Armenian Genocide Resolution Could Imperil Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation


I attended a media briefing at the Turkish Embassy yesterday, during which a group of visiting Turkish Foreign Affairs Committee members urged the U.S. House of Representatives not to pass H.R. 252 – which accuses Turkey of committing genocide against Armenians in 1915 and is scheduled to be voted on by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday.
In addition to reiterating Turkey’s long-held position that the events of 1915 do not constitute genocide, the delegates warned that the resolution could imperil Turkey’s ongoing and unprecedented efforts to normalize relations with Armenia.
Over at Foreign Policy Passport, Joshua Keating concludes that Turkey’s warnings suggest that it is not genuinely committed to the negotiations with Armenia and may only be taking part due to U.S. pressure.
With all due respect, I don’t think Keating’s analysis is a correct interpretation of Turkey’s perspective on this issue.
Here is what Keating says in his post:

It seems a bit contradictory to me that the Turkish government on the one hand says it sees the Armenian rapprochement as vital to its own national interest, but on the other hand says the U.S. resolution will imperil it.

Sensing that there was some misunderstanding in the room, I asked one of the panelists – AK Party Deputy of External Affairs Suat Kiniklioglu – to explain the domestic political dynamics within Turkey and why the resolution would make it more difficult to reach an agreement with Armenia.
Kiniklioglu’s response was that passing the resolution would likely strengthen radical, nationalist elements in both Turkey and Armenia who oppose the accords and who would use the resolution to push their own agendas.
It appears that the White House, which has not taken a formal position on this week’s vote, understands these sensitivities as well.
Here is what White House spokesman Mike Hammer said, when asked about the resolution:

Our interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts. We continue to believe that the best way to advance that goal is for the Armenian and Turkish people to address the facts of the past as a part of their ongoing efforts to normalize relations.

Reading between the lines, Hammer seems to be implicitly acknowledging the Turkish position, which is that the resolution would complicate the current effort by Turkey and Armenia to conduct a joint historical review of the facts.
Notwithstanding my own serious doubts about whether Turkey and Armenia will successfully normalize their relations, it is not difficult to understand how H.R. 252 might make that task more difficult.
— Ben Katcher


15 comments on “Armenian Genocide Resolution Could Imperil Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation

  1. John Robinson says:

    Turkey will not risk loosing several billion dollars in military aid and access to advanced US technology. Turkey is one of the partners in the F-35 development program and it has invested a large amount of money to have access to the premier US stealth fighter . Turkey wants to be the only Muslim country to have access to this technology so that it can bully the world. In teh future, you can be sure that Turkey will be an adversary of the United States and will attempt to control the oil in the middle east.
    Furthermore the persecution of Christians in Turkey has been hidden from the American public for too long.The Armenian Genocide was the first anti-Christian jihad of the 20th century as 9/11 was the first anti-Christian Jihad of the 21st century.The Islamfacist beliefs of the Turkish government are what led to the Armenian genocide.Furthermore Modern Turkey mercilessly persecutes human rights activists, leftists and Kurds who have been killed in large numbers. Turkey is also a key supporter and ally of the Sudanese war criminals committing the Darfur Genocide.


  2. Mr.Murder says:

    Attach something to this resolution. A discussion of the Chinese and Tibet. How many GOPers will decry to call out the country underwriting the tax cuts for billionaires?
    Suddenly the votes evaporate….


  3. Mr.Sabu says:

    George Washington was the person who proposed the “process of cultural transformation” which led to Native Americans walking the trail of tears. While I will admit that there were attrocities committed during this forced relocation and many people including women and children died, to go back now and relabel it would mean that our first president and a hero of the American revolution would be relabeled as a war criminal responsibe in part for genocide. Please dont support the remaking of history, I dont want to see my heros turned into crimials.


  4. anna key says:

    “While (Bernard Lewis notwithstanding) it’s incontrovertible that the Turks did indeed carry out the 20th Century’s first genocide (against the Armenians), trust Yanqui imperialism to throw a fucking spanner in the works to stop the healing process that’s needed in such a situation. The words arrogant and ignoramuses spring to mind.”


  5. Mr.Murder says:

    Maybe Turkey can floor a resolution of Native American genocide and discuss this in their Parliament?
    Certainly that history bears emphasis on our current occupations?


