Legislating History and Denying Genocide
One would think that there is no graver injustice against a people than the violence incurred on them by genocide. Yet, there are things worse than genocide: denying that it happened altogether is one of them. And that is exactly what the Clinton administration has chosen to do with the case of Armenian genocide by dropping a resolution that condemned Turkey for the historical injustice of 1915-1923, during which Turkish forces killed as many as 1.5 million Armenians.
Turkey denies responsibility for the genocide, claiming that it was only 330,00 Armenians who died, and that their deaths were a result of warfare. However, the facts indicate otherwise. The elimination of the Armenians was ordered and carried out systematically at the hands of a party, The Young Turks, who came to power in the early 20th century. They eliminated Armenians via concentration camps, displacement, and mass slayings.
The Armenian genocide had not always been so lightly dismissed as it was recently, in October by the Clinton administration. In fact, the Armenian genocide was denounced at the time it happened by representatives of the British, French, Russian, German, Austrian, and U.S. governments. In 1984, the Permanent People's Tribunal recognized the Armenian genocide, and the European Parliament voted to recognize it only three years later. Former President George Bush called on Americans to commemorate "the more than a million Armenian people who were victims" on April 24, 1990. As recently as 1994, Clinton issued a news release to commemorate the "tragedy" that befell the Armenians in 1915. Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister officially condemned the genocide a few days later.
So why the sudden about-face? Why did the Clinton administration, with the support of Israel, not allow the bill to pass? Can one really think a historical event happened, and then, didn't happen? Unfortunately, these are the problematic questions that are raised when those in power go about legislating history for their own interests. Denial of the facts, of others' history, their very reality (specifically those who are weaker) has become somewhat of a sport amongst those in power in this New World Order, so often does it occur. What, one may ask, possesses leaders who arrogantly assume the role of denying a historical event?
The recent controversial resolution, a non-binding bill, states that the United States would have recognized that the mass murder of Armenians was an act of genocide whose blame fell on the Ottoman government, and that Clinton or any future President would refer to it as such in an annual address. Turkey opposed the bill and took severe measures to make sure that it would not be passed--by undermining U.S. policy in the Middle East. Turkey began to pressure the U.S. to drop the resolution by threatening to unilaterally violate the sanctions imposed on Iraq. More specifically, Turkish media were soon filled with reports that stated the intention of Turkey to restore the rail line between Baghdad and Istanbul, raise the amount of oil to be sent to Turkey by Iraq by 50%, and to forbid American planes from using Incirlik air force base to launch bombing missions against Iraq.
Turkey even put pressure on the Jewish lobby in the U.S. to ensure that the bill would be squashed. If the bill passed, the U.S. would have a conflict of interest with the most important NATO member in the Middle East, not only in terms of Iraq, but also with Israel and the peace process. Sympathetically siding with Iraq also meant that popular protests in Turkey against Israel's recent use of force against the Palestinians would also become an issue. In other words, Turkey would be susceptible to considering a new policy in the Middle East, a threat to U.S. interests in the Arab world. What was the ultimate result? The U.S. administration and Israel explained to Congress that there were imminent threats to U.S. interests if the bill were to pass, given Turkey's key role in regional stability. Congress obeyed and the bill was then dropped.
In the end, this foreign policy irony is especially sinister because the Armenians sense of history, their genocide, is being disallowed from U.S. political discourse so that the genocide and humiliation of another group, the Iraqis, can continue. When Clinton addressed his speech at the USS memorial ceremony, he said that the "hate-filled terrorists" were people who "envy our strength without understanding the values that give us strength".
In light of the Armenian genocide bill, it is hard to see how anyone could possibly envy the values of exploitation, manipulation, and dishonesty that give the United States its strength in global affairs, for what we see, yet again, is how history is being written by the powerful. This is the ultimate injustice.
Sarah Waheed is a freelance writer currently residing in Chicago. She holds a graduate degree in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago.
Topics: Armenia, Bill Clinton, Turkiye