a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Another day, another Turkish New Lira for the Washington Post

Posted by Thomas Nephew on October 16th, 2007

Both despite and because of the efforts of the Washington Post, the Armenian Genocide continues to be a hot topic in the media and in Congress. It’s despite their efforts, because the Post editorial board clearly wishes no one cared quite this much about a little old genocide years and years ago someplace far away. Ironically, it’s also because of those selfsame efforts, because a lot of good Americans are probably learning about that same little old genocide for the first time ever over their eggs and coffee — and thinking “huh? wait a minute, that’s not right” about the systematic, Washington establishment-assisted efforts to deny it.

The Post kicked things off last week with possibly the most despicable editorial in their recent history, a veritable barrage of genocide (make that “genocide”) denial, belittlement of those who refuse to forget, and slander of those working on their behalf that would make a David Irving flush with shame.

Sunday’s installment in the Post’s full court press came courtesy of David Ignatius. As someone with Armenian American roots of his own, he crafted a rather remarkable document that ends with this pearl of wisdom: But if foreign governments try to make people do the right thing, it won’t work. They have to do it for themselves.”

Call me crazy, but that seems a lot more applicable to a certain quagmire Ignatius and his buddies thought was such a great idea. The distinction between a nonbinding resolution and what Ignatius is babbling about is so obvious even the Post editorial page should be able to grasp it, but I’ll spell it out anyway: if you make someone do something at gunpoint, it may not be the right thing in the first place — and if it’s not at gunpoint, you’re not really making them do anything.

Next, on Monday Fred Hiatt wept big, salty crocodile tears for Armenia:

Imagine what the Armenian diaspora might have accomplished had it worked as hard for democracy in Armenia as it did for congressional recognition of the genocide Armenians suffered nearly a century ago. […] It’s hard not to think that 3 million Armenians might be less poor and more free than they are today.

One way 3 million Armenians would be less poor if their landlocked country weren’t blockaded by Turkey (population 71 million). I’m doing my best here to imagine what the Armenian diaspora can do about that — maybe advocate some kind of deal with a country… that… denies a million and a half Armenians died at its own ancestors’ hands. Just from a business standpoint, you’d always have to be wondering what other inconvenient facts they’d “forget.”

Hiatt has a point about one thing, though. Armenia — it may be freely stipulated — is not the very model of a major Western democracy: no military industrial complex to speak of, no “up is down, torture is OK when the president says it is” Office of Legal Counsel Mumbo Jumbo, no up is down, “genocide by our pals is fine, genocide by those sitting on a lot of oil we want isn’t” major news media firms. To be sure, Armenia has apparently mucked up a few elections lately, and we can only hope it will rise to Florida 2000 or Ohio 2004 levels with dedicated hard work.

As noted last week, the Turkish government is currently ingratiating itself with the power circles of Washington to the tune of $329,000 a month in lobbyist fees. Set against that, what do the Armenian Americans have? A brigade of little old ladies in wheel chairs, the last survivors of a genocide — and as such a suitable backdrop, of course, for Dana Milbank’s signature vapid, supercilious brand of drivel last Thursday.

No matter. Those little old ladies are going to win — at least well they should. Thanks to everything from Schindler’s List to Hotel Rwanda to The Pianist, even the dullest American theatergoer or TV viewer is reasonably sure who he’s supposed to root for when it comes to genocide and efforts to cover it up or baldly deny it. Paradoxically, the harder the Post and the Republic of Turkey try to flush the Armenian Genocide down the memory hole, the less they’ll be able to do it.

9 Responses to “Another day, another Turkish New Lira for the Washington Post”

  1. Nell Says:

    What makes me most furious is the way that ‘realist’ commentators like Pat Lang, the guy at Stiftung Leo Strauss, et al., try to pretend that the resolution is the cause of the Turkish government’s threat to mount cross-border raids into northern Iraq/Kurdestan — rather than the failure of the PUK or the U.S. govt to do anything about the PKK who operate from there.
    They’re the commentators who also pretend (by omission) that the Turkish government isn’t actively punishing those in Turkey who hold the Turks responsible for the genocide.