  6. Charlemagne says:

    In academic world, one can study these allegations and pursue what really happened. That is O.K. Because it is called academic pursue.
    But is it states’ business to condemn other states because of their history? Whether the allegations are true or not these allgeations should not be politicized and turn into an industry. This is just ridicilious.
    If US Congress is the place for historical research & study, why do we not start investigating all of the wars throughout the world in the Congress? And why dont we start preparing labels for all countries.
    Has US congress became a place which issues historical records and concemns the countries over the globe?
    this is another illusion of course.
    What will the resolution contain?
    If the proposed resolution is only about recognizing the mass murderings about armenians in the past, One expects the resolution to give detailed information about the question “WHY”
    If the allegations are true, we shouldnt get by with YES or NO answers. We also need to see the proposed resolution to contain the answers of these questions:
    If the allegations are true
    why those people were deported and some others murdered?
    who killed these people by engaging direct attack name by name,
    if it is a planned genocide, Who planned this genocide? and what was the names and surnames of the perpetrators? Name by name please.
    Why did they take such a decision?
    who was providing logisitics to Armeninian militia?
    why ?
    as you see such ridiclious resolution is meaningless and its a never ending process. Its an iliussion. Thats why if you start to prepare a resolution other parties expect tht it should be a catch all resolution with all of the answers and questions in a very detailed manner.which is again not businiess of th Congress but historians and academicians.
    If US Congress wants to play such a role, its fine. Its not my business. However at this point I expect naturally to see all of the answers and “why” questions. Otherwise it would be just a non shcholarly prepared resolution argueing only this: “Yes armenians were killed in 1915”
    PS: There is such a common belief among average joes living outside of Turkey that Turks are of the opinion that there was no armenian killed.
    This is another illusion. Of course Turks accept that armenians and turks lost their lives.


  7. ShadowFox says:

    This is all fascinating to watch, but I would not want to be a part of it. It has become a ritual for US presidential candidates to promise to push through the Armenian Genocide resolution only to renege and drop their support once elected. Anyone who expected better of Obama is a deluded idealist. But, ultimately, it’s not up to the president. He can help or hinder the action, but he has no vote in Congress. And no one is going to make an executive order on this because there is no political cover for such action. So everyone sits around and waits even when the votes are there.
    Now could be a really interesting time to pull a rabbit out of the hat, though. Think about it. Armenia is not a rich country–it has it share of resources, but it was the cultural and economic elite that perished in 1915–one reason for declaring Turkish actions a genocide. What’s left of the then-affluent part of Armenia is what now largely comprises the Armenian diaspora. Given decades of Soviet rule over the non-Turkish Armenian territory easily accounts for the fact that it is the expats who are the fiscal and economic backbone of the little country.
    What’s important out of all this is that the expats are extremely unhappy with the terms of the deal Armenia got from Turkey. Politically, they have no say in the matter, but economics of this is something else. And, unsurprisingly, it is largely the expats–in France, US and Canada–who are pushing both US and EU away from Turkey. If they believe that the genocide resolution would undermine the treaty, they are only likely to push harder. In their minds, the treaty is a close relative of Chamberlain’s peace. They want no part of it.
    In Europe, the same forces virtually guarantee that Turkey will remain the perennial candidate but never the full EU member. The issue of genocide provides France and Germany with a cover to prevent all the Turks within their borders (largely Germany) from becoming European Citizens. German calculations are simple economics, but they are the kind economics (keeping a permanent underclass) that are uncomfortable to be admitted in public discourse. Instead, the EU simply makes historical admissions a part of the admission price, knowing full well that it is something that Modern Turkey still cannot do. Until the anti-Turkishness laws are repealed, they will be used as a club to bash the Turkish entry.
    The US is even worse. It has been obvious for a long time that, no matter who is in charge, the US tries to steer a course that neither accepts the Turkish revisionist history nor condemns it. Individual pols are free to side with the Armenians because they have virtually no impact on foreign policy. The most blatant example was the Bush administration admission that there votes in Congress sufficient to pass the genocide resolution but that the administration urged indefinite delay on the vote because of Turkey’s vital role in the otherwise ill-advised Iraq invasion. As long as Turkey holds strategic importance to the US, you can forget any formal recognition of the genocide.
    To make matters worse, Turkey started sliding toward Islamism. The iron fist worked fairly well as long as the country was fairly closed. But as the economy and international relations open up, so do the freedoms, and, as we all know, freedom of choice does not guarantee wisdom of choice. Once the more fervent and even radical elements got engaged, they became hard to control–I am not talking the Islamic Revolution of Iran level, but their presence is felt. Ironically, it is the criteria for EU candidacy that make freedom of religion an important part of the required reform. Should Turkey suffer isolation again, it would devastate the secular, pro-Western economic forces and embolden the Islamic elements, who already hold more power than that did in over 100 years. Cutting Turkey off does not seem possible, even if other strategic considerations were not persuasive.
    So we have this continued state of affairs where most of the “West” pays lip service to the Armenian victims but sides with Turkey in the end, on pragmatic grounds. There seems to be no end to this cycle.
    At first blush, the Armenian-Turkish treaty only makes the UN and the Armenian politicians happy. They can boast of their success even if the treaty contributes very little to the Armenian economic and strategic position. About the only potential benefit is that Turkey is less likely to overtly support Azerbaijan should the ethnic war flare up again. But even that is not assured.
    So the position of the expats is understandable. Although they appear to be hung up on the symbolic gesture (essentially of Turkey admitting guilt), their demands are actually more tangible than the results promised by the treaty. Given that Armenia is surrounded by Muslims on three sides, one can understand the desire for rapprochement on the part of the Armenian politicians. However, what they believe they’ve accomplished hardly changes the status quo, which is why the expat community largely see the negotiations and the treaty as nothing more than capitulation to a bully. Sadly, there is no easy way to resolve this conflict.


