October 11, 2007

Typically amusing Dana Milbank piece, this on the Turkish genocide discussion in the House.

Dana Milbank - Belatedly, the House's History Lesson - washingtonpost.com: "

"I consider myself a friend of Turkey, but friends don't let friends commit crimes against humanity," said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) in his stinging rebuke of the Ottoman Empire.

Nor was Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) afraid to call a sultan a sultan. He spoke of a need to "speak truth to Turkey" about the 1915 situation.

"Genocide is genocide, and there's no way of sugarcoating it," agreed Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.).

Indeed not. Only 92 years late, the intrepid members of the committee voted 27 to 21 to condemn the Young Turks of 1915. The Armenians in the audience, wearing stickers urging "Stop the Cycle of Genocide," erupted in applause and tears. Among the celebrants: Catholicos Karekin II, supreme patriarch of the Armenian Church.

Amid such fervor, only a minority of lawmakers dared to argue that it was hardly worth antagonizing Turkey, a crucial ally in Iraq and a rare Muslim friend, over long-ago atrocities perpetrated by long-dead rulers of a long-defunct empire.

"This is crazy," remarked Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), who once shot a watermelon as part of his probes of Bill Clinton. "We're in the middle of two wars and we've got troops over there that are at risk, and we're talking about kicking the one ally that's helping us over there in the face."

Then there was the statute-of-limitations conundrum. If it's within Congress's authority to be the arbiter of the Armenian genocide, will it next confront the Romans for the rape of the Sabine women, or the Greeks for sacking Troy? And if attacking the Ottomans, why not weigh in on the siege of Constantinople in 1453?

"Whether it is the Ottoman Empire, the Japanese Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire or, indeed, the Roman Empire, I mean, we could go on for a long time condemning the atrocities committed under each," pointed out Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.).

And maybe they will. Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) pointed out that the committee has already probed the enslavement of "comfort women" by imperial Japan. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) announced yesterday that he will soon introduce legislation on atrocities against American Indians.

Now, I do not doubt that the Turks were responsible for the murder of the Aremenians, (mentioned it today in class in fact) and, unlike Milbank, I don't mind if the Congress condemns it now. Yes, these representatives are a bunch of stupid clowns saying dumb shit. But we already knew that. Yes there are other things more pressing now. But this Congress is so busy doing nothing at all, why not settle one of Bob Dole's pet issues?

It is kind of amazing that there are protests in Turkey about this vote though, isn't it? That the US position on this historical question can become a live diplomatic issue is really fascinating. Looks like we historians have some use after all!

Doesn't the fact that the genocidal Turks refuse to own up to their genocide mean that someone somewhere (like in a country with some Armenian ethnics who want fairness and honor) ought to shake their political finger sternly at the Turks and say "bad genodical killers" thrice? That is, functionally, what we have done.

While we are at it, lets have the bozos in the House do something else useful and condemn the multiple and ongoing crimes of the Red Chinese instead of handing over our economy and future to them.

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