and solving them pragmatically and egolessly without having to worry about everyone’s ultra-irrational-national-mythology hangups.
    If we can’t create and distribute governments like that, if peoples really don’t want governments like that because they are too dependent on their stuck mythologies, maybe we are too dis-functional to survive as a species.


  26. MarkL says:

    Turkey has been playing games to delay this resolution for decades. I see no positive reason to capitulate to moral blackmail over the murder of 1.5 million people.


  27. Matthew says:

    Steve: I do not understand your post at all. A genocide is no less horrible because it is inconvenient to talk about.
    What’s your point: the Iraq fiasco now requires us to ignore the mass murder of 1 million Christians because the only (secular) Muslim country in the world that actually likes us (they don’t actually) will get offended?
    Not to be too rude, but you have been contaminated by those history-denying Japanese neo-militarists that you so eloquently deride.
    Even the good guys are going down the tube….


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