  8. ... says:

    johnh quote “….the United States presided over the deaths of perhaps more than a million Iraqis in a few short years. What should we call that?”
    lets watch the hypocrites jump through that hoop johnh… lets start by hearing from wigwag, who has an ability to ””deal”’ out of a few sides of his mouth depending on who it involves and how it might impact a certain middle eastern country….


  9. JohnH says:

    Like Wigwag, I have wondered if “United States opposition to genocide is a moral responsibility or merely a political chit to be bartered away to the highest bidder.”
    Wigwag also notes that “1.5 million Armenians were murdered by the Turks in a few short months in 1915. If the United States doesn’t call that genocide, what should we call it?”
    Of course, the United States presided over the deaths of perhaps more than a million Iraqis in a few short years. What should we call that?
    And after witnessing all those deaths what would Iraq’s neighbors think of an America that condemned Turkey for a genocide that took place a century ago while largely ignoring its own role in massive civilian casualties that just happened?
    For some reason the word “hypocritical” comes to mind. Congress needs to address its own culpability before it goes around condemning others.


  10. The Truth says:

    WigWag is just a propagandist and most of the information he gave in his first post is nothing more than the distortion of the truth.
    There are many reputable international historians who still think that 1915 events were not a genocide. Whether they were or not, why do our politicians want to make the decision in such a controversial issue, when such a resolution is clearly against the U.S. interests?
    As Charlemagne put it correctly in his post, this has become an industry now. Armenians pour millions of dollars to influence their representatives to pass this resolution EVERY year and I don’t see why some of our representatives put their personal interests over those of our country.
    Such a resolution will not only kill the Turkish-Armenian normalization process and bring the Turkish – Armenian relations to a much worse position, but it will also totally alienate Turkey from the U.S., at a time we need their help in most of our current foreign policy issues from Afghanistan to Iraq.
    We can’t afford to lose the Turks for the sake of a few politicians’ personal gains in such a controversial issue!


  11. WigWag says:

    Here are some of the statements President Obama made about the Armenian Genocide during his campaign:
    “America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides,I intend to be that President.”
    “I share with Armenian Americans – so many of whom are descended from genocide survivors – a principled commitment to commemorating and ending genocide. That starts with acknowledging the tragic instances of genocide in world history.”
    “As President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
    Before he decided to run for President, this is what Obama said in 2006 in response to the decision by Secretary of State Rice to fire the American Ambassador to Armenia for mentioning the Armenian Genocide,
    “I criticized the secretary of State for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, after he properly used the term ‘genocide’ to describe Turkey’s slaughter of thousands of Armenians starting in 1915. I shared with secretary Rice my firmly held conviction that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence.”
    Also in 2006, Obama said,
    “The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy.”
    So there you have it, Obama thinks an official policy that calls for the distortion of historical facts is untenable.
    In light of all this, why isn’t he pleading with the full House to pass the Armenian Genocide Resolution?


  12. Carroll says:

    I can see why Turkey might be serious about normalizing relations and at the same time say the U.S. resolution will imperil it.
    Once formally declared a genocide the next step might be a call for reparations and the launching of a myriad of legal suits by Armenia and Armenians as the Jewish WWII reparations demands.x
    I doubt Turkey could afford for that to happen. So it boils down to the declaration’s cost-benefit to both countries.


  13. ... says:

    “Israel and Denmark believe that the genocide recognition should be discussed by historians not politicians.”


