a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Re Jackson Diehl’s "The House’s Ottoman Agenda"

Posted by Thomas Nephew on March 5th, 2007

Jackson Diehl has an op-ed in today’s Washington Post (“The House’s Ottoman Agenda“) about the possibility that the House may pass a non-binding resolution (H. Res 106) recognizing the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Below is my response to his article, as submitted to the Post:

Mr. Diehl dismisses as “comical” the quest of Armenians to have their ordeal in 1915 recognized for what it was: genocide — without the scare quotes he puts around the word. He dismisses Representatives pushing for the vote as “pandering.” He recommends Turkey dismiss the bill’s passage with a “shrug.”

He wouldn’t feel that way if his ancestors had been murdered by the tens and hundreds of thousands — and then faced a constant propaganda campaign by the perpetrators that nothing really happened. And op-eds in the nation’s premier newspaper that the whole thing is some kind of minor joke.

This is possibly the most callous, offensive op-ed I’ve ever had the misfortune to read in the pages of the Washington Post. Diehl should reconsider the entire article, retract it, and print an apology to the decent Armenian Americans of this country who have worked so long to see not justice, but a simple acknowledgement of the crime against their people see the light of day.

If you know little or nothing about the Armenian Genocide, you’re (a) not alone, and (b) you should; whether Diehl thinks it’s far-fetched or not, Hitler is quoted as saying “Who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians?” I wrote about it in April, 2005 — “90 years ago today: Armenian genocide begins” — and there are links to more substantive resources there if you care to learn about it. Hundreds of thousands — the consensus is actually around 1.5 million — were either massacred outright, succumbed to disease and starvation, or perished in forced death marches into the deserts of Turkey and present-day Syria. For such grief and horror to receive such a brush-off from the Post is nothing short of reprehensible.

Diehl notes that the Turkish ambassador has been lobbying against the bill’s passage, warning that “a nationalist tidal wave could sweep Turkey and force the government to downgrade its cooperation with the United States, which needs Turkey’s help this year to stabilize Iraq and contain Iran.” These are not exactly weighty cudgels to swing at those of us who want the U.S. out of Iraq and dialing down a confrontation with Iran, but even a realistic appraisal of Turkish politics may not support the ambassador’s or Diehl’s alleged forebodings.

As Diehl noted, an ultranationalist teenager recently assassinated an Armenian Turkish journalist in Istanbul. But far from revealing the strength of anti-Armenian sentiment in Turkey, Hrant Dink’s murder appears to have galvanized the opposite among both the people and the media of Turkey. Tens of thousands of Turks took to the streets with signs saying “We are all Armenians” to protest what happened; the media widely condemned what it called a “lynch culture.” A great number of people in Turkey may be ahead of their ruling classes on this issue — rather than behind them. Meanwhile, the one thing Turkish elites really want these days — EU membership — is hardly going to be advanced if they whip up nationalist resentments about a US genocide resolution.

Mr. Diehl is also clever, but deeply misleading to imply H.R. 106 is some kind of Democratic ploy (sponsor Schiff is “pandering” with it, Speaker Pelosi supports it, “even” some Democrats oppose it). A look at the bill’s co-sponsors shows plenty of Republicans — the Diaz-Balarts, Wamp, Sensenbrenner, Rohrabacher, and Musgrave, to name a few, are hardly pushovers for partisan Democratic skulduggery. Former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole always supported the Armenian genocide resolution during his tenure in the Senate.

Diehl makes much of the non-binding nature of the resolution; why all the fuss, he implies, for something that doesn’t matter? The question answers itself when you see how a Turkish full court press has apparently taken in the Washington Post. Why is the Turkish government bothering? Why do they want to keep a 90 year old crime against humanity covered up for another year? And why should the Post aid and abet them in that?

A final note: I’d like to think I’d support H.R. 106 one way or the other. But I don’t doubt I’m more aware of the issue because my wife is part Armenian. If you’ve stuck with this post, I’ve passed on a little bit of that awareness; if you’d like your Congressman or -woman to support the bill, send them a fax via the Armenian National Committee of America.