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Couldn’t find the Stiftung reference. I did leave a (civil) comment at the Pat Lang post (“The Turkish/US Crisis“). Thanks for letting me know about it.
    I’ve heard Jimmy Carter is weighing in against the resolution, which is a huge disappointment if true.
    UPDATE: source is the estimable Deborah Lipstadt — but I’ve found no evidence for that online, including at what I believe is the most recent Carter interview at CNN. She may be mistaken, I have a question in at her blog about it.
    UPDATE 2: Regrettably, she’s right:
    I think the world generally recognizes that many of the Armenians were killed because they were Armenians by leaders of Turkey at that time. But to resurrect that issue and brand now Turkey and the Turkish people as perpetrators of genocide, I think, exacerbates a wound that may very well hurt the relationship with Turkey which is very valuable.
    BLITZER: So you would urge your friends in Congress not to vote for this resolution?
    CARTER: I think if I was in Congress I would not vote for it.

  3. Nell Says:

    Could the Speaker be handling this any worse?

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that she was reconsidering her pledge to force a vote on a resolution condemning as genocide the mass killing of Armenians starting in 1915, as President Bush intensified his push to derail the legislation.
    Â?Whether it will come up or not and what the action will be remains to be seen,Â? Ms. Pelosi said in light of the decline in support for the proposal…

  4. Thomas Nephew Says:

    I don’t know if she could have handled it any better either. For others just joining this broadcast — I think you know this — this bill or ones like it have had exactly the same debate for the last 20 years or more. What’s maybe even less common knowledge is that Turkey has made it the centerpiece of its foreign policy to deny the genocide, and that it will spare no expense or pressure to quash expressions about it here, in Germany, or in France.
    I share misgivings about Pelosi’s acumen and spine on other issues, but I guess I don’t think this was a calculated sacrifice of some kind, the way you suggest in a comment about an earlier post. (In that comment, you say this would have been easier 2 or 3 years ago. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but Dems weren’t in the majority then, and this didn’t get anywhere near as far.)
    On the whole, I think she means or meant to be supportive, and was blindsided by the ferocity of the political pushback she’s getting from quarters like the Post — combined with the almost complete lack of support she’s getting from liberals, progressives, and libertarians (less of a surprise) who don’t or won’t see a dog of their own in this fight.
    One little bit of armchair psychology that makes me think so is not just her own support for human rights in China, but her father’s support for Jews during WW2 and Israel after, when both were less of a consensus point of view in the US. I don’t think you grow up with that and adopt a calculating stance to issues like this. I think she may feel like she’s doing what her dad would have done. If so, I honor her for it, whether this goes down in flames or not.

  5. Nell Says:

    Sorry. I don’t have it in me to make excuses for any of the leadership at this point. She thought it would win her hero points, and then backs off when the going gets tough — it reinforces everything that’s wrong.
    Combined with her rebuke of Pete Stark… I’m done. I’m done with all of them.

  6. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Yeah; I was thinking later on that Pelosi’s got to be at least roughly as aware as I am of the long history of this and the ceaseless pushback by Turkey. The level has been described as the “strongest ever,” but the fact of it isn’t new.
    Thanks for all your support in this, Nell, it means a lot to me, and to Cricket. This one hurts a little more than usual; there were too many people I’d expected more of, like Carter, joining in the general deprecation of the resolution. I’ve still been a bit surprised at myself at how depressed it’s made me. I +/- tuned out this week, didn’t even know about the Stark rebuke, though I’d heard about what he said.
    Between this, and FISA, and impeachment, I’m near the end of my rope too. With Democrats like these…

  7. eRobin Says:

    She thought it would win her hero points, and then backs off when the going gets tough — it reinforces everything that’s wrong.
    Which defines cynicism and cowardice, which defines the Democratic party these days and make them worse than the GOP because at least the Republans have integrity. They’re evil but they’re honest about it and not afraid to be who they are, which is evil. (They really are evil.)

  8. Nell Says:

    Tuned out for most of the last three days to soak up the weather and protect my mental health. Got to do that more regularly…
    The issue-based organizations are the ones much less likely to sell us out, and strengthening them is a way to be prepared to minimize the triangulation of the next administration and the next, barely-better Congress (because no matter how many more good Dems get elected, it doesn’t look as if the “leadership” will improve).

  9. » Blog Archive » The week that was Says:

    […] « prior: Another day, another Turkish New Lira for the Washington Post next: Because I just can’t let it go » […]

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> -- (comment rules)