  14. Charlemagne says:

    same old same old. Armenian issue is now beyond being a show business.
    I dont remember how many times did the US congress and other countries in the world bring up this issue on their congress and could not come into any conclusion now. (why should they?)
    Armenian issue is now an industry. and I dont buy it anymore.
    At the same time Armenian issue is now an anachronism.
    If US Congress will pass that law, Im planning to put pressure on US congress to pass another law recocgnizing Punic Wars which was fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 to 146 BC as a genocide. Because I beleive it is almost certain that Romans mass murdered some Carthaginians in those years. And I beleive Im a carthaginian descendant.
    I dont know who represents Roman Empire right now but I dont care. US congress has to pass the law recognizing the Charthaginian Genocide.
    I dont know why US Congress should be interlocutor or state party to this isseu either. But anyway we have to keep disillusions going on.
    Oh I urge every nation to read about their history and find any relevant incident about wars and civilian casualties concerning their history. And I urge them to run to the US congress, put pressure on them to pass laws recognizing every historical incident as genocide. Because this is now an industry.
    We have to keep this industry alive. Everyone benefits from this.
    Oh yes this is not only an anacrhonism but also a disilliuson in terms of Paul Auster’s thoughts.
    It is like saying “Lets recognize every historical wars, civil wars as genocide and keep the fascism alive.”
    I dont know what exaclty happened in 1915 I wasnt there. I wouldnt know. And I dont buy this anymore.
    Some claim that :” NO! you have to recognize what you did to armenians in the past”
    who is you? who is we? I wasnt there. why are you accusing me?
    Because you beleive I am a genetic contuniaion of my ancestors. And I should be responsible.
    This kind of perception is fascistic. And you are actually reproducing fascism without knowing.
    you were not there either.


  15. WigWag says:

    First of all, thank you Ben Katcher for all of the excellent and provocative posts about Turkey these past few days. They are entertaining and informative.
    With that said, your take on the Armenian Genocide resolution is incorrect. There is little doubt that the Turks pretended to be interested in a rapprochement with Armenia just to forestall the passage of the Congressional Resolution that they object to so vehemently.
    If the Turks really thought a deal with Armenia was important to their national interests, they wouldn’t let a point as insubstantial as the dispute over Nagorno Karabakh stand in the way. The only real interest that Turkey has in Nagorno Karabakh is an emotional one; Azerbaijan in general and Nagorno Karabakh in particular is made up of their ethnic kinsmen and they can’t tolerate the concept of Armenians dominating their kinsmen even in an area where the Armenians are in the majority. Why exactly should we be sympathetic to Turkish sensibilities about Nagorno Karabakh when the Turks are so uninterested in the sensibilities of the Armenians?
    The Armenian Genocide Resolution ultimately isn’t about Turkey; it’s about the United States. If Germany, instead of acknowledging its role in the holocaust and doing everything it could to make amends, continued to deny its culpability would that justify the United States in pretending what happened to European Jews wasn’t genocide? Remember, the Turks extermination of the Armenians occurred in 1915, just a quarter century before Hitler began rounding up the Jews.
    Does Ben Katcher think that the United States opposition to genocide is a moral responsibility or merely a political chit to be bartered away to the highest bidder?
    Opposition to the resolution currently pending in the House Foreign Affairs Committee is the one thing that unites most Turks. Secular Turks oppose it as do religious Turks; the civilian government opposes it as does the military. The fact that the citizens of Turkey are so unified in their unwillingness to acknowledge their history makes the whole thing worse, not better. Is their really any justification for the United States to encourage this behavior?
    The world is a violent and unseemly place but despite all the wars, disagreements and bloodshed, actual genocides thankfully occur relatively infrequently. Turkey’s failure to confront its culpability should be viewed as a matter of national shame. Turkey is in such denial that it actually makes it a crime for a Turkish citizen to assert that Turkey committed genocide against the Turks. If Ben Katcher doesn’t believe it, he should give his old Clark University professor Taner Akcam a call. Professor Akcam was virtually exiled from Turkey for publishing about Turkey’s complicity in the Armenian Genocide. He had to spend years living in Germany before coming to the United States. If Professor Akcam tried to return to Turkey his life wouldn’t be worth a wooden nickel; he would be imprisoned if not murdered.
    Regardless of whether the full House of Representatives passes or fails to pass the Genocide Resolution, Turkey’s relationship with Armenia is going nowhere and the Nagorno Karabakh issue won’t be resolved any time soon.
    Speaking of the genocide in Darfur, Prime Minister Erdogan famously said that Sudan couldn’t be guilty of committing genocide because Muslims don’t commit genocide. What more do we need to know about the credibility of this man on the subject of mass murder?
    1.5 million Armenians were murdered by the Turks in a few short months in 1915. If the United States doesn’t call that genocide, what should we call it?


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