A post today at a very popular political blog called Captain's Quarters takes Speaker Pelosi to task for introducing a resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide. It is a prime example of why we Americans don't have a clue about who our real friends are in the world. Although blogger Ed Morrissey states emphatically that the genocide of over a million Armenians is an accepted historical fact he questions the wisdom of tweaking the nose of our Turkish allies:
"With issues flaring up on the Kurdish border, the last thing we need is another jab at the Turks, and for no other purpose than to pander to Schiff's constituents. Pelosi needs to focus on the business of the American people and not the history of the Armenian people. Pass a few budget bills, and then start working on silly and pointless resolutions."
Mr. Morrissey is not the only American concerned about the negative impact of such a resolution on US-Turkish relations. "All eight living former secretaries of state have signed a joint letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warning that the non-binding resolution "would endanger our national security interests." Three former defense secretaries, in their own letter, said Turkey probably would cut off U.S. access to a critical air base. The government of Turkey is spending more than $300,000 a month on communications specialists and high-powered lobbyists, including former congressman Bob Livingston, to defeat the initiative."
Now I'm all for sweeping genocide under the rug. After all it's quite messy and a rather uncomfortable topic especially when committed by our "friends." We have certainly done it before. It so easy to look the other way, especially in remote places like Rwanda or Darfur. Every country has some skeletons in its closet, so why get upset about the Turks? They certainly have learned their lesson. After eliminating millions of troublesome minorities like the Armenians, Assyrians, and the Greeks, they have sworn off genocide in favor of ethnic cleansing, a much more humane though less efficient approach. The only problem with ethnic cleansing is that minorities that aren't liquidated have a tendency to be inconvenient.
The pragmatic side of American foreign policy as exemplified by Mr. Morrissey is not concerned about the past. No use crying over spilled milk, as we Americans are apt to say. Why hold modern Turkey accountable for the sins of the Ottoman Empire? Turkey has been a reliable ally. They have always been there for us haven't they?
Unfortunately they have not. Turkey's history is replete with frequent episodes when it has not only allied itself with our enemies but also failed miserably to support our efforts in the region. During the invasion of Iraq, Turkey refused repeated requests to allow us to open a second front. The inability to do so cost us dearly in terms of precious lives and the subsequent pacification of postwar Iraq. Turkey continues to meddle and to conduct incursions against northern Iraq, threatening to upset the tenuous stability there. When push comes to shove, Turkey has in fact been missing in action, time and time again.
I for one am willing to overlook Turkey's history. What I am not willing to overlook is Turkey's current abuse of religious freedom of its remaining Christian citizens. This abuse is highlighted by its continued harassment and unwarranted control over the Ecumenical Patriarch, the spiritual leader of the second largest Christian Church in the world. I am not willing to overlook the destruction of Christian churches, the confiscation of the property of Greek , Kurdish, and Armenian citizens. I am not willing to overlook the abuse of its Kurdish minority including the wholesale destruction of entire villages. I am not willing to overlook its illegal occupation of half the island of Cyprus. These sins are not in the past. They are in the here and now. We can ignore them in return for a tenuous alliance, yet they will not go away.
Mr. Morrissey and I are in agreement on the futility of this resolution. Such resolutions are not worth the paper they are written on. Passing a resolution will not make Turkey comply with the basic requirements of a democratic civilized nation. It will not make Turkey come to terms with its ugly past. Let's admit that this is just a subtle attempt to buy votes and curry political favor with constituencies.
As a kid my father always warned me about hanging out with the wrong crowd: "show me who you hang out with and I will show you who you are" he used to counsel. I believe it is high time that we Americans stop worrying about what others might think and start doing the right thing. That means we need to reassess who our "real" friends are in light of their past and present conduct. Lets stop coddling so-called allies so we can obtain short-term gains.