UPDATE, 3/6: As of today, ANCA shows that 47 Republicans are among the 178 Representatives “pandering” by cosponsoring HR106 and speaking out about a genocide that has gone unacknowledged by its perpetrators for more than 90 years.

7 Responses to “Re Jackson Diehl’s "The House’s Ottoman Agenda"”

  1. Bill Day Says:

    Thomas – Thanks for this article. I sent a note to my Congressman, Chris Van Hollen, thanking him for cosponsoring the bill. I also dropped a line to my Armenian cousin, who may perhaps want to follow up.

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Thanks very much, Bill, that means a lot.
    I think I’m going to write the WaPo ombudsman about this one, there was a really contemptuous tone about it that was completely inappropriate.

  3. Nell Says:

    Thank you, Thomas. It’s shocking to see a columnist, even one with such a long, vile history as Jackson Diehl, belittle and mock an effort to acknowledge a huge, long-suppressed truth.
    It honestly makes me wonder if Diehl is in the pay of some right-wing Turkish lobby.

  4. Thomas Nephew Says:

    long, vile history — I’d been wondering about that. Diehl’s always been kind under the radar for me; I couldn’t tell Cricket why I had a negative reaction to him exactly. I’ve been clearer about Mallaby there — the reliable pro-WalMart voice: “cheaper tube socks! what more is there to talk about?” Herewith some blogospheric reactions to Diehl on:
    * the Iraq war, by Spencer Ackerman, 2007/01/08
    * Venezuela/Chavez, by Larry Birns (Council on Hemispheric Affairs), 2004/08/11
    * again Iraq, by Matthew Yglesias, 2006/05/22
    The common denominator so far seems to be “f* the wogs, hang the cost, we need the oil”. No doubt we need the oil, but I’d rather just pay, say, Citgo for it than fight a war for 12 years so Exxon can be the one pumping it out of the ground – Diehl’s fairly clear policy preference, see esp. the Ackerman piece, where he dresses that up as “US at the table when Iraq finally settles down.”
    Thus, in the case of the Armenia genocide resolution, Turkey’s rather unlikely role in assisting the US in Iraq and Iran counts more than its actual past crimes.
    UPDATE, 3/6: Dept. of “credit where due”: Diehl was good early on (2004/8/27) in getting the Gitmo-Abu Ghraib connection , and rejecting torture.
    (The lists above may be expanded as I run across other posts about Diehl.)

  5. Thomas Nephew Says:

    pay of right-wing Turkish lobby
    Don’t want to skip directly to there, but Turkey has retained the services of major PR companies like Hill & Knowlton in the past, and currently uses The Livingston Group, LLC (brainchild of Bob Livingston, the former GOP LA representative who resigned as Speaker-Elect in 1998 ). There’s doubtless a gravy train — marked H&K, Livingston Group, Edelman, or whoever Turkey’s moved on to by then — waiting at the station for Mr. Diehl if he needs to pay Harvard tuitions or something. It’s also well known that WaPo heiress Lally Weymouth takes a keen interest in Turkey, with what seems fair to call a pro-Turkish-military line. So this may have been a smart career move for Diehl in the short term as well.

  6. » Blog Archive » Department of followups Says:

    […] Re Jackson Diehl’s “The House’s Ottoman Agenda”, 03/05/07; 90 years ago: Armenian genocide begins, 04/25/05 — Back in March, the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl wrote an exceptionally snotty op-ed deriding the value and wisdom of H.Res. 106, the Armenian Genocide Resolution, saying it “pandered” to Armenian Americans and was “almost comically heavy handed.” Rubbish; see for yourself, and ask yourself what you would write if the murder of 1.5 million countrymen went unacknowledged for 90 years. Now the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) reports Majority of US House Members support Armenian Genocide Resolution (link added): […]

  7. » Blog Archive » pander n. Says:

    […] « prior: Re Jackson Diehl’s "The House’s Ottoman Agenda" next: Cool stuff: Department of Music » […]

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